I’ve written before that Governor Jack Dalrymple’s Housing Incentive Fund, which gives dollar-for-dollar tax credits to individuals and businesses who contribute, is little more than an elaborate taxpayer subsidy for property developers. The idea is that the fund encourages private philanthropists to help fund the building of low-income housing in the state. “The fund was developed to operate this way to avoid out-and-out state funding of affordable housing,” wrote the Bismarck Tribune editorial board earlier last week.
But, in reality, those contributing to the fund get all of their money back in the form of tax credits. And if you need further proof of this, just look at the timing of contributions made to the fund. I’ve received, via an open records request, a list of all contributions made to the fund (see below) and I plotted the contributions on this graph by month. As you can see, the most popular months for contributions by a country mile is December.
Just before the end of the year. Or, more accurately, just in time to buy a big, fat tax credit for the year.
Dalrymple wants to re-up this fund to $30 million ($15 million was the cap for the current fund) for the next biennium. Setting aside the fact that the fund nearly fell short of its goal this time around (they hit the $15 million mark right at the end of the year), and wouldn’t likely hit a bigger target next time around, can we please admit that this is just an elaborate ruse to subsidize property developers (in the middle of a housing boom, no less) by laundering the subsidies through private contributions?