Oklahoma lawmakers need to close the affordable housing gap

Call to Action

• Contact members of the Senate Finance committee and ask them to support more affordable housing by voting YES on HB 2040 and HB 2098.

• Contact members of the Business and Commerce committee and ask them to vote YES on HB 2870.


Oklahoma, like the rest of the country, faces a housing crisis. The state’s affordable housing supply isn’t keeping up with Oklahoma’s needs, and the issue is getting worse. To close the affordable housing gap, lawmakers should increase funding for the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act and find new solutions to grow the stock of affordable housing. Several good bills are on the table this legislative session. House Bill 2040 would increase the state affordable housing tax credit annual cap from $4 million to $10 million, while HB 2870 and HB 2098 would create new programs to support affordable housing development. The affordable housing crisis will require a multi-faceted approach to solve and lawmakers can start that work this session.

The affordable housing tax credit works, it just needs more investment

Raising the cap on the state’s affordable housing tax credit would help close the large and growing gap in affordable housing. The state credit was established in 2014 through the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act and has a $4 million annual statewide cap set by the Oklahoma Legislature. Developers use a combination of both the state and the federal credit – the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit – to finance housing that is affordable for low-income households. The federal and state credits are administered through the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Tax Credit program. HB 2040 would increase the state affordable housing tax credit cap from $4 million to $10 million, providing much-needed funding to developers to build more housing.

Between 2015 and 2021, Oklahoma’s Affordable Housing Tax Credit program supported the construction and renovation of 3,723 housing units in 30 counties. The tax credit helped build housing in rural counties that have been neglected and struggled with attracting new businesses due to limited housing. The Incentive Evaluation Commission – tasked with providing objective evaluations of Oklahoma’s economic incentives – recommended retaining the program in 2022. Their report also noted that the average cost of projects have increased since the program was rolled out. The affordable housing tax credit has made a positive impact on communities across the state, and more investment will be needed to build the additional tens of thousands of housing units the state needs.

Oklahoma needs a lot more affordable housing, and the problem is growing

Oklahoma currently needs an additional 81,638 rental homes or apartments to meet the needs of extremely low-income renters (those making 30 percent or less of the area median income). This is an increase of more than 10,000 additional homes than was needed in 2022, which indicates the problem is getting worse. Today, there are only 39 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income Oklahoma households.

The situation is marginally less dire for very low-income families (those making between 31 and 50 percent of area median income), with 68  affordable and available homes for every 100 households. Working full-time is not enough to avoid feeling the housing crunch – 2 in 5 Oklahomans can’t afford a stable home working one full-time job. With record inflation and rising rents, it is getting harder for Oklahoma families to keep a roof over their heads.


We need to do more to reach extremely low-income renter households

Oklahoma needs new programs and investments to reach households that are struggling the most with affordable housing. Several bills this session would create new programs to support affordable housing development and ownership. HB 2870 would support the development of affordable single family housing through a loan program for homebuilders with interest rates as low as zero percent. It would also further help developers finance single- and multi-family housing and provide down payment assistance to homebuyers. HB 2098 would allow people to donate up to one percent of the sale of personal property to an affordable housing fund that can be used by cities, towns, and other entities to develop affordable housing. 

Affordable housing tax credits, on their own, are not enough to reach the lowest income families. In tax credit-financed developments, a specific share of units must be occupied by tenants with incomes at or below 50 to 60 percent of area median income, depending on the project. To make units that are affordable to extremely low-income households – those at or below 30 percent of area median income – developers rely on rental assistance or layering these credits with other government funding. Oklahoma has an opportunity to add to the funding pool and help developers make housing affordable for those most in need.

We need immediate action to address the housing crisis

Oklahoma’s affordable housing crisis is large, growing, and shows no sign of correcting itself without timely government intervention. Oklahoma lawmakers can help put more families into homes by investing in proven programs, like the state tax credit for affordable housing, while providing funding that would help quicken the pace for affordable housing development and home ownership. The need to close the affordable housing gap is urgent, and state lawmakers can act this session to ensure every family has access to a safe, stable home.


Sabine Brown joined the Oklahoma Policy Institute as an Infrastructure and Access Senior Policy Analyst in January 2022. She previously worked at OK Policy from January 2018 until September 2020 as the Outreach and Legislative Director, and received a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. Before joining OK Policy she served as the Oklahoma Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Sabine also earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Health Science from the University of Oklahoma and was a physician assistant prior to discovering advocacy work. She grew up in Germany but has called Oklahoma home since 1998.

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