Vic O'Brien's Story

Author: Vic O'Brien
Vic O'Brien's Story

Vic was the Development Director of a housing association when he was awarded his Fellowship in 2013. He travelled to the USA to investigate the American tax credit system for low income housing.

The Fellowship

Vic's 30-year career working for housing associations underpinned his passion for improving the lives of people excluded from the housing market because of their financial circumstances, disability, complex needs or age.

He was concerned about the severe shortage of affordable housing in the UK. New affordable housing is increasingly funded though cross subsidy and private finance raised by housing associations from their asset bases, and, as a result, annual production of affordable housing is insufficient to meet the numbers required. Vic looked into potential ways of funding affordable housing without grant.

The affordable housing funding system in the USA does not use grant and instead works by attracting private equity investment from mainly financial institutions in return for a reduction in their tax liability over a 10-year period. This system is complex and not well-known by UK housing professionals.

The Results

Vic’s Fellowship report reviewed the USA Low Income Housing Tax Credit system. Its well-publicised launch was supported by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). Since then, Vic has briefed finance officers of the National Housing Federation (NHF), and the NHF Finance advisory panel, which is made of a number of finance directors of housing associations. He has also held seminars at the CIH, the NHF Treasury Management Conference, and the NHF Finance Conference.

Later this year, Vic will be speaking at the NHF Development Conference and a conference on international finance. The NHF is working with their financial advisors on developing a brief to undertake an assessment of the cost benefit of running a tax credit system in the UK.

A significant number of researchers, policy workers, and central government officers have requested briefings as they consider policy options for the production of affordable housing in the present age of austerity.

Vic’s Fellowship report has significantly contributed to the debate on how to increase the production of affordable housing.