High Quality Jobs Program and Workforce Housing Tax Credits

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) houses a wide variety of programs that aid local government efforts to enhance their community. From economic development to energy efficiency to redeveloping main street, IEDA offers cities a number of services and funding opportunities. During the 2014 legislative session, significant changes were made to a couple of key programs, including the repeal of the Enterprise Zone program and the modification of the High Quality Jobs program as well as a new Workforce Housing Tax Credits program.

High Quality Jobs Program

The High Quality Jobs (HQJ) program was modified after the 2014 legislative changes to include some of the elements from the former Enterprise Zone program.The HQJ was also changed to have a new focus on urban core areas and incentives for redevelopment of sites that contain brownfields or grayfields. These changes were made in part to provide additional capacity due to the repeal of the Enterprise Zone program. The HQJ was also modified in a few other ways:

  • The number of counties eligible under the program’s economic distressed areas increased from 25 to 33, based on the county being in the bottom 33 for either short-term unemployment or long-term unemployment measures. (As a result of this change, it appears 41 counties are now eligible as either economically distressed or in the bottom 33 or unemployment).
  • Previously, the HQJ only provided tax incentives or project completion assistance for projects that created or retained jobs that paid 120 percent of the laborshed wage, unless the project was in an economically distressed area. The threshold is now 100 percent of the laborshed wage.

A wage threshold of 90 percent was also added for projects that are developed on a brownfields site, while a 100 percent wage threshold is used for grayfields projects.

Workforce Housing Tax Credits

The legislature also created a new Workforce Housing Tax Credits program, which replaced the Housing Enterprise Zone tax credits. Under the new incentives program projects must include at least one of the following: four or more single-family dwelling units; one or more multiple dwelling unit buildings each containing three or individual units; two or more dwelling units located in the upper story of an existing multi-use building.

  • A project can be developed anywhere in Iowa if it meets one of the following criteria:
  • Repair, rehabilitation or redevelopment of a brownfield or grayfield site
  • Repair, rehabilitation or redevelopment of dilapidated dwelling units
  • Repair, rehabilitation or redevelopment of dwelling units located in the upper story of an existing multi-use building
  • New construction, rehabilitation, repair or redevelopment of dwelling units in a distressed workforce housing community (IEDA determines whether a community is a “distressed workforce housing community” based upon whether the community has a severe housing shortage relative to demand, low vacancy rates or rising housing costs combined with low unemployment.)

In addition to the project requirements, several other standards apply in the program:

  • The average dwelling unit cost in the project must not exceed $200,000, unless it is a historic preservation project, in which case the average dwelling unit cost must not exceed $250,000.Tax incentives may be awarded on the costs used for the first $150,000 of value per unit.
  • New credits to a housing business for a project are limited to $1 million per recipient and cannot exceed $20 million total.
  • Unlike the Housing Enterprise Zone program, the tax credits under the Workforce Housing Tax Incentives Program are fully transferable. The carry-forward period on the tax credits is limited to five years.

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