During the 2014 Arizona state legislative session, NLIHC State Coalition Partner, the Arizona Housing Alliance (the Alliance), joined with the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness (AZCEH) in a campaign to restore funding to the Arizona Housing Trust Fund. The advancement of HB 2524, legislation to increase funding for the Housing Trust Fund beyond the current $2.5 million cap, was a primary focus of the campaign, in addition to broadening the base of organizations endorsing the campaign. Although the session is nearing its end without legislators taking action on HB 2524, advocates believe the campaign has helped establish a clearer understanding of the housing trust fund and its importance for people in need of affordable homes.
Established in 1988, the Arizona Housing Trust Fund helps develop projects and services that provide housing affordability and other housing opportunities for low and moderate income households. In its early years, the Housing Trust Fund was funded by 35% of unclaimed property proceeds, such as the sale of stocks or saving accounts abandoned by an owner, often due to death with no known beneficiary. Proceeds to the fund were increased to 55% in1998 to better address rural housing needs.
The Arizona Housing Trust Fund received more than $30 million annually until 2010, when it was capped at $2.5 million due to state budgetary constraints during the Great Recession. According to the Alliance, when fully funded, the Housing Trust Fund leveraged more than $350 million in federal dollars annually, attracted private investment, and helped approximately 10,000 Arizonans each year avoid homelessness, repair their dilapidated homes, or become first time homebuyers. In addition, the Housing Trust Fund has helped provide housing for seniors, persons with disabilities, and disaster victims, and provided homeownership opportunities to rural communities. Tribal lands, many of which suffered from dire housing needs, have also been recipients of the fund.
State Representative Lela Alston (D) introduced HB 2524 in January, a bill advocates supported as a strong plan to help the more than 200,000 low income renters who are housing cost burdened and are at risk of joining the 28,000 Arizonans who are homeless on any given night. The Alliance and AZCEH produced fact sheets about the history of the Housing Trust Fund, how it has been proven to increase housing security among those who need it most, and why increased funding is necessary. Advocates actively sought endorsements for the Housing Trust Fund to show state legislators that their constituents support greater investment in the program. Supporters were provided with educational materials to help advance the campaign, including a “Leave Card” sheet that describes the need for increased funding for advocates to leave behind at meetings. Supporters also received messaging cards to help them effectively use campaign messages.
In February, State Representative Kate Brophy McGee (R) held an informational hearing for the bill in the House Financial Institutions Committee. Campaign endorsers attended to express their support. The Alliance thinks the hearing provided an important overview of the need for greater investment in the fund and has helped lay the groundwork for any bills introduced in future sessions.
The Alliance and AZCEH will continue to grow the base of Housing Trust Fund supporters with presentations across the state that train organizations and other groups on how to use valuable advocacy and messaging tools.
“After the devastating cuts to our Housing Trust Fund, we knew it would be a long haul to restore funding,” said Val Iverson, the Alliance’s Executive Director. “We are thrilled by the progress we have made this year in educating legislators and building community support and we are confident that we will be successful in the next legislative session in our efforts to restore funding to the Housing Trust Fund.”
For more information contact Val Iverson, Arizona Housing Alliance, at firstname.lastname@example.org.