Delaware advocates, including the Delaware Housing Coalition (DHC), an NLIHC state coalition partner, are celebrating the success of their work to secure funding for key housing programs in the FY12 state budget. These wins include funds for foreclosure and housing counseling, and the new State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP). The state’s overall budget for housing is larger than in previous years. Advocates attribute this to their work with Governor Jack Markell (D), with targeted state legislators, and the availability of funds from the state’s Bond Bill.
Advocates began the legislative session with great concern due to the strain of the continuing foreclosure crisis and the apparent lack of state revenue to address the crisis, in addition to other persisting housing issues. The Nonprofit Housing Agenda, a project of the DHC comprised of 12 state and local organizations dedicated to affordable housing advocacy, met before the legislative session to develop a strategy to make affordable housing a priority in the budget.
After the release of Gov. Markell’s proposed budget, which included significant support for affordable housing, the State Administration announced the availability of revenue related to abandoned properties taken over by state government. This allowed for the largest Bond Bill in recent years, creating an additional source of funding to be used for infrastructure and other projects that would promote job creation. DHC’s Nonprofit Housing Agenda lobbyist, a specialist in budget and finance, urged legislators to support the Governor’s budget and lobby for additional funds.
While funding for foreclosure prevention and housing counseling was not in the original budget bill, successful lobbying by advocates resulted in $615,600 in general funds being appropriated for these activities. The state recently passed a new law requiring automatic foreclosure mediation, but did not provide funding for housing counseling. In addition, HUD’s budget for housing counseling was eliminated in the FY11 budget earlier this year, leaving the state’s housing counseling agencies without the annual support of $350,000. Advocates were able to leverage these issues as an advocacy platform, and used statistics showing the positive impact counselors have in foreclosure mediation to persuade legislators.
The SRAP, a new program replacing a successful pilot program called ‘Step Up,’ provides rental vouchers to people moving out of the state’s psychiatric center, persons with disabilities, children aging out of foster care, and the chronically homeless. Gov. Markell proposed $1.5 million to continue the program, an amount that advocates know will not provide sufficient new housing opportunities to meet the needs of chronically homeless people. DHC advocated the program be funded at $3 million, the amount requested by the state housing authority. This would have allowed all current program recipients to remain in the program and increased the amount of SRAP vouchers by 25%. Lawmakers did not meet advocates’ request, keeping funding for SRAP at the governor’s requested level.
Advocates supported Gov. Markell’s request of $4 million in the Bond Bill for the Housing Development Fund (HDF), the state’s housing trust fund, which already receives more than $4 million per year in dedicated funds from document recording fees and the general fund. Lawmakers met the $4 million request and an additional $10 million in one-time special funds to leverage other funding sources, such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits and tax-exempt bonds. As a result the HDF will provide almost $20 million to address affordable housing needs in the state.
“In addition to significant new, one-time resources to preserve multifamily housing in Delaware, we were also able to find support for a new program, the rental assistance program, which also will serve extremely low income households,” said Ken Smith, Executive Director of DHC. “Both of these programs are wise, forward-looking economic investments. In addition, we are pleased that our hard-pressed housing counseling network has received some temporary relief. In the coming year, we will be working with legislators to help SRAP receive line item status in the budget. We appreciate the Governor’s attention to the state’s housing needs and will continue to work with him and members of the General Assembly to ensure affordable housing programs receive the funds they need to succeed.”
For more information contact Ken Smith, Executive Director of the Delaware Housing Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.