The Delaware Housing Coalition (DHC), an NLIHC state coalition partner, is working with advocates across Delaware to permanently establish a voucher program begun as a pilot program in 2008. On February 7, DHC Board Member Susan Starrett joined DHC staff, consumers and other advocates in testifying before the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee in support of the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP). Advocates urged the legislature to increase funding for SRAP, establish a specific line-item for the program within the state housing authority’s budget, and change the program’s funding source.
In 2007, Delaware released its Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. The plan identified the need for more affordable housing, particularly for those who most intensively use state services, such as the chronically homeless and youth aging out of state services. To help meet this need, the state housing authority in FY08 awarded $1 million from its annual housing development fund for “Step Up” vouchers. Funding continued in FY09 and FY10, but the resources came from the development fund, not a specific line-item. By the time these resources were exhausted in December 2011, approximately 300 vouchers were in use.
Following three years of funding and the beginning of Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) administration in January 2009, government officials and advocates began to assess Step Up’s future. Using data on voucher use and outcomes, advocates worked with officials at the state housing authority, Department of Health and Social Services and Department of Children, Youth, and Families to determine how the state could build on the program’s success. After deciding that the state housing authority would administer the vouchers, the program was re-named SRAP and eligibility criteria were expanded to allow patients exiting psychiatric care and people with disabilities as program participants.
In FY12, SRAP’s first year, the program was funded as a part of the state’s capital bond package. The Governor’s FY13 budget proposal recommends moving SRAP funding out of bond revenue and into general appropriations. Advocates are working with legislators to advance this proposal and designate a specific budget line-item for the program. Advocates believe both changes will ensure the program’s future by preventing other capital needs from competing with SRAP for funding.
In addition, advocates are working to increase SRAP resources to $3 million from the previous $1.5 million funding level. During the February 7 hearing, State Housing Authority Director Anas Ben Addi echoed advocates’ call to increase SRAP funding. In response, the Joint Finance Committee Chair commented on the overwhelming support that SRAP has received from program participants, advocates, administrators and businesses.
“We are very happy to hear Mr. Ben Addi support increasing SRAP funding,” said Ken Smith, Executive Director of DHC. “We were initially concerned that by expanding who is eligible to participate in the program, we could limit our progress toward ending homelessness. However, by supporting an increase to SRAP, the administration has again shown its commitment to strengthen our state by making housing more affordable and accessible for those with the greatest need. We look forward to continuing our work with the administration and legislature to make these improvements a reality.”
For more information, contact Ken Smith at email@example.com.