Virginia concluded the 2015 session of the General Assembly at the end of February. The Virginia Housing Coalition (VHC), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, supported the successful passage of multiple housing bills and secured funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF) during the session
VHC’s preparations for the 2015 session began in October 2014 when VHC launched the “Restore $10 Million for Housing Campaign” (see Memo, 10/27/14). Fearing limited progress in the 2015 session due to a projected $2.4 billion revenue shortfall and corresponding budget cuts announced by Governor Terry McAuliffe, the campaign took a long-term approach to build a broad base of support and educate legislators. Much of the education work centered on the dissemination of their Home Matters for Virginia report, which VHC members committed to sharing with every member of the General Assembly. VHC also mobilized its membership to lobby for the VHTF and other housing legislation during their annual Housing Day at the beginning of the 2015 session (see Memo, 2/9).
VHC’s efforts yielded success sooner than anticipated. The Senate and House passed a biennium budget that included $4 million per year for the Housing Trust Fund in 2015 and 2016, and $1 million for rapid re-housing in 2016. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will administer these funds and plans to open applications for funding in the summer of 2015.
In addition, VHC supported the successful passage of S.J. 235. Introduced by Senator John Watkins (R), S.J. 235 directs the Virginia Housing Commission to study methods to evaluate and determine a dedicated revenue source for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. VHC will work closely with the Virginia Housing Commission to support this effort, an important first step toward passing legislation securing such a funding source.
Beyond legislation related to the VHTF, VHC also supported bills that addressed a range of other housing issues. Successful bills included S.B. 1204, introduced by Senator Frank Wagner (R), which provides an exemption from reporting requirements for donations of certain secondhand building materials to nonprofits. Another successful bill was H.B. 2173, introduced by Delegate Robert Orrock (R), which authorizes localities to waive delinquent taxes on real property in exchange for the owner’s donation of the property to a nonprofit housing organization such as Habitat for Humanity. VHC also supported passage of H.B. 1905, introduced by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D), which provides protection from retaliatory evictions by removing language in the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act requiring courts to find retaliation as the “primary” reason for a landlord taking an action for possession or termination of a rental agreement.
While there were significant victories for housing in the 2015 General Assembly, VHC encountered setbacks with legislation regarding fair housing and housing for people with special needs. Fair housing protections for veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals, and the LGBT community remain will remain on VHC’s long-term agenda. VHC also will continue to work for legislation that supports accessible housing for people living with disabilities.
Despite these setbacks, the 2015 session marked significant progress compared with the dysfunction of the General Assembly in 2014 (see Memo 7/28/2014). Ultimately, the 2015 session ended on time with a budget that will likely be finalized without major issues after the General Assembly’s veto session in April.
For more information contact Zack Miller, Virginia Housing Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.