The Virginia Housing Coalition (VHC), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, waged a strong campaign in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly regular session to secure up to $8 million in the next biennium for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (see Memo 4/4). Unfortunately, the regular session ended with no agreement on the state budget due to a dispute regarding Medicaid expansion. Consequently, funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF) was left uncertain at the end of the regular session.
With 20 Republican and 20 Democratic legislators, the Senate was deadlocked. Under normal Senate rules, the Lieutenant Governor serves as the tie-breaking vote, which in this case would have been cast by a Democrat. However, there is an exception to the tiebreaker rule for budget legislation.
The budget impasse persisted until June when Senator Phil Puckett (D) controversially resigned, giving Republicans an unexpected 20-19 majority in the Senate. Within three days, Republicans passed budget legislation with significant spending cuts, including eliminating $8 million for the VHTF and $2 million for Rapid Re-Housing over the next biennium. The Republican-controlled House quickly passed the Senate budget.
Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), despite strenuous efforts from housing advocates, did not veto the budget provisions eliminating funding for the VHTF and Rapid Re-Housing, when he vetoed the anti-Medicaid provisions. However, in his veto message, the Governor ordered the General Services Administration to halt all planning on a $300 million renovation of the General Assembly building and its parking facilities. The Governor said that it would send the wrong message to proceed with “expensive buildings in Richmond at time when we can’t find $10 million to reduce homelessness.”
Although these developments with the VHTF and Rapid Re-Housing are disappointing to advocates, VHC is determined to win funding for these critical housing programs. VHC is partnering with the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, another NLIHC State Partner, to launch a joint campaign to restore funding to the VHTF and Rapid Re-Housing when the General Assembly reconvenes in January of 2015.
With a housing wage of $20.93, Virginia remains the most expensive state in the Southeast for low income renters. Much of the advocacy work in next year’s campaign will center on information from VHC’s recent Virginia Home Matters report.
For more information contact Zack Miller, Virginia Housing Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org