Virginia Housing Coalition (VHC), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, led advocates in a strong campaign to secure up to $8 million in funding for the state’s housing trust fund during the 2014 General Assembly session. While experiencing gains with four of their 12 key legislative priorities and pushing hard for continued funding for the state housing trust fund in the state budget, advocates are currently left in a holding pattern while the budget bill is stalled by the debate over Medicaid expansion.
In 2013, advocates successfully increased the balance of the trust fund to $8 million—the majority of which was captured during a twofold victory in 2012 when the housing trust fund was established and received an initial $7 million for the FY13-14 biennium (see Memo, 3/15/13). At least 80% of the funds must be used to reduce the cost of rental housing and homeownership for households earning 60% or less of the area median income, and up to 20% can be prioritized for people experiencing homelessness.
In 2013, the funds helped provide low-interest loans to meet the financing needs of 297 constructed or rehabilitated units. In addition, recipients of the housing trust fund’s Homeless Reduction Grants reported 346 individuals or families were served through their programs. However according to VHC, the actual number of people served is higher as some grantees did not state how many individuals would benefit from their support services.
In January, VHC partnered with key organizations including the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, another NLIHC State Coalition Partner, for its annual Housing Day at the state capitol. More than 84 advocates participated in the event, which included a morning advocacy training and meetings with legislators. The majority of meetings focused on protecting and expanding the $4 million per year request for the housing trust fund that former Governor Robert McDonnell (R) included in his FY15-16 budget. On Housing Day this year, State Senator Charles Colgan (D) introduced an amendment to increase the funding amount to $8 million for each year of the biennium, matching the funding level for 2013. Advocates were able to obtain four senate co-sponsors to the amendment.
In the House, advocates were able to secure an amendment by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D) to add an additional $1 million to the $4 million trust fund request. However, the amendments in both chambers failed when the Senate passed its budget in February, with only the original $4 million for the fund and the bill that cleared the House zeroed out the fund.
Advocates also encouraged Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) to follow through on his support for the housing trust fund. Governor McAuliffe stated in his support for the trust fund prior to his election in November, in response to an open letter submitted by VHC. Advocates urged Governor McAuliffe to back former Governor McDonnell’s request for the fund and Mr. Colgan’s amendment increase. Governor McAuliffe’s budget, which did not come out until the end of March, encouraged advocates as it adopted $4 million request for the fund.
The regular session ended on March 8 with no agreement reached on the state budget. VHC and its allies are now focusing their attention on the budget conferees, urging them to fund the trust fund at the amount included in the Senate bill. Advocates remain hopeful that the bill will pass with funding for the trust fund. “Affordable housing helps to ensure Virginia’s families are safe and secure, which leads to successful communities and a better economy,” said Bob Newman, board chair for VHC.
The regular session yielded some victories for VHC as legislation supporting an increase to the Neighborhood Assistance Act Tax Credit Program (NAP), in addition to a separate bill that increases the percentage of low income people served by organizations receiving NAP credits from 40% to 50% passed both chambers. A bill that will make the transfer of tax delinquent properties to nonprofits less cumbersome also passed, as well as legislation that makes the applicability of the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act uniform across the state.
For more information contact Zack Miller, Virginia Housing Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.