The Housing Trust Fund Project of the Center for Community Change (CCC) released Opening Doors to Homes for All: The 2016 Housing Trust Fund Survey Report. There are now more than 770 city, county, and state housing trust funds that provided more than $1 billion to support affordable housing in 2015. The report highlights six trends that housing trust funds are advancing: providing homes for extremely low income (ELI) households (those with incomes at or below 30% of area median incomes), keeping homes affordable, addressing homelessness, fending off gentrification and displacement, attending to rural housing needs, and striving to meet environmental goals.
Housing trust funds are established by elected government bodies at the city, county, or state level when a source or sources of public revenue are dedicated by ordinance or law to a distinct fund with the express purpose of providing affordable housing. Ideally the funds a) are transferred automatically each year into the housing trust fund account to provide a continuous stream of funding without going through an appropriation or budgeting process and b) can be used only in accordance with the enabling legislation or ordinance establishing the fund, serving those for whom housing needs are most critical. Such ideals are not possible in every situation, legally or politically.
Forty-seven states plus the District of Columbia have housing trust funds, with a few states having more than one. Not all states have dedicated, ongoing sources of revenue, however, and Alabama, California, Idaho, and Rhode Island have yet to allocate resources to their housing trust funds. The top three sources of revenue for state housing trust funds are a real estate transfer tax (15), document recording fees (7), and appropriations (8). Slightly more than half of the state housing trust funds are administered by state housing finance agencies, while most of the others are administered by a state agency or department.
City housing trust funds exist in 35 states. The most common dedicated source of public funding for city housing trust funds are developer impact or linkage fees and inclusionary zoning in-lieu fees, followed by property taxes. Other sources include tax increment districts, land sales, bond revenues, and taxes on hotels/motels, short-term rentals, demolition, recordation, and real estate transfers. County trust funds exist in 12 states, the vast majority using document recording fees as their primary source of revenue.
Four housing trust funds target all of their funds to ELI households: Chicago’s Low Income Housing Trust Fund, Camden County’s (New Jersey) Homeless Trust Fund, Nebraska’s Homeless Trust Fund, and Washington’s Home Security Fund. Serving the lowest incomes was the most commonly listed qualification for securing points to receive funds from state and city housing trust funds, and the second most common for county housing trust funds (with serving the homeless ranking the most common by county respondents). Set-asides to serve ELI households exist in 8 state housing trust funds, 6 city housing trust funds, and 6 county trust funds.
Fifty-five housing trust funds are committed to addressing homelessness, and another 50 give priority consideration or extra points to projects serving homeless populations. Another 24 set aside funds to projects providing housing for homeless people, homeless services, and permanent supportive housing. Eight housing trust funds require permanent affordability, and 20 have at least 50-year affordability periods. Sixteen housing trust funds set aside dollars to preserve existing rental housing in order to prevent displacement, and 25 give priority to projects in specific neighborhoods undergoing or threatened by gentrification. Thirteen state housing trust funds have set-asides for housing in rural areas.
To advance environmental goals, 19 state, 9 county, and 19 city housing trust funds report energy efficiency improvement in existing housing as an eligible activity. Seven housing trust funds require energy audits and others require projects to benchmark the energy and water use of their assisted property. Fifty-eight trust funds identify transit-oriented development as an eligible activity, and several give extra points for projects that will provide affordable housing near transit.
The report provides numerous examples, brief case studies, and details about state enabling legislation for local housing trust funds.
The release of this latest Housing Trust Fund Project report comes a few months before Mary Brooks retires from CCC. Mary is known nationally as “the” housing trust fund advocate and source of encyclopedic housing trust fund knowledge. She has helped countless community leaders, organizers, and elected officials create and sustain housing trust funds for at least 30 years. Mary has long been a dogged advocate for affordable housing, especially for extremely low income households. NLIHC appreciates the time she served on the NLIHC Board of Directors and especially for her early and continued support for the national Housing Trust Fund. When Mary retires at the end of the year, the Housing Trust Fund Project will carry on in the capable hands of Michael Anderson and Katy Heins.