From the Field: New Hampshire Housing Advocates Win Increased Funding for Supportive Housing

New Hampshire housing advocates, including Housing Action NH, an NLIHC state partner, are celebrating a vote by the State Legislature for a $2 million appropriation for supportive housing for people with substance use disorders within an omnibus bill to address the opioid and heroin addiction crisis in the state. This level of funding is more than double the appropriation in 2015.

Senate Bill 533 specifies that the $2 million appropriation must be used for the development of supportive housing for people living with and recovering from substance use disorders. The bill also provides an additional $3 million in funding for prevention and treatment programs aimed at addressing the state’s growing addiction crisis.

The supportive housing appropriation, which was originally introduced as a standalone proposal by Senator Dan Feltes (D-Concord), was combined with SB 533’s other provisions and passed the State Senate unanimously. At the urging of housing advocates, the House revision of SB 533 amended the bill to clarify which state agency would receive the supportive housing funding.

The $2 million appropriation will be allocated to New Hampshire’s Affordable Housing Fund. The Fund, created in 1988 without a dedicated funding source, depends on authorized appropriations each year. Including this year’s SB 533 appropriations, State legislators have elected to provide appropriations to the Fund only five times since its creation. The Fund has received $12.6 million over the nearly 30-year history of the program.

After a major effort by advocates to educate key legislators on the importance of the Fund, the state legislature appropriated $800,000 to the Fund in 2015, the program’s first funding since 2007. With the success of SB 533, advocates are celebrating not only the second consecutive year of appropriations for the Fund, but also its more than doubling of funding from last year.

Proponents of SB 533’s supportive housing funding included law enforcement officials, homeless shelter directors, and supportive housing providers. All stakeholders testified to the challenges of combatting the addiction crisis and to its intersection with housing. Advocates argued that full recovery from addiction is unlikely if a person with a substance use disorder does not have access to permanent housing with supportive services. Housing Action NH targeted its advocacy on SB 533 toward key members of the State House, including Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) and Speaker Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson).

“We’re pleased that the New Hampshire House and Senate have begun to understand the important role state funding plays in addressing the lack of affordable homes in the Granite State, and it gives us hope that future requests will be looked upon favorably,” said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH.

In all its advocacy work, Housing Action NH has prioritized the inclusion of supportive housing services and tenancy supports in Medicaid. With passage of SB 533, New Hampshire’s legislature has taken the important step of recognizing the role supportive housing plays in long-term recovery and improved outcomes for people with substance use disorders.

Governor Maggie Hassan (D) is expected to sign the omnibus bill.

For more information, contact Elissa Margolin at elissa@housingactionnh.org