From the Field: North Carolina Housing Advocates Anticipate Budget Victory

Emphasizing housing as a bipartisan issue, the North Carolina Housing Coalition (NC Housing Coalition), an NLIHC state partner, has played a lead role to reverse a decade-long trend of declining levels of state funding for affordable housing. In a complex political landscape, the NC Housing Coalition helped secure a total of $31.1 million for affordable housing in the House and Senate budgets. The state budget is in conference and is expected to pass by the end of June. 

North Carolina had previously been a model of strong affordable housing assistance. The state had dedicated millions to both the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund (NCHTF) and a state housing tax credit used to supplement the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Ten years ago, the NCHTF was funded at more than $20 million, and in 2010 the state’s housing tax credit was worth nearly $55 million. But with a change of political leadership in 2010, the state’s priorities changed. Lawmakers ended the housing tax credit and established a Workforce Housing Loan Program, which is funded through annual appropriations and received just $10 million in its first year, a precipitous reduction from the tax credits’ $55 million. Support for the NCHTF similarly declined, while the need for affordable housing in North Carolina has steadily risen. In 2015, there was a shortage of 213,782 homes that were affordable and available to extremely low income renters. To address the gap between need and supply, the NC Housing Coalition has advocated strongly to increase state funding for affordable housing, particularly for those most in need. Central to their advocacy efforts is bringing together a broad, bipartisan coalition of affordable housing providers, funders and advocates in support of common goals.

The past two budget cycles have shown signs that the tide may be shifting in state funding for affordable housing. Last year funding for affordable housing increased for the first time in 10 years. That has been followed by another modest but positive increase in the budgets passed this year by the House and Senate. The 2016 budget includes $7.66 million for the NCHTF (which is level funding from last year), $15 million for the Workforce Housing Loan Program (a $2.5 million increase), $3 million to match federal HOME program funding (a $1.5 million increase), and $5.5 million for the Community Living Housing Fund, which is a transfer of funds from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to meet federal requirements for housing persons with disabilities. This level of appropriations not only allows vital programs to expand but also suggests that both public and political opinion on affordable housing is moving in a positive direction, thanks in large part to the work of housing advocates.

“Focusing on housing as the first rung on the ladder of opportunity not only for families, but for entire communities as well, the NC Housing Coalition has ensured an array of advocates can and will coalesce around the issue,” said Samuel Gunter, NC Housing Coalition’s Director of Policy and Advocacy.

For more information about efforts to expand affordable housing through the North Carolina state budget, contact Samuel Gunter at [email protected].