The Arizona legislature appropriated $15 million to the state’s Housing Trust Fund during this year’s legislative session, one of the largest investments towards housing and homelessness the state has seen in nearly a decade. Though this funding is still far from levels seen before budget cuts following the Great Recession, it is a critical step toward restoring Arizona’s sole state resource dedicated to affordable housing.
Arizona’s Housing Trust Fund has been supporting the state’s most vulnerable populations since its creation in 1988. This includes new affordable homes, homelessness prevention and emergency shelter, disaster-related housing relief, and housing support to rural and tribal communities. The Housing Trust Fund is funded from the sale of unclaimed property, such as abandoned stocks or savings accounts, as well as interest savings, loan repayments, and other cash outlays. Before the 2009 recession, the fund totaled nearly $40 million in state dollars, which in combination with more than $350 million in federal dollars annually, supported more than 10,000 people each year. However, in 2010 a $2.5 million cap was placed on unclaimed property fund transfers - the largest contributing source of the fund - due to budget constraints.
NLIHC state partner Arizona Housing Coalition and its members have been working for years to fully restore the Housing Trust Fund to pre-recession levels. During the 2016 legislative session, the Arizona Housing Coalition was successful in diverting future net earnings from the Arizona Housing Finance Authority single-family mortgage program to the Housing Trust Fund. These totaled more than $2 million in 2015 and are expected to grow. This year’s one-time allocation is the largest increase the Housing Trust Fund has seen since the 2010 cap.
The Arizona Department of Housing invited public input regarding how the newly appropriated funds should be used, holding a public meeting on June 21 and accepting written comments through June 28. Themes that emerged included a need for more support to older adults experiencing or at risk of homelessness, more stable housing options for people living with a mental illness, and housing and services to support youth living on their own. A carve-out of $3.5 million of this year’s $15 million allocation is earmarked to house people with a serious mental illness who resist treatment. Advocates stated that more funding is still needed.
“We are excited for this victory in our work to end homelessness and grow the stock of affordable housing options in our state,” said Arizona Housing Coalition Executive Director Joan Serviss. “However, we have more work to do, especially since, as NLIHC’s The Gap analysis shared, Arizona is the third least affordable state for hard working families. A one-time infusion of cash isn’t the sustainable solution we need to address the ongoing challenges of housing insecurity and homelessness.”
For more information about Arizona’s Housing Trust Fund and the Arizona Housing Coalition, contact Joan Serviss, Arizona Housing Coalition executive director at: [email protected] or visit: www.azhousingcoalition.org