Virginia Advocates Secure Resources for State Trust Fund, Homelessness in State Budget

The Virginia General Assembly wrapped up its legislative session in February with exciting news for housing advocates as the House and Senate reached a compromise on critical funding for affordable housing and homeless prevention efforts. The House budget initially allocated $2.55 million for Virginia’s state housing trust fund, while the Senate budget allocated $1.5 million for permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing, but no resources for the housing trust fund. The compromise provides $1 million for the housing trust fund and the same amount for re-housing and permanent supportive housing programs. The commitment marks the second consecutive year the Assembly has included funding in the state budget to address affordable housing concerns. In 2012, the Virginia Housing Coalition and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, both NLIHC state coalition partners, achieved a twofold victory when the housing trust fund was established and received an initial $7 million for the FY13-14 biennium. This allocation was made possible by the $65 million Virginia received from the 2012 National Mortgage Servicer Settlement. The initial funds are not scheduled for distribution until July 2013, and the trust fund now stands at $8 million. 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; up to 20% can be prioritized for those who are homeless. The addition of $2 million for housing over the biennium was made possible by the $120 million multistate settlement between Lender Processing Services, Inc., a Jacksonville, Florida-based company, and the attorneys general of 44 states and the District of Columbia. Virginia received approximately $3.5 million from the agreement, which addressed allegations that the company “robo-signed” foreclosure documents. Virginia advocates strongly favored dedicating the funds to housing, and were pleased that 60% of the funds were secured for this purpose. This was a significant victory as only 11% of the funds from the mortgage servicer settlement over all were allocated for housing.Advocates also celebrated passage of HB2005, which writes the housing trust fund into state code. Sponsored by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D), the bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and describes the fund’s uses and operations.“The Virginia Housing Coalition and its partners have been campaigning for the creation of a housing trust fund in Virginia for a decade,” VHC Board Chair Orlando Artze said. “In the 2012 session, the General Assembly appropriated funds for the first time; in the 2013 session, we finally saw the trust fund written into state law. We’re celebrating, but we’re not stopping.”As legal settlements provide the majority of housing funds for 2012 and 2013, advocates plan to seek opportunities to build more sustainable sources of funding so that the state is not dependent on one-time payments to address the housing crisis. For more information, contact Anna Strahs Watts at [email protected].