This article was featured in NLIHC’s Memo to Members on October 27th, 2014
The Virginia Housing Coalition (VHC) and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH), both NLIHC State Partners, have launched a campaign to build support in the Virginia General Assembly for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF) and the Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) program. The goal of the campaign is to restore $8 million for the VHTF and $2 million for the RRH cut from the biennium budget in June, due to an impasse about Medicaid expansion (see Memo, 7/28).
This renewed effort coincides with Governor Terry McAuliffe’s (D) decision to participate in the Mayors’ Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Governor McAuliffe is one of five state executives to participate in this HUD-led challenge to end veteran homelessness by 2015. The Governor’s participation was announced by John Harvey, Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, at a June statewide summit sponsored by VCEH.
The Governor’s support for ending veteran homelessness provided a welcome impetus for the Restore $10 Million for Housing Campaign, because the VHTF and RRH both address homelessness. Up to 20% of VHTF funds can be prioritized for people experiencing homelessness, while at least 80% must be used to reduce the cost of rental housing and homeownership for households with incomes of 60% or less of the area median income. Virginia’s RRH funds provide short-term crisis intervention and case management services that support families transitioning to stable housing.
However, prospects for passing a budget amendment to restore the funds in the upcoming General Assembly session are limited due to a $2.4 billion revenue shortfall and corresponding budget cuts recently announced by the Governor. Therefore, the campaign has chosen to focus on a multi-year strategy of building a broad base of support for housing funding and educating legislators. Throughout October, VHC has hosted a series of regional housing policy forums, updating advocates about VHC’s policy work and introducing the Restore $10 Million for Housing Campaign.
Another education element for the campaign is the Home Matters for Virginia report released by VHC this summer. The report provides an overview of basic housing policy concepts and Virginia housing need statistics, with special emphasis on the role that affordable housing plays in a broad range of social and economic outcomes.
One of the objectives of the campaign is to use Home Matters for Virginia to educate every member of the General Assembly before the start of the 2015 session. To accomplish this, VHC is gathering commitments from housing advocates to meet with state legislators and present them with copies of the report, or to mail copies with a signed letter. So far, VHC has received campaign commitments in more than half the Senate districts and more than one-third of the House districts.
VHC will also be working with a legislative champion to introduce a bill to create a dedicated source of revenue for the VHTF. The legislator proposes setting aside one cent of the 25 cents collected for the state recordation fee, which is $ 0.25 for every $100. Such a dedicated source could generate approximately $16 million annually.
Home Matters for Virginia is at Information about the Mayors’ Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness is at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/veteran_information/mayors_challenge