2015 General Assembly Housing Resources
Thank you to those that attended 2015 Housing Day on January 15th. Here are some resources VHC utilized during the 2015 session:
VHC’s Federal Housing Day
Each February, VHC organizes a small group of advocates from around the state and takes a van up to Washington DC to talk to the Virginia Congressional Delegation about our major federal policy priorities. Similar to state Housing Day, we develop a host of materials to share with staffers. This year we shared information on affordability, the newly funded National Housing Trust Fund, and the economic impact the LIHTC program has had in their districts. It’s always an exciting trip and we have developed good working relationships with many congressional offices through our meetings on these trips.
Virginia Housing Coalition engages in advocacy efforts centered around affordable housing at the state, national and local level.
VHC releases a housing policy guide prior to the Virginia General Assembly Session each year containing commentary and positions on specific legislation being introduced in the upcoming session as well as general policy positions on major statewide issues such as transportation and Medicaid expansion. VHC partners with other affordable housing organizations in the state to host a housing day during the General Assembly Session. Advocates meet in downtown Richmond to receive training on housing issues and legislation covered in the legislative agenda prior to walking over to the State Capitol to meet with their legislators and discuss housing issues.
The General Assembly Session is a busy time of year for VHC’s advocacy efforts, but the organization stays active throughout the year primarily through online action alerts on national, state, and local issues. VHC has been active on speaking out against cuts to federal housing programs as a part of sequestration, and has supported reforming the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) to make it a tax credit available to more low-income homeowners and make the program less expensive for the federal government. VHC has signed onto National Low Income Housing Coalition’s United for Homes Campaign to use the money saved by reforming the MID to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.
VHC’s Recent Action Alerts
Tell the budget conferees and your Senator and Delegate more funding is needed to end homelessness in Virginia
Over the past several years, Virginia communities have been working hard, and in new ways, to address the costly cycle of homelessness. Communities have shifted their programs and systems to permanent solutions and as a result, homelessness in Virginia has decreased by over 20% since 2010. Fundamental to this shift has been the willingness of the Commonwealth of Virginia to invest in proven solutions like rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing. The current proposed budgets put these efforts in jeopardy. The Senate budget included $500,000 for Rapid Rehousing. The House budget also included $500,000 for Rapid Rehousing but targeted its use to Veterans. We appreciate the General Assembly appropriating funds to support efforts to address homelessness. However, we urge the conferees to appropriate $1 million for Rapid Re-housing and at least $2 million for support services for veterans experiencing homelessness. This is half of the $4.5 million for support services that was introduced by Senator Hanger and Delegate Lingamfelter.
Support for Budget Amendments to End Veteran Homelessness
VHC and VCEH are supporting budget amendments proposed by Del. Lingamfelter, Sen. Hanger and Sen. Edwards to help end veteran homelessness in Virginia. The proposed $4.5 million in funding will be used for veteran support services to help veterans obtain and maintain housing. The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees are reviewing budget amendments this week and will announce their proposed budgets on Sunday. It is critical that we voice our support for these amendments to the members on the Public Safety subcommittees.
Tell the General Laws Committee You Support HB1454
This year the Virginia legislature has the opportunity to expand the Virginia Fair Housing Act to protect sexual orientation and gender identity by passing HB 1454 (Simon, D-Falls Church) or SB 917 (Wexton, D-Leesburg). Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity and Virginia could be the twenty-second. Last year, when a similar bill was up for debate, some legislators suggested that there was no evidence of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Since the 2014 General Assembly, HOME has been conducting research into the prevalence of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Richmond rental market. HOME’s research clearly shows that discrimination is occurring. For more details on their findings, see their report, Housing Discrimination against Same Sex Couples in Virginia. Equality in Virginia is possible. We must not give up until it is a reality for every person in our state. You can help make it possible by reaching out to your legislator and sharing your commitment with them.
Tell Senate Rules you support SJ235
SJ 235 will be heard this (Tuesday) afternoon in Senate Rules committee. This resolution directs the Virginia Housing Commission to study methods to determine a dedicated revenue source for the Housing Trust Fund. The General Assembly prioritized the Housing Trust Fund by codifying it, but it needs a dedicated revenue stream to be successful. This resolution will allow the Housing Commission to study the different options available for a future dedicated revenue source.
Thank Governor McAuliffe for Standing Up for Housing
In his budget veto message to the General Assembly, the Governor noted that the state would stop all planning on the $300 million expenditure slated for the General Assembly building upgrade and parking. He noted that it would send the wrong message if we proceed with “expensive buildings in Richmond at time when we can’t find $10 million to reduce homelessness”. He was referring the action taken by the General Assembly two weeks ago to cut $8 million from the Housing Trust Fund and $2 million from Rapid Re-Housing.
Co-sponsor HR 4717 to set a minimum Housing Credit rate
Congressman Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) has introduced legislation that would make the 9% low income housing tax credit’s (LIHTC) fixed floor rate permanent for new construction and substantial rehabilitation projects, and establish a similar fixed floor rate for the 4% credit for acquisition projects. The bill, HR4714, was introduced on May 22, 2014. As enacted in the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the amount of LIHTCs that are awarded to development projects is based on a formula that uses the federal cost of borrowing to determine the credit rate. As the cost of borrowing declines, the amount of LIHTCs also declines. These floating rates lead to financial uncertainty, increase administrative complexity, and can lead to financing gaps for these badly needed affordable units. These lower rates mean states can allocate fewer Housing Credits into any one eligible project, even while the total credits a state can award remains unchanged. This bill establishes a minimum credit amount that LIHTC developments would receive, protecting them from reductions in investor equity used to build affordable housing.
Tell the Budget Conferees to keep the Housing Trust Fund in the FY15-16 State Budget
The Senate and the House have sent their conferees into the budget conference. Senate Finance left $4 million a year in the budget for the HTF. This means that Senator Colgan’s amendment to add an additional $4 million a year to the HTF was not adopted by the committee. House Appropriations zeroed out the HTF rejecting Delegate Lopez’ amendment to add $1 million a year to the Fund and removing the funding Governor McDonnell had scheduled in his budget. At this point, there is still $4 million per year for the HTF on the table. The Conferees need to hear one more round of support for the HTF from advocates.
Letter to Gov. McAuliffe to support funding for the Housing Trust Fund and Homelessness
We need Governor McAuliffe’s help. In December, VHC was pleased to learn that Governor McDonnell had included funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund and additional funding for homelessness in his outgoing FY15-16 state budget. This announcement marked a huge step towards establishing sustainable funding for the HTF but this funding over the next two budget years is still far from certain. Money committee members in both houses are reshaping the budget over the next few weeks and any new program funding in Gov. McDonnell’s budget including the HTF and homelessness is on the table.