The Virginia Housing Coalition’s campaign to restore funding for the state’s housing trust fund has succeeded with the Governor’s signature on an additional $8 million to be allocated to the fund, in addition to $1 million for rapid re-housing. The bleak revenue forecasts indicated that it would be very challenging to restore the funds that were cut in 2014 from an initial allocation of mortgage settlement funds and neither the House nor Senate Budgets included HTF funding going into conference. The Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, among numerous other advocates, celebrate this timely victory.
Bob Newman, President of the Virginia Housing Coalition, noted, “This means that these resources will immediately be available to help create new housing opportunities across Virginia. We expect that up to a thousand new homes could be supported with this funding.”
In addition, SJ235 passed which directs the Virginia Housing Commission to study methods to evaluate and determine a dedicated revenue source for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Housing advocates will be working closely with the Housing Commission to support this effort.
On-going persistence and keeping the issue in the public eye enabled advocates in Virginia to secure this critical victory. The Virginia Housing Coalition began in October 2014 with the launch of the “Restore $10 Million for Housing Campaign.” Housing Day, sponsored by the Virginia Housing Coalition, occurred in January 2015 with 100 advocates gathered at Centenary United Methodist Church in Richmond to receive training on housing issues and legislation before heading to the General Assembly to meet with their state legislators. Zack Miller of the Virginia Housing Coalition credited the best Housing Day in years with the quality of materials advocates could provide, including district-specific information for legislators.
Housing Virginia’s educational efforts and research tools provided valuable information about the impact of the lack of safe affordable homes on Virginia residents.
- In February, Housing Virginia released the findings of a first-of-its-kind study that demonstrates the impact of energy efficient construction requirements in affordable rental housing. The study finds savings of more than $600 per year on electricity bills.
- Also in February, Housing Virginia released its Economic Impact Calculators for new construction and rehabilitation activities for any locality in Virginia. The calculators were developed and tested by Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research. The Virginia Housing Coalition used these calculators to assemble a report on the economic impacts of the first round of state funding in 2013 and produced profile sheets for each funded development.
- In a busy February, Housing Virginia made available on its website the Best Practices in Affordable Housing, which illustrates model developments in affordable housing across the state in easy-to-understand face sheets.
- In January, Chesterfield County School Board Chair put on her own Neighborhood & Schools Forum in Chesterfield, which attracted some 250 residents and officials to discuss the relationship between poverty and education. The event spurred an impactful video produced by the Richmond Association of realtors and local media coverage. She served on a panel at the 2014 statewide Housing & Schools Forum, where she discussed how housing and education policy have evolved.
- Housing Virginia has also been keeping up with housing and education issues on a Housing & Schools Blog. Virginia and VCU are planning a second Housing & Schools Forum for June of this year.
- Housing Virginia also created Housing StoryWorks collection—a series of videos that highlight personal stories of people in affordable homes, but also from local and state government, health care, permanent supportive housing, and residents.
Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Habitat Virginia, the Virginia Association of Housing and Community Development Officials, Virginia Community Development Corporation, the Partnership for Housing Affordability and Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation have all been partners in this victory. Clearly there is real benefit from keeping an issue in the public eye, persistence in demonstrating that an issue is not going to go away unless action is taken, and being creative in expressing the voice of how communities and people are impacted by the lack of affordable safe homes. And in Virginia … elected officials took notice and acted.
Contact: Zack Miller, Communications and Policy Associate, Virginia Housing Coalition