This post is the second in a three-part series that will provide an overview of the strategies presented in the February 2019 report: Aligning Affordable Housing Efforts with Actions to End Homelessness by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The report calls for action alignment across these areas.
This blog post will provide an overview and analysis of the middle three strategies as well as what it means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. To read the first blog post, click here.
ENCOURAGE DEVELOPMENT: IMPLEMENT HOUSING POLICIES THAT TEMPER RISING COSTS AND ALLOW FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT
Meeting the growing need for affordable housing at all income levels requires a multi-pronged approach to address barriers, modify local policies and practices as well as preserve long-term affordability for new and existing units. There are many different funding sources for affordable housing at the local, state and national level; each has discrete timelines, requirements and funding structures. Alignment is possible, but not easy, requiring time and resources. Much of the housing policies and processes are controlled at the local government level; an important first step is to outline where there are barriers and where there is alignment. Combining this effort with policy alternatives, incentives and/or requirements targeted at increasing supply and preserving affordability is key. Examples for Charlotte-Mecklenburg to consider are changes in land use planning and implementation, coordinated application of available funding streams, and consistency and transparency in all local government-administered programs.
ENGAGE FEDERAL PROGRAMS: INVOLVE A BROAD RANGE OF FEDERALLY FUNDED HOUSING PROGRAMS
Funding for affordable housing is available from a variety of sources, and it is important to know if there are untapped resources available. This guidebook provides a comprehensive overview of all sources. The Public Housing Authority (PHA) is a resource that is already structured and positioned for aligning homelessness and housing efforts. In fact, there are multiple resources and examples of how to strengthen the partnership between the PHA and each local Continuum of Care (CoC), which is tasked with the work to end and prevent homelessness. Examples include prioritizing vouchers, public housing units and other HUD-financed multifamily housing units for individuals and families exiting homelessness. Both PHAs and multifamily housing owners in Charlotte-Mecklenburg can use project-based Housing Choice vouchers within existing or planned units to meet the needs of households at the lowest income levels and ensure long-term affordability. They can also partner with permanent supportive housing providers by designating units within their portfolios for households who have previously received permanent supportive housing and no longer require the supportive services, but cannot yet afford their rent. This frees up new spots within the supportive housing portfolio to serve households who need services beyond rental subsidies and target resources more efficiently.
TARGET AND SCALE STATE AND LOCAL FUNDING: ENSURE THAT STATE AND LOCAL FINANCING AND INCENTIVES SUPPORT ADEQUATE DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY
In order to meet the affordable housing supply needs for all income levels today and in the future, there needs to be adequate local, state and federal funding targeted for affordable housing. It is also critical that investments are structured to allow developments to have little or no debt so that they can remain affordable for households at the lowest income levels. Charlotte is listed as one of many with ballot initiatives for increased affordable housing. California recently approved Prop 2,which authorized $2 billion in previously appropriated funding that is dedicated to the construction of affordable housing for those that are experiencing chronic homelessness, people with disabilities, and people living with mental illness. Two ballot issues in Telluride, Colorado passed: one to increase a levy on property taxes to fund and finance affordable housing and the other to increase town debt to fund affordable housing and use the revenue from the levied property tax to pay the debt. Portland, Oregon passed the Metro Affordable Housing Bonds Measure, which allocated $652.8 million to fund the construction, acquisition and renovation of affordable housing for 7,500 to 12,000 people. The City Council in Austin, Texas passed Proposition A to allocate $200 to $300 million for affordable rental housing, homeownership programs, home repairs and future land purchase. Additional sources for cities, counties and states to consider are local sales taxes, bonds and other dedicated revenue sources.
While the strategies featured in this post may be new, the “So, What” is ultimately the same. Therefore, this section integrates the “So, What” from last week with new information.
Splitting the housing and homelessness continuum does not give an advantage to the efforts focused on housing; nor does it help those focused on homelessness. The problems underlying the need for both are linked and it is impossible to effectively address the one without also attending to the other.
While linking the issues might serve to make the problem seem too big, the reality is that the problem is big. It is also true that the big problem is solvable, if addressed holistically. Alignment of efforts positions the community to have the best possible prospects for solving all of it.
Funding for affordable housing does not have to be a barrier. There are are adequate local, state and federal resources that can be leveraged, optimized and scaled to ensure that funding is best targeted to address the problem and ensure solutions are maintained.
Courtney Morton coordinates posts on the Building Bridges Blog. Courtney is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Courtney’s job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so that they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.