Thursday, June 14, 2012

Senate Budget Hurts Housing

The proposed Senate budget, approved this afternoon, includes alarming cuts for housing and homeless programs. The budget zeroes out appropriated funding for the NC Housing Trust Fund, instead allowing the diversion of mortgage settlement funding meant for housing counseling and legal services to substitute as a short-term fix. The proposed budget also eliminates critical funding for homeless programs.

The NC Housing Trust Fund (NCHTF), created 25 years ago, is the only state-appropriated resource that provides permanent housing for the homeless, survivors of domestic violence, and persons with disabilities; it ensures that seniors and persons with disabilities can continue living on their own homes through rehab and modification; it produces energy-efficient affordable housing; and, it provides successful, entry-level homeownership.

“This is the time for the state to invest in critical housing programs, not cut them” said Chris Estes, executive director of the NC Housing Coalition. “The mortgage settlement funds were meant to help distressed homeowners, not to plug budget holes. As we recover from a serious housing crisis, we need a robust Housing Trust Fund to help ensure the development of safe, affordable housing and we also need strong housing counseling and legal services to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.”

In the past, the state has invested as much as $19M per year for the NCHTF. In recent years that had been cut down to $10M and in 2011, the NCHTF was reduced to $7.8 million. The Senate’s proposed budget zeroes out the entire 2012 appropriation for the Housing Trust Fund. Similarly, the House budget includes a one-time reduction of $4.3 million to the NCHTF. Both the House and Senate proposals suggest that the NC Housing Finance Agency should divert money from mortgage settlement funds to replenish the cut.

The mortgage settlement funds are the result of a landmark legal settlement with five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers. The $30 million received by the NC Housing Finance Agency is intended, under the terms of the settlement, to help distressed homeowners through housing counseling and legal assistance.

Funding for Homeless Programs Also Cut

The proposed Senate budget, like the House budget, eliminates homeless programs funding for the Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs (ICCHP). This $250,000 in funding, through the Social Services Block Grant is the only line item in the budget that is targeted to the homeless. Homeless service providers across the state leverage this funding to access $23 million each year in federal funding for a variety of homeless programs. The ICCHP is also responsible for research that has been used to significantly reduce long-term, disabled (chronic) homelessness by more than half in the Asheville, Greensboro, and Wilmington areas.  This year, the ICCHP was planning to prioritize funds to realize similar decreases among homeless veterans and families.

“Leaving out vital homeless funding is shortsighted,” says Denise Neunaber, Executive Director of the NC Coalition to End Homelessness. “Cutting this funding doesn't balance the budget. What it does is cost us more money by not addressing the high costs of homelessness, jeopardizes millions in federal funding, and sends a signal that our State doesn't care about our most vulnerable citizens."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More households are spending more than half of their income on housing

Guest post by Laura Williams, Center for Housing Policy

According to the new Housing Landscape 2012 report from the Center for Housing Policy, nearly one in four working households spends more than 50 percent of its income on housing. Let that sink in for a moment.

The new report, based on the latest data from the American Community Survey (2010), took a look at the housing costs for working households – those earning up to 120 percent of their area median income and who worked at least 20 hours each week. The picture is not good.

The percent of severely burdened households increased significantly between 2008 and 2010, driven in large part by low-income renters. They saw the costs of renting increase by 4 percent during those two years, even while their incomes declined.

Twenty-four states and nineteen metro areas also saw their rates of housing cost burden increase, while the number that declined can be counted on one hand (with a couple of fingers left over). In North Carolina, 21% of working families have a severe housing cost burden. This is up from 18% in 2008.

The underlying causes are lower employment, lower incomes and, for most, increased costs. Homeowners present some exceptions to this latter case, but only if they’ve taken advantage of the down market and been able to refinance or purchase at newly lower prices. Many have not had those opportunities.

For many more details, check out the report in its entirety.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Affordable Rental Shortage Faces Renters in NC

Raleigh, N.C. - An analysis released on February 15 by a national housing research and advocacy group shows an alarming gap between the number low income families and the number of affordable and available rental homes in North Carolina and throughout the nation. These renter households, faced with excessively high housing costs or inadequate housing circumstances, are at great risk of becoming homeless.

Jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the North Carolina Housing Coalition, Housing Spotlight: The Shrinking Supply of Affordable Housing, shows that in North Carolina, there are only 33 rental homes both affordable and available for every 100 renter households considered extremely low income, that is, earning 30% or less of the area median income. Nationally, the data shows that while there are 9.8 million extremely low income renter households, there are only 3 million rental homes affordable and available to them, leaving 6.8 million American households without access to decent housing they can afford. No state in the nation has an adequate supply of affordable, available rental housing.

“This gap is more than just numbers on paper,” said Chris Estes, Executive Director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, “These are families in North Carolina sleeping on couches, skipping meals, living one illness away from total disaster. It’s a recipe for homelessness.” Advocates say this housing shortage compares in scale and impact to the foreclosure crisis.

While the affordable rental housing shortage itself is dire, housing advocates point to numerous available solutions. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund. In those 25 years, the award-winning program has financed nearly 25,000 homes and apartments, most for very low income families. To date, the Trust Fund has created over 16,000
much-needed construction jobs and generated millions in local and state tax revenue. As the state readies itself for another contentious legislative session, housing advocates are urging lawmakers to strengthen the NC Housing Trust Fund, a program with historic bi-partisan support that can help fill the gap in affordable rental housing and strengthen communities across the state.

At the federal level, advocates call for funding of the National Housing Trust Fund, which would provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for those households impacted by the affordable housing shortage. Signed into law in 2008, the National Housing Trust Fund has not yet been funded. President Obama included $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund in his FY13 budget.

“Solving the shortage of affordable rental housing is the most important homelessness prevention measure we can undertake,” said Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Investing in the National Housing Trust Fund is our best chance of ensuring affordable housing for all Americans.”

The full report is available at