The National Housing Trust Fund: A Resource to Help Create Permanent Supportive Housing

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Lets call a spade a spade: the lack of affordable rental housing in this country is huge problem for Americans. Here at M&L, we see this lack of housing represented in the number of individuals with disabilities on wait lists for housing, or living at home with parents, or in institutions. At best, this special needs housing crisis means that our family members with disabilities cannot access the housing and/or programs necessary for supported, integrated, community-based living as outlined by Olmstead. At worst, it means that individuals with disabilities who come from ELI (extremely low income) households are segregated in hospitals, institutions, or are homeless.

A new report, written and released by the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC), focuses on the challenges facing ELI households, specifically individuals from these households who are in need of supports. This report, titled Creating New Integrated Permanent Supportive Housing Opportunities for ELI Households, identifies a number of innovations in policy designed to target these groups (ELI households, and those with significant long term disabilities.) Specifically, the TAC identifies the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) approach, “a highly cost-effective best practice housing policy that combines ELI housing with voluntary, community-based support services.[i]

Please join us as we take a look at this report, and discuss how the policies outlined within can help the movement towards integrated, community-based housing.

National Housing Trust Fund

Before we go into any detail about the TAC’s report, it is important to first draw attention to the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Those of you who are knowledgeable on the HTF may wish to skip this section; for any of you who are new to the topic, or wish to learn more about the HTF, please read on for a brief description of what it is and how it relates to affordable housing.

Quite simply, the HTF is a “permanent federal fund intended to provide grants to States to increase and preserve the supply of housing for extremely low- and very low-income families.[ii]” This fund was authorized by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and will (once capitalized) provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable. The three main features of the HTF include the fact that it will be a permanent and dedicated source of funding, is targeted towards rental housing, and is targeted towards ELI households.

It is important to be aware of the NHT when reading this report as it is this fund that the TAC identifies as a possible funding source for the housing strategies they outline. For more information on the HFT, please visit their website.

The Report

Throughout the course of this report, the TAC focuses on three states – Pennsylvania, North Caroline and Illinois – detailing the financing strategies that these states have developed for providing and funding integrated PSH housing opportunities that target ELI households. According to the TAC, PSH opportunities are – by definition – ELI housing opportunities, as the vast majority of people with disabilities who need PSH are ELI households.

Essentially, as the TAC reports, these three states have developed ways to fund and create housing opportunities to meet the growing need for ELI-PSH housing, despite the fact there is a decline in federal funds as expressed through the housing voucher program, as well as a decline in HUD housing programs (and HUD’s narrow definition of homelessness that precludes those in the ELI-PSH demographic). The TAC outlines the follow key principles and recommendations to close the gap between ELI need and ELI housing supply, as well as ensuring the expansion of PSH units:

  • The NHFT program must be targeted to address the full spectrum of ELI need, including vulnerable households with disabilities in need of PSH;
  • The federal LIHTC (low income housing tax credit) should be used as a platform for NHFT to expand ELI and PSH units;
  • NHFT strategies should include a focus on mixed income approaches that create subset of ELI units in properties that also provide housing for higher income households. The mixed income model can reduce the community resistance often encountered for projects that are either 100 percent ELI and/or 100 percent PSH and may provide opportunities to cross subsidize PSH rents. Equally important for PSH policy, a mixed income approach also maximizes the level of community integration which can be achieved for PSH tenants. All three case studies utilize this mixed income approach to expand the supply of integrated PSH units;
  • Use NHFT resources to develop the most cost-effective, transparent and long-term ELI subsidy approach possible. ELI units definitely cost more to develop, but realistic cost-conscious policies are essential to the future of ELI housing policy;
  • NHTF resources must be used in combination with other existing affordable housing programs, and not used to supplant funding from these programs. For example, NHTF capital should not be used to supplant HOME funds that are being used systematically to lower rents in LIHTC properties. Instead, NHTF resources can be used to augment LIHTC/HOME financed models to achieve deeper levels of ELI affordability.

So, the question becomes, why is this report so important? Well, it is answered in the following statement:

“This report is an important resource as states are hungry to identify strategies to address the affordable housing crisis experienced by those with ELI and disabilities identified in the NLIHC’s Alignment Project. The significant ELI outcomes achieved by efforts in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Illinois to better align their state housing policies with ELI-PSH housing needs can and should be replicated by every state’s housing finance agency to address these urgent needs.”

If you would like to learn more about this report, or to read it in full, please visit the TAC’s website, www.tacinc.org, or contact us.

How M&L can help you access affordable communities for your family member with special needs

Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC, we have developed our own housing strategy: if you can’t find integrated communities that meet the needs of your family member with disability, then create it! If you are interested in special needs community development, then please check out our community building non-profit Integrated Living Opportunities, an organization created to building networks of support and community partnerships necessary for individuals with disabilities to live, work, play and thrive in independent, community settings. For more information, please contact us or visit or Integrated Living Opportunities: Officially Open for Business.

For more disability housing related information and resources, you may wish to check out our blog archive – simply select Housing for individuals with Disability from the drop down menu titled Blog Categories on the right hand side of our website. In this menu you will find a number of articles, studies, and interviews all related to housing for individuals with special needs.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog today – enjoy your weekend, and drop by again next Thursday!

[i] http://www.ancor.org/newsroom/news/tac-releases-report-permanent-supportive-housing-opportunities-low-income-and

[ii] https://www.ncsha.org/blog/state-hfas-highlighted-tacs-report-innovative-strategies-financing-eli-units

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