As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians continue to struggle with basic necessities – food, housing, utilities. The state and the nation are in the midst of an unprecedented rental housing and eviction crisis. It is easy to simply blame the current dynamics on the rising costs of housing and the affordability crisis we were in prior to the arrival of coronavirus. However, multiple factors from reaching back over decades on housing policy have brought us to where we are.
Here in North Carolina one major factor that specifically affects our ability to effectively and quickly respond to the housing needs of the moment is the historic disinvestment in the state’s housing and community development infrastructure. Please watch today’s Housing Minute video for more about this dismantling of the state’s housing and community development infrastructure and its role in today’s multiple housing crises. Decimated state capacity inevitably leads to similar capacity challenges at the regional and local levels, especially amid increased housing needs. Local governments are left to manage problems they are ill-equipped, both in resources and capacity, to fully address. These historic links inform the Coalition’s policy and legislative agenda for this year.
Also at play in informing our legislative agenda is today’s political climate. The legislative and executive branches frequently run in opposition to one another. The ones most affected by this dynamic are regular people, particularly those with the least resources. Such political games can hinder or delay programs, such as emergency rental assistance, having harmful real world consequences for people just trying to live their lives.
Now is not the time for games that can restrict or delay funds to programs providing basic social support such as rental assistance, affordable housing preservation & construction, and housing counseling. The projected revenue is actually looking “fairly typical” according to the Fiscal Research Division (see today’s Policy Update for additional information), reducing the case for austerity measures typical during an economic downturn.
The Coalition’s priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session are:
- $60 M to Foreclosure Prevention & Housing Counseling – Homeowners are struggling with housing costs as well. Housing counselors are key to assisting homeowners through the maze of loan modifications, forbearances, and mortgage options. The state should be preparing its systems and network of housing counselors in order to quickly implement potential federal funding for mortgage assistance and related services.
- $35 M to Workforce Housing Loan Program – The continued construction and preservation of affordable housing helps to ensure that access to affordable housing is improved. Construction activity is also a key driver of economic stability.
- $20 M to Housing Trust Fund – The Trust Fund is a flexible source of funds that can allow for tailored solutions to local housing needs. Funds should be increased during a time of crisis.
- $20 M to CDBG to Neighborhood Revitalization Program – CDBG funds are one of the primary sources for addressing rural housing needs. People in rural communities face similar housing challenges to their urban counterparts.
- $500 M Statewide Affordable Housing Bond – With the devastating need for affordable housing and growing housing precarity, the state must make substantial investment in housing in order to make substantial gains that meet the scale of the challenge.
For more information about the Coalition’s policy and legislative priorities, please contact Pamela Atwood, Director of Housing Policy: firstname.lastname@example.org.