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Policy Update 1-12-22

Federal Updates

Negotiations Stalled on Build Back Better Act
The Build Back Better Act did not make it to the Senate floor before the holidays and negotiations with Senator Joe Manchin went south just before Christmas. In mid-December, Sen. Manchin proposed a $1.8 trillion counteroffer with funds for climate, health-care and education initiatives. Several key provisions were excluded in his version of Build Back Better, including affordable housing. 

Since then, Sen. Manchin announced that negotiations are no longer occurring and his counteroffer appears to be off the table as well. Democrats need his vote to pass the legislation and he has said he won’t support the package in its current form.

It isn’t clear when the Senate will pick up the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he plans to bring the bill to a vote despite Manchin’s opposition, but every Democratic vote will be needed to move the legislation through the reconciliation process. 

Given the uncertainty of the legislation’s prospects and the contents of Sen. Machin’s counteroffer, it is critical that Democratic Senators continue to hear from advocates about the urgency of Build Back Better and the need for affordable housing to remain in the package. 

Guidance on State Fiscal Recovery Funds Released with LIHTC Obstacle
The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued guidance on State Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) that were allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act. These funds can be used by states in a variety of ways, including to provide financing for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects. 

In North Carolina specifically, the state budget allocates $170 million in these funds to the Workforce Housing Loan Program (WHLP) to help finance LIHTC developments. The federal guidance issued last week includes a requirement that all funds be expended by December 31, 2026, which makes loans with maturities after 2026 infeasible. This requirement presents a barrier to deploying WHLP funds, which are needed to fund 80 affordable housing developments across NC with 5,300 units from the 2019 and 2020 cycles alone.

A coalition led by the National Council of State Housing Agencies asked the Treasury to make modifications and provide more flexibility in the use of these funds for developments financed through the LIHTC program. However, the guidance was issued last week without the requested change. Stay tuned for more, as this is an evolving issue that will likely require additional advocacy at the state and/or federal levels.

North Carolina Updates

Plan for NC’s Homeowner Assistance Fund Approved
The plan for North Carolina’s Homeowner Assistance Fund has been approved by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The fund is part of a federal program established by the American Rescue Plan Act to provide direct assistance to homeowners at risk of foreclosure during the pandemic. 

North Carolina is the fifth state to receive Treasury approval on it’s plan and the program will be administered by the NC Housing Finance Agency. Homeowners can contact 855-MY-NCHAF (855-696-2423) to get information or to sign up to be notified when applications start being accepted. Tune in to the Coalition’s housing call on February 1st to hear more details from staff at NCHFA. 

21 Local Grants Totaling $14.9M Awarded by NC Commerce
The North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded 21 Community Development Block Grant – Neighborhood Revitalization (CDBG-NR) requests to local governments totaling $14.9 million. The grants will provide housing and public improvements for low- and moderate-income North Carolinians.

NC Hurricane Recovery Efforts Impacted by Higher Construction Costs
Rising construction costs are impacting North Carolina’s disaster recovery efforts and the state is looking to shift nearly $48 million in federal recovery funds to allow it to grant unexpectedly high contracts for home repairs more quickly.

NCHFA Announced $11M in Funds Available for Home Repairs
The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) has $11 million in funds available for eligible organizations to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes in selected counties. These funds are available through the 2022 cycle of the Essential Single-Family Rehabilitation Loan Pool (ESFRLP). Completed applications must be received by the Agency by 5:00 p.m. Friday, January 21, 2022. Details and application materials are available on NCHFA’s website.

Local Updates

Decision Delayed on Rule Change for Accessory Dwelling Units in Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem is considering loosening restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units (aka “granny flats”). The City Council has postponed a decision on rule changes until after a public forum can be held. 

Sale of Durham Apartment Building Puts Residents at Risk of Eviction
Braswell Properties, a Durham apartment building with affordable units, is up for sale and residents were notified to move by the end December. Households that remain past the deadline could face eviction. Residents and other advocate groups are asking for help from the City of Durham and have proposed a Tenants Bill of Rights to strengthen protections throughout the city.

Durham Housing Authority Announced 1,700 New Housing Units
The Durham Housing Authority (DHA) has approved $470 million in development plans for Fayette Place, the Forest Hill Heights public housing community, and the combined DHA Office and Criminal Justice Resource Center sites. The three projects are the second phase of the housing authority’s DHA Downtown and Neighborhood Plan (DDNP). Combined, the sites total more than 37 acres and will include 1,700 new housing units.

Reports, Resources and Events

Carolina Forward – Report: The Road to Home: Fair and Affordable Housing for North Carolina

UNC School of Government Community and Economic Development – What we know about COVID’s impact on affordable housing – so far

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies – Virtual Event: America’s Rental Housing Report 2022 Friday, 1/21 @ 12pm

NPR – Rising sea levels threaten affordable housing

Bloomberg – Investors Help Crowd Out Everyday Homebuyers as U.S. Prices Soar

CityLab – Apartment Occupancy Just Hit a Historic High. Is That Good?

Greensboro News and Record – Black families are less likely than white families to own homes in NC. Here’s why.

WRAL – Some families scrambling as COVID-19 rent payment program comes to an end

WRAL Tech Wire – Housing affordability in Triangle, across NC, a chief concern of business leaders at Economic Forecast Forum

WCNC Charlotte – Seeking Solutions: Public transit’s role in affordable housing

News & Observer – How high housing costs and soaring rents combine to hinder home ownership in NC

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