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Policy Update 8-21-19

Rep. Mark Walker Hosts Affordable Housing Roundtable

On August 13th, the Coalition participated in a roundtable discussion on affordable housing convened by Congressperson Mark Walker. The meeting was organized as a result of Greensboro mayor Nancy Vaughn’s outreach to Walker expressing concern over growing housing problems in the region. The event held at the Greensboro Housing Hub included Mayor Vaughn, local public officials, advocates, and providers of housing. 

The focus of the meeting was for Rep. Walker to hear from housing stakeholders about the critical issues, current efforts, and potential strategies for increasing the supply and access of affordable housing. Representing the Coalition, Policy Director Pamela Atwood, thanked Walker for his past support of legislation to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and asked him to consider co-signing the current version in Congress, H.R. 3077 the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA). You can read about the potential impact of AHCIA in North Carolina here.

The Coalition’s Developers Council will be visiting Washington, D.C. on September 16-17 to meet with North Carolina’s Congressional delegation and we plan on meeting with Walker and his staff to continue advocating for the AHCIA. If you are interested in participating in the D.C. trip, please contact Pamela Atwood for further details. To join the Developers Council, please contact Haley Solomon.

Gaston Gears Up to Address Growth

Last Wednesday, the Coalition’s Director of Housing Policy spoke at the “Get Ready Gaston: A Forum on Preparing for Growth” event hosted by the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce. The event was the third annual in a series of regional discussions to examine the impacts of anticipated growth. Business and civic leaders gathered for a full day of presentations on how regional growth impacts affects transportation, housing, communications infrastructure, and other quality of life elements. 

Gaston County area stakeholders are examining the above issues in response to the coming reality of increased population growth and housing demand in their area. Some of Gaston’s growth is due to Mecklenburg County’s own growth and rising cost of living. Growth is also expected due to the confirmation of a light-rail line extension from Matthews that will terminate in Belmont. The current expansion of Charlotte Douglas Airport also signals a need for Gaston County to acknowledge the coming changes. 

Rather than denying what is happening around them, the community leaders gathered at the Gaston event, see the coming growth as an opportunity to create what a vibrant region. Housing affordability and access being included among the topics being discussed is a positive sign towards growth that includes all community members.

Public Charge

Last week the Trump administration announced a change to the Department of Homeland Security’s methodology for determining whether or not someone is a “public charge” or may become one. A public charge is a term used in reviewing applications for visas to enter the United States and for obtaining permanent resident status (“green cards”). 

A criteria that immigration officials evaluate is the applicant’s likelihood of being a “public charge”, or someone that is “dependent on the government for their subsistence.” If it is determined that an applicant is a public charge or may become one, the application for entry or permanent residence is typically denied. 

Currently the use of publicly-funded healthcare, nutrition, and housing programs is excluded in labeling someone as a public charge. The rule change alters what is considered government dependency to include non-cash assistance such as Housing Choice Vouchers and project-based rental assistance through private affordable housing, among other programs.

The change adds a layer of complexity to the challenge of accessing assistance and deters people from seeking the help they need. Advocates from many issue areas expect the change to exacerbate existing problems. Housing advocates expect to see increased evictions and foreclosures as a result

The rule change is currently scheduled to go into effect on October 15th. However pending litigations from several states, local jurisdiction, and advocacy groups may prevent the change from being implemented as the lawsuits move through the judicial system.

Update on HUD Fair Housing Changes

The HUD Disparate Impact rule changes were published Monday August 19th in the Federal Register. The changes make proving discrimination by disparate impacts, as opposed to intentional discrimination, more difficult by increasing the number of components required to file discrimination complaints. The changes move the burden of proof onto the complainant. Additionally, the proposed change includes new factors defendants may use to defend themselves against discrimination charges. For housing developers, there is potential impact for challenging zoning decisions on the basis of disparate impact. 

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition is hosting a webinar on August 22 on the proposed rule change’s impact to housing. Go here for more information and to sign-up. HUD will be accepting comments until October 18th. Comments can be submitted via this website. The Coalition will also be submitting comments to HUD.

State Continues Without Budget

As we head into September, the state budget impasse continues. Each side appears to be working to sway public opinion on who is to blame for the lack of a budget almost eight weeks into the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The General Assembly has not called for a vote to override Governor Cooper’s veto of the GA’s budget and there does not appear to be a resolution coming in the very near-future. 

Without an enacted budget, North Carolina statute dictates that the state budget reverts to the recurring items of the previous biennium budget. Line items in the budget that are non-recurring do not receive funding. This is significant for affordable housing advocates because the Workforce Housing Loan Program (WHLP) is a non-recurring expenditure. While the budget passed by the General Assembly already made drastic cuts to affordable housing, the lack of a final budget means that even that cut is zeroed out. 

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) administers WHLP monies and combines WHLP with allocations of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Projects awarded housing credits, receive WHLP funds as a 30-year deferred payment loan at 0 percent interest for a percentage of the rental property’s development cost. For 2019, approximately $21.2 million in WHLP funds will be awarded across 25 counties. Thirty-two of the 40 projects receiving tax credits will also be receiving WHLP funds. It also gives NCHFA the ability to extend the reach of NC’s amount of federal housing credits, allowing more units to be funded. For NCHFA’s 2019 allocations, WHLP contributes to the financing of 1,730 units to be built. Without WHLP monies going forward, the challenge for producing affordable housing only becomes more difficult. 

Durham Housing Authority Announces Changes to Eviction Procedures

On Monday August 12th, Durham Housing Authority announced changes they will be implementing in order to reduce the number of evictions in their public housing units. For more details visit our blog post here.

Recommended read

DHA Commits to Fewer Evictions

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