State issues

Everything is bigger in Texas – except our housing trust fund

Looking over the latest report from Mary Brook’s Housing Trust Fund Project at the Center for Community Change makes me feel ashamed.

The Texas Housing Trust Fund ranks among the poorest funded in the country.

But this might change next tear because the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has proposed and “exceptional item” in the department’s legislative appropriation request for an additional $40 million.

Here is the request made by TDHCA…

Last session, TDHCA received an additional $5 million for the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), doubling the program. The additional funding made available in 2008 allowed TDHCA to provide gap-financing for low income households whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Rita, special housing assistance for our returning Iraq and Afghan veterans, homeownership assistance, and rural rental development assistance. TDHCA proposes requesting an additional $20 million per year for this flexible program for the 2010-2011 biennium. This additional funding may be used to expand the Texas Bootstrap Loan Program, strengthen the Department’s partnership with the Texas Home of Your Own Coalition (HOYO), support gap-financing for multifamily rural housing and supportive housing, fund nonprofit capacity bUilding, and support other activities difficult to undertake with existing federal funds.

In case you were wondering, this video we released last year reports the good things our housing trust fund does, despite the fact it runs with next to no money…

While the department’s request is good news for housing things could also go in the other direction.  At the direction of the Legislative Budget Board all state agencies were instructed to submit budgets showing a 10 percent reduction in state funds.  TDHCA’s plan to accomplish this identifies $169,062 in cuts to funds from the Housing Trust Fund for multifamily and $716,501 in Housing Trust funds cuts in funding set aside for single family housing.

According to the Texas State Comptroller, until last year Texas state government was spending more on magazine and periodical subscriptions for state employees every year than it was to help house the state’s neediest families through the housing trust fund. Texas has one of the largest populations of families living in poverty, yet until last year, the state was appropriating only $4 million a year to the Texas Housing Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is the only state funding source to help working families obtain safe, decent, affordable housing.

By comparison, Florida devotes more than $600 million, Washington State more than $100 million, Ohio $60 million, Illinois $90 million, New Jersey $153 million.

With the leadership of Senator Eddie Lucio and the active support of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, the Texas Legislature approved a modest expansion of the Housing Trust Fund last session. The Legislature appropriated $5 million in additional funding for affordable housing per year over the biennium. We are most grateful to them

A coalition of individuals and organizations known as Housing Texas is working to get a state housing trust fund with $50 million per year.  This group will be meeting in the fall to chart the next steps toward making sure that we restore our Texas bragging rights about everything being bigger in Texas.

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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