On Wednesday, May 18th, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its FY 2012 Budget Proposal. Like the Governor’s budget and the House budget, the Senate Ways and Means budget closes a gap of over $1.8 billion created by a revenue shortfall from the slow economy, the repeal of the sales tax on alcohol, and the loss of ARRA stimulus funds.
The Senate Ways and Means FY’12 budget provides small cuts to a few affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs, level-funds other programs at FY’11 funding levels, and boosts funding for MRVP. Highlights include:
- MRVP would be funded at $35.5 million, plus an additional $8.4 million in funding that the budget requires MassHousing to transfer to the program. The total of $43.9 million in MRVP funding is projected to be sufficient to: 1) ensure every household on the MRVP program will be able to be served in FY’12; 2) allow program administrators to be able to reissue vouchers when they are turned in; and 3) enable a significant amount of new families and individuals to be enrolled in the program.
- Under the Senate Ways and Means budget, an estimated 1,300 extremely low income households at-risk of homelessness could be provided with housing assistance using the Home Funders model of project-basing new MRVP vouchers together with new Low Income Housing Tax Credits, or approximately 840 households could be provided with rental assistance utilizing the average newly-issued mobile voucher costs.
- Housing Consumer Education Centers are cut by $118,184. We expect an amendment will be filed to raise this to level funding.
- Public Housing is level-funded at $62.5 million, a difficult funding level given rising costs and snow and ice spending from the harsh winter.
- Home and Healthy for Good, a Housing First Program for homeless individuals that is proven to save taxpayer dollars, is cut by $100,000.
- The Service Coordinators Program for Public Housing is cut by $25,000.
- RAFT is funded at $260,000, a difficult funding level due to the depletion of ARRA Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing funds for similar purposes. This represents a 95% cut in the past three years.
- The Alternative Housing Voucher Programs, the Mass Access Housing Registry, the Tenancy Preservation Program, Foreclosure Counseling Grants, and Department of Mental Health Rental Subsidies are all level-funded at FY’11 funding levels.
The Senate also included the “HomeBase” proposal to make housing assistance, not shelter, the primary response to assisting families that are homeless. The Senate made minor changes to the House language and many of them will be extremely helpful for families assisted with HomeBase. The changes to the House budget language include:
- Adding a category of eligibility for families that are at imminent risk of homelessness earning no greater than 115% of the federal poverty level. This category was also in the Governor’s budget proposal for Homebase;
- Providing DHCD, not the regional housing agency, with the authority to determine flexibility on the maximum rental assistance payment and making cost effectiveness the sole criteria to determine if flexibility on maximum rental assistance is warranted;
- Providing an appeals process for families terminated from HomeBase and allowing families to stay in housing pending the appeal;
- Providing that families cannot be terminated from HomeBase for a single violation of a housing stabilization plan;
- Mandating clear regulations for how families will be provided with temporary shelter prior to finding a HomeBase apartment;
We would like to thank Senate President Therese Murray, Majority Leader Fred Berry, Chairman Stephen Brewer, Vice-Chairman Steven Baddour, Assistant Vice-Chair Jen Flanagan, Chairman Jamie Eldridge, the members of the Ways and Means Committee, and many other partners in the Senate for their support for affordable housing throughout the budget process.
The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the budget on Wednesday, May 25th. Following the May Senate deliberations, a conference committee will negotiate a budget to send to Governor Patrick for his approval prior to July 1.
Potential for Group Adult Foster Care Rate Cut Continues
Many of our members have expressed concerns with a potential rate cut to the Group Adult Foster Care program for seniors and persons with disabilities. The Senate Ways and Means budget does not include language protecting GAFC from rate cuts in FY’12. Without that language, the Administration is expected to cut GAFC rates, which will threaten the ability for seniors and persons with disabilities to continue receiving adequate daily services necessary to avoid more costly institutions. Many housing developments rely on GAFC to support their tenants with necessary services and without services, the long-term stability of these developments is threatened.
CHAPA members interested in protecting Group Adult Foster Care should contact their State Senator and ask them to support Senator Michael Rodrigues’ GAFC budget amendment.
State Legislative Committees Consider Several CHAPA Legislative Priorities
The Joint Committee on Housing has held hearings on several CHAPA legislative priorities, including, An Act Relative to Community Housing and Services, An Act Promoting Accessible Housing for Persons with Disabilities, An Act Promoting Community Preservation and the Public Housing Innovations Act.
The Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government also held a public hearing and land use and zoning reform legislation on Wednesday, May 18th.
Click here to access CHAPA’s testimony and additional information on these legislative proposals.
Administration Releases MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program Guidelines
On May 1st, the Patrick-Murray Administration released guidelines on the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. The new initiative provides grant funding for the construction, reconstruction and expansion of publicly owned infrastructure including, but not limited to sewers, utility extensions, streets, roads, curb-cuts, parking facilities, water treatment systems, and pedestrian and bicycle access by coordinating several existing capital programs.
Administration and Finance Continues to Allocate Housing Bond Volume Cap for MassHousing and MassDevelopment
Tax-exempt private activity bonds are an important component of affordable housing finance. The Patrick-Murray Administration has reserved a significant portion of the state cap on private activity bonds for housing throughout its tenure. This year, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance has reserved $150 million in FY’11 volume cap for MassDevelopment to be used for multi-family affordable housing developments. In addition, MassHousing will be able to access over $342 million of the state cap on private activity bonds, which includes volume cap carried over from 2010. MassHousing will use the funds for both its single-family first-time homebuyer program and for multifamily affordable housing projects.
Annual Housing Institute for Local Officials Slated for June 20 and 21
Housing and community development professionals from around the state will be the featured speakers at the fifth annual Massachusetts Housing Institute for local officials. The event will take place on Monday and Tuesday, June 20-21, at the Marriott Spring Hill Suites and Conference Center at Devens.
The two-day intensive workshop is designed for local officials, planners, housing committees, community preservation committees, housing trusts, local housing advocates, and others who are working to provide housing options for their community.
Topics that will be covered during the workshop include housing finance, building local support, finding a good development site, and a case study. A new addition to this year’s Housing Institute is the first annual Local Housing Heroes awards ceremony designed to honor local people who have demonstrated great tenacity and passion for supporting affordable housing in their communities. This year’s institute will also include a Funders Roundtable and an “Ask the Experts” session, both designed to give you a chance to discuss your project or community with development experts.
The cost to attend both days of the event is $125 per participant ($75 for one day) and includes meals. Need based scholarships will be made available and we are committed to including all community members who are interested in participating.
2011 Massachusetts Housing Permits at Historic Lows
New U.S. Census data indicates that cities and towns in Massachusetts issued building permits for a total of 1,084 housing units in the first quarter of 2011 (January through March), down 35% from the number permitted in the first quarter of 2010 (1,664) and 40% fewer than the first quarter of 2009.
The 2011 first quarter total is far lower than any reported since at least 1969 and follows three years of very low permit activity (an average of 9,000 units a year in 2008 through 2010). By contrast, a recent Massachusetts Housing Partnership study estimated that the state will need to add 200,000 housing units between 2010 and 2020 to meet projected housing demand under a slow but steady growth scenario.
Massachusetts Foreclosure Activity Continues to Be Slow
The Warren Group reported on April 21 that new foreclosure activity in March rose compared to February but remains dramatically below the levels reported a year ago. A total of 552 foreclosure deeds were recorded and 1,048 petitions to foreclose were filed in March and year to date (January to March) foreclosure deeds totaled 1,593, down 54% from the same period in 2010. Year to date petitions (2,535) were 61.5% below the numbers reported in the first quarter of 2010.
Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston Schedules Sessions for Fall Funding Round
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston is hosting eight Affordable Housing Program (AHP) trainings and technical assistance sessions across New England from May 24th through September 8th in advance of the Fall 2011 AHP Funding Round.
The trainings provide an opportunity to network with lenders and other business partners and learn about the 2011 AHP program scoring, feasibility, and other requirements. The funding round will open for applications on August 22 and applications are due September 30. For more information about locations/dates and to register, click here.
Community Preservation Coalition Launches Updated Website
The Community Preservation Coalition, of which CHAPA is a founding member, launched its updated website this week with many new features, including a detailed searchable data base of local projects, including housing programs, funded using Community Preservation Act funds.