VHA’s 2024 legislative agenda prioritizes strategic investments to address both the supply and demand side of the affordable housing needs of Virginia’s lowest income households.
Established in 2013 and supported by every administration, the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development(DHCD) in partnership with Virginia Housing (VH). The HTF uses public dollars to leverage private investment in housing for people with extremely low incomes. From 2014 through 2023, the HTF’s competitive loan program has awarded at least $139.6M to over 200 projects, assisting in the creation or preservation of 15,663 affordable units.
The HTF is coordinated and targeted to our lowest income residents. Since 2014, DHCD has collaborated with Virginia Housing and the Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services (DBHDS) to coordinate and implement strategies to address the housing needs of vulnerable populations including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, serious mental illness and those who are chronically homeless through the creation of additional permanent supportive housing (PSH) units.
Safe, decent, affordable housing is essential for individual and family stability, yet the Commonwealth has a shortage of at least 300,000 affordable homes. Continued and increased funding is needed to make strides to meeting the housing needs of all of our neighbors, including our seniors and people with disabilities, members of our workforce, young families, and new graduates.
VHA supports an additional investment of $75M in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (HTF) which will bring the total amount of funding each year to $150M, or $300M over the FY25-26 biennium.
Many Virginia families face high housing costs throughout the Commonwealth. In fact, one in three Virginian households are cost burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs. As a result, many families experience housing instability, including displacement and eviction. The lack of a permanent, reliable, and stable home has a profound impact on students’ health, development, and education. Numerous studies indicate that children experience declines in educational achievement when they change schools or are frequently absent, both common consequences of housing instability. Secure housing can lead to improved cognitive, developmental, and mental health outcomes for students, which in turn can lead to improved academic success. According to a well-respected national research study, children whose families achieve housing stability through rental assistance have substantially higher adult earnings and rates of college attendance than children who are not able to access such assistance. As Virginia seeks to grow its economy through the expansion of its workforce, it is critical that we equip parents with the resources they need to ensure the best possible education for their children, including a place to call home.
VHA supports the 5,000 Families pilot program which will invest $100M in the future of Virginia students and families by providing housing opportunity and stability. Through this program, rent relief will be granted to 5,000 low-income families on a monthly basis to keep their rent affordable for the long term. This initiative will empower families and their children by ensuring they have a stable home and thus a strong foundation for success at school and beyond.
Affordable housing is in short supply in Virginia, and it’s crucial to remove any
obstacles to its development and management. One such obstacle is the undue tax burden on affordable housing providers based on inaccurate assessments. There is wide consensus that properties with affordability restrictions should not be valued in the same way as market rate housing. In fact, the nationally established appraisal standards and our current Virginia code both direct assessors to treat these properties differently. However, the code is easily misinterpreted or ignored and does not provide adequate enforcement and instruction. Many affordable housing providers across the state report that their assessor has inaccurately valued their properties as market rate housing.
VHA proposes a simple fix to this issue that would clearly outline rather than just refer to the generally accepted appraisal practices for assessing affordable properties. In other words, this bill would explicitly require the income approach be used in the valuation of affordable housing and clearly identify the processes and information-gathering necessary to do so.
VHA supports this commonsense solution that will hold assessors to the standards of their profession and ensure affordable housing providers only pay their fair share of property taxes.
As we work to address our shortage of at least 300,000 affordable homes in Virginia, it is critical that we do everything we can to protect our current stock of affordable housing. Over the next five years, more than 6,000 subsidized rental homes in Virginia are at risk of becoming unaffordable.
Unfortunately, these types of properties are often targeted by out-of-state corporate investment entities that prioritize high returns over affordability for tenants. When such groups purchase affordable properties, it is common for tenants to be displaced through rent increases or redevelopment. For example, the RVA Eviction Lab found that a small number of such corporations were responsible for nearly 87% of Richmond's eviction filings between July and September of 2022. It is important that we have tools to prevent such displacement and that we do all we can to protect what little naturally occurring affordable housing we have. Virginia must ensure that our state and federal investments in affordable housing continue to benefit low-income households.
VHA supports legislation that would enable localities to establish a Right of First Refusal (ROFR) when publicly assisted multifamily properties reach the end of their affordability period. For the purposes of this legislation, a ROFR would be executed by matching an offer by a private third-party buyer within a certain time period. Participating localities will be able to designate qualified entities to exercise the ROFR on their behalf, as long as affordability is preserved.
VHA also supports another piece of legislation that would give manufactured home park residents, as well as non-profits and localities acting on their behalf, an opportunity to purchase when a park is listed for sale and when the owner intends to accept an unsolicited offer from a third party
Studies show that Medicaid recipients struggling with housing or employment stability often face significantly worse health outcomes. To tackle this problem, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) was granted approval in July 2020 to adopt a High Needs Support Benefit (HNSB) program. Despite approval, the program was not rolled out because it requires General Assembly authority in order to implement.
The program is designed to provide additional support to eligible high need Medicaid enrollees in obtaining and sustaining housing and employment. High need Medicaid enrollees include qualified individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder need, requiring assistance with activities of daily living, or a complex physical health need. The program aligns with efforts under Governor Youngkin’s “Right Help, Right Now” behavioral health transformation plan to expand programs that enable individuals to successfully reintegrate into their communities.
VHA supports an extension of the High Needs Support Medicaid Benefit and a budget amendment to ensure the implementation of this benefit.
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