Thursday, March 19, 2015

People and Places Conference, Part II - How Memphis can learn from Washington's Housing Trust Fund

This is Part II of a series by Staff Blogger Amy Schaftlein, Director of Development + Communications at United Housing.

Hi everyone, if you've had a chance to look at last week's post, I talked about attending the People and Places conference in D.C. in early March. I am following up with you this week on the work that is being done across the country to fund housing development in tough neighborhoods. One thing I found striking is the amount of money the city of D.C. has invested in their housing production. 

The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development is a member association that leads nonprofit CDCs in ensuring that low-income residents have housing opportunities in the District of Columbia. The Coalition advocated for the creation of the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), and since 2002, the HPTF has produced or preserved over 8,000 affordable homes.

In 2011, the Coalition started a Housing for All campaign to create solid streams of revenue for the HPTF.  The Coalition trained residents to speak out for affordable housing, mobilized supporters and challenged government officials to take action. Over the last two budget sessions, the Coalition won nearly $200 million to fund the HPTF of D.C. This is a huge feat. The strategy did not include identifying one dedicated revenue stream. Instead, they focused on raising a dollar amount that is not dependent on a fluctuating, dedicated source or one-time investment. The HPTF Baseline Funding Amendment Act of 2014 was passed supporting $100 million annual baseline funding for the trust fund, a miraculous win.

As Memphis begins to plan for housing needs in 2016 and beyond, a dedicated funding amount for housing will be extremely important to combat deteriorating housing stock and property values across the city. 

Memphis is losing population, and with that loss, we lose revenue and investment. Based on U.S. Census numbers, at least 80,000 more people moved out of Memphis than moved in between the years 2000 and 2010. Tipton County homes sales are up 48% from 2014. People in the middle-income range are moving out. They leave behind vacant homes that cost government and homeowners money. There is an estimated reduction of value of $1,058 for each house within a 1/8 mile radius. Abandoned properties cost local governments $20,000 per house for lost taxes, increased police and fire calls, and public works, code enforcement and safely problems.

A strategy to increase investment in our older, existing neighborhoods is necessary if we want to grow our tax base, decrease blight, support local businesses and attract outside businesses to our city. A Housing Trust Fund or dedicated funding stream for housing initiatives, and/or tax abatement strategies with strategic and committed investment from our local and state governments, are a few things that will help Memphis mitigate population loss, increase investment in our older, existing neighborhoods and help to stabilize losses in property values and tax revenues. 

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