August 31: Latest updates on Hurricane Harvey housing recovery

Dear partners,

As the scope of the damage becomes clear, experts and policymakers are stressing just how important housing solutions will be for long-term recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Vice President Mike Pence said that “housing is the biggest long-term concern in the hurricane zone.” Current FEMA director Brock Long said, “the state of Texas is about to undergo one of the largest recovery-housing missions that the nation has ever seen,” and experts like former FEMA director Craig Fugate have predicted that the “primary largest impact on the region will be housing.

BY THE NUMBERS

LOCAL RESOURCES AND UPDATES

CONGRESS

We’ve been in close touch with key Congressional leaders. The Texas delegation has begun conversations about disaster aid with House and Senate leaders, FEMA, and the White House. Republican leaders have said (although this is certainly subject to change) that Congress will take up a limited disaster aid bill in mid-September, with additional resources to follow at the end of the month when Congress enacts a Continuing Resolution and afterwards. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is calling for $150 billion in aid to assist in recovery efforts. Republicans in the delegation are also calling for significant disaster recovery funding from Congress.  

FEMA

  • FEMA’s website devoted to Texas Hurricane Harvey lists the designated areas currently eligible for three forms of assistance:
    • Public Assistance grant program provides assistance to government organizations and certain private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities.
    • Hazard mitigation grants provide assistance to state and local governments and certain private nonprofits to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural disasters.
    • Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides for certain housing and other needs. Housing needs covered include temporary housing, lodging expense reimbursement, and costs not covered by insurance to repair or replace owner-occupied homes. Other needs covered include the cost of: child care, medical and dental treatment, funerals, damage to household item such as appliances, vehicle damage, clean up, and moving and storage.

HUD and USDA

  • Rural Development: RD has created a webpage, outlining assistance available after a disaster for displaced residents, owners of USDA-financed multifamily housing, and homeowners with USDA loan. 

DOJ:

Other Resources:

More to come…

Diane_Signature

Diane

August 30: Updates on Hurricane Harvey housing recovery

Click here to download a Temporary Assistance form for Disaster Housing

Thanks for such an overwhelmingly positive response for next week’s call to discuss Hurricane Harvey Housing Recovery. Please continue to share the invite with others or to send me the names of other people/orgs interested in participating.

LOCAL:

  • The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, an NLIHC state partner, released this video of John Henneberger breaking down what’s ahead for Hurricane Harvey recovery – I highly recommend you watch. John has extensive experience with disaster recovery in Texas and works closely with partners, advocates and impacted people in Houston and beyond.
  • Texas Tribune published a list of resources for individuals seeking shelter and other basic needs for circulation to your networks:https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/28/hurricane-harvey-relief-efforts-how-help/

FEMA:

  • Register for Assistance: The most important first step for disaster recovery assistance is for impacted people to register with FEMA. Please circulate this information to your networks – people can register at www.disasterassistance.gov or call (800) 621-FEMA (3362). Individuals who have speech disabilities or hearing loss and use TTY should call (800) 462-7585 directly; those who use 711 or Video Relay Service should call (800) 621-3362. Both toll-free numbers will be operational from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time seven days a week until further notice, according to FEMA.
  • Temporary Housing Assistance Providers: Attached is a questionnaire for potential housing providers to help FEMA understand what housing options are available for displaced individuals and families. Any third party/private sector entities sending inquiries about available housing solutions should email Fema-housing-assistance-initiative@fema.dhs.gov.

HUD:

  • Secretary Carson announced HUD will speed federal disaster assistance to Texas – this includes reallocating existing federal dollars toward disaster recovery – including current CDBG and HOME funds – offering Section 108 loan guarantee assistance, and foreclosure relief and insurance under its FHA/mortgage programs. A link to his statement is here: https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2017/HUDNo_17-068
  • Office of Multifamily Housing Programs has started its process of contacting owners and agents to determine damage assessments and vacancies for displaced persons. They expect to have responses from HUD property contacts soon and will use this info, in addition to the FEMA damage assessments that will take place in the coming days and weeks, to put together the Administration’s funding request from Congress. PIH staff are also reaching out to PHAs in the impacted region for initial public housing damage assessments.

IRS:

CONGRESS:

After FEMA and HUD have time to assess the damage from the hurricane, OMB will send a formal request to Congress for disaster aid, typically including CDBG -Disaster Relief funds and Disaster Housing Vouchers. Congress will also likely look to provide tax relief to impacted communities, possibly included a disaster LIHTC allocation. We have been in touch with key members of Congress and at HUD, OMB and the White House to work with them as a disaster relief package moves forward.

Timing is a little uncertain, as with all disasters but especially in this Congress. Some resources may be tied to a Continuing Resolution or final appropriations bill, which Congress must enact by October 1 or risk a government shutdown. Congressional leadership have begun informally debating whether disaster supplemental spending will be doled out over a series of small bills, or through one large relief bill like the ones enacted after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. In either case, we’ll have our work cut out for us – Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz voted against disaster relief in the past, and Vice President Pence and OMB Director Mulvaney led (failed) efforts to offset disaster aid with deep cuts to other programs when they served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

More to come…

Diane_Signature

Diane

Housing and the Election Webinar: 5 Ways You Can Take Action

By Sarah Mickelson, NLIHC Director of Public Policy

Over the next few months, affordable housing and community development organizations have an opportunity to influence a number of critical issues before Congress and to help break through the noise of the presidential campaigns to make affordable housing an election issue.

Join us for a discussion with NLIHC staff on our Summer/Fall Issues Guide and Sample Candidate Questionnaire. On the webinar, we’ll review five ways you can take action between now and the November elections to advocate for the issues that are most important to your mission, the people you serve, and your community.

Speakers include:

  • Sarah Mickelson, Public Policy Director
  • Elayne Weiss, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Joseph Lindstrom, Senior Organizer for Housing Advocacy

For more information and best practices on how nonprofit organizations and individuals can lobby their elected officials, see Lobbying: Individual and 501(c)(3) Organizations in NLIHC’s 2016 Advocates’ Guide.

The Housing & the Election webinar was presented on September 7 and can be viewed here: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Webinar_5WaysToTakeAction_090716.pdf 

 

The National Housing Trust Fund: Making Sure it Meets the Greatest Needs

By Andrew Aurand, NLIHC Vice President for Research and Dan Emmanuel, NLIHC Research Analyst

nhtf_logo_webThe National Low Income Housing Coalition’s most recent Gap report indicates a national shortage of more than seven million affordable homes available to extremely low income (ELI) renter households, those with income of no more than 30% of their area median income (AMI). Unable to find affordable housing, ELI renters account for 7.8 million or 68% of the nation’s 11.4 million renter households who spend more than half of their income on housing. Meanwhile, fewer than half of new rental homes supported by federal housing subsidies on which developers most often rely – including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), and the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program (AHP) – reach these households.

This year marks the first distribution of money from the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), a program created to focus specifically on the housing needs of the lowest income renters. Funded by mandated contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at least 90% of HTF funds must be used for rental housing and at least 75% of funds for rental housing must benefit ELI households. All HTF money must benefit ELI households while the HTF is capitalized under $1 billion a year. The first year’s distribution of $174 million is small in comparison to the need, but is an important step forward in helping the nation’s lowest income renters find affordable housing. Successful implementation of the program in its first year will ensure in the future that the HTF truly serves the population it was intended to serve to the greatest extent possible.

A potential challenge that state advocates and other stakeholders are working to address is the possibility that renters whose income is at 30% of AMI may be cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing, even if they live in an HTF supported rental home. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 modified the definition of ELI for the national HTF to include households whose income is no greater than the federal poverty guideline or 30% of AMI, whichever is higher.[1] The change broadened eligibility for the HTF to households who live in poverty, but whose income is greater than 30% of AMI. HUD’s HTF interim rule went a step further and applied the same criteria to set maximum rents at 30% of either the federal poverty guideline or 30% of AMI, whichever is higher. Wherever the federal poverty guideline is higher, renters with household income at 30% of AMI will be cost burdened by the maximum rent.

Table 1 shows the HTF maximum rent standard by apartment size across metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.[2] Maximum rents are set at 30% of the federal poverty guideline in 61% and 92% of counties for one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, respectively. The vast majority of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties alike have maximum rents based on the federal poverty guideline for apartments larger than one bedroom.

Table 1: Distribution of HTF Maximum Rent Standards by County and Size

All U.S. Countiesa(3,147)>

Metropolitan Counties (1,198)

Non-Metropolitan Counties (1,976)

Size

% of Counties with Max. Rents Set at 30% of Area Median Incomeb

% of Counties with Max. Rents Set at 30% of the Federal Poverty Guideline

% of Counties with Max. Rents Set at 30% of Area Median Income*

% of Counties with Max. Rents Set at 30% of the Federal Poverty Guideline

% of Counties with Max. Rents Set at 30% of Area Median Income*

% of Counties with Max. Rents Set at 30% of the Federal Poverty Guideline

0 Bedroom

62.57

37.43

80.30

19.70

51.82

48.18

1 Bedroom

38.82

61.18

59.85

40.15

26.06

73.94

2 Bedroom

8.48

91.52

18.61

81.39

2.33

97.67

3 Bedroom

4.13

95.87

9.85

90.15

0.66

99.34

4 Bedroom

1.76

98.24

4.26

95.74

0.25

99.75

a. Includes county portions in New England, where multiple maximum rents can exist within the same county.

b. Includes counties where rents at 30% of 30% of AMI or 30% of federal poverty guideline are equal.

 

To illustrate the challenge, we calculated the potential cost burden for a 3-person family with income at 30% of AMI in each county at the maximum HTF rent for a two-bedroom apartment. They are available at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/State-Tables_081516.xlsx. In the median county where the maximum rent is based on the federal poverty guideline, a family of this size and income could spend 38.3% of their income on rent. In the worst cases, it would be 52.1%. The poorest counties, where the federal poverty guideline is much higher than 30% of AMI, will have the highest potential cost burdens. Cost burdened households have difficulty affording other basic necessities such as food, transportation, and health care and are at greater risk of housing instability if they experience a sudden financial crisis.

Table 2 presents a sample budget for a 3-person family with income at 30% of AMI in Orange County, FL. A two-bedroom apartment priced at the maximum HTF rent, based on the federal poverty guideline, would take 38.3% of the family’s income. Even after receiving the maximum benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the family would be unable to meet all of their expenses without additional assistance.

Table 2: Sample Monthly Budgets for Family of 3 in Orange County, FL

Monthly Income

Maximum SNAP Benefit for Family of 3

HTF Maximum Rent for 2BR Unit

Cost of Food on USDA Thrifty Plan*

Cost of Transportation**

Cost of Health Care ***

Income Remaining for All Other Expenses

3 Person Household at 30% AMI

$1,317

$511

$504

$462

$480

$486

-$104

*Based on USDA Thrifty Food Plan estimates in May 2016 for a single female head of household between the ages of 19-50 with two children aged 6-8.

**Cost of transportation for family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children) in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA retrieved from Economic Policy Institute Family Budget Calculator (2015).

*** Cost of health care for family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children) in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA retrieved from Economic Policy Institute Family Budget Calculator (2015).

The national HTF is an important new resource in addressing the housing needs of the nation’s poorest renters. While rents affordable to households at 30%, 20%, or even 15% of AMI are challenging to achieve given development and operating costs, developers and stakeholders across the country are finding creative ways achieve them. NLIHC organized a webinar that recently attracted almost 1,000 registrants to discuss how to finance and operate ELI housing. We encourage advocates to use these and other tools to continue pressing to reward rents targeted to the lowest income households in their states HTF allocation plans. In these ways, we can assure that the national HTF meets the needs of the lowest income renters.

[1] This definition for ELI was applied to other HUD programs in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.

[2] Includes county portions in New England, where multiple maximum rents can exist within the same county.

Join Organizations Across the Nation To Make Housing an Election Issue!

The conventions are over. Candidates up and down the ballot are out on the campaign trail making promises and asking for votes.

Let’s join forces to make sure that affordable housing is on their agenda.

Please join NLIHC, Make Room, and organizations across the nation to send 1 million messages to Congress to get housing affordability on the agenda by Election Day.

Here are three ways you can support the campaign:

  1. Join us. Sign your organization onto the national letter or sign up as an individual.
  1. Raise the profile of affordable housing issues locally. The Make Room Advocacy Toolkit includes sample letters to the editor, emails and e-newsletters, social media messages and website promos, and questions to ask members of Congress at town hall meetings. It also features best practices for meeting with your elected officials one-on-one or inviting them to tour affordable housing developments.
  1. Spread the word. Encourage other national, state, and local organizations, elected officials, and advocates who believe that housing is a critical resource for our communities to join the campaign.

Our nation is facing a housing affordability crisis of record proportions. Too many Americans cannot make rent, and Congress has done little to ease this growing burden.

Every day until Election Day, together let’s deliver one clear message to Congress: Americans cannot afford places to live and need help.

Please join us! We cannot achieve our ambitious goal of 1 million messages without you.