As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Southern seeks to support efforts focused on housing availability and accessibility for low- and moderate-income families in both Arkansas and Mississippi. We do so because of our belief that affordable housing is paramount to financial stability and strongly correlated to an individual’s ability to save money and achieve economic independence.
Hardworking Arkansans and Mississippians should be able to afford decent housing and still be able to pay for basics, like groceries, child care and medicine. Yet, despite numerous legislative efforts, decent affordable housing is still out of reach for too many Arkansas and Mississippi families. There is, however, a possible solution.
Housing trust funds (HTF), state structures that provide funding for the construction, preservation, and acquisition of affordable housing, can help solve the problem. Presently, Arkansas has a HTF, but does not have a dedicated funding stream; Mississippi does not have a HTF. In the United States, 48 states and the District of Columbia have HTFs, majority of which have revenue commitments.
In 2009, Housing Arkansas, the state’s housing coalition focusing on providing affordable housing for low-income Arkansans, to pass the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) legislation. Southern participated in the effort to establish an HTF, though the HTF did not receive funding until 2013, and then received only in a one-time installment of $500,000. Funding the HTF was an initiative of the Legislative Taskforce on Reducing Poverty and Promoting Economic Opportunity, of which Southern is part. Housing Arkansas currently seeks at least $15-18 million per year for housing that is affordable to families earning a range of incomes at or below 80 percent of the median household income. Its goals are:
- To provide a flexible source of funds for communities to address housing needs;
- To help families build wealth and economic stability;
- To revitalize distressed neighborhoods and build healthy, vibrant communities by developing high quality affordable housing;
- To leverage additional private investment in Arkansas communities; and
- To contribute to economic growth by increased housing, employment, and tax revenues.
In 2013, Housing Mississippi, of which Southern is part, worked to pass the Mississippi Affordable Housing Trust Fund bill to establish a HTF to expand affordable and safe housing opportunities for children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans. While the bill died in committee, it had the following objectives:
- To mend the gap in the state’s ability to build affordable housing through dedication of permanent revenue sources;
- To promote homeownership, prevent homelessness, and produce and preserve affordable housing for low to moderate-income individuals and families;
- To promote accessible housing for disabled persons, down-payment assistance for eligible homebuyers, housing and foreclosure counseling, and technical assistance for nonprofit housing organizations this bill.
Both coalitions are currently working with advocates and their state legislators to introduce new bills to achieve their goals in the 2015 legislative sessions. Southern will continue supporting and working with both coalitions to advocate for greater and committed funding in Arkansas for its HTF and the establishment of a HTF in Mississippi. Southern is seeking to create new economic opportunities and improve net worth in its markets. Homeownership is a proven driver of these goals. We invite you to learn more about our efforts to improve the economic security of rural communities and the people who live there by contacting Meredith Covington, Policy & Communications Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
CFED. (2013). Available at http://scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/2014/measure/housing-trust-funds.
Housing Arkansas. Available at http://www.housingar.org/.