This post is part of a series on the state budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead.
By Samuel Gunter, Director of Policy and Advocacy, NC Housing Coalition
More than 500,000 North Carolina households spend at least half of their income on housing,[i] and communities around the state have been taking notice (including Charlotte, Asheville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Durham). A family that spends most of their income on housing[ii] is unable to invest in other basic necessities like preventative health care or education, much less build resources for the future. While each community’s housing needs are unique, lack of affordable housing is a problem in all 100 North Carolina counties[iii] and calls for a statewide solution.
The NC Housing Trust Fund was created by the General Assembly in 1987 and is administered by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. It is North Carolina’s most flexible resource for the state’s growing and complex affordable housing need. Funds leverage private funding to create a variety of housing solutions — homeownership, rental, supportive housing, new construction, rehabilitation, and emergency repairs. Examples include:
- Senior communities;
- Habitat for Humanity homes funded by second mortgages;
- Urgent repairs of dangerous housing conditions; and
- Domestic violence shelters.
Housing is not only an integral part of a family’s budget, but also the state’s economy. Ensuring that all North Carolinians have access to safe, decent and affordable housing is a sound financial investment in North Carolina’s future.
In Governor Pat McCrory’s 2015-17 budget, former Budget Director Lee Harris Roberts wrote that “the NC Housing Finance Agency represents one of the greatest returns on investment of any state money spent.”[iv] Because the Finance Agency is a self-supporting agency, every dollar spent goes directly to bricks and mortar. For every $1 million that the Housing Trust Fund spends:
- 108 households are assisted;
- $5,169,000 in affordable housing real estate value is generated;
- 110 jobs are supported; and
- $455,000 in state and local revenue is generated.[v]
In 2005, bipartisan leadership filed Senate Bill 330 to fund the Housing Trust Fund at $50 million. The bill speaks directly to a “shortage of decent, safe, and sanitary… housing available at affordable prices” and the importance of affordable housing to economic development “because businesses will not locate in communities where workers cannot live.” Despite this, the state’s investment in the Housing Trust Fund has decreased nearly 68% over the last 10 years — from $21 million in FY07 to a low-water mark of $6.8 million in FY15.[vi]
Understandably, state funding for the Housing Trust Fund dropped in the wake of the Great Recession. However, as North Carolina recovers, so should our investment in our housing infrastructure. Last year saw the first increase in the Housing Trust Fund in 10 years. This is an encouraging sign, but we are far from meeting the size of the growing need. Now is the time to reclaim the vision cast in 2005 for the Housing Trust Fund and make a bold commitment to investing in North Carolina’s families and growing economy.
[i] National Housing Conference. Housing Landscape 2016: Housing Affordability Challenges in North Carolina. http://www.housingpolicy.org/pdfs/Landscape2016state/NorthCarolina2016.pdf
[ii] NC Budget and Tax Center. Living Income Standard 2014: Boom in Low-Wage Work Means Many North Carolinians Don’t Make an Adequate Income.
[iii] National Low Income Housing Coalition. Out of Reach Report 2015. http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2015_FULL.pdf
[iv] Office of State Budget and Management. The Governor’s Recommended Budget 2015-17. https://ncosbm.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/files/BudgetBook_2015.pdf
[v] The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency uses the RIMS II System from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to calculate economic impact.
[vi] Budget numbers are adjusted for inflation and do not reflect the amount budgeted, but the final amount NCHFA received after budget shortfalls in FYs ‘09, ‘14 and ‘15.