2017 Legislative Session
Policy and Advocacy Agenda
Housing Georgia will work to strengthen policies and expand resources to support the creation and retention of affordable housing options across Georgia.
While engaging and educating legislators about affordable housing issues and solutions, we will focus on building support for allowing dedicated funding sources for local and regional housing trust funds.
Dedicated Sources of New Tax Revenue for Local and Regional Housing Trust Funds
Housing Georgia will advocate for the Georgia General Assembly to pass enabling legislation allowing local governments to create a dedicated source of new tax revenues for a housing trust fund.
Making it possible for units of local government to capitalize housing trust funds with dedicated revenue sources – which don’t require statewide constitutional amendments – will allow cities and counties to complete assessments and develop specific strategies to address and impact local needs around homelessness and affordable housing.
Local governments in Georgia have the legal authority to create a housing trust fund as a special revenue fund and to transfer to such a restricted fund nontax revenues such as grant funds received from the federal or state government, or the proceeds from the sale of excess public property. Enabling legislation is required to allow local governments to dedicate new sources of revenue to a housing trust fund.
Georgia’s Housing Affordability Crisis
Georgia’s growing affordable housing crisis affects urban, suburban and rural communities. More than half of Georgia households spend between 30-50% of household income on housing, with over one in five households paying more than 50% of their income on housing.
Local governments are increasingly aware that housing affordability impacts not only families with children, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans and returning citizens, but moderate income working families and people providing essential services such as nurses, teachers, police and fire fighters, retail and food service workers – who can’t afford to live in the communities they serve.
As the need for affordable housing has grown, federal support for housing has declined. Only one in four eligible households can access Section 8 rent subsidies. Low income housing tax credit allocations have remained flat. The HOME program, which provides grants to states and communities to fund a wide range of affordable housing activities, has been severely cut. At the same time, the stock of federally-supported affordable housing is diminishing as subsidies expire. Rural areas have access to few, if any, state or federal supports in to provide homes for working families or seniors with low or fixed incomes.
The resulting need to fill the housing gap has increasingly fallen to counties and cities. Many have met the crisis by establishing local Housing Trust Funds with a dedicated revenue streams that allow them the resources and flexibility to meet the need for safe, decent and affordable housing that is essential for community well-being and economic growth.
Georgia Law Can Provide the Tools and Flexibility to Address This Need
Research shows that every dollar invested in affordable housing generates an average of $6 in public and private funds, with some showing returns of up to $14. The proposed enabling legislation would amend Georgia law to empower communities to act, but only if they so choose.
Local communities face varying affordable housing challenges. The best tools to address those needs require flexibility. The proposed legislation would allow each community to decide whether to create a Housing Trust Fund and select from appropriate revenue sources the one they wish to dedicate. Each community would have the power to choose how to best meet local housing needs, such as workforce housing, housing for persons leaving institutions, supportive housing for people with disabilities, blight amelioration, housing rehabilitation and home modification for seniors and people with disabilities, home purchase assistance, etc. Communities would establish the criteria for allocating funding and determine the form the financial assistance would take, e.g., loans or grants. The legislation would also provide flexibility in how communities could designate responsibility for administering the fund, monitoring activities and reporting on accomplishments.