Unused Disaster Money Helps Boost Housing Trust Fund

Apr 4, 2019

Governor Ralph Northam may be embroiled in scandal. But he’s also counting several major successes this week. One of them is increased funding for affordable housing.

Late last year, the governor proposed a budget that had $19 million for the Housing Trust Fund, which helps finance affordable housing. By the time all the scandals exploded and the budget smoke cleared, the trust fund contribution was whittled down to $14 million. But the governor asked the Republican-led General Assembly to find some more money.

“We picked up more money between the time we left and when we came back here, so the governor used those savings to invest in other areas in our state government and one of them was for the Housing Trust Fund,” House Appropriations chair Chris Jones explained.

About $4 million that had been set aside for natural disaster declarations was never used. So Republicans and Democrats worked together to move that unspent hurricane relief to the Housing Trust Fund.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez is a Democrat from Arlington who introduced legislation creating the fund a few years ago.  “We’re reaching a tipping point across Virginia. If we don’t do more — significantly more — the lack of affordable housing in our region will start to affect the long-term economic vitality of the entire commonwealth.”

The final version of the budget still ended up with a little less money for the Housing Trust Fund than Governor Ralph Northam wanted. But it ended up a lot closer to his goal than when lawmakers left Richmond in February. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.