Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The federal budget and local responses to housing needs: Research on funding and flexibility

Solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., National Housing Conference


At NHC’s Annual Budget Forum, we heard from housing providers working across the country about the need not only for increased federal funding for housing development and services, but also for greater opportunities for flexibility. The Center for Housing Policy, NHC’s research division, strives to increase understanding about how local housing programs are related to and are supported by federal housing programs. By showcasing best practices and innovative programs, our research helps to build the evidence base around the importance of the housing programs to the individuals and families they serve, as well as to the overall well-being to the communities in which we all live.

Working with Arlington County, Va., the Center has helped develop the affordable housing element of the county’s comprehensive plan. As part of that effort, we assessed the set of local land use strategies, financing tools and services that the county provides to meet the housing needs of its residents. Critical to that assessment was an understanding of how the county’s local programs—for example, its local voucher program and its housing trust fund—are related to and supported by federal programs.

The intersection between local housing efforts and federal programs can also be keenly observed in veterans’ housing programs. In a report examining successful permanent supportive housing models that target veterans, we describe the key federal programs that allow for not only the construction of affordable rental housing for this population, but also for the provision of health care, job training and other services that help vulnerable veterans live comfortably and self-sufficiently.

Federal policies and programs have particular importance to providers seeking to combine housing and health services for our large and growing senior population. We analyzed different models of integrating housing and health services in our report, Aging in Every Place, and found that while programs need to be designed based on an assessment of particular local needs, successful approaches will require funding from both local and federal sources.

In a series of case studies prepared as part of last fall’s How Housing Matters Conference, Center researchers focused on housing programs that were successful in improving health and educational outcomes among low-income seniors and children. Through those case studies, we found partnerships and collaboration at different levels of government were important to building a successful program. So, too, was the availability of funding from federal, local and other sources.

Look out this spring as we release new reports on veterans housing and housing and health that will highlight the important linkages between federal and local housing programs, and the opportunities for positive outcomes when localities are able to make flexible use of federal resources to meet their communities’ unique needs.

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