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Jan 09

[ARCHIVED] A Brief Primer on Pensacola Housing Funding Sources (Or, Time for Alphabet Soup)

The original item was published from January 9, 2018 12:48 pm to January 9, 2018 1:04 pm

By Karen Thompson, Budget and Planning Manager

Alphabet Soup

In keeping with our mission to support a diverse, viable community that provides decent, safe housing for all residents, the Pensacola Housing Division administers a number of affordable and low-income housing programs. Affordable housing can be a confusing topic. What is affordable housing? Are affordable housing and low-income housing the same thing? And where does the funding come from?

When we talk to the public, it sometimes seems that people imagine affordable housing—or at least, low-income housing—to be a “one-stop shop” situation, but that isn’t the case. Besides Pensacola Housing, there are several other affordable housing providers in our jurisdiction, including public housing administered by the Area Housing Commission, and a number of subsidized multifamily apartment complexes and LIHTCs (low-income housing tax credit developments).

Affordable housing can feel like a big tangled plate of spaghetti—or, with all the acronyms involved, a bowl of alphabet soup. Here I’ll explain the programs administered by Pensacola Housing, as well as their funding sources—a brief primer on Pensacola Housing’s particular “bowl of soup.”

Pensacola Housing administers the following programs:

 Program Name  Acronym  Where?  Funding Source
 Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program  HCV Escambia County  Federal
 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing  VASH Escambia County
 Federal
 Community Development Block Grants  CDBG  City limits  Federal
 HOME Investment Partnerships*  HOME  City limits  Federal & State
 State Housing Initiatives Partnership*  SHIP  City limits  State

*The HOME and SHIP programs are a cooperative effort with Escambia County as part of the Escambia/Pensacola Consortium, in which Escambia County serves as the lead agency.

The newest addition to our offerings is the City of Pensacola Housing Initiatives Fund, launched by the City in fourth quarter 2017. The Housing Initiatives Fund hasn’t been bestowed an acronym yet, but it’s still part of our alphabet soup.

As you can see, our funding comes from a mix of federal, state, and local sources. Here’s how that works.

The President and Congress determine budget priorities and funding for all federal programs annually, including the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), from which all of our federal funds are derived. We watch that process closely to project the levels of funding we expect to receive, and to ensure we don’t overspend.

The HCV rental assistance program (sometimes referred to as Section 8) provides more than a million dollars monthly to local landlords and utility providers to supplement rent and utility payments on behalf of qualified renters. HUD has assigned a total of 2,470 vouchers to our jurisdiction. Of those, 2,288 are general HCV vouchers and 182 are Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. The VASH program combines rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In 2017, we applied for additional VASH vouchers, which we hope will be awarded to us in 2018.

In FY 2017, the average percentage of vouchers in use in Escambia County was 98%, while utilizing 100% of available funds. It is always our goal to utilize as many of our vouchers as possible, and all of our allocated funding. Nationwide, applications for vouchers far exceed the number of vouchers available, so the failure of any Public Housing Agency (PHA) to use all its HCV funding generally means families in need are not being helped. In addition, HUD has a responsibility to Congress to ensure that funds authorized for housing assistance are used to assist the maximum number of families.

The CDBG program provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. Established in 1974, CDBG is one of the longest continuously run programs at HUD. The program provides annual grants to more than 1,200 local and state governments, allowing development of viable urban communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and expanded economic opportunities, principally for low and moderate income persons. HUD determines the amount of each grant by using a formula comprised of several measures of community need, including population, poverty levels, the extent of overcrowding, age of housing stock, and population growth lag, as measured against other metropolitan areas. Pensacola has received these formula-based funds since the beginning of the program. In FY 2017, the City used CDBG funds to support the Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels and senior dining sites programs. In addition, we provided first-time homebuyer and foreclosure prevention education to 122 persons. And finally, 17 income-qualified owner-occupied houses throughout the City were rehabbed via our housing rehabilitation program.

HOME funds may be used for a variety of housing activities, according to local housing needs. Eligible uses of funds include tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA); housing rehabilitation; assistance to homebuyers; and new construction of housing. HOME funding may also be used for site acquisition, site improvements, demolition, relocation, and other necessary and reasonable activities related to the development of non-luxury housing. The county and state receive these funds and allocate funds to the City to stabilize living environments and increase affordable housing opportunities for low and very low income families. In FY 2017, state TBRA funds were provided to the City to house homeless families for a one-year period, and 13 such families went under lease with the help of these funds. In addition, HOME funds provided by the county supported the complete replacement of 2 income-qualified owner-occupied houses within City limits.

SHIP funds are administered by Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) which was created by the state Legislature 35 years ago to assist in providing a range of affordable housing opportunities throughout the state. The legislature then established the SHIP program in 1992 with passage of the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act. SHIP funds are allocated through a population-based formula to all 67 counties and 52 CDBG-entitlement cities in Florida. In FY 2017, SHIP funds assisted 116 families to reach the goal of homeownership, 18 of whom were located in the City. SHIP funds also provided limited or emergency housing repair assistance to 7 families within the City.

The new Pensacola Housing Initiatives Fund will use monies raised through the sale of city-owned property to help our brave first responders, teachers, health care professionals, tourism industry professionals, and service industry personnel achieve home ownership within the city. This program will kick off in 2018.

The Pensacola Housing Division is proud of its role in stabilizing and strengthening our community by working to ensure decent and safe housing for all. If you would like more information on any of these programs, please visit our website.