Editorial by - Ashley Kerr

The Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama (LIHCA) is supporting legislation that will increase housing opportunities in Alabama for working families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the aging population. With the leadership of Representative Patricia Todd, we have a bill that will create a state Housing Trust Fund, but we need your help. Please join us in our support of the Housing Trust Fund bill, described below.

LIHCA believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed in life and this begins with a place to call home. For most of us, owning a home is the single greatest asset in our lives. Unfortunately for many Alabamians even having a safe, decent, and affordable home to rent is only a dream. LIHCA is a statewide coalition with a mission to increase housing opportunities for Alabamians with the greatest financial need. Our focus includes access to and retention of safe, decent, and affordable housing for individuals and families living with low incomes. A Housing Trust Fund is the best solution to Alabama’s housing challenges.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that Alabama lacks over 90,000 affordable homes needed to house individuals and families with extremely low incomes. These numbers were published before April 2011. What was already a terrible situation was made exponentially worse by the tornado destruction on April 27th. Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency reports complete destruction of 5,800 homes, 7,300 homes with major damage, and another 15,000 homeowners reporting some level of storm damage.

Stable housing provides individuals and families the sanctuary they need to succeed and offers them a chance to get ahead in life; for many, this includes stepping out of poverty. With the creation of new affordable homes in Alabama, families will have greater economic stability, and communities will reduce blight while also promoting growth in their economies by creating new jobs and increasing tax revenue. A Housing Trust Fund will not only improve the lives of those in need of housing, but will serve as a positive step towards improving the economic wellbeing of Alabama. 

A Housing Trust Fund is a flexible source of revenue that can be used to create, maintain, and retain affordable housing. Eligible activities include both rental and homeownership options. The 2012 Housing Trust Fund legislation will create the mechanism to establish a fund dedicated to increasing housing opportunities for Alabamians living with low incomes (60% and below of the area median income). This includes many of our fellow Alabamians, including those earning minimum wage, individuals living with disabilities, veterans, and children. This bill will be revenue neutral and one that we can all support given the difficult economic climate.

Alabama does not have a statewide affordable housing policy and no state funds are invested in affordable housing. The Housing Trust Fund bill is a structural change to statewide policy and provides the opportunity to invest in Alabama’s citizens and our communities. This bill is an opportunity to create housing for those in need, and in turn create jobs, increase tax revenue, and strengthen our communities. A Housing Trust Fund will also equip Alabama to better meet the needs of its low income citizens in the future, especially during times of disaster. Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed in life; in Alabama, this begins with a place to call home.

The Housing Trust Fund bill supports the Alabama Asset Building Coalition’s (AABC) goals by creating a mechanism that will help low income individuals and families stabilize their housing and in turn, focus on the economic stability of their households. As stated above, there is a homeownership component in the bill, and this is important to LIHCA, for we know that owning one’s home is a way to build assets. We expect that organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and other single-family developers will utilize trust fund dollars to assist more Alabamians in accessing homeownership opportunities. Need more evidence that a Housing Trust Fund will help Alabama? 45 other states have some type of housing trust fund dedicated to increasing safe, decent, and affordable housing for its citizens. It’s time for a change in Alabama; let’s work together to create new housing opportunities for our fellow Alabamians!

How you can help:

  1. Spread the word. Learn more about the Housing Trust Fund bill at http://www.lihca.org. Join LIHCA and sign up for LIHCA’s Action Alerts by emailing [email protected]. Talk with your friends and neighbors about the need for a Housing Trust Fund in Alabama!

  2. Contact your legislator and ask them to support the Housing Trust Fund bill. Legislators want to hear from their constituents – call or email your legislators and tell them about the Housing Trust Fund bill and why it’s important for Alabama. Don’t know who your legislator is? Go to http://www.legislature.state.al.us/ and scroll down. On the left you will see a place to enter your zip code. Do this and you will be linked to your Representative and Senator.

  3. Please join us for our lobby day. LIHCA’s legislative day is scheduled for Tuesday, March 20th in Montgomery. We will host a press conference and meet with our legislators to emphasize the need for a Housing Trust Fund and encourage their support of one in our state. Given that a Housing Trust Fund directly affects asset building among low income Alabamians, a partnership between LIHCA and the Alabama Asset Building Coalition (AABC) is a natural match.

LIHCA looks forward to working with AABC and its members throughout the 2012 Housing Trust Fund campaign to create a much-needed housing trust fund in Alabama. We’ll see you on March 20th!