A Quick Look at Selected Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Line Items
1. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (EA, line item 7004-0101) at $154.9 million for FY’16. We are very pleased to report that the SWM budget includes critical language that would require DHCD to provide shelter to otherwise eligible families who are at imminent risk of staying in places not meant for human habitation:
” provided further, however, that a family who has no other feasible accommodation on the date of application for assistance and who would otherwise spend the night in a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including but not limited to a car, park, abandoned building, medical facility, bus or train station, airport or camping ground, shall be eligible for assistance”
SWM also would preserve existing access to Emergency Assistance by rejecting the Governor’s proposed elimination of two sub-categories of eligibility that now cover ~33% of families in shelter. Senate Ways and Means expanded the tracking and reporting requirements to direct DHCD to report on families denied access to EA and the reasons for denial, and would require 90 days advanced notice before DHCD could implement any negative eligibility or benefits changes to the program.
2.. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) from $29 million in FY’15 (including the mid-year supplemental appropriation) to $26.2 million, but continue to provide shallow rental subsidies, diversion, and moving assistance for certain EA-eligible families. The SWM proposal would allow families to receive up to $8,000 in HomeBASE funds, up from the current limit of $6,000 per household. (During FY’15, some families have been able to receive up to $8,000 total, however, through a combination of $6,000 in HomeBASE funds plus $2,000 from the Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund.)
SWM improves upon the current draconian 24-month bar on families who are terminated from the program from re-accessing HomeBASE and Emergency Assistance by reducing that bar to 18 months. (The Coalition and allied groups are looking to reduce that bar to 12 months.)
3. The Senate Ways and Means budget would increase funding for the line item that provides funding for shelter and services for unaccompanied individuals at-risk and experiencing homelessness (line item 7004-0102) to $44.7 million, up from the FY’15 funding level of $42.9 million.
4. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) at $85.4 million, a $20.4 million increase from the FY’15 direct allocation. (This is a sizable increase, although less than the House’s recommended level of $90.9 million, which expressly authorized the carryover of some unspent funds from FY’15.) Like the House, SWM also removed language included in the FY’15 budget that prohibited DHCD from targeting new subsidies to families living in shelters.
5. The Senate Ways and Means budget would provide increased funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) at $12 million. This matches the House’s recommendation.
6. The Senate Ways and Means budget would provide $64 million in funding for public housing authority operating subsidies (line item 7004-9005), a $100,000 decrease from the FY’15 level. This is $500,000 less than the final FY’16 House recommendation.
7. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030) at $4.55 million, a $1 million increase over FY’15 funding and the House’s recommended funding level.
8. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Home and Healthy for Good Program (line item 7004-0104) at $1.6 million.This program employs a Housing First model and historically has provided housing and services to unaccompanied adults who have experienced chronic homelessness. SWM removed earmark language to continue a pilot program that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) unaccompanied youth and young adults. In FY’15, that pilot is funded at no less than $200,000.