A New Housing Policy to Help Those Most in Need

Board Matter

A New Housing Policy to Help Those Most in Need

Madame Chairman:

Since the inception of the Penny Fund for Affordable Housing, over 2200 units of affordable housing have been preserved. However, only 17 are structurally accessible units for people with physical disabilities and few, if any, serve those with significant intellectual disabilities. In each of the next 30 years the County will pay $6 million per year on debt service for Wedgewood, but nearly 80 percent (537 of 672) of the units are currently slated for households with incomes over 50 percent of AMI (about $50,000 annually). At the same time, the Community Services Board (CSB) has identified approximately 3,000 extremely low-income persons with disabilities who, over time, are at risk for homelessness. Of these, the 2009 Annual Point in Time survey identified 129 individuals who are literally living on the streets or in the woods. There is anecdotal evidence from outreach workers suggesting that this number has increased since the survey was conducted almost a year ago. 

Exacerbating matters, because the Penny Fund does not direct monies to those most in need, the CSB must annually divert to housing approximately $2.5 million in funds intended for the treatment of those with physical and intellectual disabilities, mental health needs, and substance abuse issues. Why does the CSB do this? Because, as the Board- endorsed Beeman Commission Report identified, stable housing is the cornerstone for resilience and recovery from mental illness and substance abuse. The report also called for significantly increased housing opportunities for persons with mental disabilities as part of an overall plan to improve mental health services in Fairfax County. Our current model, however, results in draining available funds from treatment.   

At the Board’s June retreat, the Board discussed affordable housing at length, and directed the County Executive to develop a program for using affordable housing funds for those most in need. The proposal offered by the Department of Housing and Community Development to the Board on September 29, however, hands this responsibility to non-profit agencies, and continues to purchase and construct housing, which it admitted would serve primarily those households over 30 percent AMI. 

We can do better.

I propose we set aside $2 million of the $4 million collected each year in rent at Wedgewood to be targeted toward the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness and specifically targeted to homeless people who have disabilities. The CSB would coordinate with the Office to End Homelessness and the two agencies would use the aforementioned funds to house people with disabilities who are homeless, or who are below 10 percent AMI and at imminent risk of homelessness. This would free critical CSB funds for the treatment services for which they were originally intended.  It would also implement the Board’s desire to focus housing funds on those most in need.

I realize this proposal offers a new direction. However, current funding priorities are making it impossible for the County to make measurable progress toward its goal of eliminating homelessness. It’s time for a new dialogue.

Therefore Madame Chairman, I move that this matter be referred to the Housing Committee for further review, and the Community Services Board, the Office to End Homelessness and other County and nonprofit partners be invited to appear at a future meeting of the Housing Committee to explain how a coordinated approach can be implemented to maximize the use of the funds for those most in need.

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