Northam touts progress toward affordable housing goals

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HAMPTON, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Governor Ralph Northam is highlighting ongoing efforts to address housing needs across Virginia.

At a conference on Friday, he announced several steps that have been taken since he signed an executive order in November 2018 that outlined the administration's priorities to confront unmet housing needs.

These priorities included increasing the supply of permanent supportive housing, addressing the shortage of affordable housing, and reducing evictions rates.

"Having a stable, safe and affordable place to live is a key part of keeping a job, getting an education, and leading a healthy, productive life," said Northam. "I am proud of the progress we have made to address our most pressing housing challenges, but we know there is much work left to do. I remain committed to ensuring that we meet the demand for affordable housing so that all Virginians have an equal opportunity to thrive in our Commonwealth."

According to a release, Northam has worked with the General Assembly to increase the Virginia Housing Trust Fund to $11 million, which strengthened one of the state's tools to combat homelessness and provide affordable housing and permanent supportive housing.

Since November 2018, Virginia has been able to finance more than 15 additional affordable housing initiatives supporting moderate- and low-income families this fiscal year.

The release also reports a continued drop in homelessness across the Commonwealth, and the most recent data shows a 36-percent reduction in overall homelessness since 2010.

During the 2019 General Assembly session, lawmakers authorized an eviction diversion pilot program in four communities, which will launch in July 2020.

The release says an additional $1.3 million in legal aid was allocated to fund 17 housing attorneys in legal aid offices across Virginia and the Virginia Poverty Law Center also got private funding to create an evictions helpline, which has grown legal aid opportunities for people who are facing eviction.

It adds that Virginia has recently been awarded additional funding from public and private partners, which is bolstering efforts to increase affordable housing and decrease homelessness, especially among the most vulnerable populations.

Earlier this week, Virginia received nearly $5.9 million in annual funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is going to public housing agencies that are working to provide permanent affordable housing to more than 700 people living with disabilities.

It's part of the Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is part of $131.3 million that was awarded to more than 300 public housing authorities across the United States to help more than 15,300 non-elderly people with disabilities with permanent, affordable housing.

Another $6.9 million recently came from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta in affordable housing funds.

This money will be used to help for-profit and nonprofit developers acquire, build, rehabilitate, or preserve more than 1,200 affordable rental and homeownership units in Virginia.

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