VICTORY!! Housing Trust Fund Preserved

Good afternoon housing advocates!

Because you responded when asked, because you made the calls, sent the emails and made the necessary personal contacts, the message to save the Trust Fund got delivered to our lawmakers. Because of all you did, this became a priority in Conference Committee, and because of all you did, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was restored.

A few shout-outs in and around the Statehouse: To Reps. Ryan Smith, Kirk Schuring, and Denise Driehaus, who were backed by House leadership and other Reps, and who pushed Senate leaders who ultimately agreed to drop the proposed change. To Sens. Mike Skindell and Charleta Tavares and the Democrat Caucus for their unwavering support. And to the Kasich administration, including the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and especially the Office of Budget and Management, and the Office of the Governor for understanding the important role the Trust Fund plays in both protecting vulnerable populations and moving the economy forward.

We encourage you all to thank your State Representatives and Senators for their support as soon as possible.

This demanding exercise taught us a couple of things: 1) together we can impact housing policy; and 2) we still have a lot of work to do. We learned there is a high level of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge at the Statehouse about what the Trust Fund is and does. A continued lack of understanding will keep the Trust Fund and all of our housing programs vulnerable to future attacks like this, so doing a better job of educating our public officials has to be a top priority.

We urge you to get to your members yet this summer, while it’s fresh in their minds, and show them the value of the Trust Fund in your community. 544 organizations across the state signed on to the letter to the Governor. Let’s use the momentum and strength we’ve all created to elevate the importance of our state’s greatest housing resource!

With gratitude,

Bill Faith
Cathy Johnston
Suzanne Gravette Acker

This post is from the staff of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

Update on the Housing Trust Fund

Good Afternoon Advocates!

The outpouring of support for saving the Trust Fund has been phenomenal! We are getting reports of hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails going out to dozens of members of the General Assembly. Teams of people have been working the issue around the state and nearly around the clock! As a result, nearly 500 organizations have signed the VETO REQUEST LETTER we plan to give the Governor, should that become necessary. Please make sure your organization signs, and forward this to your networks, if you haven’t already done so.

The Trust Fund issue could be decided on in conference committee as early as sometime tomorrow, so please continue making calls to your House and Senate members urging them to them to support the House version of the Housing Trust Fund language – not the Senate version -- while the budget bill is in conference committee.

We are closely monitoring progress at the Statehouse and will get the word to you as soon as we know the Trust Fund’s status. We will be ready to hand-deliver the Veto Request to the Governor’s office if needed.

Here is a terrific recent editorial from the Akron Beacon Journal. Please push this out through your social media using the Twitter hashtags #DontBustTheTrust and/or #SaveOHTF and please RT and Favorite other Trust Fund supporters!

Thanks to all and let’s keep it going.

Cathy Johnston
Advocacy Director
614-280-1984 X25
cathyjohnston (at) cohhio (dot) org

Ohio Housing Trust Fund in Jeopardy

Good Afternoon Advocates,

Today, the latest changes were made to the state budget through the Omnibus amendment in the Senate. Despite your tremendous advocacy efforts last week, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund remains in jeopardy. The budget still contains the proposal to cut Trust Fund revenues in half and redistribute the other half to newly created county entities that lack housing experience and coordination.

If the amendment makes it through the legislative process, it will go into effect July 1st. The state will have only half of the money it currently administers, so unless this change is rejected, all organizations currently funded with Ohio Housing Trust Fund dollars will see dramatic reductions without any clear access to local funds.

[Local updates: If the Senate version passes, approximately $25 million will be divided among the 88 counties, so Cuyahoga County will never get back the funding we received in the past. Small counties will get a small amount of the funds that they will not have enough to do a housing project. That money will sit or will be wasted.  Since most of the counties around Cuyahoga send their homeless to the Cleveland shelters to get help, we deserve a larger portion of the Trust Fund.]   If you know any local media people, please send it on. You’re welcome to add a quote of your own.

Attached also is a fact sheet with a list of the reasons why this amendment is a terrible idea.

We need your help today in calling your house and senate members. Ask them to support the House version of the Housing Trust Fund language – not the Senate version -- when the bill goes to the conference committee later this week.

Here are the contact lists for the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.

Please let us know how your legislators respond.

Thanks for your support,

Cathy Johnston
Advocacy Director
614-280-1984 X 25

NOBLE Budget Meeting Well Attended

Every two years advocates get together in Cleveland to strategise about the upcoming budget for the State of Ohio.  The group has largely failed over the last two budget cycles, but they do eek out a few victories.  On a cold snow filled Saturday at the NEOCH/Community Shares offices, advocates met to discuss areas that they felt were important.   There was a good crowd who gave up their Saturday afternoon to plow through the details of the Ohio budget.

They gave a status report for the their successes/failures over the last budget.  The only successes were that the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was not cut and there was a state earned income tax credit was created. The Homestead exemptions was targeted to those over 65 making less than $30,000.  Medicaid was expanded, but over the objections of the legislature. Every other recommendation failed with one incompletion.  Some of the fails from the previous year:

  • Education funding is still below 2010 levels.
  • Childcare still has a cap on family income below federal guidelines.
  • Recommended changes in Kinship care were not addressed.
  • Adult Protective Services to protect seniors is still woefully underfunded.
  • Alzheimer's respite care is half of the level from 2011.
  • They did not expand Medicaid to all of those eligible and reimbursable by the federal government.
  • No relief for those receiving cash assistance to provide flexibility over massive elimination of benefits.
  • Sought additional money for hunger programs.  They received some additional funding, but not enough to meet demands.
  • No additional funding for transportation.
  • Huge losses to local government funding for trash collection, fire, safety forces and other local government services.

Some of the big issues that those gathered are looking for in the next budget for 2015 include:

  • Re-establishment of the tax on rich people who die called the estate tax.
  • Re-establishment of the local government fund to the levels from 2010.
  • Expansion of a housing search website in the state of Ohio
  • A complete overhaul of the tax loopholes in the state of Ohio.
  • A lifting of the cap off the Earned Income Tax Credit.  If you are poor and don't pay enough in taxes, you should still get all the tax credit back. 
  • Re-establishment of a foreclosure assistance fund since those federal dollars are drying up.
  • A reduction in the welfare case loads.
  • An elimination of the work requirements for Food stamps throughout the state and not just the nine rural communities. 
  • Maintain and expand Medicaid expansion.
  • Align the state cash assistance rules with the federal requirements.  With higher than average unemployment in Ohio, we should provide assistance to families struggling in Ohio.
  • Restore funding to the PASSPORT and the hunger programs in Ohio. 
  • Force ODOT to spend 3-5% of their budget on public transportation to serve the 9% of the public without driver's licenses.

The progressives, advocates and concerned citizens will probably not be heard down in Columbus, but it is good to have a positive agenda put forth to help low income, homeless and struggling Ohioans. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Update on Ohio Housing Trust Fund

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio has been leading the charge to lift the cap on the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.  At the March COHHIO conference, Bill Faith announced that they had made progress with an amendment to lift the cap on the Ohio Housing Trust Fund. The amendment had been included by Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) in a piece of legislation known as the Mid-Biennium Review, HB 483. Previously, the money raised from the local Recorders fee when property transfers goes into the Ohio Housing Trust Fund to build and preserve affordable housing.   For years, Ohio has capped the revenue at $50 million with the rest going to the State's General Revenue account.  At the time, the bill was moving smoothly through the Finance committee on its way to a floor vote by the entire Ohio House before the Easter recess.

The amendment was removed from the legislation at the urging of Rep. Ron Maag (R- Lebanon). Apparently, Rep. Maag took the action at the behest of a lobbyist who works for the state county recorders association. Faith said that it was unclear why this action was taken and why the County recorders did not want these funds to go to housing in Ohio.

Faith said in a mailing to supporters, "We're frustrated by this setback, but more determined than ever to lift the cap. Over time, because of the cap, the Trust Fund has forgone approximately $69M that could have been put to good use on homelessness and housing projects across the state."   NEOCH along with housing organizations across the state supported the creation of the Ohio Housing Trust Fund and then designating a revenue source for these housing programs.  We have seen in the past that the County Recorder in Cuyahoga County has often been an obstacle to using part of the Recorder fee for developing affordable housing.

With federal resources for homelessness decreasing by 10% over the last two years, we need the additional funding.   With a sharp increase in families showing up asking for shelter over the last three years, we need some options for helping these families relocate back into housing quickly.   If we can stabilize a family in housing, all the other obstacles facing the family (lack of a job, school issues, treatment) are easier to address with a safe secure place to return to at night.

Please contact your state legislator over the next two weeks to urge them to lift the Trust Fund cap. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

We posted a graph on the last 10 years of revenue from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.