Above: A construction worker builds West Broadway Curve, a project that benefited from $750,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars.
Many council members have trumpeted the $4 million boost to the city's affordable housing fund following Monday’s committee vote on the budget. So where did the money come from?
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund uses local, state and federal dollars to help pay for low-income rental units in development projects across the city. The city has had an annual goal of allocating $10 million to the account, which it has never met.
Monday’s increase brings the fund’s 2015 allocation to $10.5 million, said Wes Butler, the city’s residential finance manager. That’s more than it’s ever been, and significantly more than the city’s typical contribution of about $8 million.
Affordable housing has taken on new importance this year following the election of several new council members who made it a prominent component of their campaign platforms. Advocates also turned out in large numbers at a recent hearing on the budget, pushing for a $20 million investment in the fund.
Council Member Jacob Frey, who authored the motion, proclaimed to his Facebook followers that the change amounted to “a $4 MILLION INCREASE TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING in our city! And, for the very first time, we can meet our stated goal of $10 million in the affordable housing trust fund.”
The first part of that sentence is somewhat misleading, since some of the new money came from existing programs for low-income homeowners – sometimes considered part of the city’s overall affordable housing effort.
The mayor’s budget proposal called for $9.1 million for affordable housing for next year, but that included more than just the trust fund.
Sandy Christensen, the city’s deputy chief financial officer, said the initial $9.1 million figure also included funding for homelessness prevention initiatives and the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, which helps rehab homeless shelters. It also factored $1.5 million for emergency home rehab grants for low-income residents, money that Frey's motion moved into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The emergency home rehab grants won’t be cut, however, because a significant amount of money is leftover from the 2014 allocation, Christensen said.
The rest of Monday’s $4 million boost to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund came from an account fueled primarily by development loan repayments and land sales. Some major land sales have raised extra money toward that account in recent years.
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund typically pays to build or rehab about 600 units a year, scattered across six or seven projects, all intended for occupants below 50 percent the median income. Thirty percent is set aside for senior housing projects in particular.