FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2022
150 Faith Leaders Join Call for Increased Affordable Housing Funding in Virginia’s Budget
RICHMOND, Va – Leaders representing many faith and religious traditions released a letter advocating increased funding for affordable housing in Virginia’s budget. The open letter was delivered to the budget conferees today in conjunction with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP). In the letter, clergy members have asked the legislators to support the allocation of $300 million over the biennium for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF), and the addition of language that would make it possible to create a Housing Stability Fund in the future.
The proposal for $300 million for the VHTF over the 2022-2024 budget cycle would result in the creation of approximately 20,400 homes over the next two years, according to the Virginia Housing Alliance. The Senate version of the budget keeps this allocation from the original draft of the budget in December. The House version of the budget only designates $110 million to the VHTF over the biennium, leaving thousands of Virginia’s families struggling to find affordable housing.
The second proposal is a “language-only” amendment to the budget proposed by Senator McClellan. While it does not have a fiscal impact, it does pave the way for the Department of Housing and Community Development to create guidelines for a long-term rental assistance program. This streamlines the process of funding such a program in the future. Currently, families can spend years on the wait list for federal Section 8 housing choice vouchers. Virginia’s legislators have an opportunity to support these families through the budget process.
The faith leaders signing the letter recognize that there is a shortage of housing all around the Commonwealth. Vikki Bravo is a member of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, and the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee for the Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together (IMPACT).
“In the greater Charlottesville community, over 6,600 families are one paycheck away from homelessness because they spend more than half their income on housing,” said Bravo. “State funding will make it possible to build more units at affordable prices. The only way to address the problem in the long term is to build more units.”
Steve Saltzberg, a member of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, works with Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC) where he is Treasurer and on RISC’s Affordable Housing Committee.
“Stable affordable housing is the bedrock of stability in so many facets of one’s life, including finding employment and getting one’s children a good education,” Saltzberg said. “For too long, Virginia has neglected the cry of its people for affordable housing – a cry that gets louder every day. We must fund affordable housing, and we must do it now.”
VICPP Faith Organizer Sheila Herlihy noted the significance of the letter.
“This year, Virginia has the largest surplus it has ever experienced, because of American Rescue Plan funds and extremely cautious spending through the pandemic – some of which left essential services underfunded. As a commonwealth, we’re not short on money, but we are short on a unified vision for how to spend that money. The 153 signatures on this letter convey the faith community’s united call to truly ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
Shelter is an essential need for all human life. Virginia’s faith leaders urge legislators to do the right thing and ensure that affordable housing is a priority in the budget process. Our neighbors are at stake.
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The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy advocates economic, racial, and social justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. VICPP is a non-partisan coalition of 750 faith communities working for a more just society.
Ayesha Gilani Taylor
Director of Communications
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy