Affordable housing trust fund – a dedicated revenue stream

Today, dto510 discusses the idea of floating a bond to fund affordable housing and rehabilitation. A bond is a good idea, and we should do it. But we should also look at other funding sources that will provide long-term dedicated revenue streams for our affordable housing needs.

Many municipalities throughout the country have found success in Affordable Housing Trust Funds. Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle are collecting over $10 million every year (PDF!) towards their housing trust funds. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are reaching over $25 million a year. There’s no reason we can do something similar.

Because a housing trust fund is designed locally, rather than with state or federal input, the it offers flexibility. The money could be used for long-term needs that are not currently being met – transitional housing, emergency rental assistance, downpayment and home ownership assistance, and shelter beds, for starters.

We actually do have a trust fund already, created in 2002 and funded by a linkage fee on commercial development PDF!), but it generates relatively little revenue. It is time the City examined other potential revenue sources that can pay into the fund – one common method is to dedicate a portion of real estate transfer taxes to the trust fund. With a projected $67 million in real estate transfer taxes coming in this year, a set-aside of one-third of this revenue in future budgets could generate a substantial funding stream. Clearly, that money is already being used. But if we as a city are serious about affordable housing, we will have to reconsider our priorities.