- Lack of affordable housing options for people with disabilities, including individuals living with mental illness
- Implementation and distribution of funds from the National Housing Trust Fund
- Development of permanent supportive housing
- Availability of housing support for veterans
- Reducing the Section 8 rental assistance wait list
- Housing discrimination against Texans with mental illness and source of payment discrimination against Section 8 voucher-holders
- Location of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments for persons with disabilities
- Reducing housing barriers for individuals with criminal justice history and mental health needs
- In 2015, TDHCA served a total of 562,097 households and individuals through its combined programs, including 155,192 through its homeless services (up from 39,213 in 2014).
- The most recent Point-in-Time (PIT) count of homelessness in Texas found that nearly 19 percent of individuals who are homeless (over 4,400) have a severe mental illness, and nearly half of those individuals are unsheltered.
- According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, approximately 30 percent of people experiencing chronic homelessness across the country have a serious mental illness; around two-thirds have a primary substance use condition or other chronic health condition.
- Research reveals a housing affordability gap for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, many of whom are unable to work due to severe mental illness or disability. In 2014, recipients of SSI in Texas received only $721 a month from SSI, which constituted 93 percent of the average fair market rent for a one-bedroom housing unit.
- The 2016-2017 TDHCA budget contains $421 million in federal funding, constituting 87 percent of TDHCA’s total funding for the biennium.
Data obtained from: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. (2016). TDHCA organizational chart.
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Individuals with serious and persistent mental illness can experience significant barriers to permanent housing. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, approximately 30 percent of people experiencing chronic homelessness have a serious mental illness; around two-thirds have a primary substance use condition or other chronic health condition. Serious mental illness and substance use conditions may create difficulties in accessing and maintaining stable, affordable, and appropriate housing.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) operates several major affordable housing programs. The agency disperses federal funds for housing and community services and is responsible for allocating housing tax credits under the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. TDHCA ensures compliance with federal and state laws governing various housing programs and provides essential services and affordable housing opportunities to low-income Texans. TDHCA is also a Public Housing Agency (PHA), responsible for operating publicly-owned multi-family housing as well as federally-funded rental assistance programs. States and cities can act as PHAs and there are over 200 PHAs in the state of Texas, including TDHCA.
In addition to supporting the housing needs of low-income Texans, TDHCA has programs and policies that specifically serve people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness. A significant number of people with disabilities face extreme housing needs. In 2015, HUD reported that nearly 40 percent of low-income households with a non-elderly person with a disability experienced “worst case housing needs” – defined as paying more than half of income in rent or living in severely inadequate conditions without receiving government assistance.
Despite serving similar populations, most Texas health and human services programs are not well-integrated with affordable housing assistance, and vice versa. In 2009, the Texas Legislature established the Housing and Health Services Coordination Council (SB 1878, 81st, Nelson/Chavez) to enhance coordination between housing and health service agencies in order to provide more service-enriched housing options. Service-enriched housing is “integrated, affordable and accessible” housing that “provides residents with the opportunity to receive…. health-related and other services and supports that foster [independent living and decision-making] for individuals with disabilities and persons who are elderly.”
The executive director of TDHCA chairs the coordination council, which since its inception has made efforts to provide new housing and health-related resources and add additional staff who are conversant in both housing and health services. In 2011, the Council published the State Agency Reference Guide and Training Manual to help cross-educate housing and health services staff on the programs and services available in Texas. The council also submits a Biennial Plan to the legislature outlining its efforts to enhance service-enriched housing.
TDHCA describes its services and activities along a “Housing Support Continuum” with five areas of need:
- Poverty and homelessness prevention
- Rental assistance
- Homebuyer education, assistance, and single family development
- Rehabilitation and weatherization
- Disaster assistance
While some programs serve individuals with disabilities specifically, most TDHCA programs seek to expand housing opportunity for low-income Texans broadly. The broader housing programs benefit Texans with disabilities and mental illness, however, by expanding the overall stock of affordable housing and services in the state. Low-income individuals living with disability or mental illness who experience a housing burden may be able to access rental assistance, housing rehabilitation funds, or energy assistance, for example. In addition, programs such as Section 811 and Project Access are tailored to individuals with disabilities. Figure 161 lists the housing assistance and services that TDHCA offers in each area of need.
Under its “rental assistance” category in Figure 161, TDHCA provides three different forms of assistance:
- Tenant-based rental assistance: Texas provides vouchers to help offset the cost of market-rate rental housing for low-income renters. Tenants are required to pay up to 30 percent of their income toward rent for a market-rate housing unit, and the state makes up the remainder through the voucher. Tenants select rental units themselves in the private market, though landlords must agree to accept the rental voucher from TDHCA. This form of assistance includes the federally funded HUD Section 8 housing voucher program that serves specific areas of the state and the disability specific, Project Access vouchers. These programs are called tenant-based assistance because the subsidy is linked to and stays with the tenant. In addition, TDHCA utilizes federal HOME funding to provide time limited rental assistance.
- Project-based rental assistance: The new HUD Section 811 program provides a rental subsidy to the housing provider directly to keep a unit affordable to low-income tenants with disabilities linked to long-term services. The voucher stays with the housing provider, rather than the tenant.
- Development assistance: Lastly, the state provides subsidies to developers to construct or rehabilitate affordable multi-family rental housing. This form of assistance includes the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC), HOME Multifamily and TACP funding
TDHCA’s non-rental programs focus on single-family homeownership, rehabilitation or construction, as well as services for low-income or homeless individuals and families.
FPL = Federal Poverty Level; AMFI = Area Median Family Income; AMI = Area Median Income; ELI = Extremely Low Income Limit
Data obtained from: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. (2016). 2016 State of Texas low income housing plan and annual report, 169.
National Housing Trust Fund
The federal government created the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) in 2008 under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. The intent was to provide additional funding for states to develop affordable rental housing for extremely low-income individuals and families. The NHTF is funded by a percentage of new business generated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thereby providing a dedicated stream of revenue to the fund not subject to the annual federal appropriations process.15 Implementation of the fund was initially halted after the federal government’s decision to take conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie during the 2008 housing crisis. In 2014, HUD announced that it would lift its suspension of the fund’s implementation and grant funds to states beginning in 2016. In 2016, HUD granted $174 million in formula grants to states, based on the state’s Area Median Income and poverty levels. Texas received $4.8 million from the fund.
TDHCA is responsible for administering and distributing the Texas funds. The intent of the fund is to support extremely low-income persons and to address individuals with worst-case housing needs. Data suggest that worst-case housing needs are high among low-income households with members who have a disability, and some advocates have highlighted the fund as an opportunity to create more permanently affordable units for individuals with disabilities. HUD will require NHTF units to remain affordable for a period of 30 years.
In April, 2016 TDHCA held a roundtable meeting to obtain feedback from stakeholders on its draft NHTF Allocation Plan. TDHCA released the draft for public comment in July 2016 and a public hearing was held on August 4, 2016. Advocates expect TDHCA to tie funding to the state’s Housing Tax Credit (HTC) program (known federally as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, or LIHTC). For more information, see the materials provided by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Limiting Source of Income Protections (SB 267, 84th, Perry/Huberty)
In 2015, the legislature passed SB 267 (84th, Perry/Huberty), which prevents municipalities from adopting source of income protections for most renters. Source of income protections prohibit landlords from discriminating against renters who receive federal housing assistance, such as Section 8 rental assistance vouchers. Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) provide rental assistance vouchers, also referred to as “Section 8” or “Housing Choice” vouchers, to low-income renters to help them afford market-rate rental housing. Individuals pay up to 30 percent of their income in rent and the PHA provides a voucher subsidizing the difference between the tenant’s income and the price of rental housing. In Texas, TDHCA dedicates a part of its Section 8 voucher funds to individuals with mental illness through a program called Project Access.
Vouchers can act as a source of housing support for individuals with disability or mental illness, whose ability to work may be limited and whose income may consist solely of SSI (placing them at only 18 percent of the federal poverty level). However, data show that voucher-holders often experience difficulty locating housing. In 2012, an Austin Tenants’ Council audit showed that only six percent of housing units in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area accepted vouchers as a source of payment. In response to these data, in 2014 the City of Austin approved source of income protection rules, barring landlords from discriminating against recipients of federal housing assistance. Opponents of the city’s rules expressed concern about the imposition of additional paperwork and administrative costs on landlords. Accepting housing vouchers typically requires the landlord to participate in inspections and meet other administrative requirements. In 2015, in response to these and other concerns, the Texas Legislature passed SB 267, overriding Austin’s source of income protection and preventing cities from passing laws that prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to individuals whose income includes federal housing assistance. SB 267 does not prevent cities from passing source of income protection for veterans. Some housing and disability advocates have expressed concern that voucher-holders will continue to face discrimination in the private housing market and that this may disproportionately affect individuals with disabilities.
Inclusive Communities and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program
Since 2012, in response to a lawsuit filed against the state by the Inclusive Communities Project in Dallas, TDHCA has made changes to the rules that it uses to allocate federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) for multifamily rental housing (also known as the Housing Tax Credit program, or HTC, in Texas). The 2008 lawsuit alleged that Texas’ annual Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) for housing credits systematically concentrated LIHTC units in high-poverty communities of color, violating fair housing standards. In 2012, as a result of a federal court summary judgment, Texas committed to altering its QAP in order to reduce racial and economic segregation in the program. Texas, since then, has taken steps to locate LIHTC housing in high-opportunity areas, emphasizing school quality and high-income census tracts.
LIHTC is an important source of funding for affordable rental housing, and in the past the QAP has contained specific provisions to incentivize permanent supportive housing (PSH) developments that serve individuals with special needs. LIHTC housing is an important source of affordable rental housing for individuals with disabilities because LIHTC developments are required to accept Section 8 housing vouchers. Without vouchers, however, LIHTC units are often unaffordable for individuals with disabilities whose primary source of income is SSI. The agency rewrites its QAP annually, and disability advocates closely follow the amount of points and incentives provided for supportive housing developments. In 2015, the state added additional points for developments that participate in the Section 811 Project-based Rental Assistance program, which serves individuals with severe mental illness in Texas.
Texas has added some points and incentives for PSH developments to the QAP in past years, making these developments more competitive for tax credit awards. At the same time, some advocates have expressed concern that the QAP opportunity index, which the agency adopted following the 2012 summary judgment in the Inclusive Communities case, rewards more developments located in suburban neighborhoods. Individuals with disabilities, and those who live in supportive housing units, can benefit from access to transit, services, and other amenities that often exist in urban areas. Suburban areas, however, typically have higher median incomes and better schools, which gives them an advantage in the QAP scoring system. The opportunity index was designed to advance fair housing objectives and address the agency’s obligation to disperse its LIHTC units, and stakeholders continue to monitor how evolving standards may affect Texans with disabilities.
Lastly, stakeholders have expressed concern that supportive housing projects incur heightened levels of “Not in My Backyard” or “NIMBY” opposition from local residents. There is concern among some stakeholders that provisions in the QAP requiring letters of support from state representatives for a LIHTC development may disadvantage supportive housing developments. Siting of LIHTC housing, as directed through the QAP, continues to generate annual discussion among fair housing advocates, developers, and disability advocates.
Application for Homebuyer Assistance Funds (HB 1428, 84th , Raymond/Zaffirini)
In 2015, the legislature passed HB 1428 (84th, Raymond/Zaffirini). TDHCA’s HOME-funded homebuyer assistance program contains a set-aside for individuals with disabilities, and this legislation allows an individual applying for funds under the disability set-aside to apply prior to entering into a contract to purchase a home.29 Prior to this legislation, individuals were required to have a contract to purchase a home before applying for homebuyer assistance. This created challenges, given that individuals did not know whether they would receive financial assistance when attempting to purchase the home. This change allows individuals to apply for homebuyer assistance prior to making the home purchase commitment, thereby allowing them to engage in more effective financial planning and enter into a home purchase contract with greater financial stability. Individuals who receive assistance will have at least 90 days to find a suitable home to purchase under the program.
Landlord Liability for Individuals with a Criminal Justice Record (HB 1510, 84th , Thompson/Garcia)
HB 1510 relieves landlords from legal liability associated with renting to an individual with a criminal justice record. Given the prevalence of mental illness among individuals in the criminal justice system, disability advocates have expressed concern that housing and employment discrimination against individuals with a criminal justice history will disproportionately affect individuals with mental health conditions. Mental health advocates have expressed optimism that HB 1510 will help mitigate discrimination against individuals with a lived experience of both mental illness and criminal justice involvement by relieving landlords of legal liability for renting to individuals with a criminal record.
Most of TDHCA’s funding comes from the federal government, with a small percentage comprised of Texas general revenue funds. Federal housing funds often come with specifications and restrictions related to their use and are subject to fair housing law. The following is a brief description of TDHCA’s funding for the 2016- 2017 biennium.
The 2016-2017 TDHCA budget contains $421 million in federal funding, constituting 87 percent of TDHCA’s total funding for the biennium. TDHCA receives federal funding through several departments, including the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). HUD and HHS provide the largest financial support to TDHCA. TDHCA uses federal funds in a variety of ways, including but not limited to: direct rental and housing development assistance, disbursing funds to other agencies, disaster-related assistance, direct financial assistance to address energy needs, and mortgage bonds.
TDHCA also receives general revenue from the state. For 2016-2017, the legislature appropriated $26.5 million to TDHCA, comprising approximately 5 percent of total agency funding. General revenue primarily funds the state Housing Trust Fund (HTF), which the legislature created in 1993 and is TDHCA’s only state-funded affordable housing program. The state HTF may be used to assist low- and very-low income individuals and families, provide technical assistance and capacity-building assistance to nonprofit organizations that develop affordable housing, and to serve as security for repayment of low-income housing revenue bonds. In practice, the HTF currently funds the following programs:
- Amy Young Barrier Removal Program
- Contract-for-Deed Conversion Program for colonia residents
- Texas Bootstrap Home Loan Program
The HTF acts as an important revenue source to fund some affordable housing programs in Texas, but falls short of addressing the overall housing need in Texas.
TDHCA also collects fees from several of its housing programs and its regulation of the manufactured housing industry. For 2016-2017, this source of funding constitutes $39 million, or approximately 8 percent, of the agency’s total funding. These fees help finance the administration of the Housing Tax Credit program and other indirect administrative costs.
Interagency contracts provide another source of funding for TDHCA’s affordable housing programs. Two agencies hold contracts with TDHCA: The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). The interagency contract with TDA supports the Colonia Service Centers. A colonia is “a residential area along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing.” The contract with DADS funds additional housing opportunities for persons with disabilities. Funding from interagency contracts accounts for less than 1 percent of TDHCA’s revenue. Figure 162 shows TDHCA funding by Method of Finance.
Total funding for TDHCA for FY 2016-17 was $477,058,359.
Data obtained from: Legislative Budget Board. (2016). Legislative Appropriations Request for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
Total funding requested for TDHCA for FY 2018-19 was $475,399,183. The TDHCA Legislative Appropriations Request did not include any Exceptional Item Requests.
Data obtained from: Legislative Budget Board. (2016). Legislative Appropriations Request for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
In terms of its total expenditures, TDHCA is a unique agency. One of TDHCA’s core functions is to administer and allocate funds that pass through the agency in the form of private mortgage funding and federal housing tax credits. Much of what the agency classifies as “expenditures” in its annual report does not appear in the biennial state budget because it is funded by indirect (often private or federal) sources for which the agency acts as an allocator or administrator.
In terms of direct allocations outlined in the state budget, 73 percent of TDHCA’s 2016-2017 budget goes toward its homeless and poverty services. Only 19 percent goes toward affordable housing programs, including rental assistance and subsidies to multi-family housing developers. The allocation for affordable housing programs appears small, relative to the homeless services, because it only includes the cost to administer these programs and excludes significant indirect funding sources. Direct biennial funding to TDHCA comprises only a small portion of Texas’ total budget. For 2016-2017, the agency’s budget is $487 million, or less than 1 percent of Texas’ $209 billion budget. Figure 164 below illustrates the agency’s budget by programmatic earmark, as described in the biennial 2016-2017 budget.
Figure 164, however, does not reflect the amount of indirect funding that the agency distributes through either the federal LIHTC program or its privately financed single-family homeownership program. The agency reports that, in FY 2015, it expended a total of over $628 million in both direct and indirect funding. This includes almost $92 million for the federal LIHTC program, financed through federal tax credits, for the new construction or rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. It also includes over $311 million for the agency’s Single Family Homeownership Program, much of which constitutes privately underwritten mortgage products that pass through but are not directly funded by the agency.45 Figure 165 below illustrates the total direct and indirect funding expended by the agency in FY 2015, according to its most recent annual report.
Data obtained from: Bill, H.B. 1, Conference Committee Report, 2015 Leg., 84th Reg. Sess., art. VII. (Tex. 2015).
Data obtained from: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. (2016). 2016 State of Texas low income housing plan and annual report, 169.
Safe, stable and affordable housing is an essential component of support systems that facilitate recovery from mental illness. However, many Texans face a housing cost burden. A housing cost burden exists when a household pays more than 30 percent of its total income before taxes and deductions toward housing. In Texas, 31 percent of all households face a housing cost burden. Data from 2008-2012 show that, of renter households with incomes below 30 percent of Area Median Family Income (AMFI), 66 percent face a housing costs burden. This is compared to only 4 percent of households with incomes over 100% AMFI. Overall, 2008-2012 data show that 2.2 million Texas renter and homeowner households with incomes below 100% AMFI face a housing cost burden.
Barriers to affordable housing can disproportionately affect many Texans living with behavioral health conditions. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides a monthly income to people with little income and few resources who are blind, disabled, or elderly. Many SSI recipients are unable to work due to severe mental illness or disability. Research reveals a housing affordability gap for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. In 2014, recipients of SSI in Texas received only $721 a month from SSI, which constituted 93 percent of the average fair market rent for a one-bedroom housing unit. Without affordable housing options, people with serious mental illness are priced out of the housing market. A 2012 Travis County study found that 69 percent of people with four or more psychiatric hospitalizations within a certain period were homeless.
In order to direct resources to the people who are most in need and face the greatest housing cost burden, most of the affordable housing programs operated by HUD and TDHCA use household AMFI to determine whether a person is eligible to receive assistance. HUD uses the most recent census data on median family income and results from the American Community Survey (ACS) to determine AMFI in communities throughout the country. The AMFI calculation uses data that are unique and specific to a metropolitan area, sub-areas of a metropolitan area, and nonmetropolitan counties.
Texas’ 2016 AMFI is $62,800. Low-income households are those whose income does not exceed 80% of AMFI. HUD breaks “low-income” down further, as described below. For a Texas household of four in 2015, HUD establishes the following income categories:
- Low-income (≤ 80% AMFI): ≤ $50,250
- Very low-income (≤ 50% AMFI): ≤ $31,400
- Extremely low-income (≤ 30 percent AMFI): ≤ $18,850
The negative stigma associated with mental illness also prevents many Texans from participating in community life and accessing affordable housing. People with a mental health condition who also have a criminal record can have a difficult time finding housing.
In Texas, housing programs that serve individuals with disabilities must comply with the Integrated Housing Rule. The rule was adopted in 2003 to help ensure that people with disabilities can live in integrated communities alongside individuals without disabilities. The rule requires that:
- Large housing developments with 50 units or more set aside no more than 18 percent of units for people with disabilities
- Small housing developments with fewer than 50 units set aside no more than 36 percent of units for people with disabilities
The above policies do not prevent a higher percentage of people with disabilities from choosing to reside in these types of developments, but an entire development may not limit its occupancy solely to people with disabilities. Transitional housing, which seeks to facilitate the transition of people and families who have been homeless into permanent housing, is exempt from this rule, so long as residence in the development is time-limited and there is a clear plan for transitioning residents into an integrated setting following their exit from transitional housing.
A significant number of people who are homeless also have a mental health condition. The most recent Point-in-Time (PIT) count of homelessness in Texas found that nearly 19 percent of homeless individuals (over 4,400) have a severe mental illness, and nearly half of homeless individuals with severe mental illness are unsheltered. Homeless individuals with mental illness are at higher risk of chronic homelessness and remaining homeless for longer periods of time than homeless people without a mental illness. Affordable housing programs that focus on homelessness prevention are therefore likely to serve a number of people who have a mental health condition. In 2015, TDHCA served a total of 562,097 households and individuals through its combined programs.
Permanent Supportive Housing
Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is permanent, affordable housing linked to a range of support services that enable vulnerable tenants, especially people who experience chronic homelessness, to live independently and participate in community life. PSH is a cost-effective, evidence-based practice that is a key component in promoting recovery for people with behavioral health conditions.
According to SAMHSA, the core elements of permanent supportive housing are:
- A high degree of choice offered to tenants
- Functional separation of housing management and services staff
- Integration with the surrounding community
- Full rights of tenancy under federal and state law
- Immediacy of access to housing
- Available services and supports
No permanent supportive housing project is assumed to be able to offer all of these core elements, but the extent to which they are able to do so tends to predict whether the project will be successful. For more information on permanent supportive housing see resources from SAMHSA.
Housing First is an approach to ending chronic homelessness that seeks to connect individuals with housing immediately and does not require sobriety, mental health treatment or supportive service participation as a precondition for housing. The philosophy undergirding Housing First is that once housing stability is achieved, clients will be better positioned to effectively address serious mental illness or co-occurring substance use. A 2007 HUD study on Housing First for individuals with mental illness experiencing chronic homelessness found that direct access to housing provided by Housing First programs enhanced housing stability for this population. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness suggests using Permanent Supportive Housing in combination with a Housing First approach to address chronic homelessness.
For more information on the Housing First model, see the US Interagency Council on Homelessness checklist.
Housing Programs for People with Disabilities or Mental Health Conditions
Several of Texas’ housing programs are specifically designed to serve people with disabilities or serious mental illness, or have components that do so. These programs include the state’s poverty and homeless prevention programs, as well as affordable housing programs specifically for persons with disabilities. A variety of TDHCA programs have policies that specifically reserve funding or space for persons with disabilities or mental health conditions – these reserved funds are known as “setaside” funds.
The programs described below do not represent a comprehensive listing of all the affordable housing resources in Texas. A number of other federal and state programs are operated by TDHCA and other local PHAs throughout the state. Find out more about the programs operated by TDHCA. A list of all federal affordable housing programs is also available.
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by HUD, provides financial assistance to low-income families and individuals, including older adults and persons with disabilities, to obtain safe and sanitary housing. HUD requires that a household be Very Low Income (i.e. 50 percent or below AMFI) to participate in the program. In FY 2016, the statewide AMFI was $62,800. In addition, 75 percent of households participating in the voucher program must be Extremely Low Income (i.e. 30 percent or below AMFI). In addition to meeting these income requirements, several other factors are taken into account to determine eligibility, including size and composition of the household, citizenship status, assets, medical expenses, and childcare expenses.
Once eligible, individuals work directly with landlords to obtain housing, and TDHCA pays the balance of the approved rent amount directly to the property owner on behalf of the individual. Families receiving the voucher are responsible for paying 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income toward rent and utilities, with the remainder paid by the agency up to a predefined payment standard for a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the area.
Project Access is part of TDHCA’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program designed to assist low-income persons with disabilities in transitioning from institutions into the community by providing access to affordable housing. In FY 2015, TDHCA spent a total of $279,657 to serve 68 households through Project Access. To be eligible for a Project Access voucher, an individual must have a permanent disability as defined in Section 223 of the Social Security Code, or be determined to have a physical, mental or emotional disability that is expected to be of long-continued and indefinite duration and impedes one’s ability to live independently. Applicants must also meet the requirements of the criteria in either 1 or 2 below:
- Be an at risk applicant. That is, be a current recipient of Tenant-based Rental Assistance (TBRA) from TDHCA’s HOME Investments Partnership Program and within six months of expiration of assistance, and either
- a previous resident of a nursing facility, intermediate care facility, state psychiatric hospital, or board and care facility as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or
- a current resident of a nursing facility, intermediate care facility, state psychiatric hospital or board and care facility at the time of voucher issuance as defined by HUD
- Be eligible for the DSHS pilot program for residents of Texas state psychiatric hospitals at the time of placement on the voucher waiting list
TDHCA works in collaboration with the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to implement Project Access. Assistance through Project Access vouchers is not time limited. However, there is a high demand for Project Access vouchers and there is a waitlist for the program. TDHCA is working with DADS and DSHS on a process that allows people on the Project Access waitlist to relocate from an institution using the HOME-funded TBRA program. The goal is for a person to be admitted to the Project Access program by the time the HOME-funded TBRA assistance expires. While this is not a permanent fix, it allows for people to transition into community settings sooner than they would be able to otherwise.
Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program
The Housing Tax Credit (HTC) program, also known as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, is federally funded multi-family rental development program. TDHCA administers the program, which is funded by the US Treasury Department through the federal tax code. LIHTC is the largest affordable housing program in the history of the United States and in recent years has produced 100,000 units of rental housing nationally per year.
TDHCA provides federal tax credits to investors in multifamily housing who set aside a specific number of units of the development for affordable housing. The tax credits require the units to be leased to qualifying low-income residents at below-market rate. These affordable units must, minimally, be reserved for people who are 60 percent or below AMFI and meet other requirements specific to the development. Rent for these units is set at a reduced rate, restricted by rent guidelines that are published annually. In 2015, TDHCA allocated $92 million in housing tax credits to construct or rehabilitate approximately 11,500 rental units in Texas.
The program is important for renters with disabilities or mental health conditions, many of whom have limited income and would qualify for LIHTC units. Moreover, LIHTC developments are required to accept Section 8 housing vouchers. Additionally, Texas codifies its requirements for the competitive tax credit award process annually in its Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The 2016 QAP contains provisions that provide scoring incentives for Permanent Supportive Housing, including the following:
- 30 percent Basis Boost, used to calculate the amount of tax credits for which the property is eligible, for entirely supportive housing developments
- Contain at least a 5 percent special needs unit set-aside (but no more than 18 percent)
- Points for offering supportive services
- Points for if a supportive housing development contains a 20 percent extremely low-income set-aside, for tenants with incomes below 30% AMFI
- Incentives for developments participating in the Houston Permanent Supportive Housing program
HOME Investments Partnerships Program
The Texas HOME Investments Partnerships Program is a federally-funded set of programs that seek to expand the supply of decent, safe, affordable housing and enhance partnerships between state and local governments, public housing authorities (PHAs), local nonprofits, and private housing actors. HOME finances both single and multifamily programs, some of which are described below. The 2016-2017 budget allocates approximately $60 million to provide affordable housing through the HOME program. By state law, 95 percent of Texas HOME funds must serve jurisdictions, mostly rural, that do not receive HOME funds directly from HUD. However, there is a 5 percent set-aside for activities that serve persons with disabilities, regardless of the areas of the state in which they live.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (PWD) SET-ASIDE
Five percent of HOME funds are set aside for persons with disabilities, and these funds can be used for Homebuyer Assistance (HBA), Tenant-based Rental Assistance (TBRA), or Homeowner Rehabilitation Assistance (HRA). See below for more details about these programs. Local governments, PHAs, and nonprofit entities can apply for set-aside funds with TDHCA.
HOMEBUYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Nonprofits, PHAs, and units of local government are eligible to participate in the Homebuyer Assistance (HBA) program, funded by HOME. Organizations can use HBA funding to provide down-payment and closing cost assistance to single family homebuyers. The program may also help to fund rehabilitation or accessibility modifications to single family homes. In addition to providing financial tools, these programs offer educational opportunities to learn how to manage homeownership.
TENANT-BASED RENTAL ASSISTANCE
The HOME-funded Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program assists tenants with the cost of moving and provides rental subsidies to tenants seeking affordable housing in their community. These HOME rental subsidies last up to 24 months and are contingent on participation in a self-sufficiency program. Individuals may receive assistance for up to five years, pending funding. TBRA is a short-term assistance program that also has the possibility to be a bridge program for individuals on the waitlist for the Section 8 Housing Project Access program.
Section 811 Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities
Section 811 is one of HUD’s supportive housing programs for people with disabilities and is authorized by the Cranston-Gonzales National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, reformed in 2010. Prior to the changes to the program in 2010, the HUD Section 811 provided interest-free development funds and operating subsidies to nonprofit developers of affordable housing for people with disabilities. HUD continues to offer interest-free capital advances to nonprofits. With revisions to the program in recent years, however, HUD now provides rental assistance to be used in developments funded through other subsidy programs, such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and HOME programs.
SECTION 811 PROJECT RENTAL ASSISTANCE
In February 2013, Texas became one of 13 states awarded funds for the Section 811 program. Subsequently in 2014, HUD awarded a second round of funds to TDHCA as well. Combined, the awards total received $24 million to provide project-based rental assistance for extremely low income persons with disabilities. People with serious mental illness and people with disabilities exiting institutions are target populations for this program, as well as youth exiting foster care. TDHCA and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have entered an inter-agency agreement, per a requirement of the grant application. This agreement addresses the characteristics of the population that will be targeted for this program, how this population will be reached and referred to the program, and the commitments of services from the health and human service agencies. The number of units created will depend on the prevailing rents at the time the units are placed in services, household incomes and other factors. TDHCA anticipates that the program will help create between 300 and 400 new integrated, supportive housing units per $12 million award in eight areas throughout the state. For more information on this program, please visit the TDHCA website.
Amy Young Barrier Removal Program
The Amy Young Barrier Removal (AYBR) Program provides funding for persons with disabilities to improve accessibility and remove dangerous conditions in their homes. The program provides one-time grants of up to $20,000 for accessibility home modifications to people with a disability whose household incomes are below 80% of AMFI. Accessibility modifications may include the installation of ramps, handrails, or door widening, for example. Program beneficiaries may be homeowners or renters. Funds for the AYBR Program come from the state’s Housing Trust Fund. About $2.2 million was spent to serve 116 households in FY 2015. TDHCA disburses funds to nonprofit organizations and local governments that process applications, verify eligibility, and oversee construction.
Poverty and Homeless Prevention Programs
TDHCA has several programs that specifically serve people who are experiencing homelessness.
EMERGENCY SOLUTIONS GRANTS PROGRAM
The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program is funded by HUD and administered by TDHCA. TDHCA distributes ESG funds to private nonprofit organizations, cities, and counties to assist homeless persons and persons at risk of homelessness to regain stability in permanent housing. In FY 2015, TDHCA dispersed $8.4 million to 53,140 people through the ESG program. ESG funds are intended to provide assistance by improving the quality and number of emergency shelters, rapidly re-housing homeless individuals and families, and preventing families and individuals from becoming homeless. The program targets individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
HOMELESS HOUSING AND SERVICES PROGRAM
The Homeless Housing and Services Program (HHSP) was established by Rider 18 in Article VII of the General Appropriations Bill of the 81st Legislative Session (SB 1, 81st, Ogden/Pitts), and codified in 2011. TDHCA administers this program in the eight largest cities in Texas – Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The program serves individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Services include case management, housing placement and supports designed to help people retain housing. HHSP received an initial appropriation of $20 million during the 81st legislative session, and the legislature allocated $10 million to the program for the 2016-2017 biennium. In FY 2015, TDHCA dispersed $5 million to HHSP to serve 12,277 individuals.
COMMUNITY SERVICES BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM
TDHCA administers the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Program through funding from HUD. Nonprofit organizations and local units of governments are eligible to receive these funds to provide essential services and poverty programs with the aim to promote stability and self-sufficiency among low income individuals. In 2015, TDHCA spent $28 million in CSBG funding to serve over 324,000 individuals in the program.
Related Services and Programs – Other State Agencies
MODEL BOARDING HOME STANDARDS AND HOUSING REFERRAL NETWORK
Boarding homes serve an important role in the continuum of care for people with mental health conditions and other disabilities, and some homes provide safe and affordable living quarters for their residents. A boarding home is a business that provides basic care, such as meals and transportation, to at least three residents who have a disability and/or are elderly, where the residents are unrelated to the owner. Securing affordable and safe housing continues to be a major challenge for many people with serious mental health conditions. Efforts have been made to better support people with mental health conditions in terms of affordable and safe housing in the past few years.
In 2009, the Texas Legislature directed the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to establish model boarding home standards with HB 216 (81st, Menendez/ Shapleigh). Relatedly, in 2013, the legislature passed HB 1191 (83rd, Burkett/ Zaffirini), which added housing resources for people with mental illness to the online Texas Information and Referral Network (TIRN, also known as 2-1-1). See the Texas Environment and HHSC Sections of this guide for more information about HB 216 and HB 1191.
HOME AND COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES – ADULT MENTAL HEALTH
The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) administers the Home and Community Based-Adult Mental Health services (HCB-AMH). This program is funded through a Medicaid 1915(i) State Plan Amendment, and seeks to provide home-based services and supports to individuals with long-term tenure in state mental health facilities, providing a transition from these facilities into the community. The program serves adults with serious mental illness who are not otherwise served in a Medicaid waiver program, and provides services such as companion care, supportive home living, peer support, residential services, transportation services, and other continuity of care services. This program is important for individuals with serious mental illness because it provides a number of supports that allow them to live in housing within the community, rather than an institutional setting. For more information, see the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Environment sections.
SUPPORTIVE HOUSING RENT AND UTILITY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
In 2013, during the 83rd Legislative Session, the Legislature awarded an exceptional item to DSHS to provide short-term rental and utility assistance to individuals with mental illness through the Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs). In FY 2016, the program received $5.4 million. The program was originally established to act as a stop-gap measure while individuals waited to receive Section 8 rental vouchers. The program today provides longer-term assistance of up to 18 months and a limit of approximately $10,300 per recipient, and shorter-term assistance (up to three months) of approximately $2,600 in assistance for rent and utilities.
HOUSING AND SERVICES PARTNERSHIP ACADEMY
In 2013, TDHCA and DADS worked together to create and implement a Housing and Services Partnership (HSP) Academy. The academy provided local communities with the tools and education necessary to create safe, affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities in their communities. TDHCA held meetings in partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing in January, April, July, and October of 2016. More information on upcoming partnership academies can be found on the TDHCA website.
HOUSING AND SERVICES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES CLEARINGHOUSE WEBSITE
In September 2013, DADS and TDHCA finalized and made available a clearinghouse for housing and services resources on the 2-1-1 Texas.org website. The online clearinghouse provides an interactive resource for people with disabilities, as well as local service providers, to find community-based affordable housing and health services.
Impediments to Fair Housing Choice
In 1968, Congress enacted Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of units in the private housing market on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability, including mental illness. As part of that law, recipients of HUD funds are under an obligation to “affirmatively further” nondiscrimination policies. This requirement obligates recipients of HUD funding not just to prohibit discrimination, but to take proactive steps to fight housing segregation and promote inclusive and integrated communities. In ensuring compliance with this obligation, HUD requires federal funding recipients to submit an analysis of challenges to fair housing choice in their communities every three to five years.
In its 2013 Analysis of Impediments to fair housing, Texas identified three impediments specific to people with disabilities, including people with mental health conditions. These three impediments are: lack of accessible housing and visitability standards, inadequate information about programs to assist persons with disability, and barriers to mobility and free housing choice for protected classes. In a survey conducted for the report, seventy-four percent of stakeholders reporting high geographic concentrations of low-income housing said that concentrated housing disproportionately affects people with disabilities. Moreover, in large metropolitan areas, 16 percent of people with disabilities report that they have felt discriminated against when trying to find housing. In response to these impediments, TDHCA adopted the goal of improving housing options for people with disabilities. The report identifies the following state action items to achieve this goal:
- Work with stakeholders who are knowledgeable about the housing needs of persons with disabilities to identify specific needs in communities
- Provide findings from above process to local governments
- Promote local approaches to meeting these needs
- Include information about group home requirements in educational and outreach efforts
- Educate stakeholders, local government officials, planners, and Councils of Governments (COGs) about the benefits of universal design and visitable housing
In addition to these recommendations, the report outlines action steps for local governments:
- Conduct an assessment of the need for affordable, accessible housing serving persons with disabilities
- Review zoning and land use ordinances for language that treats small group homes as commercial and industrial use
- Build universal design concepts into planning goals and articulate them to local developers
For more information on these recommendations, see the full report.
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