*Note: If you find the text on some of the images blurry or hard to read, right-clicking the image and then selecting “open image in new tab” may improve the issue.
- Lack of affordable housing options for people with disabilities, including individuals living with mental illness and substance use conditions.
- Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Texans’ financial burdens and the unemployment rate, on housing stability for all Texans with an emphasis on people experiencing homelessness, and on those living with mental health conditions.
- Lack of housing options for foster youth in juvenile detention centers during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Development of permanent supportive housing across the state, including in rural and underserved areas.
- Expansion of recovery housing to assist individuals with substance use conditions in a supportive and empowering environment.
- Availability of housing support for veterans and their families.
- Reducing the Section 8 federal program rental assistance wait list by offering more vouchers for Texans.
- Housing discrimination against Texans with mental illness and substance use conditions.
- Location of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit developments for persons with disabilities.
- Reducing barriers to permanent housing for justice-involved individuals with mental health and substance use needs.
- In FY 2019, TDHCA served a total of 817,362 households and individuals through its combined programs (up from 684,864 in 2017), including 71,350 through its homeless services (up from 36,555 in FY 2017).
- According to the US Census Bureau, 35.7 percent of individuals in Texas were housing insecure during week 12 of the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest of any prior week. This was much higher than the US housing insecurity rate during week 12 of the pandemic, which was 26.5 percent (being housing insecure referred to adults who missed the prior month’s rent or mortgage payment, or who had slight or no confidence that their household could pay the next month’s rent or mortgage on time).
- In Texas, 16.6 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2018 had a severe mental health condition, and 11.5 percent had a chronic substance use condition.
- In Texas, nearly half of all individuals experiencing homelessness and 70 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness live with substance use conditions, and a majority of those with substance use conditions also live with moderate to severe mental health conditions.
- Youth aging out of foster care are more likely to experience violence, homelessness, mental health conditions, incarceration, substance use issues, and early parenthood without a marriage partner.
- Individuals experiencing homelessness with substance use conditions are more likely to be unsheltered than those with severe mental illnesses.
- A 2013-2017 study showed that 17.7 percent of Texans living below the state poverty level had a disability, compared to 8.7 percent with a disability who were living at or above the poverty level.
- The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that in 2015, 46.1 percent of all very low-income renter households with persons with disabilities were severely rent burdened, meaning they paid more than 50 percent of their income to housing. This represented a 6.1 percent increase since 2013.
- In Texas, almost half of people are housing burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
- 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 2019, recipients of SSI in Texas could receive $771 a month, and affordable rent to SSI recipients was $231 a month. Despite this, a one-bedroom fair market rent was $858 a month.
- As of 2018, Texas needed 611,181 available rental units affordable to extremely low-income households (0-30 percent AMFI) in order to meet the state’s needs. Additionally, 89 percent of extremely low-income renters in Texas were cost burdened, with 73 percent being severely cost burdened (spending more than 50 percent of income on housing costs/utilities).
ACS – American Community Survey
AMFI – Average median family income
AMI – Area median income
AYBR – Amy Young Barrier Removal Program
CDBG-DR – Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Relief
CEAP – Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program
CSBG – Community Service Block Grant
DADS – Department of Aging and Disability Services
DOE – Department of Energy
DSHS – Department of State Health Services
ESG – Emergency Solutions Grants
FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency
GLO – General Land Office
HBA – Home buyer assistance
HHS – Health & Human Services
HHSC – Health and Human Services Commission
HHSP – Homeless Housing and Services Program
HRA – Home rehabilitation assistance
HTF – Housing Trust Fund
HUD – Housing and Urban Development
LIHTC – Low income housing tax credit
LMHA – Local mental health authority
LMI – Low and moderate income
MHU – Manufactured Housing Units
PHA – Public housing authority
PREPS – Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program
PSH – Permanent supportive housing
TCAP – Tax Credit Assistance Program
PIT – Point-in-time
PRA – Project rental assistance
QAP – Qualified Allocation Plan
SAMHSA – Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration
SHC – Self-help center
SSI – Supplemental Security Income
TBRA – Tenant-based rental assistance
TDA – Texas Department of Agriculture
TDHCA – Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Data obtained from: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. (2020). TDHCA organizational chart. Retrieved from https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/hrdocs/org-chart.pdf
Individuals with serious and persistent mental illness can experience significant barriers to permanent and stable housing. The most recent Point in Time (PIT) count of homelessness in Texas found that over 20 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness (116,179) have a severe mental illness, and almost 16 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness have a chronic substance use condition. Individuals experiencing homelessness with mental illness are at higher risk of chronic homelessness and remaining homeless for longer periods of time than those without a mental illness. Serious mental illness and substance use conditions may create difficulties in accessing and maintaining stable, affordable, and appropriate housing. Affordable housing programs that focus on homelessness prevention are critical to helping this population become successfully housed.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) operates several major affordable housing programs using mostly federal funding. The agency distributes federal funds for housing and community services and is responsible for allocating housing tax credits under the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit 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 multifamily housing as well as federally-funded rental assistance programs. States and cities can act as PHAs; there are over 200 PHAs in Texas, including TDHCA. In FY 2019, TDHCA served a total of 817,362 households and individuals through its combined program
In addition to supporting the housing needs of low-income Texans, TDHCA has programs and policies that specifically serve people with disabilities. This includes people with mental illness and substance use conditions, as well as those experiencing homelessness. A significant number of people with disabilities face extreme housing needs. In a 2017 Congressional report, 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 strengthen 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 Council. Since its inception, the Council has made efforts to provide new housing and health-related resources, and add additional staff who are knowledgeable 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 guide is available at http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/hhscc/docs/RefGuide.pdf. The Council also submits a Biennial Plan to the legislature outlining its efforts to enhance service-enriched housing. The most recent plan is available at: https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/hhscc/biennial-plans.htm.
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 opportunities for low-income Texans broadly. However, the broader housing programs benefit Texans with disabilities and mental illness by expanding the overall stock of affordable housing and services in the state. Low-income individuals living with a 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.
Under its “rental assistance” category shown in in Table 79, TDHCA provides three different forms of assistance:
- Tenant-based rental assistance: Texas uses federal HOME funding to provide rental assistance to help offset the cost of market-rate rental housing for low-income renters. These programs are called tenant-based assistance because the subsidy is linked to and stays with the tenant. 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. Tenants select rental units themselves in the private market, though landlords must agree to accept the rental assistance from TDHCA. Tenant-based rental assistance is time-limited to 24 months but can be extended if funding is available.
- Project-based rental assistance: Project-based rental assistance is housing assistance that is attached to a property rather than a tenant. The HUD Section 811 program provides a rental subsidy to the housing provider directly to keep a unit affordable to extremely low-income tenants with disabilities linked to long-term services. Project-based rental assistance is not time limited.
- Development assistance: Lastly, the state provides subsidies to developers to construct or rehabilitate affordable multifamily rental housing. This form of assistance includes low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs), HOME Multifamily Loan and Bond programs, and the Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP).
a 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. (2020). 2020 State of Texas Low Income Housing Plan and Annual Report, page 119. Retrieved from https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/housing-center/docs/20-SLIHP-Draft.pdf
During the 86th Legislative session, several bills were filed addressing housing needs or the way TDHCA operates. HB 2564 (86th, White/Lucio) addresses the issue of foster youth experiencing homelessness by requiring TDHCA to include foster youth in their low-income housing plans. This bill largely addresses issues identified by TDHCA’s Youth Count Texas study. Data found that 39.9 percent of Texas youth reported having a mental health condition and 5.8 percent having a developmental disability. For youth experiencing homelessness, the most immediate challenge reported was finding housing. The next immediate challenge was mental health concerns, including: depression, anger, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
HB 4468 (86th, Coleman/Whitmire) eases the match requirement for counties with less than 250,000 people for the Healthy Community Collaboratives Housing program. This initiative encourages private and public sector collaboration of services to help Texans with mental health conditions, substance use conditions, or homelessness.
Other bills were filed that did not become law. HB 1465 (86th, Moody/Menendez) would have established a study on the state of substance abuse recovery housing in Texas. While the bill was voted out of House and heard in the Senate, it was ultimately left pending in committee without a vote. HB 1257 (86th, Rosenthal) would have given counties the authority to bar discrimination against tenants receiving funds for housing assistance. This bill did not receive a hearing or a vote from the House Urban Affairs committee.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, TDHCA has made resources available for renters and homeowners affected by the virus. Homeowners can receive reduced or suspended payments, renters may be able to receive financial assistance through nonprofits and faith-based organizations. In March 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and HUD suspended foreclosures and evictions for 60 days for Federal Housing Administration-insured and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac-backed mortgages. More information and resources for those affected by the pandemic can be found in the COVID-19 chapter of this guide, as well as on the TDHCA website: https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/covid19.htm
2020 TDHCA Initiatives
In January 2020, TDHCA approved $23 million through their 4 percent LIHTC program to rehabilitate 825 multifamily units in rural parts of Texas. While this form of bond financing is typically less cost-effective for small rural properties, combining multiple small properties together made the deal practical. The financing will allow the property portfolio to maintain affordability for low-income Texans, including those with mental health conditions, for an additional 30 years.
TDHCA coordinated the 2015-2019 State of Texas Consolidated Plan, as well as preparation of the 2020-2024 State of Texas Consolidated Plan. In compliance with HUD, the agency reports on the following programs: HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The HOME program included the following activities: rehabilitation of single-family housing, homebuyer assistance with possible rehabilitation, tenant-based rental assistance, single family development, homebuyer assistance new construction, multifamily new/rehab, and persons with disabilities set aside. The ESG program included emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and homeless prevention and outreach. The NHTF program activities included new multifamily units for extremely low-income renters. Other HUD activities within TDHCA include the Veteran Assistance Supportive Housing program, Section 811, and the Mainstream Voucher Program.
On August 25, 2017 Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Port Aransas, Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm lasted for four days, dropped as much as 60 inches of rain in some areas of the state and is estimated to have caused $120 billion of damage. The Texas General Land Office estimated that more than 1 million homes were impacted by the storm and flooding that followed.
Just as there were major losses to the single-family housing stock, many affordable multifamily housing units sustained severe damage. These units were often the only affordable housing options available to people experiencing mental health conditions. More than 1,930 units tied to Public Housing Assistance, including Section 8 and Housing Choice vouchers, were impacted by the storm. The total cost of this destruction amounted to nearly $25,600,000.
As of February 2019, three rounds of HUD funding had been provided for Harvey recovery. At the end of 2017, HUD allocated $57.8 million in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) dollars to help address immediate housing needs. These funds were left over from the CDBG-DR dollars issued to Texas for 2015 and 2016 floods.
The second round of HUD funding for approximately $5 billion was approved in August 2018. These funds were part of the 2017 national disaster aid package included in the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017.
The third round of funding, totaling about $562 million, was provided in February 2019. These funds were also provided by the CDBG-DR Program, and were made in addition to the $5 billion from the second round of funding in Summer 2018. Collectively from the three rounds, HUD provided Texas with over $5.7 billion in disaster recovery funds.
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. HUD requires agencies that receive any Community Planning and Developments funds to undertake fair housing planning; in Texas, that plan is the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing report. The latest report was released in 2019, and can be viewed here https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/fair-housing/docs/19-AI-Final.pdf.
The majority 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 strict regulations and restrictions for their use, and are subject to fair housing law. The following is a brief description of TDHCA’s funding for the 2020-2021 biennium.
The 2020-2021 TDHCA budget contained over $508 million in federal funding, about 88 percent of the agency’s total funding for the biennium. State general revenue provided over $27 million to TDHCA, and nearly $41 million came from other funds such as appropriated receipts and interagency contracts. Figure 110 shows TDHCA funding by method of finance.
Source: Zerwas & Nelson. (2019). H.B. No. 1 General Appropriations Act Eighty-Sixth Legislature. Retrieved from https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=86R&Bill=HB1Data obtained from: Legislative Budget Board. (2020). Legislative Appropriations Request for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Retrieved from http://docs.lbb.state.tx.us/display.aspx?DocType=LAR&agy=332&fy=2020
TDHCA is a unique agency in terms of its total expenditures. One of the agency’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 do not appear in the biennial state budget because they are 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, about 72 percent of TDHCA’s 2020-2021 budget goes toward homeless and poverty services. About 21 percent goes toward affordable housing programs, including rental assistance and subsidies to multifamily 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’s total budget. For 2020-2021, the agency’s budget is nearly $577 million of Texas’s nearly $251 billion budget.
Source: Zerwas & Nelson. (2019). H.B. No. 1 General Appropriations Act Eighty-Sixth Legislature. Retrieved from https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=86R&Bill=HB1
Figure 112, 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. In FY 2019, TDHCA expended or issued over $2 billion in total funds and tax credit assistance. Over $1.69 billion was allocated 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.
Figure 113 below illustrates the total direct and indirect funding expended by the agency in FY 2019, according to its most recent annual report.
*Note – “Other” category includes: HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Section 8, Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program, Homeless Housing and Services Program (HHSP), Housing Trust Fund (HTF), Multifamily Direct Loan, and Section 811 PRA. Data obtained from: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. (2020). 2020 State of Texas low income housing plan and annual report, Page 47. Retrieved from https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/housing-center/docs/20-SLIHP.pdf
Without a safe, stable, and affordable place to live, it is nearly impossible to achieve a high level of overall health and wellness. However, many Texans continue to face a housing cost burden. A housing cost burden exists when a household pays more than 30 percent of its gross income towards housing. In Texas from 2012-2016, almost 43 percent of all renter households and about 20 percent of all homeowners faced a housing cost burden, regardless of income. Additionally, of all Texas renter households with extremely low incomes, nearly 77 percent faced a housing cost burden. This was compared to less than 4 percent of renter households with incomes of over 100 percent Average Median Family Income (AMFI) who were cost burdened. Overall, 2012-2016 data showed that over 2.4 million Texas renter and homeowner households with incomes below 100 percent AMFI faced a housing cost burden.
Housing Average Median Family Income (AMFI) and Eligibility
In order to direct resources to the people who 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 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 non-metropolitan counties.
Texas’s median family income in FY 2019 was $71,200. Low-income households are those whose income does not exceed 80 percent of AMFI. HUD breaks “low-income” down further, as described below. For a Texas household of four in FY 2019, HUD established the following income categories:
- Low-income (≤ 80% AMFI): ≤ $56,950
- Very low-income (≤ 50% AMFI): ≤ $35,600
- Extremely low-income (≤ 30% AMFI): ≤ $21,350
Barriers to affordable housing can disproportionately affect many Texans living with mental health and substance use conditions. If a person’s ability to work is hindered by their mental illness or substance use condition, then it is likely that their income will not be sufficient to afford quality housing. Further, access to safe and stable housing adds to a person’s supportive environment needed for their recovery.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Housing
Supplemental Security Income is a federal program that provides a monthly income to people with little income and few resources who are blind, disabled, or elderly.[x] Many SSI recipients are unable to work due to a severe mental illness or disability. Research reveals a housing affordability gap for SSI recipients. In 2019, recipients of SSI in Texas received a maximum of $771 a month. While the rent affordable to SSI recipients was just $231 a month, fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Texas was $858 a month. Without affordable housing options, people with serious mental illness are often without community living options and are at risk of having to live in institutional settings like nursing homes or psychiatric facilities.
Continuing Challenges with Stigma
Another ongoing barrier to affordable housing for people with mental health and substance use conditions is the continued negative stigma that might prevent someone from fully participating in community life and accessing housing. People with a mental health and substance use conditions who are also justice-involved can be legally barred from a number of housing options and have an extremely difficult time finding housing due to legal eligibility issues and ongoing stigma.
Integrated Housing Rule
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 facilitates 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.
Permanent supportive housing is long-term, affordable housing linked to a range of support services geared to enable tenants, especially those 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 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (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; and
- Available services and supports
No PSH 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 trauma-controlled PSH, the functionality levels of tenants drive the design of the care models. People are grouped into different care settings based on whether their functionality is deemed high, moderately high, moderate, or low. The settings that tenants are placed in are meant to be environments for mental healing and well-being by providing comfort and community to individuals.
Stakeholder organizations in the housing, mental health, and substance use realms have pushed for an expansion of recovery housing in Texas. The goal of recovery housing is to provide supportive transitional living in order to prevent individuals with substance use issues from experiencing relapse, recidivism, and overdose, all of which can lead to deteriorating mental wellness. Establishing safe and supportive living environments and providing connections to peer support are at the core of this model.
While recovery housing is typically utilized after an individual participates in inpatient or residential treatment, it can provide support after outpatient treatment or as an alternative to treatment. While research recognizes gaps and opportunities to learn more about recovery homes in Texas, studies of residents in Oxford Houses, sober living houses in California, and treatment centers have found that recovery homes are associated with a variety of positive outcomes including abstinence from alcohol and drugs, gains in employment, and decreased involvement in the criminal justice system.
HB 1465 (86th, Moody/Menendez), which did not pass in the 86th Legislative Session, would have directed the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to conduct an evaluative study on the current landscape, challenges, and opportunities to expand recovery housing across the state. However, SAMHSA has worked with stakeholder organizations to outline recovery housing needs. The SAMHSA 2019 Housing Best Practices Guide included guidelines to explain how recovery housing units vary based on the levels of care needed.
Source: SAMHSA. (n.d.). Recovery Housing: Best Practices and Suggested Guidelines. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/housing-best-practices-100819.pdf
More information on recovery housing can be found in the HHSC portion of this Guide.
Housing First is an approach to ending chronic homelessness that seeks to connect individuals with housing immediately. Contrary to other housing models, Housing First does not require sobriety, mental health treatment, or supportive service participation as a precondition for housing. The philosophy of Housing First is that once housing stability is achieved, people will be better positioned to effectively address serious mental illness or co-occurring substance use. The US Department of Veterans Affairs adopted a Housing First model in 2015, and an assessment of their Year One pilot showed an increase in housing retention rates and a decrease in healthcare utilization for Housing First tenants compared to those in housing with treatment requirements.[i] The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness suggests using PSH in combination with a Housing First approach to address chronic homelessness.[ii]
For more information on the Housing First model, see the US Interagency Council on Homelessness checklist: https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/Housing_First_Checklist_FINAL.pdf
Housing Programs Serving People with Disabilities or Mental Health Conditions
Several of Texas’s 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 and mental illness. 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 “set-aside” funds.
The programs described below do not represent a comprehensive listing of all the affordable housing resources in Texas. Several 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 at http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/overview.htm. A list of all federal affordable housing programs can be found at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/HUDPrograms2018.pdf.
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 (does not exceed 50 percent of AMFI) to participate in the program, and for 75 percent of households to be Extremely Low Income (less than or equal to 30 percent of AMFI). Along with meeting these income requirements, several other factors are considered when determining eligibility, including size and composition of the household, citizenship status, and childcare expenses.
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 2019, up to 140 of the 900 total Housing Choice Vouchers available in 34 counties could be used by people with disabilities in the Project Access program. 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 the individual’s ability to live independently. Applicants must also meet one the following requirements:
- Be an at-risk applicant and a previous resident of a nursing facility, intermediate care facility, Texas state psychiatric hospital, or board and care facility as defined by HUD; or
- Be a current resident of a nursing facility, intermediate care facility, Texas state psychiatric hospital or board and care facility at the time of voucher issuance as defined by HUD; or
- Be eligible for a pilot program with HHSC for residents of Texas state psychiatric hospitals.
At-risk applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Be a current recipient of Tenant-Based Rental Assistance from the Department’s HOME Investments Partnership Program; and
- Be within six months prior to expiration of assistance.
TDHCA works in collaboration with HHSC to implement Project Access. Assistance through Project Access vouchers is not time limited, however there is a waiting list for the vouchers. TDHCA established a process that allows people on the Project Access waitlist to relocate from an institution using the HOME-funded Tenant-based Rental Assistance program (see below). The goal is for a person to be admitted to the Project Access program by the time 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.
The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program is a federally-funded multifamily 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 US and produces around 75,000 affordable housing units nationally per year. As of 2018, around 260,000 Texas families lived in more than 2,500 LIHTC properties.
TDHCA provides federal tax credits to investors in multifamily housing who set aside a specific number of units for the development for affordable housing. The tax credits require the units to be leased to qualifying low-income residents at a below-market rate. At a minimum, these affordable units must 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. LIHTC has produced over 2.5 million affordable apartments since its inception.
The LIHTC program is important for renters with disabilities or mental health conditions, many of whom have limited income and are qualified for LIHTC units. Moreover, LIHTC developments are required to accept Section 8 housing vouchers. Texas codifies its requirements for the competitive tax credit award process annually in its Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). While the 2020 QAP has yet to be approved by the Governor at this time, early drafts suggest the finalized version could include language pertaining to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities being identified as a key supportive housing population.
The Texas HOME Investment 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, local nonprofits, and private housing actors. HOME finances both single and multifamily programs, some of which are described in Table 80 below. The 2020-2021 budget allocates approximately $89 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 five percent set aside for activities that serve persons with disabilities, regardless of where they live.
Section 811 is one of HUD’s supportive housing programs for people with disabilities, including chronic mental illness, and is authorized by the Cranston-Gonzales National Affordable Housing Act of 1990. The program bolsters housing for people with disabilities in two ways: interest-free development funds and operating subsidies for nonprofit developers of affordable housing for people with disabilities, and rental assistance to be used in developments funded through other subsidy programs, such as the LIHTC and HOME programs.
The Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) program is used to provide rental assistance paired with voluntary support services to eight major metropolitan areas across Texas: Austin-Round Rock, Brownsville-Harlingen, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, El Paso, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, and San Antonio-New Braunfels. Unlike many of the HOME initiatives, this program does not provide funds for rehabilitation or construction. People with serious mental illness and people with disabilities exiting institutions are target populations for this program, as well as youth exiting foster care. TDHCAand DFPS have entered an inter-agency agreement to effectively address the needs 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.
Since the Section 811 PRA program began in 2012, two rounds of funding have been awarded; Texas received awards in both the FY 2012 and FY 2013 cycles. Combined, Texas received about $24 million. A March 2020 Section 811 PRA program publication reported that Texas’s 655 integrated housing units were the most of any state.
In the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act, the state budget awarded TDHCA with $207,614 in 2020 and $206,559 in 2021 for Section 811 PRA funding. For more information on this program, please visit the TDHCA website https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/section-811-pra/.
The Amy Young Barrier Removal Program (AYBR) provides funding for persons with disabilities to improve accessibility and remove dangerous conditions from their homes. The program provides one-time grants of up to $22,500 for accessibility home modifications to people with a disability whose household incomes are at or below 80 percent 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. In December 2019 TDHCA announced that over $1,545,000 million will be available in 2020 for the program. Of this total, about $765,000 will go towards rural communities, and $780,000 will go to urban areas. TDHCA disburses funds to nonprofit organizations and local governments that process applications, verify eligibility, and oversee construction.
TDHCA has several programs that specifically serve people who are experiencing homelessness.
Homeless Housing and Services Program
The Homeless and Housing Services Program (HHSP) was established during the 81st Texas Legislature through an appropriations rider, and codified during the 82nd Texas Legislature. This state-funded program provides funding to the nine largest cities in Texas to support a variety of activities to address and prevent homelessness including:
- Construction, development, or procurement of housing for homeless persons;
- Rehabilitation of structures targeted to serving homeless persons or persons at-risk of homelessness;
- Provision of direct services and case management to homeless persons or persons at-risk of homelessness; and
- Other homelessness-related activity as approved by the Department.
HHSP contracted with 10 localities in FY 2020, including the cities of Arlington, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano, and San Antonio, in addition to the Haven for Hope facility in San Antonio and the Mother Teresa facility in Corpus Christi. During the 86th Legislative Session, General Revenue funds for the 2020-2021 biennium provided about $9.8 million for HHSP in general set-aside funds and an additional $3 million for youth experiencing homelessness. About $4.9 million dollars in general set-aside funds and $1.5 million dollars in youth set-aside funds was provided to cities with populations over 285,500. Amounts provided to sub-recipients was determined depending on total population, percentage of persons in poverty, population of persons with disabilities, incidents of family violence, and the Point-In-Time count of veterans, unaccompanied youth, parenting youth, children of parenting youth, and overall number of persons experiencing homelessness. HHSP provided homeless services to 6,473 individuals in FY 2019.
Emergency Solutions Grants Program
The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program is a competitive grant that awards funds to private nonprofit organizations, cities, and counties to provide the services necessary to help persons that are at-risk of homelessness or homeless quickly regain stability in permanent housing. The ESG program is funded by HUD and provides two-year awards. Program funds can be used to support multiple activities related to preventing and mitigating homelessness, including:
- Engaging individuals experiencing homelessness and families living on the street;
- Improving the number and quality of emergency shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness and families;
- Helping operate emergency shelters;
- Providing essential services to shelter residents;
- Rapidly rehousing individuals experiencing homelessness and families; and
- Preventing families and individuals from becoming homeless.
In FY 2019 a total of 64,982 people were served by ESG, and in 2019 over $8.7 million was allocated for ESG services.
Related Services and Programs – Other State Agencies
The veteran population is at a higher risk of mental health or substance use conditions compared to the general population. As the Texas Veterans Commission chapter of this guide details, nearly 38,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2018, accounting for nearly 9 percent of all homeless adults. Of these veterans experiencing homelessness, 62 percent were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs. In an effort to alleviate the housing burden, the Texas Veterans Land Board offers a mortgage program to help veterans in Texas purchase homes.
The Veterans Housing Assistance Program allows veterans to purchase homes in Texas with little to no down payment with a below market low-interest loan. Those with service-related disabilities ratings of 30 percent or higher can obtain a greater discounted interest rate. Veterans, active duty members, and spouses may borrow on fixed rate loans for 15, 20, 25, or 30 year terms. More information can be found here: https://www.findmywayhome.com/assistance/texas-veterans-housing-assistance-program/
Model Boarding Home Standards
A boarding home is a business that provides basic care to at least three residents who are unrelated to the owner and who have a disability and/or are elderly. Examples of basic care services include meals and transportation. Boarding homes can serve an important role in the continuum of care for people with mental health conditions and other disabilities. While some homes provide safe and affordable living quarters for their residents, the lack of state regulation has historically left some individuals living in dangerous conditions in boarding homes with few repercussions. Legislative efforts to improve boarding homes as a better option for more Texans experiencing mental illness resulted in legislation filed in 2009. HB 216 (81st, Menendez/Shapleigh) directs HHSC to establish model boarding home standards. For more information on boarding homes, view the most recent report from HHSC: https://hhs.texas.gov/doing-business-hhs/provider-portals/long-term-care-providers/resources/what-are-texas-boarding-home-model-standards.
In 2013, the 83rd Legislature awarded an exceptional item to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to provide short-term rental and utility assistance to individuals with mental illness through LMHAs. The program was originally established to act as a stopgap measure while individuals waited to receive other vouchers. The program today provides short-term assistance for up to three months to help people maintain their current housing, and longer-term assistance of up to 12 months with extensions given on a case-by-case basis. The program now operates at 20 LMHAs across the state and is administered by HHSC.
In FY 2018, people who received supportive housing rental assistance experienced a 57 percent reduction in the average number of psychiatric hospitalizations and a 48 percent reduction in the number of crisis encounters. Additionally, recipients experienced a 39 percent reduction in criminal justice involvement and an overall 79 percent reduction in homelessness after receiving supportive housing rental assistance.
For more information on the Supportive Housing Rental Assistance Program, see the HHSC section of this guide.
Since 2013, there has been a clearinghouse available for housing and services resources on the 2-1-1 Texas website. Searchable by geographic area, this online clearinghouse provides an interactive resource for finding community-based affordable housing including subsidized and supportive options. There is also a section dedicated to services for people experiencing mental illness, including counseling and support groups. The clearinghouse website is now overseen by HHSC and is available at https://www.211texas.org/guided-search/.