By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, March 9, over 100 supporter of affordable housing joined in a rally for the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama (LIHCA).
Matthew Tyson told the Alabama Political Reporter that the group was there to rally for passing House Bill 341, sponsored by State Representative Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham). In 2012 the legislature had passed a bill with broad bipartisan support, also sponsored by Rep. Todd, to create the Alabama Housing Trust Fund so that non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity can get grants to help build housing that low income Alabama families can actually afford. HB341 would actually fund that Alabama Housing Trust Fund.
LIHCA Project manager Ashley Kerr said that Alabama has a shortage of homes that Alabamians who making minimum wage or are living on a fixed income can actually afford. Whether it is seniors living on Social Security, veterans who are returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, people with disabilities and young families just starting out, there is a shortage of housing for people with low incomes. Housing Trust Funds are not a new idea and are used across the country to improve the housing options for lower income Americans.
Kerr said in a statement, “It is frightening that so many Alabamians work fulltime yet struggle to put food on the table and pay for a roof over their heads. As part of the solution to this housing crisis, Representative Patricia Todd recently introduced HB341, legislation that will secure a dedicated source of revenue for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). This fund could be used to build new homes or rehabilitate older homes, both for rental and homeownership opportunities. Representative Todd’s legislation would take the existing housing trust fund from an empty account to an entity that will create both jobs and homes for our communities.”
Representative Todd said, “We had near unanimous support in 2012 to establish the Alabama Housing Trust Fund. What we need now is that same support to invest in the trust fund, our people and our communities. The Alabama Housing Trust Fund will not only build safe and affordable homes for hardworking Alabamians, but it will put folks to work and boost our local economies. It is a win-win for Alabama.”
LIHCA’s Board President, Mary Ellen Judah said in a statement, “In 2015 LIHCA released a report, ‘The Economic Impacts of the Alabama Housing Trust Fund highlights that housing trust funds are proven job creators and economic generators for communities across the nation. By investing in the housing trust fund, Alabama can create safe and affordable homes that give families the security and comfort they need, while putting people to work at good paying jobs.”
Judah continued, “Many of those most squeezed by rents are people who worked their whole lives, but now rely on tiny retirement checks. I believe that older Americans and those on fixed incomes should be able to pay rent and still be able to put food on the table. We need our leaders in Montgomery to commit the resources necessary so we can provide older Alabamians the housing relief they have earned. After all, doesn’t the greatest generation deserve a safe place to call home?”
Kerr urged the participants to go talk to their legislators about passing HB341.
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister told the crowd that the majority of the legislature’s Republicans voted for a tax increase in September so we know that if enough pressure is brought that they will raise taxes.
Alabama Arise is composed of 150 Churches and civic organizations that advocate on behalf of underprivileged Alabamians.
HB341 would increase the mortgage recording fee that Alabamians pay when they record a mortgage. Those increased fees would then be available for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund. HB341 has been assigned to the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
According to information provided by LIHCA, State real estate and census data indicate that the wage required to afford rent or a mortgage in Alabama is $13.66 per hour. According to the Census Bureau the median household income in Alabama is only $43,511 (averaged from 2010 to 2014). The bottom fifth of the population don’t make half that.