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Interview with Felicia Jackson

May 02, 2018

Developers & Community Agencies Partnering to Utilize AHFA Programs to House Low-Income & Special Needs Populations

Beginning in 2016, AHFA multifamily programs were expanded to provide additional funding and incentives on a limited basis for the creation of affordable rental housing for Alabama’s extremely low-income, homeless, and special needs populations. AHFA designed a point preference for developers who set aside at least five percent of HOME and/or LIHTC-financed units for people who are homeless or with disabilities. Units must be actively marketed and rented to households with at least one tenant with a disability or a tenant transitioning from being homeless.

Through the point preference incentive for HOME/LIHTC and administering the targeted funding of the National Housing Trust Fund, AHFA is promoting a statewide commitment to end homelessness by addressing the needs of extremely low-income and special needs populations, and bringing those who need housing together with those that provide housing.

HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) program is designed to promote a community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness. In addition to providing funds to nonprofit service providers as well state and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing trauma and dislocation, it promotes access to other programs, and optimizes self-sufficiency among those who are homeless. 

Felicia Jackson is the Executive Director of the Alabama Balance of State Continuum of Care, which is composed of representatives of relevant organizations in 42 Alabama counties. Jackson recently answered questions about how critical partnerships between the development community, Alabama CoCs, and their member agencies to fully utilize AHFA funding and incentives are to addressing housing needs.

Q: How can developers, CoCs, and their member agencies work together to address housing needs?

A: CoCs share information with developers about the need for a continuum of permanent supportive housing and a broad spectrum of services available for highly vulnerable populations. Our hope is that more developers will opt to voluntarily set aside units for the homeless and/or special needs populations that CoCs and our member agencies assist in rural Alabama counties. CoCs will provide a support letter regarding the need for the housing development as well as a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU is a firm agreement that encourages cooperation between the parties and outlines their intention to work together to provide clearly defined supportive services to eligible residents and enhance their ability to maintain independent living. Our goal is to make the CoC navigation process as streamlined and efficient as possible to support the developer’s efforts.

Q: Why is it important to have these groups working together? 

A: HUD requires that each CoC perform an annual count of homeless persons who are in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered on a single night. Point-in-Time (PIT) counts are essential to understanding the extent and nature of homelessness in our state’s rural counties. The number of individuals experiencing homelessness and their characteristics provides insight into the needs of clients as well as highlights trends in homelessness. In 2017, the PIT count showed 74 persons in emergency shelter, 243 in transitional housing, and 230 unsheltered. This information underscores the need for more permanent supportive housing in general, as well as the need for more set-aside units, and counties which will benefit most. 

Q: What are some successes you’ve seen so far? 

A: There has been an increased interest among developers to learn more about the CoC process and support our efforts. CoCs have already established partnerships with developers by executing MOUs, and will continue to make referrals and provide supportive services through local collaboration for persons housed in affordable permanent housing. Thus far, developers have set aside more than 93 newly constructed or rehabilitated units to house special needs and homeless persons throughout the state. These units should be completed and available for occupancy in 2018 and 2019, and will require a continued joint effort among the developers, CoCs, and their member agencies.

AHFA looks forward to sharing continued progress. For more information about multifamily programs, visit http://www.ahfa.com/multifamily or contact [email protected] . For questions about the Alabama Balance of State Continuum of Care and the work of its member agencies, Felicia Jackson can be reached at [email protected].