Safe and affordable housing is key to thriving communities. According to the National League of Cities (NLC)’s annual State of the Cities report for 2021, housing is one of the immediate top priorities for local governments and the availability of affordable housing has been a real challenge in communities the past year.
After more than a year of advocacy led by NLC, municipalities can now leverage historic new resources in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to equitably increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness. The legislation includes 70,000 emergency housing vouchers, $5 billion in HOME grants, $350 billion in State and Local Recovery Funds, and significant investments to preserve and protect housing on tribal lands.
Given the maze of federal grant programs and the heightened demands on local governments, many elected officials are asking, “Where do we start?”
To answer that question, the National League of Cities (NLC) is directing communities to join the federal House America initiative. Under the initiative, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) are inviting local elected officials, Tribal nation leaders, and governors to become part of a national partnership to use the historic investments provided through the American Rescue Plan Act to address the crisis of homelessness through a housing-first approach.
Joining House America means committing your community to two policy goals:
- Re-Housing: Enacting local policy and program improvements that provide households experiencing homelessness with better opportunities for stable housing.
- Housing Creation: Enacting local policy and program improvements that increase the number of new units of affordable or supportive housing in the development pipeline.
In return for that commitment, HUD, USICH, and other federal agencies will provide enhanced support through tools, technical assistance, direct regular communication, data support, and peer-to-peer learning. Participating communities will gain advice and expertise to troubleshoot challenges, grow equity, track progress, and recognize achievements in housing our most vulnerable residents. House America is not a grant program, and it does not provide federal funding. Instead, the initiative is focused on helping local governments improve outcomes from federal grants they already have or could receive.
NLC, HUD, USICH, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) have partnered to increase awareness of this important initiative so that more local governments can benefit. Together, we hosted a webinar, “Committing ARPA Funds to Address Homelessness: the House America Initiative” and have posted the recording for anyone to view.
We encourage you to watch and to join the House America initiative to help expand safe and affordable housing in your communities today.