ADVOCACY ALERT: Roll up your sleeves, we've got work to do!

While this week marks the return of federal employees back to work after a temporary government shutdown, it’s been a little over two weeks since the Arizona Legislature convened. At the Arizona Housing Coalition, we've been watching legislation closely at the federal and state levels so we can keep you, our affordable housing and homelessness advocates, informed and engaged. 

We know you're busy, but we want your Congressional members and state legislators to hear from YOU why we need safe, affordable housing for all Arizonans. 

So we've made advocating easy! 

Every time you see this TAKE ACTION AZHC Bubble...


...You'll know there's an action YOU can take to help us end homelessness by advocating for safe, affordable homes for ALL Arizonans. 

And don't forget, we're 'unjumbling the jargon' of the affordable housing and homeless service sectors every Monday on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so we can all be the most educated, informed advocates we can be! #unjumblejargon

Now, let's get to business. Here’s a recap of what we’re tracking at the national and local levels...

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FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE UPDATES


FEDERAL TAX REFORM
In case you missed it, the New York Times did a great job highlighting the precariousness of the recent tax reform legislation on the affordable housing community. As a result of the lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, it is expected to reduce the national affordable housing production by nearly 235,000 units over the next decade, exacerbating the existing nationwide shortage of affordable housing. In response, affordable housing developers have begun seeking new financing sources and scaling back long-term affordable housing development plans.

CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET
Now that Congress has voted to end the government shutdown, they are back to work to finalize the fiscal year 2018 spending levels, with a looming deadline of February 8th, when the stopgap funding ends.


We need your help to make sure affordable housing and homelessness funding doesn't get lost in the chaos of budget politics. Speak up for homes and hope by contacting your Congressional delegation to let them know how important continued, uninterrupted federal funding is to Arizona's work towards ending homelessness and increasing access to safe, affordable housing. 

          

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Community Reinvestment Act Reform Anticipated

Last year, President Trump issued an executive order mandating that federal agencies regulate the financial industry.  In turn, the Treasury Department responded with a report that announced the Administration’s intent to reform the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). In the report, the Treasury highlighted their plan to review how bank’s CRA investments are measured to improve their benefit to communities, changes to the way CRA geographic areas are defined; and improvements in the regulatory review.  


Our friends at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition have come up with a list of recommendations that the Treasury should consider when approaching Community Reinvestment Act reform – to increase access to safe and sound lending, investments, and banking services in underserved communities - and are encouraging national and state organizations to sign on.  


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Ask Arizona’s Congressional Delegation to uphold the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule

On January 5, 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it will effectively delay implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (AFFH) until 2025. The Fair Housing Act not only makes it unlawful for jurisdictions to discriminate, it also requires that they take actions to dismantle historical patterns of segregation, which continue to limit the housing choices and opportunities of protected classes, including people of color, people with disabilities, families with children and religious groups. Despite the law’s passage 50 years ago, segregation still plagues our communities, resulting in inequities in all aspects of life, including education, health and income. The AFFH rule reaffirms the strongly held American belief that your zip code should not determine your access to opportunity.

HUD abruptly decided to push back implementing this rule without input from these stakeholders and has not justified the agency’s actions in any convincing manner.  Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter asking HUD Secretary Ben Carson to provide more information on the agency’s recent decision and are asking each state’s Congressional Representative to sign on.  



Please contact Arizona’s Congressional delegates and ask them to sign on by Monday, January 29th. Congressional Members should contact the offices of Congresswoman Jayapal and Congressman Ellison for more information.  

          

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HUD's EnVision Centers
In late December, HUD Secretary Carson announced a new initiative to help HUD-assisted families achieve self-efficiency. Carson announced HUD will launch its new EnVision Centers, which will be located on or near public housing developments. The intention is to help people become more self-sufficient so that they leave HUD-assisted housing and allow HUD resources to become available to others. To accomplish this purpose, HUD proposes the creation of ten EnVision Centers, centralized hubs for supportive services focusing on economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness, and character and leadership

The centers will form partnerships with federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, corporations, public housing authorities and housing finance agencies. EnVision Centers will utilize public-private resources to impact the community.

HUD will also launch its new mobile app to help HUD assisted households find local resources through the EnVision Center network. HUD is issuing a notice in the Federal Register to get input from the public.  

The Arizona Housing Coalition is following this initiative and its implementation and proposed outcomes and are hopeful this the EnVision Centers further our community’s goals of supporting a safe, affordable place to call home for every Arizonan. We encourage our members and interested stakeholders to weigh in on the initiative’s goals.

STATE LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

Seventeen days into the 53rd Legislature, Second Regular Session, lawmakers have introduced 776 bills and resolutions.  

STATE BUDGET  
During the State of the State, Governor Ducey highlighted his priorities in spending Arizona’s $10.1 billion budget. As expected, Governor Ducey wants to direct a significant portion to K-12 public education. Additional priorities include making the streets safer, renovations to state parks, increasing access to lottery games, and funding for transportation to increase access to healthy food, especially in rural communities. Glaringly absent is restoration of funding to programs like the state housing trust fund or stagnant funding to homeless services in the face of increasing need.

The Arizona Housing Coalition is busy analyzing the Governor’s budget proposal and the Legislature’s budget baseline, in addition to tracking 26 bills that have an impact in the creation of affordable homes or housing supports. If you’d like to follow along with us and weigh in on legislation of interest, please consider joining us at the “Meet Your Legislators Day at the State Capitol” on Thursday, March 1st, or consider joining the Arizona Housing Coalition’s legislative advocacy committee.


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Access to AHCCCS
Arizona’s Medicaid agency, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), is annually required by state law to request federal approval for the implementation of work requirements and a five-year coverage limit for “able-bodied adults.”

Having incorporated robust community feedback, AHCCCS recently submitted its 1115 Waiver proposal, known as AHCCCS Works, to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is currently accepting public comments on Arizona’s Waiver submittal, and has made clear its willingness to approve many of the reforms proposed in the Waiver.  


In response to the Waiver submittal, our friends at Vitalyst have issued a summary report of AHCCCS Works and proposes a number of critical questions to be considered by policymakers and community stakeholders as Arizona prepares for implementation.


Knowing that access to healthcare is a path out of homelessness and imperative to housing success, we encourage you or your organization to provide comments to CMS about Arizona’s proposed work requirements and the five-year limit. CMS is welcoming public comments through February 5th. During Arizona’s state public comment period, nearly 600 pages of comments were submitted. To date, CMS has received roughly fifteen public comments, so please take the time to outline your concerns with the waiver’s implementation.

Additionally, AHCCCS is hosting community meetings across the state to provide the public with information about the upcoming Waiver submittal. These sessions will also provide the opportunity for AHCCCS to hear from stakeholders, including members and their families, advocates and providers.