Illinois receives more than $6 million to fund 200 units of supportive affordable housing

Illinois residents with a stake in affordable housing rejoiced in early March when the state became one of 25 states granted funding for housing projects targeted to extremely low-income disabled people below the age of 65. Funds come from the Section 811 Project Assistance Rental (PRA) program and are distributed to state housing agencies by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Section 811 began as part of the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, which replaced the 1959 Section 202 Program of Housing for Handicapped People. In 2010, HUD expanded the reach of Section 811 through the passage of the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act. Now, in addition to interest-free capital advances to non-profits for the construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of housing that operates in conjunction with supportive services for disabled individuals, Section 811 will provide money for project-based rental assistance (PRA) to state housing agencies that have partnerships with state health and human services and Medicaid agencies. This means the state hosing agency will receive federal money to distribute directly to eligible multi-family projects. Eligibility requirements may vary a bit in each state, but all must establish a link between health and social services, and housing.

Residents of projects benefiting from the new PRA program cannot earn more than 30 percent of the area median income and must be part of a household containing at least one adult with a disability who is eligible for Medicaid or other state funded supportive services. Rent is capped to remain affordable to people with little to no income, and all participating buildings have a mandatory 30 year compliance period.

The purpose of PRA is, according the the program’s website “to enable persons with disabilities to live with dignity and independence within their communities,” and is an extension of the Obama administration’s commitment to provide quality of life to the almost 4,600 extremely low-income disabled households. The infusion of money is perfectly timed in Illinois since Governor Bruce Rauner recently announced massive cuts in health and human services organizations in his proposed budget for 2016. These cuts include a $1.5 billion reduction to the Health and Family Services budget that eliminates Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation facilities and an $82 million reduction to the division of mental health. Without these and other service programs, thousands of people with disabilities will be without a system of support. Illinois will use its $6,420,000 in PRA funds (of $150 allocated nationally) to create 200 units to bridge the gap between housing and healthcare, but the state cannot rely on federal money alone. Governor Rauner needs to use this as an opportunity reverse his proposal and pitch in money to help his constituents survive.

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