By Mike Hawkins, AICP, PhD
Managing Director of Community Outreach
Virginia Housing Development Authority
The Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) works with a variety of partners, such as Pathway Homes, Inc., in Northern Virginia, to fulfill our mission. VHDA is a self-supporting, not-for-profit organization created by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1972, to help Virginians attain quality, affordable housing. VHDA provides mortgages, primarily for first-time homebuyers and developers of quality rental housing. VHDA uses no state taxpayer dollars, but raises money in the capital markets to fund our loans. We also teach free homeownership classes, and help people with disabilities and the elderly make their homes more livable. VHDA works with lenders, developers, local governments, community service organizations and others to help put quality housing within the reach of every Virginian.
Special needs and supportive housing for people with disabilities continues to be a strategic focus area for VHDA. Historically, Virginia focused on institutions as an approach to serve the Commonwealth’s citizens with disabilities. However, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), and subsequent Olmstead decision by the U.S. Supreme Court require a broader array of housing and service options, which enable citizens with disabilities to be more fully integrated into our communities.
Accordingly, VHDA is engaged in an important partnership involving several state agencies and regional teams. The goal is to advance community housing options and choice for citizens with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (ID/DD). This goal is particularly important given Virginia’s 2012 Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). This partnership is designed to increase the number of supported living options for individuals who have historically been served in an institutional setting. VHDA is supporting this effort in several ways:
- Establishing a set-aside through our Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program to serve the ID/DD population, while helping HUD create the framework to leverage participation by other local HCV programs.
- Using resources through our Capacity Building program to strengthen the ability of organizations and regional partnerships to foster collaboration among local housing and services providers.
- Working to design programs funded by VHDA REACH resources that can help identify and enhance housing units to serve the ID/DD population.
In January 2015, Virginia launched its Housing and Supportive Services (HSS) initiative to further the state’s commitment to the ADA and the Olmstead decision. The goal is to support communities with the largest number of individuals impacted by the DOJ Settlement Agreement by increasing the integrated-housing options available for individuals with ID/DD.
VHDA is doing our part by supporting regional planning teams in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads-Peninsula, Hampton Roads-Southside and the Greater Richmond metro area through collaboration with the Virginia Departments of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Aging and Rehabilitation Services, Medical Assistance Services, and Housing and Community Development. Each team’s goals focus on:
- Identifying those interested in housing.
- Streamlining local processes.
- Acquiring additional housing resources.
- Housing individuals within a limited timeframe.
For detailed information about the HSS initiative, visit vahss.org. To learn more about how VHDA supports the creation of affordable housing for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, or severe mental illnesses, contact Managing Director of Community Outreach Mike Hawkins at 804-343- 5654 or Mike.Hawkins@vhda.com.
VHDA was a Gold Sponsor at Pathway Homes Annual Help the Homeless Walk on October 24, 2015. We thank VHDA for the continued support of the Help the Homeless Walk and also its support meeting the needs of the individuals we serve. VHDA funding plays a critical role in providing the foundation for recovery – a place to call home.