FY17 ACS Advocacy Priority Issues
ACS continues to monitor and participate in community, regulatory and legislative discussions that will lead to:
· Strong nonprofit infrastructure capable of responding to community needs.
· Creation of new and redeveloped affordable housing for low and moderate income households.
· Increased access to affordable, quality childcare for low wage workers.
· Ending homelessness in Howard County.
· Increased access for Howard County residents to behavioral health services.
Specific advocacy goals toward which ACS will be working during the 2016-2017 will be:
· GOAL: The addition of 350 new affordable rental housing units in FY 2017 to help close by six percent the current gap in housing affordable to Howard County households with incomes of less than 50 percent of median income. At 350 new housing units a year, the current need for 6700 units would be halved in less than ten years. In advocating for affordable housing, ACS will continue to press for a minimum of 15 percent affordable housing in all new and redeveloped properties.
The most recent Rental Housing Survey conducted by the Department of Housing and Community Development reports that 9,900 rental households (33% of all Howard County households) have incomes below $50,000. Having only 3200 units in the county with rents affordable to households earning at this level creates a shortage of 6700 housing units. This means that human service and health care workers, child care providers, retail and hospitality workers, maintenance and other occupational groups essential to our community’s economic infrastructure—and upon whom our resident’s rely—cannot afford to live in the community where they work.
The County’s Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) program and other initiatives of the Housing Department and Housing Commission are working to develop new units and redevelop properties to preserve current units, but the significant affordable housing gap continues. Ongoing support and an expansion of current programs as well as new strategies and investments are required to make substantive progress on closing the gap.
· GOAL: An FY 2018 increase in County resources sufficient to decrease by 25 percent in FY 2018 the Coordinated System of Homeless Services’ (CSHS) waiting list of households requiring case management. Current government resources (program, personnel and operations) supporting the CSHS are allocated to the Department of Community Resources and Services, Department of Housing and Community Development and nonprofit organizations.
The Coordinated System of Homeless Services helped more than 242 households avoid or end their homelessness in FY 2016. Despite this good news, many more households enter the Coordinated System each month than exit it due to insufficient resources, particularly case managers, short-term/emergency financial assistance and vouchers that make housing affordable. Consequently, as of June 30, 2016, 171 households were receiving CSHS assistance while an additional 285 were awaiting help.
The Fall 2016 update of the PEH should confirm current and identify new priorities, strategies and resources necessary to make progress toward ending Howard County homelessness. New PEH priorities are anticipated to include reinforcement of the need for affordable housing, workforce development and accessible, reliable public transportation. Community support for resolving this important social issue will be essential to ensuring sufficient, long-term PEH resourcing.
· GOAL: Intra-county public transportation routes and schedules that meet the needs of low income residents. ACS will specifically advocate for: (1) reducing, over the next three  years, the head time by 10 minutes [from current 30 minutes] between runs to any specific stop to increase from two to three the number of buses each hour; (2) ensuring selected route schedules support employees working late night and early morning shifts; (3) on-time para-transit pick-ups and deliveries; and (4) ensuring all County bus stops are safe and accessible for families with children, persons with disabilities and seniors.
The lack of adequate, reliable transportation is a constant in discussions related to helping low income households and people with special needs maintain or reach self-sufficiency. Help is needed...for parents reliant upon public transportation to drop children at daycare and get to work on time…for people requiring social service support to efficiently get to and among government and nonprofit agencies…for access to health care…for employees working night and early morning shifts…for persons with disabilities to get to and from work…for students seeking to participate in after school activities…for seniors wanting to move independently within our community.
County Administration is working diligently to ensure that Howard County residents are well served as a regional transportation system evolves. It is equally important that local routes are available where and when they can best serve low-income and special needs population.
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Approved by the ACS Board of Directors
1. A strong nonprofit infrastructure capable of responding to community need.
A. Achieve a Howard County Nonprofit Resource Center
B. Support Community Service Partnership grant funding to ensure, at a minimum, maintenance of effort funding and increases or decreases consistent with community need.
2. Creation and maintenance of new low-income workforce housing.
A. Support 15 percent of Downtown Columbia redevelopment housing units for individuals and families earning $30,000-$60,000.
B. Support community revitalization initiatives that preserve the major components of workforce housing.
C. Advocate for DHCD program support of low-income workforce rental housing.
3. Increased access to affordable, quality child care for low-wage workers.
A. Encourage the County Childhood Education Action Group and Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency to consider the following:
- Exploration of creating local childcare subsidies
- Advocating for state-wide efforts to address the high cost of childcare
- Devising strategies to increase the number of slots available in affordable childcare settings
- Providing the support necessary to ensure that childcare providers meet appropriate health, safety and developmental standards.
4. Increased resource support for Howard County’s Plan to End Homelessness.
A. Advocate for evaluation of the CSHS to determine:
- Effectiveness of current system
- Any service gaps
- System capacity to make measureable progress toward ending a homelessness
- Prioritization of resources (personnel; funding) needed to make measurable progress toward ending homelessness
B. Advocate for resources indicated by the evaluation.
C. Advocate for more housing resources as indicated by the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) data.
5. Programs, policies and initiatives aimed at improving the health of Howard County children.
A. Work with members and county government to “aggressively address the County’s obesity issue” as recommended in the 2015 Transition Committee Report.
6. Increased access to outpatient mental health services in Howard County for low-income individuals and households.
A. Advocate for implementation of the recommendations of the County’s Behavioral Health Task Force.
Approved by the ACS Board of Directors
June 25, 2015