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February 2016

Housing Finance Commission helps Washingtonians live more affordably

HFC logoBy almost any measure, the Washington State Housing Finance Commission fulfilled a mission during 2015 to "open doors to a better life" for residents across the state.

Last year, one of its core services, the Home Advantage program, reached nearly 9,000 potential homebuyers through free education programs offered via in-person and online seminars. Several thousand benefited from WSHFC's home mortgage loans, down-payment and closing-cost loans, and mortgage credit certificates.

In response to demand for affordable rental housing, which the Commission says is a "huge challenge for many individuals and families," the organization created or preserved 4,830 units of housing for seniors, disabled households, homeless households and farmworker households. That endeavor involved issuing $400.5 million in bonds and allocating $205.5 million in housing credits.

Other accomplishments reported in the WSHFC 2015 annual report were outlined in snapshots of cost-burdened households in Yakima, Snohomish and Pierce counties, as well as the Seattle area and the Spokane area.

"In 2015, in communities all over the state, affordable housing was an urgent topic of discussion," stated Commission Chair Karen Miller.

As part of its technical assistance and services, the group's Asset Management and Compliance Team monitored more than 75,000 units in 934 properties statewide, inspected more than 275 properties around the state, and trained 600-plus property owners and managers in compliance monitoring and reporting.

"While affordable housing is our core mission, we also support people and build communities in other important ways," the Commission reported. As examples, it provides financing that allows nonprofits to build and remodel facilities, beginning farmers to purchase land and equipment, and support for various   kinds of entities to conserve and create sustainable energy.

Among its initiatives, WSHFC launched a program during 2015 called EnergySpark, which lets homebuyers finance energy-efficiency upgrades at the time of purchase.

The Commission also continued to offer its foreclosure counseling program, first offered in 1998, to help people prepare for homeownership and stay in their homes.

Over the course of 32 years, WSHFC has financed 53,195 single family homes and 105,863 multifamily living units. They estimate that has resulted in safe, affordable housing for 334,022 people, while contributing more than 240,000 jobs to the economy.

In all, last year's investments in homeownership, multifamily housing and community projects amounted to $1.5 billion, with operating expenses totaling $16.7 million.

The Washington State Housing Finance Commission is a publicly accountable, self-supporting team dedicated to increasing housing access and affordability and to expanding the availability of quality community services for the people of Washington.