An ambitious housing initiative, the first of its kind for Virginia, won easy approval in the Senate General Laws Committee yesterday and appeared ready for quick passage to the desk of Gov. Gerald L. Baliles.
"This is not going to solve all of Virginia's housing problems, but it's one of the most progressive state actions in the country. It's a start," said Del. Alan A. Diamonstein (D-Newport News), sponsor of the legislation and chairman of a 1987 Virginia Housing Study Commission.
The $47 million plan is an alternative version of a proposal by Baliles to put $45 million into housing loan and grant programs under the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, whose main function to date has been to administer dwindling federal housing programs.
Baliles' initiative, which had been in trouble earlier in the session, was revived when the Senate came up with an alternative for establishing a revolving loan fund. The fund would rely on state funding for the first 10 years but then would be self-sustaining, getting its revenue from loan payments. While the housing department would set policy, the revolving fund would be set up in the Virginia Housing Development Authority.
This approach reassured those who worried that Baliles' open-ended program could take the state down the road the federal government went with ever-larger commitments to build housing for the poor. The idea also pleased those who wanted to see the loan payments dedicated to housing in the future rather than going back to the treasury, where it would be fair game for other funding proposals.
Both houses included $44 million in their budgets for the fund, with the rest going toward grant programs for special needs, such as shelters for the homeless and homes for the handicapped.