|hfa reserves: overview|
|What problems are solved by the use of reserves for housing?
It is important for HFAs to establish and maintain adequate reserves. These reserves help HFAs to uphold the high bond ratings that enable them to borrow money at lower rates and also provide a buffer against fluctuations in the annual appropriations process. Unfortunately, HFAs that accumulate high levels of reserves also become vulnerable to diversion of these funds by the state or locality for non-housing purposes or for housing-related activities outside of the agencies' authority.
In 2008, for example, 14 state HFAs reported that reserve funds were used for non-agency purposes.  While similar data are not available for local HFAs, it is likely that many experience similar fund transfers. These diversions of funds from the HFA's reserves redirect and deplete resources that could otherwise be available to support affordable homes.
Some state HFAs have reported, however, that because the recent economic downturnwas largely housing-led, some state governments have been reluctant to redirect dedicated housing resources for non-housing purposes. 
In good economic times and bad, it is important for HFAs to establish a policy of regularly evaluating their reserves. While maintaining adequate reserves is important for HFAs to uphold their high bond ratings, a balancing act is required so that reserve levels are not too high so as to be raided and diverted to non-housing purposes. Reserve levels beyond what is required to assure high bond ratings can be made available to support ongoing HFA housing programs, and to better meet the housing needs of the communities they serve.
Where is the use of HFA reserves most applicable?
Some state and local agencies have not yet been in business long enough to build up substantial reserves, and these HFAs may need to focus on building a reserve fund before they can begin allocating reserves for affordable homes. On the other end of the spectrum, agencies that continually see a portion of their reserves diverted to the state General Fund or other purposes may want to propose ways in which these funds can be utilized to support additional investments in affordable homes.
Agencies in between these extremes may wish to regularly consider whether a portion of reserves could be made available for affordable homes without jeopardizing their bond rating. While there is no single measure that policymakers can use to determine an agency's capacity to allocate additional reserve funds for HFA programs, agencies with low debt-to-equity ratios are more likely to have reserves that could safely be tapped without affecting their bond rating.
|Solutions in Action|
Photo courtesy of the New York City Housing Development Corporation|
New York City's innovative Mixed-Income program, also known as 50/30/20, finances developments in which 20 percent of units are rented at affordable rates to low-income families, 30 percent are rented at affordable rates to middle-income families, and the remaining 50 percent are rented at market rates.
Funding sources include tax-exempt private activity bonds, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and local subsidies in the form of one percent second mortgages. The New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) commonly uses its reserves to finance these second mortgages.
The Aspen in East Harlem (pictured above), a 234-apartment building that opened in 2004, was financed through this program. As part of the Aspen's financing, HDC used its reserves to provide a second mortgage of $2.75 million.
Visit the Gallery to learn more about The Aspen.
|Learn more about use of HFA reserves|
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