Austin last week joined a nationwide program aimed at housing people experiencing homelessness, building on the city’s plans to spend millions in federal relief dollars on local homeless strategy.

The new initiative, House America, was announced Sept. 20 by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and Biden administration officials.

Through House America, governments across the country are partnering to dedicate grant money and housing vouchers received through the American Rescue Plan Act to rehouse and build new housing for the homeless.

Mayor Steve Adler is one of more than 20 mayors identified by HUD as partners in the program, alongside several other local and state officials.

According to HUD, the portion of Austin’s ARPA allocation available for House America includes $11.44 million through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, a HUD affordable housing grant program, and 242 emergency housing vouchers sent to the Housing Authority of the City of Austin.

Mike Burns, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at HUD, said the housing department will also provide “tools, technical assistance, direct regular communication, data support, and peer-to-peer learning” through the initiative.

“HUD will assist Austin and other communities to both make the most strategic use of American Rescue Plan resources from HUD and other federal agencies, along with other federal resources, as well as continue to focus on evidence-based solutions such as the Housing First approach,” Burns said.

The HOME money was already included in the city’s framework for spending the more than $260 million in total ARPA dollars it expects to receive through next year. City Council in June dedicated $100 million of that pot to homelessness, although most of that money has yet to be spent or directed to specific programming. Officials also said some spending could be contingent on other partners chipping into the homelessness strategy.
Council's decision to spend up to one-third of Austin's ARPA dollars on homelessness was followed this month by Travis County commissioners' vote to use $110 million of the county's ARPA funds for housing, although the county was not identified as a House America partner.

“We’re excited to join HUD as a partner in its House America initiative. The initiative highlights the leadership and commitment of Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners’ Court to dramatically enhance our homelessness response over the next several years through ARPA funds. We look forward to expanding our partnerships within the private sector to reach our goals," said Dianna Grey, Austin's homelessness strategy officer, in a statement.