Friday, July 31, 2015

Housing at the nexus of community development: Critical intersections to be discussed at November Convening

What we're building
by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

It sure doesn’t look like Congress will provide big new resources for affordable housing and community development this year (I’ve learned to avoid statements of absolutes, but this year is testing my resolve).  So people and organizations looking to create affordable homes and revive struggling neighborhoods are finding new ideas that work in a low-subsidy environment.  NHC is working to encourage creative community development efforts that put housing at the intersection of health, education, economic development, transportation and more.

Just a few examples of housing solutions that put housing at the intersection of health, education, economic development, transportation, public safety and more:
  • Mapping land at the parcel level to connect many layers of information that can inform policymaking and development efforts.
Participants in our Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force have heard about all of these, and many more.  If you want to explore further, come to our Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods event in New Orleans, November 5-6, where in-depth workshops and plenary sessions will explore cutting edge ideas for comprehensive community development centered on housing.

Even with our strongest advocacy, it will be a heavy lift for Congress to provide new funds for affordable housing and community development, at least this year.  Eventually, however, members of Congress will find an opportunity to allocate the resources that build loyal constituencies. When they do, let’s make sure affordable housing can point to proven solutions that can change lives and communities for the better.

2015 Gala honorees to share community development successes at November convening

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz 

Our 43rd Annual Gala this past June honored two comprehensive community development initiatives in Columbus, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia. Now, Ohio’s Community Properties Initiative and Atlanta’s Piece by Piece Regional Foreclosure Response Initiative will join NHC this November in New Orleans at our 2015 Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods Convening to share insights on how their respective community development models have achieved success.
The Community Properties Initiative was founded at the request of Ohio State University and its on-campus community development subsidiary, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment. Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH) acquired the portfolio of 250 buildings with over 1,330 Section 8 housing units in and adjacent to the Weinland Park neighborhood. Since its beginning 12 years ago, The Community Properties Initiative has remained true to its goal of community engagement and accountability by establishing and maintaining partnerships with stakeholders in the community.
Piece by Piece was founded in 2010 to counter the damage the Atlanta metropolitan area experienced as a result of the foreclosure crisis. Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) convened more than 140 public- and private-sector housing leaders from the federal, state, local and county levels with various certifications, information and expertise that could be combined together to have a powerful impact on the foreclosure crisis. Piece by Piece partners with housing leaders to host sector meetings that engage housing officials in local government, research, lending and housing counseling. These meetings offer insight into foreclosure mitigation processes, strategies to combat foreclosure and open the floor for discussions on how to tackle the long-term impacts of foreclosure.
These initiatives were honored with the Housing Visionary Award for their consistent work to create affordable housing and strengthen communities. The Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods Convening will explore solutions for creating affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods with sessions that demonstrate how housing is a nexus connected to education, transportation, economic development, health, the environment, public safety and other social issues. Hear from representatives from these great initiatives, and from housing leaders around the country, about practical lessons for our own communities.
Read more about our 2015 Gala honorees here, and check back soon for more information about Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New report outlines four ideas for moving beyond the poor door

by Robert Hickey, National Housing Conference


Last fall I wrote in this space about how the media’s fixation on the rare but notorious “poor door” phenomenon misplaces outrage, and how we shouldn’t lose sight of the more important issue of pernicious segregation in our nation’s neighborhoods and schools, and the need for solutions that lead to more inclusive, mixed-income neighborhoods.

But while the “poor door” may have been over-hyped, it does point to an important challenge: inclusionary housing can be tricky in denser, city settings, especially where new construction is predominantly in high-rise structures. When high land prices necessitate taller buildings that entail expensive materials, it can be difficult to meet affordability requirements within the same building as market-rate housing units, adding pressure on developers to cut corners. And when affordable condominiums are located in high-amenity buildings with expensive condo fees, these costs can undermine the overall affordability of these homes.

In a new report out this week, I present four ideas for how cities can improve the workability of inclusionary housing policies in cities by making them more flexible.  I offer suggestions for how policies can offer developers more ways to meet their affordability obligations, and more locations in which to do so – while preserving the objective of fostering mixed-income communities.

While most inclusionary housing policies today offer some form of alternative to on-site affordability, as well as the option to appeal for an overall waiver, city policies would benefit from offering additional options. As I discuss, localities might want to build off the recent experience of New York City, Montgomery County, Md., and Boulder, Colo. with allowing developers to increase or preserve the affordability of existing market-rate housing, in particular affordable homes at risk of being lost in gentrifying neighborhoods. Or follow San Diego and Boulder’s lead in allowing off-site affordable units in a variety of locations where poverty levels are low and core amenities are present, such as transit or walkable streets.

As more cities take up inclusionary housing, let’s stay focused on the goal of creating mixed-income communities and expand the number of pathways to getting there, so that inclusionary housing will be feasible in both low- and high-rise structures and our overall housing supply can continue to grow.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LISC initiative creates safe neighborhoods through comprehensive crime reduction

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz

Opportunities for effective education, transportation, public safety, economic development, health, job training and much more are key factors in ensuring community development and revitalization is successful, and when neighborhoods have access to safe, affordable housing, they have greater opportunities to access education, transportation and much more. For more than 20 years, the Community Safety Initiative (CSI) of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has worked to create safe neighborhoods through partnerships with community residents, law enforcement and community developers.

LISC’s CSI has facilitated comprehensive crime reduction measures to ensure public safety in revitalized communities through a four-pronged model that incorporates revitalization strategies, engagement of neighborhood residents, using data and research, and diverse cross-sector partnerships.  Through a partnership with the Department of Justice’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program, LISC’s work has included emphasis on public safety through combined collaboration, community empowerment, commitment from local law enforcement and infrastructure investments. Since the partnership began, the Byrne program has facilitated comprehensive crime reduction measures in 46 communities using this four-pronged approach.

Four cities, Austin, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Syracuse, have successful programs using different elements of the LISC-Byrne model. Work in Austin focuses on immigrant and refugee communities and improving resident relationships with the police force. Milwaukee’s emphasis is on preventing crime through community tools like safety audits and mapping to determine new ways to improve neighborhood safety, while San Antonio improves police-resident relationships by bringing probation meetings to residents who cannot access or afford public transportation. Community members in Syracuse used peacemaking strategies to create a neutral community space that deters crime.

LISC’s CSI and collaboration with the Byrne Program will be one of several comprehensive community development initiatives highlighted this November at our second Solutions convening of the year, Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods.

View LISC’s presentation at NHC’s July Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force meeting to learn more about their comprehensive community development work. 

Investment in housing and neighborhoods is investment in health

Solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D.


An individual’s health and well-being is affected by a number of different factors. Research consistently shows that where people live is an important determinant of positive physical and mental health outcomes. The Center for Housing Policy has completed a series of research briefs that describe the intersections between housing and health, analyze opportunities for the housing and health communities to collaborate and highlight successful programs that have integrated housing and health services.

In the context of ongoing national and state efforts to reform health care, it is important for policymakers to understand the various pathways through which housing and neighborhoods affect health. As an update to earlier reviews on the relationship between housing and health, the Center has released a review of the recent research on the various ways in which the production, rehabilitation or other provision of affordable housing may affect health outcomes for children, adults and older adults.

In an effort to help housing and community development professionals learn more about how to collaborate with the health community, the Center has also released a paper that explains how the Medicaid program works and describes key changes made by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This tutorial on the health care environment focuses on opportunities for affordable housing providers to collaborate with health care organizations to address the impact that housing has on the health of a low-income individuals.

Finally, to highlight concrete examples of successful housing-health collaborations, the Center has produced three case studies of innovative programs across the country—Hennepin Health in Minnesota, the Georgia Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and the Creston Avenue Residence in New York, the first supportive housing project to use Medicaid funds for capital expenses. These case studies describe the process by which housing providers work with health care organizations to improve housing and health conditions of residents. The analyses also highlight challenges and obstacles to integrating housing and health services, and offer innovative solutions to pursue moving forward.

The integration of housing and health is increasingly important given the changing health care landscape, the aging of the population and the growing concern about rising health care costs. The Center for Housing Policy is eager to continue this work on housing and health, and to connect our research with not only housing and community development professionals, but also with the health community. One key goal of this work is to provide research and information to help housing and health strategies to be incorporated into broader community development efforts.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ending housing segregation

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference 

This letter to the editor appeared in the New York Times on July 24, 2015. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s long-awaited empowerment of state and local governments to make real efforts to end housing segregation is welcome and necessary (“The End of Federally Financed Ghettos,” editorial, July 12). But your editorial unfairly blames nonprofit housing developers for housing segregation. 

Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty arose from decades of development shaped by government policies. Fair housing law responds by ensuring that all Americans have equal access to housing and opportunities that lead to a fruitful life. Nonprofit developers work to improve housing in distressed communities and make affordable housing available in better-resourced places. But their efforts are small compared with the housing created privately and regulated locally.

America should be a country where every place has good schools, ample job opportunities and quality rental and homeownership opportunities affordable to a wide range of people. Ensuring availability of affordable housing in areas of opportunity is a necessary step. Creating better housing, jobs and services in distressed communities is another. We can — and must — do both. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

White House Conference on Aging shows more advocacy needed for older adults’ housing needs

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference


Last week’s  White House Conference on Aging celebrated two important developments for the wellbeing of older adults in the U.S.: the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, and the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference assembled a wide variety of stakeholders who are integral in supporting healthy and productive aging among Americans and fostered discussion of the progress the country has made in supporting the wellbeing of older adults as they age.

Speakers called out the work that still needs to be done to address the diverse and growing older adult population and their many different needs. This includes the need for affordable, accessible and supportive housing, as explored by a report from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy, Housing an Aging Population.

President Obama commented on the how the Affordable Care Act is critical to expanding opportunities for older adults to receive supportive services in their homes and communities if they need assistance to continue living independently. The Center recently examined several effective models for home- and community-based supportive services in urban, suburban and rural communities in its report, Aging in Every Place.

While speakers addressed the importance of supporting the financial security of older adults as they age, they did not address the key role affordable housing plays in the wellbeing of older adults. Almost half of the lowest income older adults devote 50 percent or more of their income to their housing. This has a major impact on their wellbeing and makes NHC’s advocacy for more affordable and accessible housing options for older adults even more critical as the number of older adults continue to rise rapidly.

As the speakers at the conference emphasized, in order to take advantage of the experience and ideas that older adults have to offer, we need to be flexible in how we envision the role of older adults in our society and give them the tools they need to continue to be independent and contributing members of our communities as they age. NHC is devoted to advocating for innovating and effective approaches to developing and preserving housing that meets the various affordability, accessibility and supportive service needs of America’s older adults.