Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Live at the Forum: Mandatory Mediation in the Foreclosure Process

Tomorrow, October 1, from 2-4 p.m. EDT (11 a.m.-1 p.m. PDT) the Center for Housing Policy will host a two-part "Live at the Forum" event on mandatory mediation featuring Alon Cohen and Andrew Jakabovics, authors of a new Center for American Progress report entitled, "It's Time We Talked, Mandatory Mediation in the Foreclosure Process." Rachel Gallegos, a law clerk in Philadelphia, will also speak about her involvement with the city's Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Pilot Program, which is one of the nation's earliest foreclosure mediation programs.

Part I: Hear About the Report and the Philadelphia Case Study - The event begins at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT) with a 30-minute conference call, where major findings from the report will be presented. The call-in number is (712) 432-1001 and the access code is 498796833#.

Part II: Interact With the Authors and Practitioners - Immediately following the call, from 2:30-4 p.m. EDT, Alon, Rachel, and Andrew will be on the Discussion Forum to answer your questions. All questions concerning this topic should be posted to this thread, and you are welcome to post at any time leading up to or during the event. Questions will be answered on a first-come, first-served basis until time runs out.

Please note that you will need to refresh your browser periodically during the live event to view new questions and responses.

About the Report
Foreclosure mediation is helping to ease the current foreclosure crisis in over a dozen states. In "It's Time We Talked, Mandatory Mediation in the Foreclosure Process," authors Andrew Jakabovics and Alon Cohen lay out examples of foreclosure mediation programs, their benefits, the role the federal government can play to ensure their success, and best practices for setting up and running such programs. Click here to view an executive summary, or view the full report.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Blogger Rick C. Gentry: The Legacy of HOPE VI

The federal government’s HOPE VI grant program of the early 1990s provided local housing authorities with the funding and impetus to replace and/or renovate public housing projects that were severely dilapidated or beyond repair. But what began as a timely effort to upgrade substandard public housing quite unexpectedly morphed into a new, entrepreneurial approach to providing and managing affordable housing.

Housing authorities that previously , in many cases, perceived of themselves as governmental managers were awakened to the notion that they could better serve the public and stabilize their operations by utilizing principles of real estate management; in other words, by managing each property as a self-sustaining entity.

By adopting this “asset management”approach, housing officials began to manage the value of their properties in addition to managing the process, i.e. collecting rents and overseeing eligibility lists. Housing agencies realized they needed to become savvy real estate managers to remain viable during the up-and-down cycles of federal funding.

Also, by operating each HOPE VI property as a self-sustaining entity, housing agencies were able to take advantage of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program and forge partnerships with nonprofit and for-profit developers. The result of this infusion of private capital was a new type of affordable housing intended to retain property values, revitalize neighborhoods and create mixed-income developments.

The HOPE VI program exposed our industry to new ideas and, in the end, made us all realize there is no one-size-fits-all method for creating affordable housing and that each property must be managed on its own merits. Moving forward, it would be wise to ask ourselves: What other opportunities or resources can housing authorities tap into to improve property performance? And, how can the HOPE VI experience be expanded to benefit additional, non-public housing neighborhoods? Choice Neighborhoods, perhaps?

Rick C. Gentry is president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission. He has 37 years of experience in the affordable housing and community redevelopment field, including executive leadership positions at three housing authorities -- Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority, Austin Housing Authority, and Greensboro Housing Authority. Prior to being named the Commission’s CEO, Gentry served as senior vice president of Asset Management for the National Equity Fund in Chicago, Ill., the nation’s largest non-profit Low Income Housing Tax Credit syndicator.

"Making It Work" Webinar Hones In On Acquisition Strategies

On September 22, NHC, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Community Stabilization Trust and NeighborWorks America, hosted a "Making It Work" Webinar focused on acquisition strategies for communities attempting to purchase foreclosed properties for resale or rental. During the session, Tom Lin from Bank of America discussed how to put a proposal together in order work collaboratively with servicers. Additionally, the National Community Stabilization Trust discussed how these tactics are helping communities create and implement their strategies, along with best practices for purchasing desired properties and how to leverage dollars. If you missed last week's Webinar, or want to hear it again, please view the presentation below.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guest Blogger Sunia Zaterman: HOPE VI - Creating Communities of Opportunity

The Hope VI program has been hailed as the most significant federal housing initiative in the last half century – injecting $6.5 billion in public capital investment and leveraging three times as much in private investment in the most troubled and despairing neighborhoods in the nation. The neighborhood transformations are dramatic. But equally as important, HOPE VI has created a laboratory for innovation that will shape housing and neighborhood reinvestment policies for decades to come. The Obama administration’s Choice Neighborhood proposal is a testament to the impact HOPE VI has had on how we think about developing and sustaining communities.

The latest research on HOPE VI, a soon-to-be published MacArthur Foundation study entitled, “The Economic Benefits of HOPE VI”, finds that HOPE VI redevelopments have had significant economic and fiscal impacts on their surrounding areas. The HOPE VI neighborhoods in the study showed major drops in violent crime rates, increases in household income and rising home values. The study concludes that HOPE VI is a useful and cost-effective approach for catalyzing positive economic change in local communities.

These profound neighborhood improvements are a product of fundamental policy shifts -- acknowledging that the underfunded and archaic public housing system was producing and perpetuating physically, socially and economically isolated communities of concentrated poverty. Hope VI set out to repair the fabric of these neighborhoods, reduce the concentrations of poverty and improve the quality of life for residents. The policies and tools to accomplish these challenging goals evolved over time but have become standard practice for public housing authorities, who are now in the vanguard of community developers.

We have learned from HOPE VI the necessary ingredients for creating communities of opportunity:

• Targeted public and private capital investment;
• Regulatory flexibility that allows locally-driven housing strategies to address local market and economic conditions;
• Mixed-income housing that serves a broad range of incomes and provides a range of housing types;
• Partnerships with residents and the private, non-profit and local government sectors to address employment, education and supportive services needs; and
• New urbanism and green development patterns that create sustainable neighborhoods with a full range of services and amenities.

NHC Member Partner Sunia Zaterman has served as executive director for the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, or CLPHA, since 1994. She also serves on the board of trustees of CHF International, an international non-profit housing and community development organization.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Bloggers Lora Engdahl and Henry Cisneros: 'Choice Neighborhoods' and the Next Leap in Urban Policy

HOPE VI advanced housing and anti-poverty policy by transforming the way that America provides housing assistance to its poorest residents. Rather than being packed in dense, neglected public housing complexes in isolated neighborhoods, very low-income families are receiving assistance to live in new lower-density, attractively designed mixed-income communities; in smaller public housing settings; and in more private apartments through rental vouchers. As a result, such families are living in healthier, less hope-defeating environments―and neighborhoods and cities are all the better for it.

But among the lessons of HOPE VI (cited in our new book From Despair to Hope) was that many long-time public housing families have significant barriers to self-sufficiency, such as limited education and poor health. Housing programs alone can’t dismantle these barriers in less than a generation. As we know from decades of research, the neighborhood conditions that foster the best long-term family outcomes are least likely to be found in the disinvested minority communities that too many of our publicly assisted families still reside.

HUD’s new Choice Neighborhoods initiative presents the opportunity to make the next leap in housing and anti-poverty policy by creating the same sort of institutional change as ushered in under HOPE VI, but affecting a broader swath of urban policy. Ideally, we will someday be able to look back and say that Choice Neighborhoods created a replicable model of community revitalization that allows low-income minority families an opportunity to live in truly successful urban family neighborhoods with the same access to jobs, good schools, and other attributes that have traditionally underpinned the achievements of America’s middle-class families.

Such a model would include:
  • A focus on neighborhoods that have potential to attract other public and private investment;
  • Incentives to coordinate intergovernmental investment in housing, education, transportation, business development and other vital neighborhood services, with a high priority on the housing/schools connection;
  • HUD-assisted housing redeveloped or rehabilitated as well-designed, mixed-income housing;
  • Phased redevelopment and early counseling of affected residents to help those who want to remain in the community repair credit issues or other problems that could serve as barriers;
  • Supportive housing systems for the “hard-to-house” (See This Reference);
  • Well-designed voluntary mobility counseling with post-move and second-move counseling; and
  • Affordable housing set-asides, community land trusts, tenant protections and other mechanisms to maintain affordability in the revitalized neighborhoods.
Henry G. Cisneros, executive chairman of the CityView companies and former HUD Secretary, and Lora Engdahl, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and editor, are editors of a new multi-author volume, From Despair to Hope: HOPE VI and the New Promise of Public Housing in America’s Cities.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guest Bloggers Louise Milder and Paula Sampson: Alternatives to HOPE VI Funding for Mixed-Income Redevelopment

HOPE VI is a wonderful resource for Public Housing Authorities, but not all of us qualify for the funding. We are the first to admit that the Fairfax County, VA, model would never substitute for precious HOPE VI funds, but the model could be useful for those authorities who don’t have access to HOPE VI funds. Read on for more information on each of these two projects.

Tavenner Lane is a mixed-finance, mixed-income new construction project consisting of 12 public housing units and 12 rental units with project-based Section 8 assistance. The Fairfax County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (FCRHA) syndicated the public housing units along with the affordable rental units with Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits under regulations developed by HUD for mixed finance developments. This was one of the first projects in the country developed under the new HUD regulations. Twelve of the units were developed under the HUD Public Housing program and the remaining twelve units were developed for occupancy by eligible applicants under the Fairfax County Rental Program (FCRP).

West Glade is a scattered-site, mixed-income, mixed-financing project. The West Glade Apartments were formerly The Green Apartments, which consisted of 50 public housing (PH) units in Reston. As part of the redevelopment of the property, 24 existing three-bedroom units were rehabilitated into two-bedroom units and leased under the FCRP. The conversion of 24 three-bedroom PH units to 24 two-bedroom FCRP units required the acquisition of 24 three-bedroom replacement PH units. West Glade is a 74-unit development comprised of 26 public housing units and 24 FCRP units on-site and 24 off-site public housing replacement units.

Financing for both projects included HUD Public Housing funds, federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and local funds. In addition, Tavenner Lane was financed with CDBG Section 108 funds, state funds, and HOME funds. West Glade additional financing included a conventional loan from a bank.

Louise Milder and Paula Sampson are both from the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development. Milder serves as the Assistant Director of Real Estate Finance and Sampson is the Director of Community Development.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

HOPE SF Cited as Local Example of HOPE VI-Modeled Initiative

While federally-funded HOPE VI initiatives have impacted neighborhoods across the country, some local governments are also taking it upon themselves to create similar programs modeled on the premise of HOPE VI to address the needs of their communities. For example, San Francisco has a program called HOPE SF, which is a locally-funded partnership between the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and the San Francisco Housing Authority. Much like HOPE VI, it was developed to address the poor conditions of San Francisco’s most distressed public housing.

One recent HOPE SF project is the redevelopment effort at the Potrero Annex and Terrace sites. Last year, NHC Member Partner BRIDGE Housing Corporation and its Bridge Urban Infill Land Development initiative were selected to lead the revitalization effort at these sites, which will include the replacement of all 606 existing apartments, as well as the creation of additional affordable and market-rate homes, neighborhood services, open space and retail opportunities.

For more details about this particular project, please visit

NHC President and CEO Conrad Egan Answers the Question "What Can Be Done to Create More Affordable Housing?"

Today's Tennessean features an editorial spread focused on answering the question, "What can be done to create more affordable housing?"

As part of this spread, NHC President and CEO Conrad Egan answered the question by examining the evolving "American Dream" and stressing the importance of a balanced housing policy -- that is, one that also recognizes the important role affordable rental housing plays in the housing market. Egan also emphasizes the need for better coordination among all levels of government, as well as across agencies and industries, among other viewpoints.

To learn more, please Read Egan's Featured Guest Editorial.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guest Blogger Tony Chavira: Pueblo del Sol HOPE VI Project in East Los Angeles Serves as Revitalization Model for Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

To start, I want to express my hope (no pun intended, I swear) for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative that was recently announced by the Obama Administration, and I personally feel that it’s correct to model the program on the HUD HOPE VI program process. To this effect, Boyle Height’s Pueblo del Sol HOPE VI project in East Los Angeles is testament to the fair coordination of stakeholders that the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative seeks to emulate.

Pico Gardens/Aliso Village was a place many avoided in the early 90s. However, despite gang violence, decrepit building and street conditions, and a fatalistic community attitude toward both temporary displacement and the revitalization process, Pueblo del Sol’s developers were able to both revitalize the surrounding community and create a more integrated neighborhood by placing the development near the Los Angeles Unified School District school, Utah Street Elementary, and Pecan Playground and industry across the street. The development is also attached to the Pico Aliso Senior Housing development, which was completed in 2002.

Since its completion in 2003, the Pueblo del Sol HOPE VI revitalization reduced the blight enough that the new Metro Gold line extension placed a stop right at the development’s door (which was part of the plan at its inception). Just as importantly, when driving through the neighborhood, the visible change is striking, the atmosphere is casual and service businesses have begun opening just south of the development to further enhance this (now) transit-oriented development.

Despite the fact that Pueblo del Sol had fewer units than were originally available, the degree of interagency coordination did the ever-evolving revitalized community a world of good. More prominently, it allows Pueblo del Sol to continually grow as the Gold Line extension further ties the community into the Greater Los Angeles area. Though the HOPE VI program itself has had its critics when measuring the success of some projects, Pueblo del Sol’s supervisory focus on the core principle of interagency coordination shows that a smart revitalization can be done in a progressive and synchronized way. As the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative focuses on incorporating economic development, housing and schools into the planning and building process, Pueblo del Sol could serve as a nice prototype for the Initiative’s wider implementation. Here’s hoping!

Tony Chavira is the Associate Editor of, a non-profit online magazine that advocates for integrative affordability throughout the communities of Southern California. He also has roots in East Los Angeles, so he’s especially passionate about revitalization projects like these.

Friday, September 11, 2009

East Biloxi HOPE VI Subdivision Could Get New Playground

According to a recent Sun Herald article, children living in a HOPE VI subdivision in East Biloxi, MS, could soon be getting a new playground.

An August letter from Delmar Robinson, chairman of the Biloxi Housing Authority, to Mayor A. J. Holloway suggested that a recent donation of playground equipment from the city’s Boomtown Casino could best be used in the southern side of the HOPE VI Bayou subdivision.

Currently, the northern side of the HOPE VI Bayou subdivision has a playground that was built by KaBOOM! volunteers. KaBOOM! is an organization whose mission is to provide playgrounds within walking distance for every child in America. According to overall findings of a study conducted by the Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University, the KaBOOM! community-build process creates a lasting impact on neighborhoods served – in terms of building capacity and enhanced community pride – in addition to enriching the overall play experience of the children.

Recognizing the impact this playground could have on neighborhood children, Robinson said, “The difference between this playground equipment being place here as opposed to anywhere else in East Biloxi is that we have a concentration of residents who have children who would certainly use the equipment. It would be directly in their neighborhood.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guest Blogger Carl Greene: Positive Outcomes Seen from HOPE VI Grants, but Program's Success Requires Restored Funding Levels & an Even Playing Field

HOPE VI has become a shadow of itself as the result of tremendous funding reductions over the last 10 years, almost to the point where it is now barely a program worthy of conversation. The program awards grants to only three or four housing authorities per year.

A major downside to the poor odds of being selected involves community relations. As part of the application process, a public housing authority (PHA) must get the community involved and excited over the plan. More often than not, the community works itself up only to be let down. That leaves the housing authority in the position of explaining the outcome to residents.

Fortunately, through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, we have been able to redevelop many more sites without the help of HOPE VI. Still, the remarkable results we have seen in Philadelphia – both in terms of on-schedule completion of projects and the economic benefits – argue for including a PHA’s HOPE VI history as part of the evaluation for the next grant.

Philadelphia has received five HOPE VI grants since the program’s inception. We have leveraged those dollars to bring significant neighborhood-changing impacts to the five communities affected. But those sites comprise only a small percentage of the properties we manage.

The only hope for a revival of HOPE VI is to increase funding to levels seen in the 1990s and to even the playing field in terms of preference so that older, larger PHA’s can compete. The current criteria favor “high-performing” housing authorities who aren’t saddled with aging inventories.

Carl Greene is executive director of NHC Member Partner the Philadelphia Housing Authority and has overseen an incredible transformation of the agency and an unprecedented building boom. About $1.3 billion dollars is being invested demolishing outdated high-rise towers and similar housing in the city and replacing it with modern low-rise high-quality homes.

Making it Work: Practical Information on How to Implement a Stabilization Plan

As the foreclosure crisis continues across the country, communities are experiencing ever growing numbers of foreclosed properties and the negative effects they cause. With neighborhood stabilization efforts already underway using the first round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds, Enterprise Community Partners, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Housing Conference, the National Community Stabilization Trust and NeighborWorks America are partnering to present a series of Webinars focused on providing practitioners an opportunity to learn new strategies and hear about best practices that will further enhance their programs.

The series will run four Tuesdays in a row: September 15, 22, 29 and October 6. Each session will start with a Webinar from 2-3 p.m. EDT. Following the Webinar, from 3-4 p.m. EDT, presenters will be available to answer your questions on the Forum. You must register for each Webinar separately. For the online discussion portion of each session, registration on the Forum is only required during your first visit. Please see below for details on each session.

Program Design for Maximum Impact—September 15
Where and how should communities focus their neighborhood stabilization efforts to achieve the best results? What variables should be considered when making these decisions? This session will address how to optimize the impact of a neighborhood stabilization program, including concentrated targeting, strategic property selection, and innovative public-private partnerships. Alan Mallach from the Brookings Institution and Bill Goldsmith from the Chicago Neighborhood Stabilization Corporation will present and share best practices.
Register for September 15 Webinar from 2-3 p.m. EDT
Register for online Forum discussion from 3-4 p.m. EDT

Acquisition Strategies—September 22
This session will focus on acquisition strategies for communities that are attempting to purchase foreclosed properties for resale or rental. Tom Lin from Bank of America will discuss how to put a proposal together in order work collaboratively with servicers. The National Community Stabilization Trust will discuss how it is helping communities create and implement their strategies, and best practices for purchasing the properties in their desired geography and leveraging dollars will be highlighted.
Register for September 22 Webinar from 2-3 p.m. EDT
Register for online Forum discussion from 3-4 p.m. EDT

Disposition Strategies—September 29
This session will focus on disposition strategies for NSP properties. Ben Nichols from the Cleveland office of Enterprise Community Partners will discuss best practices in Cleveland, including lease-purchase programs, for-sale subsidies, and long-term rental strategies using the LIHTC. Chris Pahule, Assistant Director of Community Development at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Authority will discuss their rationale and process to develop mortgage assistance programs and marketing strategies to further NSP efforts. Both presenters will discuss best program practices and provide recommendations on how to set up similar programs.
Register for September 29 Webinar from 2-3 p.m. EDT
Register for online Forum discussion from 3-4 p.m. EDT

Performance Measurement—October 6
Panelists will discuss several techniques designed to capture quantitative and qualitative outcomes from your community stabilization activities. Drawing from their academic and on-the-ground experience, the panelists will talk about traditional and creative measures needed to help you meet reporting requirements and "tell your story". Measuring progress toward stabilization outcomes is critical to evaluating the effectiveness of various strategies and investments.
Register for October 6 Webinar from 2-3 p.m. EDT
Register for online Forum discussion from 3-4 p.m. EDT

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NHC Taskforce Outlines "Ten Key Principles" for Repairing the U.S. Mortgage Market and Addressing Soaring Home Foreclosures

NHC released a new policy statement today on the "Ten Key Principles" for repairing the U.S. mortgage market and addressing soaring home foreclosures. The statement is the result of an NHC commissioned industry-wide taskforce that focused on assessing the dire condition of housing finance, as well as its potential.

In particular, the principles urge the federal government to look to the policies that will help to maintain its critical role in the housing finance system. Recommendations also include developing policies that protect consumers, require disclosure of lending practices, and offer effective homeownership counseling before and after a home is purchased.

And, although homeownership is often called the 'American dream," the principles emphasize that federal housing policy must begin to recognize that families across the nation call rental housing home. Utlimately, it is vital that a strong infrastructure exist in order to support rental housing overall, but specifically rental housing for low- to moderate-income families."

Read the NHC "Ten Key Principles" Media Statement.

Additionally, make sure to check out the video below of NHC President and CEO Conrad Egan highlighting these principles.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Report Clarifies the Different Types of "Shared Equity" and "Shared Appreciation" Homeownership Programs

The terms “shared equity homeownership” and “shared appreciation homeownership” are sometimes used to describe very different products. Some practitioners use them to refer to public or nonprofit homeownership programs that ensure that specific homes remain affordable over the long-term, such as community land trusts, deed-restricted homes, or limited-equity cooperatives. Others use these terms to describe private-sector mortgage programs that involve the sharing of home equity and/or future home price appreciation. Still others include publicly-funded mortgages with similar characteristics within the terms’ scope.

To help bring greater clarity to this emerging field, the Center for Housing Policy has released a new report entitled, What’s in a Name? Clarifying the Different Forms and Policy Objectives of “Shared Equity” and “Shared Appreciation” Homeownership Programs. This report seeks to outline the overall characteristics of shared equity/shared appreciation homeownership models and identify the distinguishing characteristics of the multiple programs. The report also demonstrates how the different programs fulfill somewhat different housing policy objectives.

To learn more about "shared equity" and "shared appreciation" homeownership, or to exchange ideas with others on these topics, please join the Shared Equity Homeownership Discussion Group on the Forum.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

WSJ Letter-to-the-Editor: A New American Dream Requires a Balanced Federal Housing Policy

The following Letter-to-the-Editor was submitted to the Wall Street Journal on August 17 in response to the August 15 article "The New American Dream: Renting."

A balanced federal housing policy focused on both homeownership and rental homes is part of the answer to preventing another foreclosure crisis. Creating this balance at the national level will alleviate some the pressure that families may feel to move into homeownership before they are financially prepared.

It is also unbalanced federal policies that have helped to encourage today's sprawling suburbs and exurbs, which can often be the only place where families can find affordable housing. Unfortunately, this housing can be far from city and employment centers, and results in long commutes, as well as high gas prices due to a heavy reliance on cars. These policies continue to negatively impact the work and family life of tens of millions of Americans – not to mention the environment and energy costs.

As a nation we must create incentives for the development of affordable housing near employment and mass transit through balanced policies. The American Dream is about more than rental housing and homeownership. By connecting affordable housing with transit, jobs and family life, federal policies will help capture the true meaning of “Home Sweet Home.”

Conrad Egan
President and CEO of the National Housing Conference

Conrad Egan is president and CEO of the National Housing Conference. With more than 40 years of experience in the affordable housing industry, he previously held positions at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and NHP, Inc. During 2001 and 2002, he took a leave of absence from NHC to serve as executive director of the Millennial Housing Commission, established by the United States Congress to recommend ways to better support good housing for all Americans. Egan also served for eight years as a commissioner for the Fairfax County, Virginia, Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), and as chairman of the FCRHA for six of those years.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

HUD Secretary Donovan Talks About the Impact of HOPE VI on Public Housing Revitalization Efforts

On June 29, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke at the "Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy" about the Administration's recently proposed Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which builds off of the HOPE VI program.

Secretary Donovan emphasized the importance of HOPE VI, and other programs such as Choice Neighborhoods, to the revitalization of public housing, noting:
"We all know the impact the HOPE VI program has had on communities around the country – substantial declines in neighborhood poverty, in crime and in unemployment and real, tangible increases in income, property values, and market investment.

HOPE VI has changed the face of public housing. But we believe we have only begun to tap the potential of its ideas and practices.

That’s why we’ve introduced Choice Neighborhoods – challenging public, private, and nonprofit partners to extend neighborhood transformation efforts beyond public housing.

For safe, affordable housing to be truly sustainable, it needs access to good schools, child care, health care, public transportation, and retail businesses that are staple of every vibrant community.

A HOPE VI development surrounded by disinvestment and failing schools cannot succeed.

And so, Choice Neighborhoods would broaden the range of activities eligible for funding.

It would link housing interventions more closely with school reform and early childhood innovations.

And to realize this expanded mission, our Fiscal Year 2010 budget request would more than double the funding we saw under HOPE VI to $250 million.

At the core of all of these ideas is the same concept:

Planning communities in a more integrated, sustainable and inclusive way isn’t separate from advancing economic opportunity for the families we’re trying to reach – it’s absolutely essential."
To hear Secretary Donovan's remarks from the learning conference in full, please Listen Here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Guest Blogger NHC President & CEO Conrad Egan: The Rejuvenation of Public Housing

Public housing is rebounding. Led by innovative Public Housing Agency (PHA) directors, creative federal programs, strong association support, new financing products and resident leadership, publicly owned housing is being revitalized and rejuvenated. Fundamental to this progress is the increasingly stronger connection of public housing to the rest of the world of real estate through such vehicles as HOPE VI and other recapitalization tools.

Underlying this momentum is the growing realization that publicly owned homes must become property-based assets and that revenue and costs must be transferred to those assets from the agencies. Such changes are increasingly enabling PHAs to attract private sector debt and equity capital to their developments. Obviously, continued deep subsidies, such as project-based section 8, will be necessary to serve very low income residents.

This effort will be accelerated by the Administration’s proposed Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which recognizes the need to develop neighborhood based strategies that link public housing to nearby privately owned developments in order to strengthen community vitality, which includes improving educational opportunities.

However, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is best viewed as a prototype that will hopefully and quickly move beyond the relatively few communities it will initially aid. Hundreds of publicly owned developments still need significant renewal and they must remain a priority focus of financial and policy support.

Most importantly, the current and future residents of publicly owned homes must continue to be central to this rebound. These residents must be involved and supported to achieve their own best paths to success. After all, these residents are integral to the renewal of public housing.

Conrad Egan is president and CEO of the National Housing Conference. With more than 40 years of experience in the affordable housing industry, he previously held positions at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and NHP, Inc. During 2001 and 2002, he took a leave of absence from NHC to serve as executive director of the Millennial Housing Commission, established by the United States Congress to recommend ways to better support good housing for all Americans. Egan also served for eight years as a commissioner for the Fairfax County, Virginia, Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), and as chairman of the FCRHA for six of those years.