Thursday, April 29, 2010

New USGBC Report to Help Advance the Administration’s “Green” Building Agenda

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released a new report today entitled, Using Executive Authority to Achieve Greener Buildings, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The report provides an extensive list of options, across a wide range of programs, that the Administration could begin implementing immediately in order to advance an effective and efficient green building agenda.

NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar was a key speaker at the event. Friar emphasized that efforts to “green” the existing affordable housing stock present an important opportunity to provide higher quality affordable housing, as well as to significantly lower utility costs, for families and individuals nationwide.

Specifically, the report finds that, under current authority and without new legislation, the Administration can use existing federal programs that have the potential to directly provide or facilitate $72 billion in funding, and can leverage hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment, to enhance efficiency in commercial buildings and multifamily housing.

The report shows, for example, that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs provide an excellent range of options for helping to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability. One of the lesser known, but valuable ways to advance increased energy efficiency in HUD programs is through Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Insurance. FHA is authorized to insure loans and mortgages for new construction and the rehabilitation of affordable, multifamily dwellings.

To learn more about the USGBC's work, please visit their web site.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

University of Georgia Focuses on "Southern Hospitality" to Help Fight Homelessness Stigmas

The University of Georgia's Host.Nourish.Sustain student-led campaign is focused on fighting homelessness in Athens, GA, and continues to gain much needed visibility.

They recently hosted a Southern Hospitality event that helped fight the stigmas associated with homelessness. More than 275 students attended the event. And, so far, the campaign has reached more than 130,000 people.

For more details, please view the below follow up video highlighting speakers at the event and chronicling the group's efforts.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Guest Blogger John McIlwain - New Report on Housing in America and the Next Decade

The compelling new report Housing in America: The Next Decade reveals that the housing markets in the United States are at an inflection point. In time, markets will stabilize, but the old “normal” will not return. New markets will evolve once household formation recovers as the U.S. population will grow by 30 million this decade, producing strong demand for housing.

The age of suburbanization is over and the market for urban living will grow. The strongest markets will be those with vibrant 24/7 lifestyles, including many central cities as well as emerging suburban town centers or “boutique cities.” This urban revival will be driven by four demographic groups:

• Older baby boomers (56 to 64), a senior population unprecedented in size and looking for a more urban lifestyle;

• Younger baby boomers (46 to 55) already in the suburbs, many with “underwater” homes and unable to move to new jobs;

• Generation Y (late teens to early 30s) the largest US generation ever, who want an urban lifestyle and will want to (and have to) rent longer than past generations; and

• Immigrants and their children, who will comprise the vast majority of the increase in the U.S. population.

The homeownership rate, now 67 percent, will fall to the low 60s, a level not seen in two decades. This will produce strong demand for rental housing.

Workforce housing will remain a challenge. Incomes of the workforce will be constrained; housing where they work will be unaffordable despite the crash. But if they move to the outer suburbs for inexpensive homes the cost of long commutes will eliminate any savings.

Green housing will evolve and soon after the end of the decade, new homes will produce the energy they use; the “net-zero-energy” home will become the standard.

John McIlwain authored "Housing America: The Next Decade." McIlwain is a senior resident fellow and the J. Ronald Terwilliger chair for housing at the Urban Land Institute. He also serves as chair of the Center for Housing Policy, NHC's research affiliate.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Message from NHC and the Center on Earth Day: Change Can Start at Home

As the New York Times reports today, President Obama is marking the 40th annual Earth Day celebration by urging the passage of energy legislation to increase investments in renewable, clean energy, efforts critical to our national security and the health of our environment. While these issues can seem out of reach and global in nature, change can really start at home. Your home.

A report published by the White House in 2009 states that the residential sector emits more than twenty percent of the nation’s carbon emissions, the primary source of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Improving the energy-efficiency of our housing stock helps to shrink this share, and can translate to lower utility bills, particularly for low- and moderate-income families that tend to live in older, less efficient homes.

Efforts to develop new, energy-efficient affordable homes are well underway, with groups like Enterprise Community Partners providing non-profit housing developers with financial support and technical expertise to build homes that are “healthier, more energy efficient and better for the environment on a cost-effective basis” through their Green Communities program.

Preserving and retrofiting the existing housing stock is also critical to reducing carbon emissions. The preservation of existing affordable housing is inherently "green" and environmentally responsible, since utilizing existing structures produce less waste and uses less new materials and energy than new construction.

A recent forum hosted by NHC entitled, Partners in Innovation: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing through Energy Conservation, highlighted the benefits of policies to develop and maintain rental homes that are both energy-efficient and affordable and shared best practices in green rental housing.

While the energy-efficiency of homes is linked to affordability through lowering utility costs, transportation is another critical factor that contributes to household expenditures, as well as carbon emissions. Housing that is built at sufficient densities to support public transit, or located in close proximity to existing transit service, job centers, and other amenities, gives residents the opportunity to choose transportation alternatives that are less costly, and more energy-efficient, than a personal vehicle - or which allow them reduce car usage substantially.

The Center for Housing Policy’s report, Boston Regional Challenge, illustrates this point, finding that the average working household in the Boston region spends over $34,000 a year—or 54 percent of their income—on the combined costs of housing and transportation. The report emphasizes that affordable housing by itself is not sufficient and needs to be linked to strategies to reduce transportation costs, such as building mixed-income housing near public transit and job centers and zoning for a mix of uses to reduce the need to drive long distances to meet basic needs. Such strategies help keep costs low for working families, strengthen the economy, and lower the carbon emissions of current and future generations.

The energy-efficiency of the homes we live in, as well as where we live, have significant environmental implications. By considering policies to preserve and expand the supply of energy-efficient affordable homes near amenity-rich locations, we can reduce the nation’s carbon emissions and the energy expenditures that households make on utilities and transportation costs.

NAEH Guest Blog Post: Homelessness Assistance Community to Honor Leaders at Annual Ceremony Tonight

Tonight, we in the homeless assistance community will gather to honor the leaders in our field who have demonstrated exemplary achievement in preventing and ending homelessness at the annual National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) Awards Ceremony.

Once a year we pause to reflect on our work, to recognize the contributions of our colleagues and peers, and reinvest in the goal that brings us together: to prevent and end homelessness in the United States.

This year’s ceremony is particularly special as this last year has proven to be a transformative one for the homeless assistance field.

As concerns about foreclosure, the housing market, and unemployment gripped the country, the reality of homelessness took root in the public consciousness. Communities across the country experienced the inadequacies of the existing homeless assistance system firsthand as they struggled to meet an increased demand for public assistance and social services in the face of dwindling state and local resources.

The federal government took notice of the problem as well – and responded with the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), intended to prevent and curb homelessness resulting from the recession.

Among the many innovators and leaders who stepped forward to tackle this year’s challenges, a few shone through:

• Long after the public lost interest in the plight of New Orleans, UNITY of Greater New Orleans continued to assist the thousands of displaced and homeless residents of the city. For the organization’s commitment to re-housing those still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Alliance will present UNITY with the Nonprofit Achievement Award.

• As chair of the committee overseeing the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sen. Patty Murray (D – WA) has emerged as a leading voice on housing and homelessness. For her work advancing ways to prevent and end homelessness, the Alliance will present Sen. Murray with the Public Sector Achievement Award.

• The RE*Generation campaign is a movement to raise awareness about youth homelessness. To date, this new effort has committed more than $3 million of marketing and direct investment to support local homeless agencies. In recognition of the RE*Generation campaign, the Alliance will honor Virgin Mobile USA and Virgin Unite with the Private Sector Achievement Award.

• Former Major League Baseball first baseman Mo Vaughn followed his athletic career by launching Omni New York LLC – a development firm focused on creating affordable housing and community partnerships. For his commitment to accessible housing and strong communities, the Alliance will present Mo Vaughn with the John W. Macy Lifetime Achievement Award.

In a year of unprecedented challenges, this year’s awardees have demonstrated creativity, innovation, and steadfast commitment to the cause.

This is the example we will look to as our community gathers to recognize our progress towards our unifying goal. This is what we will honor, the persistent hope of a country without homelessness. This is what ending homelessness looks like.

NHC would like to thank Catherine An, media relations and communications specialist for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, for submitting this post. If you have questions about tonight's ceremony, or about the Alliance's work, please don't hesitate to Contact Catherine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New NLIHC “Out of Reach” Report Finds U.S. Rents Rise While Wages Fall

NHC member partner the National Low Income Housing Coalition's (NLIHC) “Out of Reach 2010” report was released today and reveals that, despite the recession, rents are on the rise while wages continue to fall nationwide. According to the report, an American family needs to earn $18.44 an hour, or nearly $38,360 a year, to afford a modest rental home. Additional key findings from the report include:
  • The Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom home is a staggering $959 a month;

  • At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have to work 102 hours each week to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom home;

  • The two-bedroom Housing Wage topped $20.00 in 10 states: Hawaii, District of Columbia, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Alaska, and Florida;

  • A full-time minimum wage worker cannot afford even a one-bedroom apartment at the FMR in any county in the nation; and

  • The five most expensive metro areas include: Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut; San Francisco, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California; and Westchester County, New York.
“Out of Reach 2010 shows once again that prevailing incomes and wages are simply not enough to allow a family to afford a decent home in their community,” said NLIHC President Sheila Crowley

NLIHC has called on Congress to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, which would provide communities with funds to build, rehabilitate, and preserve rental housing for people with the lowest incomes. Legislation creating the National Housing Trust Fund passed in 2008, but Congress has not yet capitalized the fund.

Learn more about the report's data and sources.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NHC Head Maureen Friar Speaks About Vital Need for Affordable Rental Housing at 2010 COHHIO Conference

Today NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar addressed the 2010 Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) conference in Columbus.

Friar detailed the importance of affordable rental housing in the context of the current economic crisis and the strain that the crisis has placed on the nation’s already burdened low income households, as a result of limited credit availability, as well as job losses and financial upheavals.
Rental homes, Friar emphasized, are “a vital way to serve not only low income families, but also the formerly homeless or at-risk populations through supportive housing.” In addition, rental homes often provide, she said, “affordable housing options in ‘connected’ neighborhoods that allow families to reduce their combined costs for housing and transportation.”

Friar stressed that “preservation initiatives as necessary to ensure the continued availability of a strong stock of affordable rental homes with close access to transportation” since transit-oriented development tends to drive up the cost of nearby housing. She added that the preservation of existing rentals is often less costly than new construction, which generally “costs twice as much when compared to preservation.”

It is important to note that Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, delivered the opening plenary at the COHHIO conference yesterday. Additional conference speakers include Mercedes Marquez, assistant secretary for planning and development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

NHC member partner the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 10-year, $150 million Window of Opportunity initiative is focused on the preservation of affordable rental homes for more than 70,000 families across the nation. Ohio received $5 million from MacArthur last year to help ensure the preservation of affordable housing for an estimated 14,000 of Ohio’s families. Implementation of this investment is led by the Ohio Preservation Compact – a strategic partnership between several key state housing organizations including COHHIO, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Ohio Capital Finance Corporation and its parent, the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing.

Building on the MacArthur Foundation’s Window of Opportunity initiative, NHC, with support from its research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, has been working closely with the Foundation, and with the Foundation’s State and Local Housing Preservation Leader awardees, to successfully plan and execute three Partners in Innovation rental preservation forums in 2010. The first forum took place in Boston last week, and the forums continue in Portland, OR, and Denver through September.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Thank You to Laura Woods for Her Great Work With NHC and the Center!

Today is the last day that Communications and New Media Associate Laura Woods will be with NHC and its research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy. She is moving to Qorvis Communications to become senior associate on their digital team.

Laura has been with us for the past year and half -- and, without question, she has been a true asset to both organizations.

I don’t have to tell you, our readers, that Laura has done a fantastic job writing excellent content for, and maintaining, the “Open House” blog. Among her many other contributions, have been the creation and launch of our new and social media suite, including our Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as keeping up the NHC and Center Web site.

In every sense of the word Laura is a “doer” and her contributions, not to mention her presence, will truly be missed.

Best of luck in your new position and thank you for all your contributions, Laura!

If you would like to wish her well, please feel free to email Laura today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Live at the Forum: Overview and Outlook for Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act

Next Tuesday, April 20, the Center for Housing Policy will host a "Live at the Forum" event on the Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act (H.R. 4868). During the event, Toby Halliday of the National Housing Trust will provide an overview of the Act, as well as a look ahead to the House Financial Services Committee markup expected next month. He will also answer questions about how the Act will help stabilize housing for some of the nation’s poorest households.
  • Part I: Hear About the Legislation - The two-part event begins at 1:00 p.m. Eastern (10:00 a.m. Pacific) with a 30-minute conference call, where details about the legislation will be presented. The call-in number is (712) 432-1001 and the access code is 452746624#.
  • Part II: Interact With the Speaker - Toby Halliday will be online from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Eastern (10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Pacific) to answer your questions on the HousingPolicy.org Forum.You must be a registered user on the HousingPolicy.org Forum to participate in this event.
About the legislation
The Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act (H.R. 4868), introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, would make significant improvements in federal law to make it easier to preserve federally assisted rental housing that is at risk of loss or conversion and provide new protections to the people living in this housing. The bill was formally introduced in March and its major goals include (1) Providing resources and incentives to prevent the further loss of affordable housing units; (2) Preventing the displacement of disabled, elderly and other low-income tenants; (3) Preserving rural housing; and (4) Establishing a national database to further preservation. For additional background, visit the National Housing Trust Web site.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Northeastern Housing Leaders Highlight Regional Strategies for Preserving Green Rental Homes for Families

NHC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation hosted Partners in Innovation: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing Through Energy Conservation today in Boston focused on highlighting strategies in the Northeast region for preserving green rental homes for families and individuals. At the event, leaders in the housing field and related industries shared regional best practices in green rental housing preservation and explored ways to better support this work through innovative partnerships, policy development, and legislative reform.

The forum featured an in-depth plenary discussion that touched on five key points including: 1) how best to integrate principles for making rental homes healthier and more energy-efficient in light of tight budgets; 2) appropriate energy-efficient performance standards for multi-family properties; 3) return on investment for green improvements; 4) ways to encourage greener preservation practices in the region; and 5) emerging trends in this ever-changing field.

The event also included two sets of interactive breakout sessions with panel discussions that focused on a number of topics – such as how to best educate tenants on the benefits of green housing and ways to fund energy-efficiency upgrades.

This Partners in Innovation event presented an outstanding line-up of keynote and featured speakers including:
  • Gregory Bialecki, secretary of the State of Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development;
  • Tina Brooks, undersecretary for the State of Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development;
  • Vincent O’Donnell, vice president of preservation at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation; and
  • Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Global Green USA.
Designed to build on the MacArthur Foundation’s Window of Opportunity Initiative – a $150 million commitment to preserving America’s affordable stock of rental homes – this event marks the first in a series of three Partners in Innovation regional forums being hosted by NHC and the MacArthur Foundation. Additional forums are scheduled for Portland, OR and Denver, CO. The forums seek to expand upon the work of nonprofit and government organizations in 12 states and cities that received a total of $32.5 million in grants and low-cost loans from the MacArthur Foundation last year to help preserve more than 70,000 rental homes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Report Details True Housing + Transportation Costs for Families in Boston Region

Today the Center for Policy – in partnership with the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing and the Center for Neighborhood Technology – released Boston Regional Challenge, a new report on the combined housing and transportation costs faced by those in the Boston region. According to the report’s findings, the average working household in this region spends more than $34,000 a year – or 54 percent of their income – on the combined costs of housing and transportation.

Covering most of eastern Massachusetts, all of Rhode Island, and parts of southern New Hampshire, the report analyzes housing and transportation cost data for 18 regions throughout the study area and explains how these costs relate to affordability for area residents. The report also analyzes neighborhoods, cities, and towns throughout the region where housing and transportation costs represent an extreme cost burden – consuming 58 percent or more of household income. Boston Regional Challenge finds that one in four households in the study area are located in neighborhoods in which there are extreme housing and transportation cost burdens.

“This report underscores the importance of broadening the understanding surrounding some of the challenges associated with housing affordability to also include transportation costs, travel time and the negative environmental impacts of commuting,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman of the ULI Terwilliger Center. “We hope local, state and federal leaders will use this report to help guide future development, zoning and transportation decisions for this vital region.”

The study’s accompanying Web site, www.BostonRegionalChallenge.org, includes a Cost Calculator, which helps users determine their combined housing and transportation costs based on where they live, where they work and how they commute. A copy of the report can also be downloaded from the Web site.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke: How America's Aging Population Will Impact the Budget Deficit

On April 7, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke gave a speech on Economic Challenges: Past, Present, and Future, in which he touched on the events that led us into the recession and also provided insight about the road ahead.

Here's what he had to say about the impact of America's aging population on the budget deficit:
"Two interrelated economic challenges our nation faces: meeting the economic needs of an aging population and regaining fiscal sustainability.

The U.S. population will change significantly in coming decades with the combined effect of the decline in fertility rates following the baby boom and increasing longevity. As our population ages, the ratio of working-age Americans to older Americans will fall, which could hold back the long-run prospects for living standards in our country. The aging of the population also will have a major impact on the federal budget, most dramatically on the Social Security and Medicare programs, particularly if the cost of health care continues to rise at its historical rate. Thus, we must begin now to prepare for this coming demographic transition.

Inevitably, addressing the fiscal challenges posed by an aging population will require a willingness to make difficult choices. The arithmetic is, unfortunately, quite clear. To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above."
In addition, Bernanke said this about housing more generally:
"We have yet to see evidence of a sustained recovery in the housing market. Mortgage delinquencies for both subprime and prime loans continue to rise as do foreclosures. The commercial real estate sector remains troubled, which is a concern for communities and for banks holding commercial real estate loans."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Less Financial Support from Mom and Dad Could Change Homeownership Trends in Young Adults

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, layoffs across the nation mean that many teens and young adults are receiving less of a helping hand from Mom and Dad at time when they need it most.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for workers ages 16 to 29 was 15.2 percent in March, the highest rate since 1948. In March 2010, there were a total of 2.3 million unemployed college graduates, 1.45 million more than in March 2007.

While some think a drop in parental aid and increased unemployment could make young adults more financially resilient, economists worry that without support from mom and dad, this age group may put off entering the housing market, settling into career paths and having families.

"Now, not only do parents no longer have the money to help their children out, but banks will no longer lend to home buyers without the income to support repayment," says Cheryl Russell, a demographer and author of Americans and Their Homes: Demographics of Homeownership.

The rate of homeownership among people ages 25 to 29 fell to 37.7 percent last year, from a peak of 42 percent in 2006, according to the U.S. Census. Homeownership for those under 25 fell to 23.3 percent from 26 percent in 2005, the lowest rate for any age group.

According to a survey from FindLaw.com, nearly 22 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 said they've been turned down for a mortgage, loan or credit card in the past year. As a result, many young people are now moving home to save on rent. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that about 21 percent of young adults say they've either moved in with a friend or relative, or had a friend or relative move in with them because of the economy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Generation Y Predicted to Revive Housing Market

Billionaire Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway recently predicted that the U.S. would bounce back from its residential real estate slump by 2011, citing that the demand for homes would eventually catch up with the supply that accumulated during the bubble.

In addition to this, a growing number of those within the industry anticipate that the nation’s housing recovery will be lead by the home purchase trends of Generation Y – also known as the Millennials or Echo Boomers. These are the 75 million people born to Baby Boomers between 1982 and 1995, according to census data.

"Generation Y, the next big demographic bulge after the baby boomers, will take us out of the economic downturn," predicted Steve Hovany, president of Strategy Planning Associates in Schaumburg, IL.

"These first-time buyers will lead the recovery. They have the advantage of not having an existing home to sell," said Hovany. "All the big builders are redesigning for this age group. What's coming are smaller, more-efficient boxes that cost less."

More

Friday, April 2, 2010

Freddie Mac and New Vista to Support NSP by Auctioning Hundreds of Homes in Late April, Enabling Eligible Buyers to Take Advantage of Tax Credit

Communities nationwide have implemented plans using Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds to help rebuild their neighborhoods and revive local economies.

To support these efforts and more, Freddie Mac and New Vista announced yesterday their plans to auction hundreds of HomeSteps® REO homes to individual homebuyers. HomeSteps is the real estate sales unit of Freddie Mac and markets a nationwide selection of Freddie Mac-owned homes.

The first auction will take place in Las Vegas on April 24 and will be followed by a second auction in Southern California’s Inland Empire Community on April 25 – just in time for qualified buyers to take advantage of the federal home purchase tax credit, which expires April 30.

Under the 2009 Neighborhood Stabilization Program, homebuyers are eligible for closing costs and down payment assistance when they buy foreclosed or abandoned homes in designated communities that were hit hard by the housing downturn. This federal assistance combined with the federal tax credit could help provide buyers with a significant financial advantage.

New Vista will hold open houses on April 10 and April 17 – 18 in Las Vegas and the Inland Empire so interested buyers can tour the homes prior to the auctions. Potential buyers can also find property descriptions at www.auction.com.

Learn More