Friday, May 28, 2010

NHC and the Center Host Israeli Housing Delegation

How do you translate affordable housing in America to leaders of a nation with few housing-related nonprofits and a population smaller than New York City?

This was the eye-opening challenge on Wednesday for the staff of NHC and the Center for Housing Policy, who were honored to host a visit from Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing (MOCH). Mordechai Mordechai, director general of MOCH, came to our K St. office with Sofia Eldor, director of Urban Planning, and Amir Heller, Mr. Mordechai’s assistant, to hear about our research and advocacy on affordable housing and how it might apply to their urban initiatives.

Staff at the Center explained how the mortgage interest tax deduction, the Federal government’s priciest incentive to encourage homeownership, actually provides the most benefit to some of our wealthiest citizens. Ryan Sherriff, policy associate at the Center, described how to implement shared equity homeownership programs, an innovative approach to making homes affordable. And the Center detailed employer-assisted housing, popular, private sector projects to revitalize communities, where companies like Harley Davidson help workers purchase housing close to work.

Though the delegation were the ones asking most of the questions on Wednesday, their rewarding visit provided NHC and the Center a short but distant escape from the DC bubble, expanding our perspective on housing challenges in other parts of the world.

NHC and the Center would like to thank John Bohm, head of legislative programs and media at NAHRO, for helping make the delegation’s visit possible.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In-House Developments

Over the last year and a half, Open House has been written and maintained by Laura Woods, the beloved former Communications and New Media Associate for NHC and the Center. In the wake of Laura's recent departure, I, Tim O'Keefe, will be taking over the helm here. I'd like to give you a little introduction to myself, and add some thoughts on where this blog might be headed in the upcoming months.

First, a little bit about me: I am just starting out at NHC and the Center, and am coming from the Housing and Community Development consulting group at ICF International. At ICF, I assisted in the implementation of a range of Federal housing programs, including the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), HOME, and Assets for Independence.

As for my contribution to this blog, I’ve got one, overarching goal going forward: to enhance the conversation on housing issues, among the readers of this blog and within the broader national discussion. We’ll also be providing regular updates on what NHC and the Center are up to and how you can get involved. Overall, though, we are hoping to:
  • Provide information and analysis on the housing related issues of the day, in collaboration with the first rate research and thought leadership from the Center for Housing Policy and NHC.
  • Increase the dialogue with other bloggers and innovative thinkers in the housing world.
  • Solicit feedback and discussion among our readers, to share here on the blog on a regular basis.

We’re hoping you stick around as NHC and the Center’s online presence continues to expand. Please let us know what’s going on in your world, and view Open House as a truly “open” place to share your knowledge, commentary and criticisms (or just vent on the news of the day).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HUD’s Response to Foreclosures is Evolving

As home foreclosures continue to cause suffering in neighborhoods across the country, the Administration has announced that it will seek to refine and expand one of the largest Federal programs addressing the crisis.

At a roundtable last week, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that the Administration aims to allocate more Federal funds for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) to help hard-hit communities rebuild as the housing crisis continues.

NSP was originally created with $4 billion in funding through the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to allow state and local grantees to shore up abandoned and foreclosed properties, rehabilitate those properties, and put them back on the market. The program received an additional $2 billion through the Recovery Act, leading to a highly competitive second round of “NSP2” awards given to grantees performing particularly well in struggling communities.

NSP has already had a extensive and direct impact across the country. HUD estimates that the first round of NSP funds will help make over 63,000 homes available for families with low- to moderate- incomes with over 17,000 units already completed. Take a look at a local NSP “snapshot” to see how the program has affected your community.

The Administration now says it will work with Congress to secure a third round of NSP funding, and reallocate about $1 billion from previous awards which current grantees have yet to spend.

HUD believes additional funding and technical changes will “improve the flexibility and impact of the NSP program.” Please read the full press release for more details.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ford Foundation Announces $200 Million Investment to Help Better Connect Cities and Suburbs

This week the Ford Foundation announced plans to spend a total of $200 million over the next five years to help better connect cities and suburbs in order to create cohesive metropolitan areas. The investment focuses on supporting efforts to expand affordable housing, build and enhance public transportation systems, and extend the use of regional land banks to address the problems of abandoned urban neighborhoods. Ford will also direct any money it grants for urban revitalization toward building integrated urban-suburban regions.

The initiative was announced by Ford Foundation President Luis A. UbiƱas to some 300 local, state, and federal leaders gathered to discuss the revitalization of American communities that once relied almost solely on the auto industry for jobs and growth.

The goal is to expand opportunity among all people in any given metro region—from many different communities and income levels—by ensuring that metropolitan communities plan together and collaborate on such common challenges as affordable housing, infrastructure investments, education and job creation.

To learn more, please click here.

NYC Convening Focuses on Reducing HUD Barriers to Improve Access to Supportive Services

Today the Supportive Housing Network of New York hosted a convening in New York City to discuss changes in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) regulations, guidance and actions that would improve access to mainstream supportive services for residents of subsidized housing.

The meeting was held to help NHC and the Center for Housing Policy gather information for a report that will be presented to HUD this summer. NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar spoke about non-legislative actions that HUD can take to increase the effectiveness of services, including its relations with other federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Veterans Administration. Discussions included identifying action-steps that HUD and other federal agencies can take to better serve low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and those that are currently experiencing homelessness.

Specifically, the topics addressed focused on regulations, administrative procedures, and other rules that can needlessly complicate the administration of programs designed to link residents of subsidized housing with mainstream supportive services.

Participants in the meeting included representatives from the Center for Urban Community Services, Common Ground, Self Help, and the Women's Housing and Economic Development Corp.

Monday, May 17, 2010

NHC and MacArthur "Partners in Innovation" Forum - Housing Leaders Convene in Portland to Discuss Vital Need to Preserve Affordable Rental Housing

Today more than 200 federal, state and local leaders are convening in Portland to discuss the vital need to preserve and improve affordable rental housing in the Northwest and nationwide. Sponsored by NHC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the day-long forum, entitled Partners in Innovation: Financing the Preservation of Rural and Urban Affordable Rental Housing, is focused on examining the challenges and the opportunities for preserving affordable rental homes in urban and rural areas.

With a special emphasis on funding preservation efforts, the forum brings together public officials, industry experts, and advocates to discuss and explore ways to better support this work through innovative partnerships, policy development, and legislative reform. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary Carol Galante delivered the keynote luncheon address.

“The preservation and improvement of the nation’s affordable housing stock can have a lasting impact on not only communities, but experts agree that decent, safe and affordable housing can help ensure better health and educational outcomes for families and their children,” said NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar. “This forum is intended to help attendees take these ideas to scale by providing the tailored information and targeted tools necessary in order to inform affordable rental housing preservation initiatives.”

This Partners in Innovation event presents an outstanding line-up of keynote and featured speakers including:

Michael Bodaken, president, National Housing Trust
Nick Fish, commissioner, City of Portland, OR
Maureen Friar, president and CEO, NHC
Carol Galante, HUD deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing; and
Victor Merced, director, Oregon Housing and Community Services

The Oregonian also published an opinion editorial entitled "Keeping Rental Housing Affordable in Oregon" highlighting the Portland forum and the importance of preserving and improving affordable rental housing. The piece was written by featured forum speakers Nick Fish and Victor Merced.

To learn more about the forum, visit Portland "Partners in Innovation" Forum.

Friday, May 14, 2010

HUD Assistant Secretary Galante to Deliver Keynote at NHC and MacArthur Rental Preservation Forum

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Carol Galante will deliver the keynote luncheon address at the Partners in Innovation: Financing the Preservation of Rural and Urban Affordable Rental Housing day-long forum in Portland, OR, on May 17th.

The forum is sponsored by NHC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and is focused on examining the challenges and the opportunities for preserving affordable rental homes in urban and rural communities. With a special emphasis on funding preservation efforts, this forum will bring together more than 200 federal, state, and local officials, industry leaders, and advocates for a discussion on future efforts to preserve and improve affordable rental housing both in the Northwest and across the nation.

Building on the MacArthur Foundation’s $150 million commitment to preserving affordable rental housing, this is one of three forums in 2010 that NHC is spearheading nationwide on rental housing preservation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Financial Reform: How It Could Affect the Housing Industry?

The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 was introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, on April 15, 2010. This legislation would bring comprehensive reform and increased regulations to the financial sector to stabilize and protect the economy against future crises.

This massive and controversial bill, almost 1,500 pages long, contains four main components according to a statement made by Senator Dodd. Specifically, the bill:

1) ends “too big to fail” bailouts;
2) creates an advance warning system in the economy;
3) increases transparency; and
4) protects consumers from unsafe financial products.

This legislation is similar to the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, which was introduced by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and passed the House of Representatives on December 11, 2009.

By reforming the financial sector, this bill (and possible amendments) could have major implications for the future of the housing market, both market-rate and affordable. This bill would regulate the lending practices of banks and financial institutions, including regulating against risky transactions. It would also increase consumer protections against predatory lending practices.

In addition, amendments have been offered that would require a mandatory down payment amount to purchase a home -- a requirement that could hurt many first-time home buyer programs that use home buyer counseling and sweat-equity in place of down payment requirements.

A major point of contention regarding this legislation and the housing market is the role of the government. One amendment that could have had a significant impact on the housing market was an amendment offered by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), which would have ended the government ownership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within two years.

Republicans argue that Democrats are ignoring a central element of reforming the financial market by not including Fannie and Freddie. While Democrats say it is too early and too risky to determine the future role of Fannie and Freddie because of their dominance in financing the housing market. Government-related entities backed 96.5% of all home loans during the first quarter of 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Senate rejected the amendment on Tuesday 43 to 56.

Senators are still set to consider over 200 amendments to this bill on the Senate floor, meaning a final vote is unlikely until next week at the earliest. This also means the full impact of this bill on the financial and housing sectors is not yet fully known.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Call for Developer Entries: ULI Jack Kemp Housing Models of Excellence Awards

NHC member partner the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing has announced a call for entries for the Jack Kemp Housing Models of Excellence Awards recognizing developers that are expanding housing opportunities for working families across America.

Specifically, in memory of their friend and colleague, members of the ULI Terwilliger Center National Advisory Board renamed the prestigious annual workforce housing awards in honor of former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp for his tireless efforts in helping ensure affordable housing for low- to moderate-income families.

“This award program highlights the growing need for housing that is affordable to people who are essential to the economic vitality, strength and well-being of our communities,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman and founder of the ULI Terwilliger Center.

The awards competition is open to all developers in the U.S. and developments will be selected based on the following criteria:

• Affordability;
• Proximity to centers of employment and transportation hubs;
• Quality of the design and site planning;
• Involvement of public and private partnerships;
• Use of regulatory reform to reduce costs;
• Energy efficiency;
• Sustainable green construction and land development;
• Innovative building technologies and systems; and
• The ability to replicate the development.

The entry deadline is June 4.

The Terwilliger Center’s National Advisory Board will serve as the jury for the awards. The winner will be honored during a ceremony in Washington, DC, in November. Winning entries will be showcased in Urban Land magazine.

For online entry forms, and complete eligibility information and requirements, please click here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NAEH Launches New, Enhanced Website!

Today the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) launched a redesigned website. The goal of the new site is to provide visitors with better ways to both search and navigate the site.

To view the new, improved NAEH website, click here!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Where Will You Be You On June 9th?

As we move forward beyond the nation’s financial crisis, we face new challenges to rebuild housing’s vital role in the economy. We will fix what is broken and preserve what works. We will do it the way Americans have always done it: working together.

This year, on June 9th, NHC will honor, not an individual as its 2010 “Person of the Year,” but the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program (AHP).

The AHP is the nation’s largest source of private grant funds for affordable housing and 2010 marks the program’s 20th anniversary. Over the past two decades, the program has provided $3.7 billion for the creation of more than 670,000 affordable rental and owned homes. In affordable housing there is no better example than the AHP of something that works because it succeeds in combination with other resources and many partners.

In housing's new era, NHC will be at the core of the action in the fight for affordable housing.Your support of the NHC Gala ensures that we will be there to maximize the abilities of our members to meet the nation’s housing needs.

RSVP Today!

The Gala will take place at the historic National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

For more information on the Gala, please contact NHC Director of Operations, Meetings and Events Thea Beckering via email or at (202) 466-2121, Ext. 221.