Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Around the Block

At a Glance The House extended the homebuyer tax credit deadline yesterday – putting the ball in the Senate’s court. HuffPo says thousands of homeowners may have been improperly denied mortgage relief through President Obama’s Home Affordable Mortgage Program.

Blaming the Victim, Cont. After plenty of backlash, Megan McArdle and James Stewart come to the defense of Fannie Mae’s decision to punish homeowners who walk away from their mortgages strategically.

Walking the Walk, Cont. Richard Florida says “Walkability and neighborhood quality seem to be emerging as the best hedge against massive housing price declines” – with the graph above to back him up.

Late Friday Cheers, Cont. The New York Times profiles how the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) is helping resurrect neighborhoods across the country.

What Does "Housing’s New Era" Mean For You?

You may have noticed the video we’ve been promoting for the last few weeks, called “Housing’s New Era.” The video features Maureen Friar, NHC’s president and CEO, explaining the importance of affordable housing in changing times, and how to leverage new and existing coalitions to achieve new goals.

NHC created this video, in partnership with MERS Inc. and America’s Federal Home Loan Banks, to help housing advocates make their case. Let’s be honest: housing has been taking a lot of heat in the press, and on Capitol Hill, over the past several years. Some folks are arguing that affordable housing shouldn’t be a funding priority in the midst of all of the other challenges facing the nation. This video explains why housing remains essential for families, and emphasizes why it must be a first-tier national priority as one of the primary drivers of the economy.

The financial disaster and the outbreak of foreclosures have left people struggling more than they have in almost a century. Research coming out of the Center for Housing Policy and dozens of other organizations is showing that a safe, decent affordable rental or owned home is growing farther and farther out of reach for millions of Americans.

Affordable housing is about fulfilling people’s dreams, and making thriving communities possible all across the country. Housing has always been the cornerstone of our economy, and it is a basic need that serves as the starting place for personal health, growth, and well-being. As the video makes clear: It’s about people. The people and partnerships that make affordable housing possible and the families and individuals who live there.

If you’re reading this blog chances are you care about housing, for one reason or another. If so, NHC, MERS Inc., and the FHLBanks made this video for you, to use as a resource to build support for and get the message out about the issues surrounding affordable housing. You can use it to start conversations at staff meetings, community discussions, coalition meetings, or just to share with a friend.

With so many people in the fight, the housing community needs a coordinated approach. “Housing’s New Era” gets the conversation started.

Please share “Housing’s New Era” through YouTube or by using a presentation quality version for events, which NHC, MERS Inc. and FHLBanks are offering free of charge. To order a free DVD or to receive a downloadable link to the video, please email me, Tim O’Keefe.

Housing + Wall Street Reform: A Match Made in Heaven? (Updates and Poll)

As you know, Congress approved a version of Wall Street Reform out of conference committee last week. The prospects for quick passage of the bill are dimmer now that Senator Byrd has passed away, with the Senate reopening debate to secure enough support. Nonetheless, we are still just a few votes away from some of the most significant consumer protections in 80 years. And housing is right in the thick of it.

The bill is designed to restore accountability, transparency, and security to the financial system – and in theory, make homeownership a safer investment for buyers and lenders alike. But some lending institutions are warning that these reforms could end up costing consumers more.
Tell us what you think: Will financial reform be good for the housing market?

Below are some of the provisions currently in the bill that could have the greatest effect on affordable housing and the broader housing market. Read them over, and then let us know whether you think they’re a good idea.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Around The Block, Awesome Video Ed.

At a Glance After last week’s disappointing news on the housing market, the fact that home prices rose in April for the first time in 7 months could be considered a pick-me-up. And it’s looking unlikely that Congress will extend the June 30th closing deadline to receive the homebuyer tax credit.

Another Day, Another Kink in Reform The Wall Street Reform fight isn’t over yet in Congress, with the Huffington Post reporting the bill might have to go back to conference committee.

In Other News National Alliance to End Homelessness provides an update on the “Tax Extenders Bill,” which includes funding for the National Housing Trust Fund and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund.

Talk About Smart Growth Author Ellen Dunham-Jones has some ideas worth spreading on retrofitting the suburbs in the video above.

Monday, June 28, 2010

If You Want To End Homelessness, Prevent It First

RealEstateRama is reporting that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will invest $2 million dollars in its Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program, for veterans “at risk” of homelessness.

While this DOL announcement doesn’t appear to be officially associated with the Administration’s new Federal Plan to End Homeless, it speaks to an important reality about the homelessness problem: to beat it, you’ve got to route it out before it begins. Veterans, who constitute 20% of the homeless population, are an example of a group that can sometimes fall through the cracks during transitional periods in their life (whether it’s a return from time abroad or from incarceration, or any other time they’re struggling).

Of course it’s true that everybody deserves a second chance, especially people who've sacrificed so much in the name of their country. Yet when it comes to the homelessness epidemic, people deserve a fair shake at avoiding the problem the first time around.

Around The Block, Weekly Kick-Off Ed.

There's a weekend's worth of news to catch up on today:

At a Glance An extension of the Homebuyer Tax Credit fails in the Senate for now. In the wake of Fannie Mae’s announcement that it will penalize strategic mortgage defaulters, Wall Street Journal finds that about one in five homeowners who default do so strategically (meaning they choose to walk away from a mortgage even though they have the money to pay it off).

Financial Reform Last week we reported on the pleasant surprise in the reform bill, an additional $1 billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. We’ll have more on reform’s potential affect on the housing market later this week. Though the tragic news of Senator Robert Byrd’s death complicates the odds of the bill’s final passage.
Affordability’s Value (and Style) A new study from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners offers proof that affordable housing is good for the economy. And the New York Times reports on the “design revolution has taken place in affordable housing since the 1980s.”

New Poor Under Attack, Cont. The New Yorker tells us why financial literacy is essential for promoting homeownership responsibly.

Death of Pleasantville, Cont. William H. Lucy, author of Foreclosing the Dream, explains why “Increasingly, people with choices and financial resources want to live in cities.”

Living in Green Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on Green Housing. Jonathan Hiskes doesn’t understand why Fannie and Freddie are making it difficult for homeowners to get loans for green housing improvements.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Late Friday Cheers: Third Round of NSP Funding in Financial Reform Package

Big news for the housing world is coming out of the financial reform conference bill, which includes $1 billion in additional funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). This “NSP 3” funding would go to local grantee organizations in the communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, to shore up foreclosed and vacant properties, revamp them, and put them back on the market at an affordable price.

NSP first received $4 billion in funding from the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), then an additional $2 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Bringing the total Federal investment in the program to $7 billion, this latest round of funding would be granted out by formula, similar to NSP 1 and unlike the competitive NSP 2 grants.

We’ll have more details once the full financial reform bill is available to the public in the next few days. Of course the sausage-making isn’t over yet – so advocates still have to keep our fingers crossed.

Around the Block, Friday Round-Up Ed.

At a Glance Urban Institute and Brookings Institution ask whether it’s better to laugh or cry about the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit, which caused the monumental plunge in housing sales last month. Ed Pinto tells Congress the Administration’s foreclosure prevention program is too convoluted. New York Times rounds up the responses to Fannie Mae’s announcement that it will crack down on homeowners who walk away from their mortgages. Felix Salmon doesn’t mince words: “This is going to do significant harm, and it’s going to do no substantial good at all.”

Have You Heard? Negotiations between the House and Senate on the financial reform bill appear to be over, though there’s still a question whether big banks will be on the hook for Fannie and Freddie, based on a last minute provision from late last night.

Futurama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan gave a speech at The Atlantic’s “Future of the City” forum yesterday, where he touched on a subject near to NHC and the Center’s heart(s), helping workers find affordable housing close to work. Secretary Donovan also announced $100 million for regional sustainable planning grants.

Death of Pleasantville, Cont. As the chatter over urban revival gets louder, Richard Florida discusses the “deep and fundamental changes in America's economic geography” that are driving it.

Walking the Walk With more people getting around by foot these days, the Dept. of Transportation is rewarding them by tripling the budget for pedestrian and bicycling programs (this may be old news, but the link includes an awesome graphic).

Last But Not Least (though definitely the most miniature): The 10 smallest homes in the world. Believe it or not, movie-buffs, the one above is not from Woody Allen.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Too Much Parking Leaves Cities Chasing Their Tails

We mentioned Tom Vanderbilt’s Slate article on the role of parking in smart growth in “Around the Block” today, but I'd like to drive the point home. This is a classic case of an over-looked, out of date policy that puts a dent in our priorities for sustainability, economic development and public health – and has a simple fix.

The policy is minimum parking requirements, or  “municipal provisions that require developers building a new project - whether commercial or residential - to also construct a minimum number of new parking spaces, often without regard to the presence of nearby transit options or even actual need.” So developers are forced to make parking a lopsided priority. The “circular logic” of the parking minimums leads to “the space devoted to cars often exceeding the space devoted to humans.”

Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, details the damage:

Around The Block, Thursday Edition

The presses are hot with housing news today:

At a Glance After the record dive in home sales, Richard Florida says prices won't rebound for a while. HuffPost says less than .1% of mortgage modifications in President Obama’s foreclosure plan involve principle cuts (for background, here’s how loan modifications work). Fannie Mae is locking out homeowners who strategically default to avoid foreclosure. And the Fed leaves interest rates unchanged – is it a bad sign for economic recovery?

New Poor Under Attack, cont. More evidence that desperation opens the door to deception – NY AG Cuomo cracks down on deceptive "Mortgage Rescue firms."

Talk About Smart Growth Kaid Benfield says smart land use could reduce pollution and bring down household costs (he's got some convincing numbers). It's Wall Street Greed vs. the World for Al Gore, who charts the path to Sustainable Capitalism, or making money while growing smart, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Plus, Slate argues parking regulations are just subsidized driving.

Ending Homelessness Plan, “Opening Doors” to criticism, at at least. NLCHP wants to expand the definition of "homelessness" in the Federal Plan. And the White House's Melody Barnes gives her take on the plan (including video of Tuesday's announcement, in case you missed it).

"Who Caused the Crisis?" Debate Business Insider argues 25 years of mismanagement at Fannie and Freddie started the fire.

Have Your Cash and Live In It, Too The "Homeownership, Huh! What is it Good For" debate continues, as Matt Yglesias questions the value of putting too much stock in one financial asset.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Around The Block

Below is Open House’s first ever installment of a daily round-up of housing news and must-reads. Stop by every day to see what’s happening and why it matters:

Housing at a Glance Nick Timiraos takes a look at the less than refreshing numbers that came out today (namely, 33% dive in home sales).

The Federal Homelessness Plan: Does it Hit the Mark? summarizes the responses to yesterday’s Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Alliance to End Homelessness, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty are all excited about the plan, but many organizations share the same rallying cry: “Show us the money.” The plan is great at detailing long-term objectives, they say, but short on specifics on where the money will come from. In other words, many believe we advocates still have our work cut out for us.

The Death of Pleasantville, Cont. Wall Street Journal’s Conor Daugherty discusses the rise of cities in recent years – and the corresponding suburban decline – and seems to blame it all on the recession keeping people strapped in place. But it’s not just the economy forcing people from moving to the ‘burbs; they’ve been Leaving Beaver-land for years. We’re talking about a slow but unmistakable, and potentially profound, shift in consumer demand. This isn’t the first time the media has missed the boat on this topic. To a lesser degree, this AP piece from today makes the same assumptions. Stay tuned for more. There’s good reason to keep talking about this…

Talk About Smart Growth Kaid Benfield from NRDC says land use and transportation should be top priorities in the response to the oil spill. Turns out if consumers are aware of their residential energy choices, they’ll be smart about them, according the Affordable Housing Institute. Plus, the National Building Museum, the sight of NHC’s Annual Gala, re-imagines a more eco-friendly “built environment” on the New York Waterfront.

Foreclosure Prevention Are the Federal programs working? The latest FHFA report says yes. Elizabeth Warren seems a little less optimistic on mortgage modifications.

Last But Not Least (OK, maybe least) Some light reading and viewing: “Funny Real Estate Ads.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What the Administration’s Homelessness Strategy Means for Veterans

Earlier this month, we reported on a welcome expansion of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, helping nearly 8,000 homeless veterans find permanent housing. A few days ago, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced an additional $7.5 million to support 1,255 vets through the same program.

The funding announcement dovetails with the big homelessness news from earlier today, the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness (“Opening Doors”). Vets are at the heart of this fight, making up nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. At the “Opening Doors” unveiling this morning, Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Eric Shinseki, gave a candid assessment of the challenge veteran homelessness poses to our country.

Federal Government Pledges to End Chronic Homelessness in 5 Years

The United States Interagency Council for Homelessness (UCISH) just finished its announcement of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, Opening Doors. On behalf of the President, four Cabinet members went on record pledging to end chronic homelessness in 5 years.

This is an inspiring, ambitious and noble challenge that our country has now taken up. As each of the Cabinet secretaries addressed, it’s not something any individual agency – or even the entire federal government, for that matter – can achieve on its own. To rout out economic hopelessness, we “will need to leverage all of the assets we have at the Federal, state and local levels,” as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius put it. NHC and all of our members look forward to pooling our resources on behalf of this effort. It’s going to take everything we’ve got.

We’re reading through the 75 page plan now, so stay tuned for more information and analysis in the next few days.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Watch Obama and Four Cabinet Members Reveal Plan to End Homelessness

Anticipation is mounting for tomorrow’s big announcement, the Administration’s Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, Opening Doors. The plan from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) will be the first time in our history that the Federal government has taken an ambitious, unified, collaborative effort to make sure all Americans have a roof over their heads. Yes, it’s a big deal.

So don’t miss it! Take a break from streaming the World Cup at work tomorrow, and head over to, starting at 9 am EST, to see the President and four Cabinet secretaries announce the details. We'll have updates for you here at Open House as soon as the plan is out.

HAND Event Sparks Debate, Honors Egan

A few weeks ago, Sheila Bair, chairwomen of the FDIC, gave a speech that has since caused a bit of a rumble among affordable housing’s advocates and detractors alike. Bair questioned the political and psychological priority that America has placed on the ideal of homeownership for decades – our nation-wide ambition that Bair said led to an “unsustainable” homeownership rate that peaked at 69% a few years before the crash. Barry Zigas, a member of NHC’s Board of Governors, has a nice summary that puts Bair’s comments in perspective. 

As it turns out, the venue for Bair’s speech, the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) Annual Awards Luncheon, was in honor of Conrad Egan, NHC immediate past president and CEO.

Conrad’s four decade career in housing is as full of achievements as it is people he has touched through his work. HAND’s “President’s Choice Award” honors Conrad for his advocacy work and contributions to developing creative and innovative housing solutions.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The "New Poor" Come Under Attack

New York Times today takes a look at what appears to be a parasitical industry of the worst order: "Debt settlement" firms that promise a credit fix but end up preying on poor folks at a time when they need help most.

The financial and foreclosure crises have left more people relying on credit cards than ever, after loosing their job or even their house, pulling them deeper into a financial ditch. But the crisis also nailed down the need to educate all Americans on how to handle finances, build wealth, and improve their credit effectively. With all financial ventures, knowledge isn't just power, it's protection.

While it can be easy to point fingers at folks who have dug themselves into debt, the NYT piece shows there's still people out there trying to make a buck on keeping them down.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How Should the Government Provide Services to the Homeless, Seniors and Others in Need?

This summer, NHC and the Center for Housing Policy are leading an open, collaborative project to provide recommendations to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on their role in providing supportive services for the homeless, families and seniors. HUD is obviously a key player in providing housing to people in need. However, these people often need broader support – like substance abuse or day care to ensure positive outcomes. It is an open question what role the Department should play in providing these other services.

Yesterday, a diverse group of advocates and practitioners came together at NHC’s offices to discuss the recommendations NHC will provide to HUD later this summer. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dealing With the Death of Pleasantville

Slowly but surely, and often without notice, America has been nearing the cusp of a major shift in housing demand over the last 10 years. Countless Americans are abandoning the suburban exodus of the last 70 years or so, and moving back into cities.

Though it could seem counterintuitive at first, most Americans can probably understand the logic behind this shift from suburbia on a local level. Millions of young people entering the workforce want to be where the action is and where the jobs are. Folks starting families are growing tired of spending more time in the car than with their kids. For retiring baby boomers and empty-nesters, the two hour drives to get to the city aren’t as romantic as they used to be.

Developers are starting to recognize this trend, with urban building in high demand. The challenge is to get policymakers, especially on the Federal level, ahead of the game on a housing tide that will change the flow of our national landscape for decades to come.

Simple Ideas to Scale Up: Builders of Hope

While last week’s NHC Annual Gala was a celebration, it was also a chance for housing leaders to come together and share innovative strategies for Housing’s New Era. As our communities face new, widespread challenges, often the most transformative solutions come from simple ideas that can be scaled up.

At the Gala last Wednesday, in addition to honoring the “Housing Person of the Year,” the housing community recognized Builders of Hope (BOH), based in Raleigh, NC, as the recipient of the Pioneering Housing Strategies Award. BOH’s “Building Green Communities” model hits three birds with one stone, accounting for the effects of climate change while providing affordable housing options and rebuilding the lives of former offenders re-entering the workforce.

BOH’s Emily Egge spoke with Open House at the Gala about how the award can help bring her organization’s model to the next level nationally. For more on “Building Green Communities,” please visit Builders of Hope’s web site.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Homelessness Finds a Place on the National Agenda

Next Tuesday, the Administration will announce what it is calling “the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness, titled ‘Opening Doors.’” The plan has been in the works for over a year, beginning last May when President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act into law and promised a strategic plan.

The upcoming plan was penned by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), an independent agency of 19 Cabinet Secretaries and other agency heads. Though we can’t speculate on the details of the strategy yet, it is clear that USICH views homelessness as a comprehensive issue that calls for an all-hands approach.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Livability” Legislation Connects Housing, Transportation and Energy

What does it mean to make our communities “livable”? And how can the federal government promote this goal on a local level?

The U.S. Senate discussed these questions in a hearing by the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee last Wednesday. The legislation in question—the Livable Communities Act—would encourage towns and regions to adopt comprehensive development plans that incorporate transportation, housing, land use, and economic development. The bill would create competitive grants for the planning and implementation of sustainable development projects.

As efforts on financial reform wind down, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), the committee’s chairman, has made the Livable Communities Act one of his highest priorities before retiring at the end of this year.

The hearing laid down a blueprint for what it takes to make communities “livable”: an all-inclusive vision that coordinates housing and transit policy, fostering a convenience of lifestyle and ultimately offering people more choices in their neighborhoods.

NHC Seeks Legislative Director

Do you have a professional track record of advocacy and/or Capitol Hill accomplishments and a passion for affordable housing? If not, do you know someone else who does?

If so, we could use your help. NHC is on the look-out for a full-time legislative director to join our team and bring our federal housing advocacy to the next level. This is an opportunity to take a central role in helping shape the nation’s housing policy, as the lead coordinator of advocacy and policy for NHC – the United Voice for Housing.

Please see the complete job posting for more details, and send full applications to Mary Cousins, NHC’s director of administration.

Monday, June 14, 2010

NHC and NAR Seek Solutions for Working Families in Atlanta

In Atlanta today, NHC and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) kicked off the first of four Bring Workers Home forums on workforce housing issues. The lack of affordable housing close to work is a problem employees face across the country, made even more difficult by today’s housing market and declining wages. With limited options, more and more workers have to live far from work locations, increasing transportation costs, commuting time, and environmental impacts in communities across the country.

Today’s forum in Atlanta focused on private and public sector solutions to these problems. As workforce housing challenges continue to increase across the country, the well-tested programs discussed today can become models for other neighborhoods nationwide.

Maureen Friar Speaks From NHC's Gala

At NHC’s Annual "Housing Person of the Year" Gala last Wednesday, Maureen Friar, president and CEO of NHC, shared her thoughts and excitement on her first time attending what she called “the best housing event in America.”

Friar took over as the head of NHC in February of 2010, and last week’s event was in part a celebration of her new leadership. During the reception, Friar spoke alongside her predecessor, Conrad Egan, who shared his well wishes for NHC in the future (after receiving a resounding standing ovation from the crowd).

Friar has contributed new energy and vision to NHC, with a fresh perspective that helped set the tone for the event. As Friar says in the video, the Gala—and NHC’s agenda going forward—is about industry-wide collaboration in Housing’s New Era, and NHC’s continued leadership as an organization “on the move.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

House Passes Bill to Straighten Out FHA’s Wallet

The House passed a bill yesterday to try to help balance the books of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency that some fear could be headed down a fiscal rabbit hole without reforms. FHA’s finances have taken a hit with the foreclosure crisis, while continuing to shore up a tremendous share of America’s home mortgages.
The bill has generally been received well by fiscal conservatives and affordable housing advocates alike, as a cost-saver and a way to protect homeowners by penalizing fraudulent lenders.

Though two aspects of the bill in particular have incited some passionate responses:

President of Council of Federal Home Loan Banks Reacts to NHC Gala Award

On Wednesday, NHC’s Annual Gala honored the Federal Home Loan Banks' (FHLBanks) Affordable Housing Program, one of the largest sources of affordable housing grant funds in the country. At the Gala, we caught up with John Von Seggern, president and CEO of the Council of Federal Home Loan Banks, to get his thoughts on receiving the award. And consistent with the FHLBanks' attitude about the entire event, Von Seggern emphasized that the evening was about the importance of the housing world working together to tackle new challenges in Housing’s New Era – beyond the current housing crisis.

When accepting the NHC “Housing Person of the Year” award, Lee Gibson, chairman of the Council, said the FHLBanks were honored to “spotlight the work done by everyone here who makes affordable housing in America a priority and a reality.” NHC and its membership look forward to collaborating with the FHLBanks, and everyone else working on affordable housing across the nation, to elevate the issue on the national agenda and ensure decent, safe and affordable housing for all.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NHC 38th Annual Gala Honors the FHLBanks' AHP, Ushers in Housing's New Era

Last night’s NHC “Housing Person of the Year” Gala honoring the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program (AHP) promised to be as grand as its venue – the National Building Museum. With a record-breaking $712,000 raised, and more than 800 attendees, the Gala exceeded expectations. The event provided not only a chance to recognize the AHP, but also an opportunity to celebrate affordable housing’s future.

The program for the event coincided with the theme, “Housing’s New Era,” by opening with an innovative video of NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar addressing the issues and future of affordable housing. But before ascending into the “New Era,” Friar and all the Gala attendees paid tribute to former NHC head Conrad Egan. He was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience, many of whom had either worked with him or followed his achievements during a career spanning 40 years. 

Ultimately, the over-arching message was moving beyond the current housing crisis to grow affordable housing as a first-tier national priority through better coordination within the affordable housing field.

This theme was echoed by all of the Gala speakers including: Dan Nissenbaum, NHC chairman; Angie Garcia Lathrop, community affairs representative for Bank of America; Phil Bracken, executive vice president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; Ed DeMarco, acting director of Federal Housing Finance Agency; and Lee Gibson, chairman of the Council of Federal Home Loan Banks.

NHC member Builders of Hope of Raleigh, NC, was also recognized at the Gala for receiving NHC’s “Pioneering Housing Strategies” Award last year. The organization won the award for its uniquely comprehensive Building Green Communities model that focuses on recycling homes slated for demolition using green building standards and then selling the homes at cost to working families.

The Gala took place on the 20th anniversary of the FHLBanks’ Affordable Housing Program and fell on the eve of NHC’s 80th anniversary in 2011, signifying the importance and resilience of the affordable housing community in the past, present and future.

If you would like to order a high resolution DVD version of the "Housing's New Era" video, please contact NHC Communications and Digital Media Associate Tim O'Keefe.

HUD Honors Vets with Permanent Housing

Because I know the OpenHouse readership are big fans of America's Got Talent, I’m sure you all saw one of the show’s more powerful performances last week, where a group of formerly homeless vets spread the word—in perfect harmony—about an issue we don’t talk about much in our country: veteran homelessness.

Apparently, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) were watching the performance too.

The next day, last Thursday, June 3, the two federal agencies announced that nearly 8,000 homeless veteran will receive permanent housing assistance through HUD’s Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH). HUD will provide $58.6 million in funding to local public housing agencies and partner with local VA Medical Centers to identify and help the eligible participants.

“Though they served and sacrificed so much for our country, too many of our veterans find themselves on the streets and in homeless shelters,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “Thankfully, these vouchers will provide a more-permanent solution to housing and services these veterans need.”

According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, 23 percent of the nation’s homeless population are vets. If that doesn’t make your heart sink, I don’t know what could.

HUD expects to announce more funding next month to provide 1,355 more rental vouchers. That's news we can all salute.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Heading Out for the Big Event

The NHC’s 38th Annual “Housing Person of the Year” Gala is today at the National Building Museum, in Washington, DC. The program begins at 5:30 p.m. and honors the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program (AHP) on its 20th anniversary.

We hope those of you joining us will have a wonderful night. For everyone who can’t make it—check back soon for coverage. It’s sure to be the housing event of the year!

The Center for Housing Policy Gets a New Audience: High Schoolers

We pursue affordable housing advocacy and research with a passion at NHC and the Center for Housing Policy. So, when approached by Sarah Cotcamp and Brian Mokoro, two teachers from Cesar Chavez School for Policy in Washington, DC, to kick off an affordable housing advocacy project, we jumped at the chance to pass some knowledge on to the future generation.

On Monday, seventeen Cesar Chavez sophomores attended an “orientation” at NHC and the Center’s headquarters. The tutorial, led by the Center’s Ryan Sherriff, Keith Wardrip, and Laura Williams, discussed the basics of affordable housing. Topics included what “affordable housing” means in different parts of the country; how housing impacts other aspects of life including health and education; community considerations when providing affordable housing; financing tools; and the affordability of rental and homeownership opportunities in DC and other housing markets.

Want your own affordable housing tutorial? Chances are can answer your questions!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weathering the Storm: FHLBanks’ Affordable Housing Program

The economy is often compared to Mother Nature: it can be volatile and turn your world upside down but, if everything falls into place, it can create a positive outlook. Like Mother Nature, the economy can also be unpredictable, and only those best prepared can weather the storm.

For nearly 8 decades, the Federal Home Loan Banks have proven their staying power as one of the top players in the US economy. The Banks have shown their flexibility through the success of the Affordable Housing Program (AHP). AHP has continued to evolve and adapt to changing needs and now, on the 20th anniversary of the program, its versatility and impact are evident to all.

Each of the 12 banks set aside ten percent of their net income for the AHP, which is one of the largest private sources of grant funds for affordable housing in the United States. The program serves a wide range of neighborhood needs including projects designed for seniors, the disabled, homeless families, first-time homeowners and others with limited resources.

Tomorrow, June 9, the NHC will honor the FHLBanks’ Affordable Housing Program at its 38th Annual “Housing Person of the Year” Gala. The Gala will be at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC and begins at 5:30 p.m.

Please join us!

Monday, June 7, 2010

“New Era” Brings Fresh Face and New Philosophy to Housing

We're just two days away from the great migration of housing leaders to Washington DC for NHC's Annual “Housing Person of the Year” Gala. This year, NHC honors the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program (AHP) for providing $3.7 billion for the creation of more than 670,000 affordable rental and owned homes in the last 20 years.

The Gala’s theme, "Housing's New Era," centers on NHC being at the core of the action, beyond the current housing and financial crisis, in the fight for affordable housing. The National Building Museum will serve as the backdrop where all the great minds in affordable housing will meet, mingle, and celebrate the new era in affordable housing.

There is still time to RSVP for the Gala. Join us!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ringing In Housing's New Era In a Historic Setting

NHC’s annual "Housing Person of the Year" Gala is on June 9, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. The Building Museum is not only an architectural marvel, but a forum for the development, exploration and exchange of ideas. The Museum is the perfect venue to bring the housing world together as we enter housing's new era, and to honor the 20th anniversary of the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program. The AHP has provided $3.7 billion for the creation of more than 670,000 affordable rental and owned homes for American families and individuals.

NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar highlights the upcoming 38th Annual Gala in the above video.

The deadline for purchasing tickets and tables has been extended to June 8, so there’s still time to attend the Gala.

RSVP Today!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Nod to the Leader That Started it All

NHC’s 2010 “Housing Person of the Year” Gala will be held on June 9 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. This year NHC will honor not a person, but a program, the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program (AHP) on its 20th anniversary. However, before we tip our hat to the AHP’s successes, we‘d like to take a look back at the leader who pioneered affordable housing advocacy.

Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch was a reformer and social activist. Concerned about the living conditions in New York City's slums, she set out to raise awareness about the need for decent, affordable housing. Simkhovitch believed innovative programs could help to replace slums with suitable housing and, ultimately, revive the spirit of a community.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

SHF Annual Benefit Recognizes “Fabulous Frogs” and “Green Tomatoes” - Tees Up NHC Annual Gala

At their annual “Easy to Be Green” annual benefit on May 25 Settlement Housing Fund (SHF) honored NHC immediate past president and CEO Conrad Egan for his leadership in environmental sustainability in housing. SHF exists to create and maintain economically and ethnically diverse affordable housing, with community programs and neighborhood amenities, throughout New York City. With award categories like "Climate Changers," "Fabulous Frogs" and "Green Tomatoes,” the SHF benefit was as much fun as it was serious in recognizing “green” leaders in affordable and supportive housing.

Carol Lamberg, SHF executive director, is a member of NHC’s executive committee and also serves as co-chair of the New York Housing Conference, NHC’s regional affiliate. NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar attended the event to help in recognizing her predecessor, Conrad Egan, for his contributions.

As the SHF awards made clear, the only way to tackle the challenges our communities face – including global warming and environmental health – is by aligning the interests and efforts of everyone working to provide safe and suitable homes.

Bringing the housing community together is also the focus of the NHC Annual “Housing Person of the Year” Gala honoring the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program on June 9. Specifically, the gala theme, Housing’s New Era , centers on NHC being at the core of the action, beyond the current housing and financial crisis, in the fight for affordable housing.

Support of the Gala ensures that NHC will be there to maximize its abilities to meet the nation’s housing needs through close collaboration with the entire industry.

Support Our Work by Joining Us for the Annual NHC Gala on June 9!

Summer Addition

As the new communications intern for NHC I, Katy Gorman, wanted to introduce myself to “Open House” readers. I am a recent Penn State graduate with a degree in Public Relations. My communications experiences have ranged from interning with DC’s infamous Silver Line project, to Big Ten football and blogging for a tourism website in Rome, Italy, and I am excited to start my journey now with NHC.

I look forward to sharing my experiences and newfound knowledge about NHC through “Open House.” As I have much to learn, I expect I will have much to blog about. My hope is to spark your interest, excite your intellect, and further the dialogue on housing issues. I look forward to my time with NHC and contributing to the organization’s online presence.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NHC Ventures West

NHC is happy to announce that we’ve welcomed our first member from Alaska: Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA). CIHA was formed by the State of Alaska in 1974 as one of 12 regional housing authorities to address the needs of low-income Indian families. While Alaska is not reservation based, it is home to 40 percent of the tribes in the country. In fact, Anchorage is the second most culturally diverse city in the U.S., behind Honolulu.

“Cook Inlet Housing Authority is pleased to see that the efforts of the NHC, particularly the work of the Center for Housing Policy, are in direct alignment with the research and efforts we’ve been focused on in our region. We feel it validates our work thus far and we see the opportunity to learn and to fine tune our messaging through a partnership with NHC,” Said Carol Gore, CIHA president and CEO.

“The complex issues of affordability, perception and workforce housing continue to be a challenge across the nation. Collaboration and partnership will help us all move towards effective solutions without exhausting our individual resources. We are excited to join NHC and we look forward to participating in this ongoing, vital dialogue.”