Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Budget forum connects housing need to federal investments

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

Last week, we continued the long-standing NHC tradition of a Capitol Hill forum on housing. The result was a powerful collective message that the federal government should strengthen its commitment to housing for all in America. That message came from many parts of the housing community and showed that the affordable housing movement represents more than any one particular industry or stakeholder perspective.

From Laura Hogshead, HUD’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Budget and Policy, we heard about the tough choices required by the overall federal spending cap and the even tougher challenges to come in FY 2016. From Nan Roman, we heard that homelessness is a solvable problem that leaders on both sides of the aisle are working to solve. From Aaron Gornstein, Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we heard about great strides his state is making to address homelessness, create new homes, and preserve affordable rental housing using state and federal resources. From Patrick Sheridan, Senior Vice President of Housing Development at Volunteers of America, we heard how rental assistance and capital programs combine to empower nonprofits to develop new housing, and how scarce those resources are. And from Adrianne Todman, Executive Director of the D.C. Housing Authority, we heard how about individuals whose lives have improved thanks to public housing, and about the severe limitations federal budget cuts have put on public housing providers.

All of these perspectives appeared against the backdrop of Housing Landscape 2014, showing just how many working households in this country face severe housing cost burdens. My take-away from the event? It came from Chris Estes, who urged housing stakeholders to unite as a movement rather than fragment as separate industries or lobbies. The housing and transportation 302b letter is a good start, but the fight will only get tougher from here.

See pictures from the NHC Budget Forum here.

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