Friday, March 28, 2014

Boston Capital invests in Chicago multifamily community

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference

Chicago’s Northwood Park neighborhood is about to get a facelift as NHC member Boston Capital has invested in rehabilitation of the community’s Senior Suites multifamily housing community. The newly rehabilitated community will include the preservation and reuse of the historic 1910 Passionist Monastery as a three-story addition to the multifamily housing project.

The rehabilitation of Senior Suites is expected to generate over $12 million in local wages, create more than 140 Chicago-area construction jobs and offer five permanent positions. With the investment from Boston Capital, 84 units will be added to Senior Suites, bringing Boston Capital’s total Illinois affordable housing investment to 3,500 units. Senior Suites will include 10 studio-style units, 63 one-bedroom units and 11 two-bedroom units, all of which will feature central air conditioning, emergency call systems and storage. The rehabilitation of the development is made possible by tax equity from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

“Boston Capital is excited to once again partner with Bob Gawronski and the Senior Lifestyle Corporation in the rehabilitation of Senior Suites Norwood Park,” Jack Manning, president and CEO of Boston Capital said in a press release. “Our residents will benefit from the on-site programs provided by Senior Lifestyle Corporation as well as the development’s close location to public transportation, Immaculate Conception Parish, Resurrection Medical Center and the Norwood Park Senior Center.”

The Housing Credit has a significant impact for communities by creating and preserving affordable housing. As our Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Ethan Handelman, notes in a February blog post, the Housing Credit continues to be the most effective incentive in providing affordable multifamily housing. NHC is paying particular attention to the treatment of the Housing Credit as conversations about tax reform continue.

Other amenities provided by Senior Suites will include free monthly housekeeping, complimentary laundry service and meal services. The development will be available to low to moderate-income older adults and their families.

AHC Inc. breaks ground in Alexandria

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference

NHC member AHC Inc. broke ground on its first affordable housing development in Alexandria, Va., in February. The 78-unit apartment complex, Jackson Crossing, will feature two- and three-bedroom units and cater to low- to moderate-income families. The project is co-sponsored by Virginia Housing Development Authority and NHC members Hudson Housing Capital, Low Income Investment Fund and NeighborWorks America®.

The development was approved by the Alexandria City Council in January 2013 after AHC bought a parcel of land from the city to add to its six privately own parcels, where the new development will sit. Alexandria also provided ACH with a multi-million dollar loan to make the project happen.

“We are thrilled to break ground on our first affordable housing community in Alexandria,” AHC president Walter D. Webdale said in a press release. “Building on nearly 40 years in our home base of Arlington, we hope to develop more projects with our Alexandria neighbors to address the ongoing challenge of affordable housing in Northern Virginia.”

In addition to amenities like underground parking, a rooftop patio and community space, Jackson Crossing will feature educational programming for residents, made possible by AHC’s coordination with a local Alexandria service provider. Conveniently, Jackson Crossing is also located on Alexandria’s bus line, with additional transit service being planned for the corridor.

The efforts of AHC Inc. to provide affordable housing in Northern Virginia meet a significant need in that community. Even with overall economic improvement, the housing cost burden continues to be a challenge that many families are struggling to overcome. In February we published Housing Landscape 2014, which revealed that, of the 940,227 working households in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area, nearly 200,000, or 19.9 percent, experience severe housing cost burdens. Nationally, 22.1 percent of the 45,177,413 U.S. working households experience severe housing cost burden. While national housing cost burden fell from 22.8 in 2009 to 22.1 in 2012, the report shows that housing development efforts like those of AHC Inc.’s are vital to ensuring that affordable housing is available to all.

Construction is expected to take about 18 months. Residents will be able to move in beginning in late 2015.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Helping older adults age in place in all kinds of communities

by Janet Viveiros, Center for Housing Policy

As the number of older adults in the U.S. grows exponentially, housing and healthcare professionals are looking for ways to provide adequate housing and healthcare to meet the growing and changing needs of older adults. Most older adults prefer to age in their own homes, but if their physical or mental health declines, many older adults are unable to continue live independently without assistance.

Aging in Every Place: Supportive Service Programs for High and Low Density Communities, a report I co-authored with Maya Brennan and Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, explores home- and community-based
supportive service programs where housing, human service, and healthcare organizations work together to provide a variety of supportive services to help frail older adults remain in their homes.

While there are common barriers to aging in place if an individual’s health declines, older adults face unique challenges in different kinds of communities, such as limited access to transportation or healthcare. Aging in Every Place profiles home- and community-based supportive service programs and models tailored to the needs of older adults in the following kinds of communities:
  • Multifamily buildings in dense neighborhoods.
  • Single-family homes and smaller multifamily buildings clustered in neighborhoods.
  • Single-family homes dispersed across a county or region.
Despite the fact that each profiled program is different in terms of structure and services, they share three common principles that contribute to their success. They are:
  • Guided by the preferences of older adults.
  • Evolved to serve a wide range of needs.
  • Built upon partnerships with service providers and community stakeholders.
The home- and community-based supportive service programs profiled in Aging in Every Place offer models that other communities can use to help older adults overcome barriers to aging in place in their own neighborhood or region.

To learn more about the supportive service programs and principles for success in home- and community-based aging in place programs, read the full report.

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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Senate Banking releases housing finance reform bill

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

The long-awaited text of the Senate Banking Committee’s bipartisan bill to reform housing finance is now available. As we posted last week, this bill represents a major step forward toward a housing finance system that serves all in America. Look for more analysis to come from us soon, but for now, see the Banking Committee’s documents:

Press release
Section by section breakdown
Legislative text

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Senate Banking reaches agreement on housing finance reform

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

The Senate Banking Committee announced today that Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have agreed on legislation to reform the housing finance system. The forthcoming bill will be a major step forward toward a housing finance system that repairs the damage done during the crisis and creates a stable system to serve homeowners and renters in America. NHC is pleased to see this bipartisan agreement and welcomes further opportunities for our coalition to work with legislators in the process.

I attended a briefing yesterday by committee staff who shared some details of the proposal. It builds on the framework created in S. 1217, developed by Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) that would establish stable, liquid mortgage markets for single-family and multifamily housing with an explicit, paid-for federal guarantee. The bill would create a Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation to regulate issuance of guaranteed mortgage-backed securities, with private capital absorbing losses ahead of the taxpayer. It also includes many features NHC has advocated for, including:
  • Ensuring the availability of 30-year fixed rate mortgages, including low-downpayment options and a well-functioning TBA market. 
  • Maintaining stable, liquid capital for multifamily housing by maintaining on the existing Fannie Mae DUS and Freddie Mac K-series models. 
  • Establishing an affordability fee to support the National Housing Trust Fund, the Capital Magnet Fund, and a Market Access Fund. 
  • Allowing access by small and regional lenders through a cooperative and via a cash window.
  • Creating an obligation by participants in single-family and multifamily secondary markets to serve all eligible borrowers in all areas and housing types.
Many more details will come once the draft bill is released in coming days. NHC will evaluate the bill against the principles developed by our coalition on housing finance reform and will work closely with legislators as the bill moves to markup in coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

President’s budget shows sequestration’s constraints mean housing advocates must unite

by Liza Getsinger, National Housing Conference

The unveiling of the President’s FY 2015 budget request yesterday offered few surprises, in what have been several tough budget years for discretionary spending programs. The budget, which provides $46.7 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, adheres to the FY 2015 spending levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act. Yesterday in his address to stakeholders, Secretary Donovan highlighted the devastating effects sequestration cuts have had on housing programs and the tremendous efforts of housing assistance providers to buffer tenants from harm whenever possible. 

With roughly 84 percent of HUD’s budget going to renew existing housing assistance, the increasingly constrained budget environment forces HUD and the administration to make tough calls with the remaining program funding. The FY 2015 HUD budget restores all vouchers lost because of sequestration cuts, but overall funding levels provide little flexibility for expansions in other areas. The proposed cuts for FY 2015 fell hardest on the HOME and CDBG programs, and HUD is looking for some programmatic changes in order to provide more predictable funding for Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts. 

In this tough budget environment, is it hard to resist the temptation to advocate for individual pieces of the pie, but, like Sec. Donovan said yesterday, our voices are more effective when asking instead for a larger pie. This is why NHC, through the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, is launching its 302(b) sign-on letter for FY 2015. The 302(b) allocation sets the THUD spending cap, and a higher cap means increased investments in essential housing and community development programs. We encourage you to add your organization to the letter, and to please share widely with your networks. The deadline to sign is March 12.

You can view a copy of the letter here, and sign on to the letter on this page.

A budget summary chart of selected HUD and USDA housing and community development programs can be found here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More than a number

Making strides in housing advocacy
 by improving how we communicate

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference 

March is here but spring is not! DC is currently blanketed by eight inches of snow, bringing the city to a picturesque halt. We at NHC wont be slowing down though, as we have big events planned throughout the spring.

Coming up on March 21 is NHCs Annual Budget Forum at the Capitol Visitor Center Main Auditorium. Something NHC has been doing for decades, the Budget Forum is an important opportunity to educate Hill staffers on housing programs, the people they serve and what the Presidents budget means for them.

While there are many resources that can tell you what’s in the budget, this event seeks to make these numbers real for Congressional staff and other officials. In recent years, Ethan and Liza have put together a great panel of experts from across the continuum of housing to talk about what the housing budget recommendations mean from the local, city and state perspectives.

We’ll also use this forum to present the Center for Housing Policys report, Housing Landscape. Each year the Center presents this analysis of national housing need, detailing income and housing costs for both homeowners and renters in each state. This year, lead author Janet Viveiros provides interesting information on the changes in income and the percentage of cost burdened households. Janet and the Center staff worked hard to make this edition of the report more useful to you in your work educating the public and policymakers about the housing challenges in your community. 

Traditionally, many area housing organizations and companies attend as do a number of HUD staff. This has made it both an opportunity to discuss how to talk about these programs and data, and an opportunity to network.

If you are outside of the DC area and cannot attend the Budget Forum in person, we would like to gauge your interest in a webcast of the forum that would allow you to watch it live and ask questions of the panelists. If you would like to have this option to participate, please let us know.

Hopefully by March 21 the snow will be long gone in DC and we will be seeing the first signs of spring and the blooming of the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin. No matter what, we’ll still be fully engaged in being the best resource for the affordable housing community.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why housing needs a bigger boat for federal funding

What we're building

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference 

If we look at federal appropriations for affordable housing, it’s clear that we need to fight for higher overall funding, not just advocate for specific programs. The hole created by unrelenting housing need is too big for a piecemeal approach. Just like in Jaws, let’s agree that we need a bigger boat. Looking at the numbers makes this very clear:

  • Most of HUD’s funding renews housing assistance to current recipients. That’s public housing, project-based Section 8, and current voucher holders. In recent years, just those renewals have consumed 80% to 85% of HUD’s budget, and even they have been squeezed. Public housing has not had sufficient capital funds for many years, project-based contracts have started doing some less-than-full-year renewals, and voucher portfolios shrank significantly under sequestration.
  •  When funding drops, everything else gets squeezed, especially HOME and CDBG. The remainder of HUD’s budget is mostly the block grants: HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). All other HUD programs are small in comparison. Over the last several years, HOME has dropped to just $1 billion, about half of what it was at its height, and CDBG is 16% below what it was in 2001 (yes, more than a decade ago). So if something has to give, it’s block grant funding.

This waterfall—from existing recipients to block grants and everything else—comes from harsh political reality. No member of Congress wants a headline saying they’ve cut funding and kicked someone out of their home. Headlines about not funding new properties, shelters, or families are simply easier to handle.

So, we need a bigger boat, a larger allocation to the appropriations subcommittee that handles both housing and transportation, so that they can fund existing recipients and new assistance. The only way to accomplish that is with a big coalition, so I urge you to join the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding. Read the coalition letter and then sign the letter. Advocacy for individual programs can and should happen, but first let’s make the allocation as large as possible. It’s our best shot to stay afloat.