Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Moving housing forward

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

This week NHC holds its two biggest events, the 43rd Annual Gala and Annual Policy Symposium. The Gala offers us a chance to connect with members and public officials and to highlight and honor the great work of our members to move housing forward in a significant way.

When you attend the Gala, you’ll hear a lot about the comprehensive community development NHC believes should be the focus of affordable housing work. This brings affordable housing efforts out of isolation and connects us and our work to other community efforts like public safety, education, public health, transportation, economic development and others.

The two collaborations we are honoring at this year’s Gala are great examples of community development with affordable housing at the center of success. I wrote about the Community Properties Initiative in Columbus, Ohio in last month’s Under One Roof. This month I want to share some of my thoughts with you about our other Housing Visionary Award honoree, Atlanta’s Piece by Piece Regional Foreclosure Response Initiative.

I got to learn about this work up close during our Solutions 2013 Conference in Atlanta where we featured multiple presentations and mobile workshops on the neighborhoods where this effort is having a significant impact.

Piece by Piece involves foreclosure prevention, development of multifamily and single-family homes, housing counseling and other programs. Similar to the Ohio effort, central to the work is stabilizing communities and stimulating market-rate investment. In thinking about all the factors that make communities successful, Piece by Piece provides a powerful example of comprehensive community development in action.

Both these multi-year efforts have done a great job of both tracking their successes and continuing to think comprehensively about the services and supports needed for community residents to be successful beyond just having stable homes.

The Policy Symposium is also an opportunity for NHC to share with the field what we see as the “issues of the moment” and our areas of focus over the next few years. For some time now we have featured issues and constituencies that intersect with affordable housing and we are very pleased to have two of those represented in our opening keynote and research presentation.

Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP Foundation, will open the Symposium by sharing the foundation’s vision of how housing intersects with other focus issues like hunger, isolation and income within the framework of overall community well-being. Following will be a research presentation from Dr. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and Principal Investigator at Children’s HealthWatch. Dr. Sandel will discuss the research brief on child homelessness she co-authored with Richard Sheward and Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, NHC’s Vice President of Research and Director of NHC’s Center for Housing Policy.

Our Annual Policy Symposium will represent major themes for NHC’s work both now and in the future. Access to credit, the future of the housing finance system, buyer preparedness and credit scoring changes will all be critical to the stability and success of the overall housing market. Additionally, the ability to expand funding and support for quality affordable rental housing depends on how we communicate the connection between these developments and impacts on resident well-being in areas of health, education and economic success.

Policy Symposium panels on the future of low-income homeownership  and affordable rental housing as a platform for success will give audience members a chance to think more deeply about these themes and discuss ways communities can work together to support better housing policy outcomes. 

We look forward to seeing many of our members this Thursday and Friday, and to tackling these issues with you together over the next year.

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