Tuesday, June 16, 2015

NHC’s Policy Symposium highlights: Solutions from the field


by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

Last Friday’s Policy Symposium showed many ways that housing can be a solution, and it drew together housing stakeholders to learn from each other. If you missed the event and the live webcast, here are just a few of the highlights:
  • Older adults need housing help to meet basic needs, protect saved assets, improve health and more. Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation, shared that AARP began with Ethel Percy Andrus’ discovery of a retired teacher living in deplorable housing conditions. Today, AARP’s housing agenda encompasses affordability, housing counseling, fraud prevention, multi-generational communities, aging in place and other areas of work.
  • Homeownership can position individuals and families for success, but a lot of policy work is still needed. Panelists compared structural barriers to low-income homeownership, such as the persistent racial gap, to cyclical barriers that may ease as the economic recovery grows. Julia Gordon pointed to the coming expiration of Making Home Affordable, which will present renewed challenges for clearing up the end of the foreclosure wave. Paul Weech noted the central role of nonprofits as trusted advisors, financial coaches and housing counselors for low-income households working toward homeownership. Phil Bracken pointed to the need for long-term, fixed-rate, low-cost financing, especially in communities of color (see his slides). Ron Haynie described the challenges lenders face in meeting a host of new regulatory requirements. 
  • Nonprofits are combining rental housing with services to create new solutions. Panelists explored many avenues of cutting-edge housing and service combinations. Patricia Belden offered lessons for deploying mental health services and retraining service coordinators. Steve PonTell described two new pilot programs taking different approaches to moving families up and out of subsidized housing. Frances Ferguson raised several models of housing and education linkages, as well as the efforts of NHC’s Connectivity Working Group to support deployment of broadband in affordable housing. Michelle Norris presented examples of assisted living options for seniors that provide more independence and cost-savings at the same time by enriching housing with services.
NHC and our members are active in all of the policy areas touched on in the Policy Symposium. Join us, and get involved!

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