Thursday, November 26, 2015

Research review and opportunities in 2016

Solutions through research 
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D. 

This has been an incredibly productive year for NHC’s Center for Housing Policy! I hope you had a chance to see our reports as they were released this year, but if you didn’t, here is a review of some of our key work.

In our continuing commitment to describing housing affordability across the U.S. and to offer new ways to talk about affordability challenges, we released Housing Landscape, our annual summary of the severe housing cost burdens of low- and moderate-income working households, and Paycheck to Paycheck, our interactive tool that allows you to explore housing affordability for a range of occupations.

Research and best practices around building inclusive communities is a key part of the Center’s work. This year, we released reports on strategies for developing flexible inclusionary zoning programs and issues and opportunities around using public land to help subsidize affordable housing development. We also released an online Inclusive Communities Toolkit that includes case studies and resources on local land use, zoning, financial and other tools for creating inclusive communities.

The Center has a long history of examining issues related to the intersection of housing and other issues, such as health, education and economic well-being. This year, in response to new health care legislation and growing recognition of housing’s role as a social determinant of health, the Center has produced a number of reports on housing and health, including a review of the research on the impacts of stable and affordable housing on health outcomes, a summary of the Affordable Care Act and new opportunities for the housing and health communities to work together, a brief summarizing new research on the effect of homelessness on children’s health and case studies of programs that have combined housing and health services.          

With our re-energized focus on local housing issues, we have expanded our analyses of local housing needs through housing needs assessments in the Roanoke, Va. metro area and in Arlington County, Va. These projects allowed us to work directly with local jurisdictions that are examining their housing needs and developing housing plans, allowing us to contribute our expertise and learn from an on-the-ground planning process. We continue to analyze key trends affecting housing demand nationally, including our analysis of the housing needs of the changing veteran population.

We continue to explore forward-looking ideas around local and regional affordable housing issues. We have done this in 2015 with Matters@HAND, a series of monthly articles for a local association of nonprofit developers.

As we look ahead to 2016, we have taken some time to plan our research agenda so that we are able to not only pursue interesting projects but also do research that serves those working to expand housing opportunities. In fact, “opportunity” is the theme for our work in the year ahead. Some of the projects we have planned include a review of recent research on economic mobility, an assessment of opportunity mapping and indices, more best practices and resources around state and local policies that are effective at promoting fair and inclusive housing and opportunities for connecting housing and health organizations. Stay tuned – and stay connected to NHC’s research!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Boston Housing Authority launches mentoring program for residents of its Gallivan Housing development

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

NHC member Boston Housing Authority recently announced the launch of a new campus-based mentoring program for residents in its Gallivan Housing development. The program was launched in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, Babson College and the Olin College of Engineering.

The program was developed as a unique version of Big Brothers Big Sister and will give children living in Gallivan the opportunity to experience college life first-hand through one-on-one mentoring with a current Babson or Olin College student. The 18 student-mentor pairs will meet twice a month at the Babson College campus. The program’s goal is to inspire mentored students to become entrepreneurial leaders and service leaders in their communities.

“Our partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and now Babson College and Olin College, helps to provide our public housing youth with the tools they need to succeed,” Boston Housing Authority Administrator, Bill McGonagle, said in a press release. “For some of these young people, this will be their first time on a college campus, a crucial step towards furthering their educational potential.”

The opportunity Gallivan children receive through this mentoring partnership is one that is not often afforded to residents in affordable housing developments. Many of the children living in the Gallivan Housing development are from low-income, single-parent households, a population shown to benefit greatly from mentoring relationships that promote positive educational outcomes. Our recent literature review, The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education, examines key links between housing and education and how students achieve greater educational outcomes when they have access to affordable housing.

The partnership was developed by Babson alumnus Rich Greif, who now works as Big Brothers Big Sisters Massachusetts Bay’s marketing and community relations vice president. 

Affordable housing development expands with The Community Builders

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

NHC member The Community Builders, Inc. (TCB) continues its legacy of affordable housing preservation and development with a ribbon-cutting celebration in Yonkers, N.Y. for Schoolhouse Terrace Apartments, the first completed development in a planned six-phase neighborhood revitalization project. Additionally, TCB received $16.4 million in financing from NHC member MassHousing for renovations to its Chauncy House development in Boston.

The Chauncy House Apartments contain 22 studios and 66 one-bedroom apartments, all available for lower-income families though HUD Section 8 vouchers. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and will see a number of improvements happen, including kitchen and bathroom upgrades, improved ventilation, elevator upgrades and replacement windows. The fa├žade will also be power washed, patched and repaired.

"We are excited to be able to preserve quality affordable housing in Chinatown, a dynamic neighborhood which is under significant development pressure. Now, with financing from MassHousing, the 88 families that call Chauncy House home will have an even better place to live," TCB President and CEO Bart Mitchell said in a press release. In a separate press release he also expressed excitement about the completion of the Schoolhouse Terrace development.

“The Community Builders is proud of the transformation of the old Public School 6 site into beautiful mixed-income housing, which 120 Yonkers families can now call home. Beautiful housing, new educational opportunities and spending the construction dollars on jobs for local people all contribute to making Southwest Yonkers a fabulous place to live and work,” he said.

Schoolhouse Terrace features 50 units for low-income older adults and an additional 70 units for low-income families. The development is seeking LEED-Silver certification for its energy efficient design elements, which include green roofing and low-flow plumbing.

Phase II of the six-phase project, a 51-complex development is scheduled to be completed in spring 2016. The third development will feature 70 affordable units for low-income families in Yonkers. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

ConnectHome initiative brings broadband internet access to low-income D.C. families

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

Last month, NHC member District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) partnered with HUD and Everyone On to host a brainstorming workshop to promote the extension of affordable broadband Internet access to low-income families in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The session brought together public and private sector partners to discuss ways to enhance D.C.’s ConnectHome program, which increases educational and economic outcomes through connectivity for families living in HUD-assisted housing.

ConnectHome works with Internet service providers, nonprofits and the private sector to provide affordable broadband access, technical training and digital literacy programs, with the hope of eventually providing devices for Internet access to DCHA residents. Workshop participants discussed ways to overcome barriers faced by nearly 4,000 school-aged children living in DCHA properties and ways to finance the program to further decrease the costs.

“Fifty-four percent is… how many of our folks who do not have access to broadband,” DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman said during the workshop.  “To be successful, every single one of our youth must have access.”

NHC has been heavily involved in work around ensuring lower-income residents in affordable housing have access to broadband Internet. We’ve published several research case studies which show how housing providers can incorporate in-home Internet access, an important utility many low-income families cannot afford. Earlier this year, we also published a set of policy recommendations that could expand connectivity in affordable housing. If you’d like to learn more about how housing advocates, developers, lenders, public housing authorities, investors and others can work together to close the broadband connectivity gap, consider joining our Connectivity Working Group. Email Policy Associate Kaitlyn Snyder for more information.

DCHA’s goal is to connect 1,500 households to broadband Internet by July 2016. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Eight actions to help end homelessness among veterans

by Michael Taylor, Director, VA Homeless Veterans Outreach & Strategic Communications 

Nearly every member of the National Housing Conference (NHC) would agree that no one who served this country should be without a place to call home—period. Yet we can always use a reminder about the progress being made to end Veteran homelessness and about the ways we can join with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support this cause.

As you likely know, the nation’s leaders set an ambitious goal a few years back to end Veteran homelessness by making sure every Veteran has access to permanent housing. Led by VA, tremendous progress is being made. Community by community, localities across the country are announcing an end to homelessness among Veterans.

These successes show that it’s possible to not only end homelessness among Veterans but to end it among all Americans.

NHC members are integral to the national effort to make sure every Veteran is stably housed or on the pathway to permanent housing. NHC members are advocating for more affordable housing, broadening access to low-cost loans and financing and raising awareness about ways that state and local governments can boost the stock of low-cost housing for Veterans.

Yet there is always more to do and new ways to reach and serve Veterans who are homeless. VA recently shared eight ways that organizations not already involved in this fight can lend support, resources and voices to this cause:

  1. Connect Veterans to VA. VA can help Veterans who are homeless. If you encounter Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, encourage them to call or visit their local VA Medical Center, where VA staff are ready to assist. Veterans and their families can also access VA services by calling 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
  2. Make a commitment. If you’re not already doing so, set aside housing units each year for Veterans who are homeless. Agree to house Veterans both eligible and ineligible for Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers and supportive services.
  3. Help with Veterans’ security deposits and move-in costs. Even though many Veteran clients have a HUD-VASH voucher, NHC members know it can be hard for them to come up with the money to move in and buy furniture. There are ways to help. Join with community partners like Veterans Matter that raise funds to help Veterans secure first and last months’ rent, security deposits and move-in essentials so they can exit homelessness quickly and make their house a home.
  4. Work with the VA Voluntary Service office at your local VA Medical Center. Find or enlist other organizations in your area to provide security deposits, furniture, cookware and other move-in essentials for Veterans exiting homelessness. Check with VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) to see if there are ways to help.
  5. Participate in a Stand Down. Stand Downs connect Veterans in need with supplies and services that often lead to permanent housing. Chances are one is happening in your community. Consider contacting your area organizer to find out how to volunteer.
  6. Work with VA to recruit and hire Veterans exiting homelessness. Veterans have diverse experience, knowledge and abilities that are applicable to many different fields and levels of employment. Contact your local community employment coordinator at to find out if job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness in your area have skills that fit your job openings. 
  7. Start a conversation. Keep the issue of ending Veteran homelessness front and center. Every post, tweet or conversation about the issue builds to promote change. Discuss your organization’s work in ending Veteran homelessness on social media and encourage your members to share their many stories of success in housing Veterans who are homeless. Follow VA on social media.
  8. Get involved in other ways. Explore VA’s Ending Veteran Homelessness website to learn about VA programs for Veterans who are homeless. You can also visit VA’s “Get Involved” page to download outreach toolkits and information and share them with others. And be sure to check out the NHC Center for Housing Policy’s June 2015 report on tailoring housing services for a diverse Veteran population.

No Veteran who wore the uniform should be without a safe, stable home. By taking action in ways large and small, NHC members are helping end homelessness among Veterans, once and for all. If you have specific questions about how to get involved in these or other efforts to end homelessness among Veterans, email VA’s homeless Veterans’ outreach team.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A legacy of leadership

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference 

We are excited to be heading to New Orleans this week for our Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods 2015 Convening.  I want to thank our two local partners who organized mobile workshop tours, Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Orleans and the Gulf Coast office of Enterprise Community Partners. I also want to thank all our speakers, particularly our plenary speakers: Sandra Henriquez of Building Together, HUD Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti, Lindene Patton of CoreLogic and Carol Naughton of Purpose Built Communities. If you are not able to attend the convening you can view the plenary sessions via webcast on this page (free registration required). We hope you will tune in to hear the great discussions these speakers will participate in.

As we sift through the recently achieved agreement that lifted the debt ceiling and set the framework for the budget appropriations process for the next two years, three important points jump out. First, lifting the budget caps is a major victory for those who care about the federal government’s role in responding to the nation’s challenges. The caps were designed to be so egregious that members of Congress would find a budget solution rather than allow them to be implemented. It is a victory for good government that Congress can now make some better decisions about what to cut and what to increase. However, it is doubtful that Congress will get to a real examination of programs or major reforms in the tax code until at least 2017.

Second, strong advocacy and education are necessary to ensure funding for housing is better than a cut, or even a continuing resolution. As much as those of us in Washington are often preoccupied by the process, the most important point for the affordable housing community and ultimately for everyone in the U.S. without adequate housing is that there is a wide range of funding possibilities for housing programs. We must take the lead on advocating for them.

Finally, our advocacy cannot be limited to just the budget appropriations process.  Currently there is a bipartisan effort coming together to finally pass a long-overdue federal highway bill.  While there is strong political motivation to pass such a bill approaching an election year, there is less political will to raise the gas tax to pay for it.  Congress is currently looking to the fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as an alternative funding source.  This obviously makes housing financing more expensive, with little to no benefit to housing itself.  National organizations are working to bring their members together to oppose this, and I urge you to contact your members of Congress on this issue as well.

NHC has had so many in its leadership whose work has been vital to advancing the affordable housing movement. In leading an organization that has been around for almost 85 years, I want to make sure we recognize as many of those “housing heroes” as we can. Eugene F. “Gene” Ford, Sr., who passed away a few weeks ago, was one of those heroes. Gene was an affordable housing champion for the country and Washington, D.C. He began his active career in housing and real estate with The Carey Winston Company in the early 1950s. In 1966, he founded Mid-City Developers, Inc. which evolved into the current Mid-City Financial Corporation. The firm has developed, financed or facilitated the creation of over 40,000 units of affordable multifamily rental housing in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas. Gene received NHC’s Housing Person of the Year award in 1989 and was founder and chairman of the Community Preservation and Development Corporation, an NHC member, as well as chair and board member of the Institute for Responsible Housing Preservation. 

I find the life and career of someone like Gene incredibly inspiring, calling on us to reflect on how much can be done with the right combination of leadership, political will and expertise in the field.

Monday, November 2, 2015

BRIDGE Housing’s St. Joseph’s Campus wins 2015 ULI Global Award of Excellence

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

Last month the Urban Land Institute awarded 10 Global Awards of Excellence and NHC member BRIDGE Housing was among the recipients of one of the most prestigious honors in the land use industry. BRIDGE received the award for its St. Joseph’s Campus, comprised of the St. Joseph’s Senior Apartments and Terraza Palmera at St. Joseph’s.

The mixed-use community is located in Oakland’s Fruitvale District and provides 84 affordable apartments for low-income older adults and 62 affordable family rental homes. The community also features over 3,000 square feet of commercial space. From 1912, the campus was previously an underused historical landmark in Oakland that went through several phases of redevelopment to become what is today known as the St. Joseph’s Campus.

“We are incredibly honored to receive this prestigious award,” Cynthia A. Parker, president and CEO of BRIDGE said in a press release. “St. Joseph’s was a labor of love that took many years and 21 sources of financing across both phases. More importantly, the development preserved an important historic landmark in Oakland and provides multigenerational homes as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization.”

Representatives from BRIDGE Housing will be on hand in New Orleans later this week for our Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods Convening, where they will share how HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program can reshape communities and transform public housing. If you’re unable to attend in person, all convening plenary sessions will be webcast live. Registration is required to gain free access and you can sign up here.

The Global Award of Excellence recognizes real estate projects that achieve a high standard if excellence in construction, design, planning, economics and management.