Friday, July 31, 2015

Housing at the nexus of community development: Critical intersections to be discussed at November Convening

What we're building
by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

It sure doesn’t look like Congress will provide big new resources for affordable housing and community development this year (I’ve learned to avoid statements of absolutes, but this year is testing my resolve).  So people and organizations looking to create affordable homes and revive struggling neighborhoods are finding new ideas that work in a low-subsidy environment.  NHC is working to encourage creative community development efforts that put housing at the intersection of health, education, economic development, transportation and more.

Just a few examples of housing solutions that put housing at the intersection of health, education, economic development, transportation, public safety and more:
  • Mapping land at the parcel level to connect many layers of information that can inform policymaking and development efforts.
Participants in our Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force have heard about all of these, and many more.  If you want to explore further, come to our Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods event in New Orleans, November 5-6, where in-depth workshops and plenary sessions will explore cutting edge ideas for comprehensive community development centered on housing.

Even with our strongest advocacy, it will be a heavy lift for Congress to provide new funds for affordable housing and community development, at least this year.  Eventually, however, members of Congress will find an opportunity to allocate the resources that build loyal constituencies. When they do, let’s make sure affordable housing can point to proven solutions that can change lives and communities for the better.

2015 Gala honorees to share community development successes at November convening

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz 

Our 43rd Annual Gala this past June honored two comprehensive community development initiatives in Columbus, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia. Now, Ohio’s Community Properties Initiative and Atlanta’s Piece by Piece Regional Foreclosure Response Initiative will join NHC this November in New Orleans at our 2015 Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods Convening to share insights on how their respective community development models have achieved success.
The Community Properties Initiative was founded at the request of Ohio State University and its on-campus community development subsidiary, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment. Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH) acquired the portfolio of 250 buildings with over 1,330 Section 8 housing units in and adjacent to the Weinland Park neighborhood. Since its beginning 12 years ago, The Community Properties Initiative has remained true to its goal of community engagement and accountability by establishing and maintaining partnerships with stakeholders in the community.
Piece by Piece was founded in 2010 to counter the damage the Atlanta metropolitan area experienced as a result of the foreclosure crisis. Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) convened more than 140 public- and private-sector housing leaders from the federal, state, local and county levels with various certifications, information and expertise that could be combined together to have a powerful impact on the foreclosure crisis. Piece by Piece partners with housing leaders to host sector meetings that engage housing officials in local government, research, lending and housing counseling. These meetings offer insight into foreclosure mitigation processes, strategies to combat foreclosure and open the floor for discussions on how to tackle the long-term impacts of foreclosure.
These initiatives were honored with the Housing Visionary Award for their consistent work to create affordable housing and strengthen communities. The Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods Convening will explore solutions for creating affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods with sessions that demonstrate how housing is a nexus connected to education, transportation, economic development, health, the environment, public safety and other social issues. Hear from representatives from these great initiatives, and from housing leaders around the country, about practical lessons for our own communities.
Read more about our 2015 Gala honorees here, and check back soon for more information about Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New report outlines four ideas for moving beyond the poor door

by Robert Hickey, National Housing Conference

Last fall I wrote in this space about how the media’s fixation on the rare but notorious “poor door” phenomenon misplaces outrage, and how we shouldn’t lose sight of the more important issue of pernicious segregation in our nation’s neighborhoods and schools, and the need for solutions that lead to more inclusive, mixed-income neighborhoods.

But while the “poor door” may have been over-hyped, it does point to an important challenge: inclusionary housing can be tricky in denser, city settings, especially where new construction is predominantly in high-rise structures. When high land prices necessitate taller buildings that entail expensive materials, it can be difficult to meet affordability requirements within the same building as market-rate housing units, adding pressure on developers to cut corners. And when affordable condominiums are located in high-amenity buildings with expensive condo fees, these costs can undermine the overall affordability of these homes.

In a new report out this week, I present four ideas for how cities can improve the workability of inclusionary housing policies in cities by making them more flexible.  I offer suggestions for how policies can offer developers more ways to meet their affordability obligations, and more locations in which to do so – while preserving the objective of fostering mixed-income communities.

While most inclusionary housing policies today offer some form of alternative to on-site affordability, as well as the option to appeal for an overall waiver, city policies would benefit from offering additional options. As I discuss, localities might want to build off the recent experience of New York City, Montgomery County, Md., and Boulder, Colo. with allowing developers to increase or preserve the affordability of existing market-rate housing, in particular affordable homes at risk of being lost in gentrifying neighborhoods. Or follow San Diego and Boulder’s lead in allowing off-site affordable units in a variety of locations where poverty levels are low and core amenities are present, such as transit or walkable streets.

As more cities take up inclusionary housing, let’s stay focused on the goal of creating mixed-income communities and expand the number of pathways to getting there, so that inclusionary housing will be feasible in both low- and high-rise structures and our overall housing supply can continue to grow.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LISC initiative creates safe neighborhoods through comprehensive crime reduction

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz

Opportunities for effective education, transportation, public safety, economic development, health, job training and much more are key factors in ensuring community development and revitalization is successful, and when neighborhoods have access to safe, affordable housing, they have greater opportunities to access education, transportation and much more. For more than 20 years, the Community Safety Initiative (CSI) of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has worked to create safe neighborhoods through partnerships with community residents, law enforcement and community developers.

LISC’s CSI has facilitated comprehensive crime reduction measures to ensure public safety in revitalized communities through a four-pronged model that incorporates revitalization strategies, engagement of neighborhood residents, using data and research, and diverse cross-sector partnerships.  Through a partnership with the Department of Justice’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program, LISC’s work has included emphasis on public safety through combined collaboration, community empowerment, commitment from local law enforcement and infrastructure investments. Since the partnership began, the Byrne program has facilitated comprehensive crime reduction measures in 46 communities using this four-pronged approach.

Four cities, Austin, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Syracuse, have successful programs using different elements of the LISC-Byrne model. Work in Austin focuses on immigrant and refugee communities and improving resident relationships with the police force. Milwaukee’s emphasis is on preventing crime through community tools like safety audits and mapping to determine new ways to improve neighborhood safety, while San Antonio improves police-resident relationships by bringing probation meetings to residents who cannot access or afford public transportation. Community members in Syracuse used peacemaking strategies to create a neutral community space that deters crime.

LISC’s CSI and collaboration with the Byrne Program will be one of several comprehensive community development initiatives highlighted this November at our second Solutions convening of the year, Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods.

View LISC’s presentation at NHC’s July Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force meeting to learn more about their comprehensive community development work. 

Investment in housing and neighborhoods is investment in health

Solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D.

An individual’s health and well-being is affected by a number of different factors. Research consistently shows that where people live is an important determinant of positive physical and mental health outcomes. The Center for Housing Policy has completed a series of research briefs that describe the intersections between housing and health, analyze opportunities for the housing and health communities to collaborate and highlight successful programs that have integrated housing and health services.

In the context of ongoing national and state efforts to reform health care, it is important for policymakers to understand the various pathways through which housing and neighborhoods affect health. As an update to earlier reviews on the relationship between housing and health, the Center has released a review of the recent research on the various ways in which the production, rehabilitation or other provision of affordable housing may affect health outcomes for children, adults and older adults.

In an effort to help housing and community development professionals learn more about how to collaborate with the health community, the Center has also released a paper that explains how the Medicaid program works and describes key changes made by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This tutorial on the health care environment focuses on opportunities for affordable housing providers to collaborate with health care organizations to address the impact that housing has on the health of a low-income individuals.

Finally, to highlight concrete examples of successful housing-health collaborations, the Center has produced three case studies of innovative programs across the country—Hennepin Health in Minnesota, the Georgia Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and the Creston Avenue Residence in New York, the first supportive housing project to use Medicaid funds for capital expenses. These case studies describe the process by which housing providers work with health care organizations to improve housing and health conditions of residents. The analyses also highlight challenges and obstacles to integrating housing and health services, and offer innovative solutions to pursue moving forward.

The integration of housing and health is increasingly important given the changing health care landscape, the aging of the population and the growing concern about rising health care costs. The Center for Housing Policy is eager to continue this work on housing and health, and to connect our research with not only housing and community development professionals, but also with the health community. One key goal of this work is to provide research and information to help housing and health strategies to be incorporated into broader community development efforts.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ending housing segregation

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference 

This letter to the editor appeared in the New York Times on July 24, 2015. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s long-awaited empowerment of state and local governments to make real efforts to end housing segregation is welcome and necessary (“The End of Federally Financed Ghettos,” editorial, July 12). But your editorial unfairly blames nonprofit housing developers for housing segregation. 

Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty arose from decades of development shaped by government policies. Fair housing law responds by ensuring that all Americans have equal access to housing and opportunities that lead to a fruitful life. Nonprofit developers work to improve housing in distressed communities and make affordable housing available in better-resourced places. But their efforts are small compared with the housing created privately and regulated locally.

America should be a country where every place has good schools, ample job opportunities and quality rental and homeownership opportunities affordable to a wide range of people. Ensuring availability of affordable housing in areas of opportunity is a necessary step. Creating better housing, jobs and services in distressed communities is another. We can — and must — do both. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

White House Conference on Aging shows more advocacy needed for older adults’ housing needs

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference

Last week’s  White House Conference on Aging celebrated two important developments for the wellbeing of older adults in the U.S.: the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, and the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference assembled a wide variety of stakeholders who are integral in supporting healthy and productive aging among Americans and fostered discussion of the progress the country has made in supporting the wellbeing of older adults as they age.

Speakers called out the work that still needs to be done to address the diverse and growing older adult population and their many different needs. This includes the need for affordable, accessible and supportive housing, as explored by a report from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy, Housing an Aging Population.

President Obama commented on the how the Affordable Care Act is critical to expanding opportunities for older adults to receive supportive services in their homes and communities if they need assistance to continue living independently. The Center recently examined several effective models for home- and community-based supportive services in urban, suburban and rural communities in its report, Aging in Every Place.

While speakers addressed the importance of supporting the financial security of older adults as they age, they did not address the key role affordable housing plays in the wellbeing of older adults. Almost half of the lowest income older adults devote 50 percent or more of their income to their housing. This has a major impact on their wellbeing and makes NHC’s advocacy for more affordable and accessible housing options for older adults even more critical as the number of older adults continue to rise rapidly.

As the speakers at the conference emphasized, in order to take advantage of the experience and ideas that older adults have to offer, we need to be flexible in how we envision the role of older adults in our society and give them the tools they need to continue to be independent and contributing members of our communities as they age. NHC is devoted to advocating for innovating and effective approaches to developing and preserving housing that meets the various affordability, accessibility and supportive service needs of America’s older adults. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Climate resilience and equity in low-income communities

By Emily Brown, National Housing Conference

On July 9, the Center for American Progress and the National League of Cities hosted a discussion about “Building Climate Resilience for Equitable Communities: City, Federal and Tribal Perspectives.” Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), gave the opening remarks. The panel featured perspectives from local and tribal government with Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City and Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa as well as perspectives from the federal government with Harriet Tregoning, principal deputy assistant secretary, Office of Community Planning and Development Resilience, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Mustafa Santiago Ali, senior advisor to the administrator for environmental justice in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In Director Donovan’s opening remarks he spoke of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and new initiatives to ensure that low and moderate income communities are protected from the effects of climate change. Low-income communities and communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change including rising sea levels and more intense storms. Tribal communities are some of the most impacted because changing climate can jeopardize their access to traditional foods, threatening public health, food security and cultural wellbeing. Recent initiatives are beginning to address these inequities:
  • The new Resilience AmeriCorps program, a public-private partnership with the mission of helping communities plan and carry out climate resilience measures. 
  • The newly announced Obama Administration initiative to expand access to solar energy for low- and moderate-income communities including 300 megawatts of clean energy from solar panels on public housing developments.  
Efforts to better plan for disasters and climate change are changing to better serve vulnerable populations. In the past, HUD’s community disaster recovery efforts prioritized returning communities to normalcy. However, noted Tregoning, putting people back exactly how and where they were prior to a disaster doesn’t make sense in terms of planning for future climate disasters. It makes more sense to plan for a changing climate and changing economy, which is exactly the thought that inspired HUD’s new National Disaster Resilience Competition

On another note, as Senior Advisor Ali explained in his remarks, one vital aspect of ensuring that communities remain strong in the face of climate change is involving residents as equal partners during the decision-making processes. Communities are frequently aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Residents know how well their neighborhood is served by public transit and what resources they can access. This valuable local knowledge can help policymakers and advocates more effectively empower a community to meet its needs and to weather the effects of climate change. Additionally, due to the historic prioritization of physical infrastructure, social resiliency is an undervalued but fundamental piece that impacts how communities heal in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Along with community empowerment, the discussion highlighted the importance of cross-jurisdictional partnerships and regional collaboration, and underlined the fact that each community will have a different approach to climate resilience. A webcast of the discussion is available online

Thursday, July 16, 2015

House subcommittee hearing discusses strengths and challenges of HUD’s public and Indian housing programs

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

On July 10, 2015, the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the future of housing in America and the oversight of public and Indian housing. Testimony from Ms. Lourdes Castro Ramirez, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), highlighted how HUD has been working to improve its public and Indian housing programs, how well the programs function and their limited success at reaching more households without greater funding. Testimony from Mr. Daniel Garcia-Diaz, director of financial markets and community investments for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), showed that some public and Indian housing programs do have room for improvements, but his statement also recognized the active approach HUD was taking to address many of GAO’s concerns. Some committee members questioned the efficiency of the public and Indian housing programs and others raised concern about the Moving to Work (MTW) program; in response Ms. Castro Ramirez highlighted the strengths of PIH programs and HUD’s recent and ongoing efforts to improve PIH programs.

Ms. Castro Ramirez testified first, discussing the growth of the public housing programs and improvements that have been made over time. Since 1965, public housing and housing choice vouchers moved from serving 600,000 households to serving over 4.6 million. Public housing agencies (PHAs) have a 96 percent occupancy rate and a 98 percent utilization rate for vouchers. Ms. Castro Ramirez also discussed how public housing programs have been underfunded for decades, making it difficult to preserve the current supply or create new units.

Mr. Garcia-Diaz testified about recent GAO studies of PIH programs and explained that HUD is actively working to address many of GAO’s recommendations including streamlining administration of the voucher program, beginning to provide guidance on how to handle public housing reserve funds and developing outcomes information and reporting measures for the Moving to Work program. HUD has also significantly reduced improper payments since 2000.

The subsequent discussion among the committee members covered many topics within PIH, including:
  • Rep. Luetkemeyer (R- Mo.) asked about the program structure and efficiency. Ms. Castro Ramirez discussed the challenges to administer the program facing PHAs given recent cuts to the administrative fee.
  • Rep. Cleaver (D-Mo.) highlighted the strengths of the Family Self Sufficiency program. 
  • Rep. Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Velasquez (D-N.Y.) questioned the Moving to Work program and asked for HUD to provide more data on outcomes from the program. Both members expressed concern about a lack of standards and performance metrics. Rep. Royce (R-Calif.) expressed support for the MTW program because of how well it works for the San Bernardino Housing Authority. 
  • Ms. Castro Ramirez responded to the conversation around MTW with HUD’s recent efforts to strengthen agreements with the 39 MTW agencies, focusing on four areas: update administrative and legal requirements, add stronger evaluations, address funding inequities and add strong language about continuing to serve the same number of families. 
  • Rep. Pearce (R-N.M.) asked HUD to consider changes to give tribes and tribal agencies more flexibility for implementing federal Indian housing programs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Changing veteran housing needs

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference

Many veterans face severe housing challenges due to their experiences in military service and other factors. Among veterans, there are some populations that have unique housing and supportive service needs that are not always met by the programs currently available. NHC’s new report, Housing and Service Needs of Our ChangingVeteran Population, explores the changing demographics of the veteran population and identifies their special housing and supportive service needs.

Veterans age 55 or older make up almost two-thirds of the entire veteran population. As they age, these veterans face many of the same health challenges as their civilian counterparts. Many older veterans face mobility challenges that make it difficult to live in their current homes without modifications or supportive services. Many older veterans also struggle to afford their homes as they get older.

The number of female veterans is steadily growing as more women join the military. Many have children and a large share of female veterans struggle with economic and housing insecurity. Female veterans with children often have a difficult time finding housing appropriate for their families and connecting to supportive housing that addresses their unique challenges.

Veterans who joined the military after 9/11 make up a large share of the overall veteran population. Many of them live in metro areas where typical home prices exceed what they can afford at their median income. This places homeownership out of reach for many younger veterans.

The report also includes policy recommendations to improve veterans’ access to the affordable and supportive housing they need. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Promising approaches to using affordable housing in health care

by Janet Viveiros

NHC’s latest work on the connection between housing and health is three profiles of promising approaches to using health Medicaid funds for housing related needs of low-income individuals and families.
  • Addressing Housing as a Health Care Treatment: Hennepin Health, a Hennepin County, Minn. Accountable Care Organization, is a new kind of health care delivery organization focusing on integrating social services into health care. Serving non-disabled, low-income adults enrolled on Medicaid, Hennepin offers housing navigation services and case management to help members find stable and affordable housing.    
  • Using Health CareSavings to Construct Supportive Housing in New York: New York State is implementing a variety of Medicaid reform initiatives, including the use of state Medicaid savings to finance supportive housing development. The Creston Avenue Residence is a new mixed affordable and supportive housing development in New York City financed in part with state Medicaid savings.
  • Collaborating withHousing Quality Stakeholders to Reduce Home Health Risks: Lead poisoning, often resulting from exposure to lead paint in older homes, poses a serious health threat to children. The Georgia Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (GHHLPPP) uses Medicaid and other funding to carry out blood lead testing, home lead hazards assessments and education to prevent lead poisoning among low-income children. GHHLPPP will soon begin piloting home asthma risk assessments for children with severe asthma.

The programs and housing development highlighted in these profiles are leading the way in breaking through the silos of housing and health care. They offer examples of new approaches to improving the health of low-income individuals by ensuring they have safe, stable and affordable housing. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Raising our voices: Moving housing forward in the current environment requires collaboration

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

I hope you had a safe and restful Independence Day weekend. As D.C. settles back down after a flurry of activity, from the Supreme Court rulings to the big holiday weekend, this is usually the time when things here get quieter. This does not mean that the work on policy and funding stops. Achieving a bipartisan plan to lift the budget caps will be a significant effort for NHC and one we hope will unite all affordable housing and community development organizations.

While we still feel many state and national elected officials have yet to truly grapple with the significant shortage of affordable rental housing, we have been especially pleased to see how frequently affordable housing and economic opportunity issues have appeared recently in media across the country. Several news outlets reported on “State of the Nation’s Housing 2015,” released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. And a data visualization from the New York Times highlights how location dramatically impacts opportunity and income, echoing the Urban Institute report Rebekah writes about below.

These are important stories and themes for us to weave together for policy makers as we all work to build the awareness and understanding of the housing issues that impact our communities.

One of NHC’s consistent goals since I have been here has been to elevate affordable housing as a bipartisan issue. We have worked hard to increase the political diversity of our Board of Governors and feature speakers from both sides of the aisle at our events. As Ethan notes below and in his recent Open House blog post, we are now seeing more Republican political leaders talking about housing. These are tremendous opportunities for the housing community to engage in dialog with folks as these issues and policy proposals are raised.

As we look to how to address our nation’s housing affordability challenges in this resource-constrained environment, all of us must be willing to engage, educate and think about new ways of addressing these issues.

As always, thanks for being a member of NHC.

Telling your housing story

News from NHC
by Amy Clark, National Housing Conference

Last month I had the pleasure of traveling to Melbourne, Fla. for the Florida Alliance of Community Development Corporations 2015 Summit. Titled “How to Tell the Community Development Story,” the vision for the summit was to help community development professionals not just improve how they work, but improve how they talk about their work as well.

Over the course of giving my presentation and working with Alliance members on their stories, I found that while this was a talented group of community developers, they had some difficulty stepping back far enough from the details to simply and effectively describe their work. Sound familiar? We all suffer from this affliction to one degree or another. Here are some ways to tackle it.

Dig deep for values. Your work is more than just a list of programs or developments. To get in touch with the big picture, ask yourself some questions, starting with, “What gets me out the door and into work every day?” Often, the answer is something like “Helping people find affordable homes.” Then, ask yourself, “What does finding an affordable home mean for my clients?” Keep asking, digging deeper until you get to universal concepts like stability, opportunity or dignity, the values that underlie your work. The next time someone asks you what you do for work, instead of saying “I connect equity investors with affordable housing developers,” you can say, “I help create opportunity for people in my community.”

Illustrate with stories. As I shared with summit attendees, research shows that a narrative can make facts 22 times more memorable than data alone. Studies have also shown that different parts of a story, like the conflict, climax, resolution and ending, trigger the listener’s body to release various hormones that make the story more vivid and compelling. The next time you need to describe what you do, use dramatic structure to shape a memorable story about your work.

Leverage your narrative. The characters and themes in the stories we tell point the listener to ways of thinking about housing issues that can help us in the long run. It’s common to tell portrait stories, narratives that center around a single person. While they can be helpful for fundraising, these stories can also encourage the listener to judge the individual being profiled. Instead, we can tell landscape stories, stories that feature not just an individual but all the people and resources involved in a family or individuals’ journey to stability. Landscape stories make clear the systems and structures involved in housing and community development, and point the listener toward structural solutions to affordable housing challenges.

From time to time, all of us can get buried in the details of our work. But by learning to tell stories about what we do, we can capture peoples’ imaginations and help them understand the true value we bring to people and communities. Take a look at my slides from the summit (Housing Communications HUB registration required), and look out for more storytelling tools in the future from NHC. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Building trust to build communities

What we're building
by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

Fair housing connects to widely shared American values of equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination.  It also triggers divisive policy discussions about just how to achieve those values and fear of penalty for violating rules.  Starting from the practical realities of existing patterns of housing and lessons learned by many housing practitioners, NHC is working to help make communities stronger by building trust within the housing community based on our shared values.

Many different parts of the housing community need to work on fair housing.  Public sector agencies set the rules by which housing is built, financed and put into use.  At the state and local level, policy choices have powerful effects on housing costs, location and quality, but many state and local governments are wary of federal requirements and sometimes opaque enforcement.  At the federal level, HUD sees limited capacity for implementing housing policy in many localities, intransigence in a few and its own resource limitations for technical assistance and enforcement.  Over time, trust has eroded on both sides.

The public sector rules and enforcement have real costs and benefits for the private sector companies in the business of housing.  Trust is essential here, too: that rules will be applied fairly and allow business to proceed, and that businesses will make the investments needed to truly make systems fairer.  Mission-oriented organizations and government assistance help to fill the needs left unmet by imperfect markets, but they are profoundly resource constrained and cannot be the sole focus of fair housing efforts. 

The theme of trust runs throughout NHC’s work in fair housing.  Our reaction to the recent Supreme Court decision emphasized that our Inclusive Communities Working Group aims to help states and localities  learn from each other how to build communities that include people of all backgrounds, in ways compatible with both private enterprise and public sector objectives.  Our regulatory comments, convenings and resources around HUD’s forthcoming rule on affirmatively furthering fair housing emphasize the need for trust between the federal government and state and local governments while making measurable progress.  Look for more on this theme at our Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods convening in New Orleans, November 5-6.

We’re all better off if people can live near where they work, study and build their lives.  Getting there requires trust, which only comes through experience and shared values.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation, NAHRO release Value of Home

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

Last month, NHC members National Association of Housing Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) and Public Housing Authority Directors Association (PHADA), in partnership with the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) and Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), released Value of Home, their analysis of the latest data on the need for and value of rental assistance and the impact that assisted housing has on communities. The said goal of this report is to increase focus on housing assistance for people with low incomes.

Key findings from the report include that assisted families are significantly more likely to include children, seniors and disabled individuals, with 41 percent of assisted individuals being children and 50 percent of households headed by an elderly or disabled person. The report shows that recipients of rental assistance report better economic outcomes and greater stability in comparison to low-income unassisted renters, and that the presence of assisted housing in a community has been shown to contribute to economic development and revitalization, and reduce homelessness.

To further the conversation on these findings, PAHRC hosted a Twitter chat on June 23, moderated by Erika Poethig of the Urban Institute. Chatters discussed research demonstrating the growing need for affordable housing and the innovative ways in which housing assistance can serve residents and improve communities. Participants also had the opportunity to ask questions and share their own housing policy research.

Rental housing and assistance has significant impact on low- to moderate-income families and the communities in which they live. Our Policy Symposium last month tackled the ways in which affordable rental housing can be a platform for future success.  Rental housing experts discussed ways to determine the most cost-effective approaches to rental housing, ways to replicate and scale strategies and attract funding, and how those solutions improve the lives of residents. A free video recording of the event is available to view on our website.

Learn more about the Value of Home series here

NHC Board elections, Annual Gala and Policy Symposium

News from NHC
by Amy Clark and Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference

Many of our members and friends are familiar with our Annual Gala. But June 11 and 12 were about more than just a celebratory gathering of the housing community.

We started the day Thursday morning with our Board of Governors meeting. We said thank you to John Kelly for his three years of leadership as chair, and welcomed Ted Chandler to his new role. While we are sad to see some of our board members step down, they will be ably replaced by the new slate of board members elected by the membership.

Thursday night’s Gala kicked off with a rousing performance from "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Corps Band. Gala co-chairs Senator Mel Martinez and Nancy O. Andrews of LIIF shared what this year's theme, creating community, means to them and their work. Audience members were touched by the moving stories shared by this year's Housing Visionary Award honorees, Piece by Piece Regional Foreclosure response Initiative led by Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, and The Community Properties Initiative led by Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. Following the program, our guests enjoyed conversation, corn pudding and the sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing that they contributed to the Gala, exceeding NHC's fundraising goal.

The events of Friday opened early for Young Leaders in Affordable Housing members with a breakfast meeting on the future of the affordable housing field and the role young leaders can play. Kris Siglin of the Housing Partnership Network and Ali Solis of Enterprise Community Partners spoke at the session moderated by YLAH president Eva Wingren.

As Ethan said in our blog last week, the Policy Symposium "showed [the] many ways that housing can be a solution, and it drew together housing stakeholders to learn from each other." The keynote and research presentation helped us think about the importance of quality affordable housing at every stage of life, and the panels helped us think about the different ways homeownership and supportive rental housing create opportunity for people and communities.

We couldn’t close this reflection in good conscience without expressing the NHC staff and leadership's deeply felt gratitude for our sponsors, especially JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. They and all of our Gala and Policy Symposium sponsors make our work possible all year round. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Republicans are talking about housing and poverty. Are housers listening?

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

In a speech at the National Press Club today, Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry talked about block granting housing programs as part of a solution to poverty. Along with House Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Perry is now one of two prominent GOP leaders talking about major policy change involving housing as a response to poverty. These proposals have a long way to go before any kind of enactment, but the housing community should engage with them now or risk being left out of the conversation.

Perry’s speech was surprising more for its tone, which sounded more like a general election speech than a primary speech, than its level of detail, which was still quite limited. He focused heavily on the economic situation in African-American communities and pointed to stubbornly high poverty rates as evidence of the failure of current approaches. He referenced values that cut across party lines: safe neighborhoods, housing and college costs that are affordable, the American Dream. He pointed to local policies that limit creation of new housing.

His proposed response is a “welfare reform bill” that replaces current “non-health care-related, anti-poverty programs” with an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit and block grants to the states. The speech had little further detail, but even that brief description signals sweeping change. It is our obligation as housers to provide information to policymakers thinking through these ideas, to help them understand how such change could affect long-standing investments in housing as well as where the real opportunities for constructive change exist.

Housing need cuts across party lines and geographic boundaries. So should housing advocacy.

LISC, LIIF awarded New Markets Tax Credits

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

The U.S. Treasury recently awarded two NHC members $60 and $70 million, respectively, in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC). The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) was awarded $60 million in credits and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) received $70 million. The funds will be used to spur economic development in distressed communities across the country.

Both organizations have a strong track record of using tax credit funding to boost development and reduce poverty and crime in communities. LISC has used past funds to construct a state-of-the-art library and community center in Petersburg, Va., a new health center in St. Paul, Minn. and a charter school in Harlem. Past funding for LIIF has financed redevelopment of Memphis, Tenn.’s Sears Crosstown, a state-of-the-art mixed-use facility consisting of commercial, residential and mixed-income space.  The development will also include office space, health clinics and an arts- and sciences-based charter high school.

“The NMTC program allows LIIF to make investments that spur economic growth and opportunity in high poverty areas with limited access to traditional capital sources,” Nancy O. Andrews, LIIF’s president and CEO said in a press release. Michael Rubinger, president and CEO of LISC, also shared that NMTC funds “encourage the private market to lend and invest in places that would otherwise seem too risky, sparking new opportunities and bringing new goods and services to people who need them.”

Since its establishment in 2000, the New Markets Tax Credits program has funded revitalization in low-income communities across the country. This awarding of funds is the last without congressional action after the NMTC program expired in 2014. The Senate Finance Committee has formed working groups on the program and is working to get the credit extended indefinitely. NHC supports the NMTC program and would like to see it extended. We’re closely monitoring congressional action around the New Markets Tax credit Extension Act of 2015. 

LIIF and LISC were among 76 total organizations awarded $3.5 billion in tax credit allocations by the U.S. Treasury. Nancy Andrews of LIIF co-chaired NHC’s Annual Gala this year. 

Affordable housing is much more than a roof

Solutions through research
by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy

Affordable housing is health care. Research is continually deepening our understanding of the critical role of safe, affordable and quality housing in supporting good health for people of all ages. People’s need for housing goes beyond just shelter. Having a stable, safe and affordable place to live means that households have greater resources to access health care, less exposure to toxins that cause illness and lower levels of stress associated with being unable to afford housing or facing homelessness.  

At NHC’s Policy Symposium on June 12, Dr. Megan Sandel, a physician and researcher with Children’s HealthWatch, spoke about the lasting harmful effects that homelessness has on children. Her research team found that children’s health is negatively impacted by being homeless before they are even born. As a physician, she wishes she “could write a prescription for housing” in order to treat many housing related illnesses such as severe asthma. She encouraged affordable housing organizations to identify and approach community hospitals and other health care institutions to begin working together to use affordable housing to improve the health of community members.  

As the federal government and states explore ways to contain health care spending through improving health instead of just treating illness, there are new opportunities for housing providers to work with the health sector to improve the wellbeing of low-income families and individuals. NHC’s recent paper, Affordable Housing’s Place in Health Care, explores some of these new options for collaboration between housing providers and health care organizations. The affordable housing community must begin engaging the health community in order to access new, or leverage existing, sources of funding for affordable housing and supportive services.  

Many organizations are already forming innovative partnerships and housing developments. Look for NHC’s three profiles of promising affordable housing and health collaborations which will be released later this week. The profiles feature:
  • NHC member Volunteers of America’s new affordable and supportive housing development in New York City.
  • Hennepin County, Minn.’s Accountable Care Organization, integrating health care with social services and housing navigation assistance.
  • Georgia’s Healthy Housing and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which uses Medicaid and other funds to test blood lead levels in children and conduct home risk assessments for lead exposure and other home hazards.

These programs and housing development are new and still evolving. They offer examples for how affordable housing organizations can think about ways to better serve their low-income residents by working with health care organizations to use housing to support good health. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Improving intergenerational mobility by investing in people and place

By Emily Brown, National Housing Conference

On June 25, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research held a panel discussion on upward mobility, mixed-income housing and the importance of place. The discussion, entitled “Investing in People and Places for Upward Mobility,” was moderated by Katherine O’Regan, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. Early in the discussion, O’Regan brought up intergenerational mobility, a child’s chance of advancing up the income distribution ladder relative to their parents, often a measure of opportunity. In the United States, intergenerational mobility is declining and is lower than in similar nations. Intergenerational mobility varies by race, with white children experiencing more opportunities for mobility and black children experiencing fewer.

The dialogue focused on mixed-income communities as a key strategy to improve outcomes for low-income families; creating mixed-income communities can be done through two approaches. The first, investing in people, involves facilitating the mobility of low-income individuals to low-poverty areas. The second, investing in place, focuses on a comprehensive community development approach that supports the transformation of a neighborhood. During the lively discussion, a few key themes emerged.

Strategies for supporting upward mobility vary and are as unique as the communities themselves. Panelists offered several strategies for promoting upward mobility and creating mixed-income communities.
  1. Provide high quality housing.
  2. Increase neighborhood safety.
  3. Invest in on-site services. 
  4. Leverage private, public and philanthropic funding.
  5. Provide strong role models within the community.
  6. Track a community’s performance over time to allow for mid-course corrections.
  7. Combine housing opportunities with improving schools.
  8. Develop strategies to address the challenges of sustaining resident engagement, staff capacity and financial resources.
Collaborative efforts allow for the strongest projects. Advocates should break down silos and allow housing efforts to work in tandem with investments in education and community wellness. Shared metrics ensure that partners share a vision of the future of the neighborhood. Finally, a diversified funding stream has great value, particularly when advocates can leverage the power of private investment.

Success can be difficult to measure. Each community is unique and will have different metrics of success, which makes measuring this success a complex task. Additionally, many indicators of improved outcomes – such as health or quality of life – are longer-term and subjective, making them more difficult to track. Some panelists agree that we need to rethink short-term performance metrics, because short-term metrics can be misleading.

For more information on some emerging projects or resources, keep an eye on the following:

Community Preservation and Development Corporation kicks off revitalization of affordable development

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

NHC member Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) was joined last month by Mayor Muriel Bowser and various housing leaders to celebrate the planned revitalization of affordable housing developments in the Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Edgewood Commons, formerly known as Edgewood Terrace, was a haven for open-air drug markets before CPDC acquired and redeveloped the portfolio of properties between 1995 and 2001. It is now in the process of being transformed into a mixed-use community of economically diverse residents. CPDC’s approach for the redevelopment is to prevent the displacement and disruptions of current residents and those who have lived in the community for a number of years by preserving affordability.

“We know that even more important than physical renovations, communities thrive when residents are invested and take ownership in the place they call home,” Pamela Lyons, CPDC’s senior vice president of resident services said in a press release. “Our inclusive approach to resident engagement has spurred a cultural transformation at Edgewood—one of asset-based community building, organizing and engagement.”

Community revitalization and stabilization will be the focus of NHC’s Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods convening Nov. 5-6 in New Orleans. The convening will draw connections between housing an economic development, and include policy developments and practical solutions. More details will be available soon, so save the date and plan to attend the convening. 

The first phase of redevelopment was completed last year. Phase II, consisting of 292 apartment homes, is currently underway.