Wednesday, September 30, 2015

DC Housing Authority awards 13 ‘Commitment to Excellence’ scholarships

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



NHC member District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) is promoting education and self-sufficiency to residents of public housing through its ‘Commitment to Excellence’ scholarship program. Thirteen students who live in DCHA properties or are Housing Choice Voucher Program recipients were recently awarded $25,000 worth of scholarships.

Three students earned $5,000 scholarships and 10 others received $1,000 awards. Scholarship recipients must have met minimum requirements of at least a 2.0 GPA or a 225 minimum score on the GED exam. They attend or will attend various schools around the country including Hampton University, Trinity Washington University and the College of St. Joseph. DCHA sees the scholarships as investments in the futures of its recipients and a way of promoting self-sufficiency and higher education.

“DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman said it best when she said that the importance of a college degree or trade/technical training cannot be overstated,” Sherrill Hampton, director of DCHA’s Office of Resident Services said in a press release. “[We] believe in the power of education to help residents enhance self-sufficiency and achieve their dreams,” she added.

Research shows that a safe, affordable living environment has lasting positive impacts on a child’s ability to learn. Our research brief, The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education demonstrates how stable, affordable housing reduces stress and lessons the likelihood of students dropping out.

Scholarship recipients range from freshman to graduate students. DCHA’s nonprofit subsidiary, Community Vision, Inc., assisted with awarding the scholarships. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Paycheck to Paycheck 2015 examines housing challenges of millennial workers

by Mindy Ault, National Housing Conference

In our 2015 edition of Paycheck to Paycheck, released today, we focus on housing affordability for millennials, the much discussed and stereotyped generation of young adults. Millennials, adults who were between the ages of 18 and 33 in 2013, make up about one-third of the U.S. workforce, and that share will grow as older workers retire and younger millennials finish their education and replace them in the labor market. We used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey to examine the demographic characteristics of this group to find that, contrary to their frequent portrayal in popular culture, this cohort is much more diverse than the archetype of the young urban hipster would indicate.

Millennials, as a group, are more ethnically and racially diverse than the previous generation. About 58 percent of the millennial labor force is white, compared to nearly 67 percent of older workers. About one-third of millennials live with their parents; another third live with roommates, relatives or in a group setting; and about a quarter of millennials live with a spouse or partner. Nearly 44 percent of millennial heads of household have children. They’re also attaining higher levels of education than their older counterparts. The share of older millennials (those aged 25 and over) with a bachelor’s degree or higher is greater than that for older adults. Despite their higher educational attainment, however, employed millennials’ median income of $22,000 is only slightly more than half that of older workers. And more than one-third of employed millennials earn less than $15,000 per year. Surveys indicate that many millennials would like to buy homes, but only about 30 percent of millennial heads of household are currently homeowners.

This year’s Paycheck to Paycheck examines five occupations in which millennial workers are heavily represented—administrative assistant, retail cashier, e-commerce customer service representative, food service manager, and cardiac technician. Administrative assistants earning the median income for their occupation can afford to rent a typical two-bedroom home in 82 percent of the 208 metro areas covered by the report but can only afford to buy a median-priced home in 43 percent  of these areas. Retail cashiers, earning the lowest median wage of the highlighted occupations at $20,432, cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom unit or to buy a median-priced home in any of the 208 metro areas in the report. The highest-paid occupation, food service managers, fare best, as they can afford to rent a two-bedroom home in most metro areas, but even they can only afford to buy a median-priced home in 35 percent of the 208 metro areas. 

Finally, the report discusses the implications of unaffordable housing for millennial workers and the economy overall as well as offers potential policy solutions to address housing unaffordability for both renters and homeowners.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eden Housing celebrates opening of new affordable community in San Jose

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


NHC member Eden Housing recently celebrated the grand opening of Ford Road Plaza, an affordable development in San Jose. The development offers 75 affordable rental units for residents with annual incomes between 15 and 50 percent of the Santa Clara County area median income.

The 2.4 acre community was purchased by the City of San Jose with the last of its redevelopment funds. The funds were used by redevelopment agencies to renovate deteriorating areas before agencies in San Joe were eliminated. The development features a computer learning center, a courtyard and barbeque area, a community room and two playgrounds. Residents will also be able to benefit from financial literacy classes, energy and water use efficiency education, various health and safety programs and from technology training. The community is also conveniently located near several public transportation options and includes the latest green features to ensure long-term energy efficiency.

“We are proud to partner with cities that are making room in their communities for lower income households to live with their families in the same community where they work,” Eden Housing Vice chair Tim Silva said in a press release. “These folks are important to our communities and they need a place to live.”

Data from Housing Landscape 2015 shows that 17 percent of households in the San Jose metro area spend at least half of their income on housing costs, just above the 16 percent national average. Renters are more likely to be cost burdened than owners, with 23 percent spending at least half their income on housing. Developments like Ford Road Plaza lessen the burden low-income families and individuals face when trying to find affordable rental homes in expensive areas.

Ford Road Plaza was financed primarily with federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

New toolkit spotlights local policies and programs that further fair housing

by Robert Hickey, National Housing Conference 

Fair housing is finally getting the attention it deserves. And not just on HBO. New data last month called attention to the growing challenge of concentrated poverty. Groundbreaking research in May illuminated the importance of neighborhood context for children’s lifetime earnings and the benefits of helping families access good neighborhoods. The Supreme Court’s decision in June affirmed the important principle of disparate impact. And in July, HUD’s new fair housing rule clarified the obligation of local HUD grant recipients to proactively counteract patterns of segregation and connect households of all backgrounds to greater opportunity.

But while there’s growing consensus that we need to do more as a country to address racial and economic segregation and grow more inclusively, it’s been less clear how we do it.

NHC’s new Inclusive Communities Toolkit clarifies the how-to.

Released today, the toolkit outlines various strategies for moving forward at the local level, with examples of actual policy and programs that can help places meet their fair housing obligations, counteract segregation and connect lower-income households and children to neighborhoods with good schools, good job access and healthy living environments.

NHC created this toolkit to meet the growing demand from housing administrators, elected officials, local advocates and others for more accessible information on local housing policies and programs that help make communities more inclusive.

The toolkit collects into one place nearly a decade of research and case studies from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy on tools for preserving and creating racially diverse, mixed-income communities, while also drawing on research and insights from our many partners in the field.  It offers easy ways to connect with peers already doing the work, and various ways to find short case studies of pioneering programs, innovative housing developments and thought-provoking policies.

As the Inclusive Communities Toolkit demonstrates, there is no single solution. The path to greater inclusivity lies in the use of multiple tools and at least two overarching strategies:
  1. Making areas of opportunity more accessible to more types of people; and
  2. Investing in high-poverty neighborhoods while preserving a mix of housing options in these communities.

The Inclusive Communities Toolkit lays out a list of many of the policy and programmatic approaches that are helping communities grow more inclusively, covering:
  • Inclusionary Housing
  • Rental Housing Preservation
  • Public Land
  • Zoning Reforms
  • Voucher Mobility
  • Local Funding. 

Check it out!  And stay tuned as we add other important policy and program approaches to the toolkit over the coming months, including tools for states and local governments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Closing the digital divide among low-income public housing residents

by Mindy Ault, National Housing Conference 

Broadband Internet connectivity is a gateway to employment, education and opportunity for people in affordable housing, but far too many still lack access.  The NHC Connectivity Working Group brings together national advocates, developers, public housing authorities, lenders, investors and others to help close the gap in broadband connectivity. NHC’s Connectivity Working Group has compiled a set of policy recommendations meant to help in expanding in-home Internet access to lower-income households. Additionally, the Center for Housing Policy, NHC’s research division, has published a research brief on low-income renters and their lack of in-home Internet access.. Two recently published case studies  highlight the ways that two providers of affordable housing are extending free high-speed Internet access to their residents and working to close the digital divide.

Research shows that low-income households, particularly renters, are less likely to have Internet access or even a computer at home. As Internet access becomes increasingly necessary for daily activities and transactions, the digital divide becomes wider and more problematic for those lacking access. In Austin, Texas, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) saw an opportunity when Google Fiber selected the city to install its fiber-optic broadband network. Through its Unlocking the Connection initiative, HACA’s nonprofit subsidiary, Austin Pathways, has created a partnership with Google Fiber and several local community organizations and private companies to provide free high-speed Internet access to HACA residents for 10 years. This includes providing computers and digital literacy classes to ensure that residents have the necessary tools to maximize the benefits of their broadband connections.

Meanwhile, in Fremont, Calif., affordable housing developer Eden Housing is providing free broadband Internet access to all 98 units in its Cottonwood Place property for low-income seniors.. Seniors in particular see a sharp divide between those who make use of the Internet and those who do not. A 2014 Pew Research study found that of seniors with an annual household income under $30,000, only 39 percent reported going online, compared to 90 percent of seniors with incomes over $75,000. This is important because we know that seniors receive significant benefits from having Internet access. Beyond the advantage of social interaction to combat the isolation that often comes with decreased mobility in older adults, studies have also shown that there are real health advantages to videoconferencing with health care providers. And in-home Internet access provides seniors with immediate access to interactive online tools that explain benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.

It is our hope that in presenting these examples of how two affordable housing providers are working to bridge the connectivity gapwill start a discussion of how more housing organizations in more communities can implement similar programs to expand access to more lower-income households.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Aging in community

by Josh Safdie, Kessler McGuinness & Associates, LLC and Cheryl Gladstone, Enterprise Community Partners

NHC invites our members to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

The United States is facing an aging crisis of unprecedented proportions. Advances in health care and medicine continue to increase our longevity, such that by 2050 the number of U.S. residents aged 65 and over will have doubled. Nearly one-third of our population is over the age of 50, and our median age is its highest ever. Ten thousand baby boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2030.

While the statistics are daunting, it is not the process of aging that drives us out of our homes – it’s our homes that drive us out of our homes. How our homes were sited, designed, constructed and operated decades ago did not consider our future needs and abilities. For example, falls—many of which can be prevented by home modifications—are the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for adults 65 or older in the United States, with 25,464 deaths documented in 2013.[1]  

These challenges should serve as a call-to-arms for the affordable housing community, yet, we have been slow to respond. Over the last 25 years we have embraced environmental sustainability and radically re-thought the design, construction and maintenance of our buildings.  However, in the race to “go green,” what are we doing for the silent majority who are slowly, but unequivocally, going silver as well?

The design of environments that welcome people of all ages and abilities is essential to the creation of socially sustainable communities. Nowhere is this more critical than in residential environments for seniors who rely on environmental cues and supports to compensate for declining or variable sensory, motoric and cognitive abilities. For example, in multifamily housing, community space for residents can be an important contributor to health, particularly for seniors and residents with limited mobility who cannot easily leave the building. Designing community space for meaningful uses and social interaction, such as a garden or library, can create opportunities for increased physical and mental well-being.[2]

We feel strongly that everyone should live in a home that accommodates their needs, where thoughtful, human-centered design can have a lasting effect on their health, happiness, prolonged independence and emotional well-being. Aging is not an excuse for housing instability.

Over the past three years, Enterprise Community Partners has published resources for the creation of healthy, affordable housing that will allow residents to age in their communities, including the 2015 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria and 2012 Universal Design Specifications

These effort are part of Enterprise’s goal of ending housing insecurity within a generation, which means no more homelessness and no more people paying more than half of their income on housing. As we continue to look to the future, Enterprise is developing a tool to address aging in the built environment through Aging in Place Principles, to be released in 2016. While it will not solve all of the aging-related issues our country is facing, we hope this resource will be a first step in creating housing that is more responsive, and supportive of the physical, sensory, cognitive and socio-emotional needs of a population that is outliving their housing stock.



[2] T. Hancock, “People, Partnerships, and Human Progress: Building Community Capital,” Health Promotion International 16 (2001): 275–280.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why I love the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum


by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

Yesterday, I spoke at the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum about fair housing, and I was struck by enthusiasm of the 200 or so attendees. Atlanta is doing exactly what every community should be doing in reaction to the Supreme Court decision on disparate impact and HUD’s new fair housing rule. Atlantans are having trust-building, forward-looking conversations about how to change long-standing patterns of segregated housing.

It was a privilege to be part of that conversation, in no small measure because Tera Doak of Habitat for Humanity International and Laurel Hart of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs brought great energy and ideas to our panel conversation. Mike Carnathan from the Atlanta Regional Commission framed the discussion with maps that starkly illustrated the patterns of segregation in Atlanta. We talked about what the new rule and decision mean, what the state of Georgia is already doing to make housing fairer and what more needs to be done.

I sensed a great openness to NHC’s message of unity in housing. Subsidized housing is quite small compared to the market forces and policy decisions that shape neighborhoods. If all we do in affordable housing is battle each other over where tax credit properties get built, we will never help the millions of Americans struggling to pay for, or even find, housing. But if civil rights advocates and community development practitioners and many others come together to advocate for new resources, connect housing to well-planned neighborhood restoration efforts and create more affordable housing opportunities in desirable neighborhoods, real change can happen.

Atlanta’s Regional Housing Forum is clearly a labor of love, sustained by volunteer efforts for many years (especially Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, a staunch NHC member). I hope to see many more forums like this in many more places in years to come.

You can hear an audio recording of the session and see the slides.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What we did on our summer vacation

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference


It is hard to believe that we’ve already come to the end of summer. August was a busy month of writing, planning and creating for NHC.  The fruits of this work can be seen today and over the next three months.

Today marks the official launch of our new website. As a national organization that serves as a resource for our members, we know how important it is to have a content-rich, user-friendly interface as well as constant updates on new resources and opportunities. The new site fully integrates NHC’s research, communications and policy work and makes it much easier to find our events, webinars and convenings. Amy has much more detail in Briefing Room below on the website and the changes you can see. There will be even more changes in 2016 as we continue to build on this important step forward. This was a significant amount of work, and I want to recognize communications intern Sarah Bond-Yancey, marketing and communications associate Radiah Shabazz and director of marketing and communications Amy Clark for this achievement.

On the research side, our Center for Housing Policy will produce a number of important resources for you this fall. In September we will release “Paycheck to Paycheck 2015,” a report that looks at wages of 81 occupations in 209 metro areas and compares them to regional housing costs. This year’s report will have a special focus on millennials, the types of jobs they hold and the wages they earn. As always, Paycheck will feature a  searchable online database for your education and advocacy efforts. Thanks in advance to senior research associate Janet Viveiros and research associate Mindy Ault for their work on this important resource.

Also in September we will release our new Inclusive Communities Toolkit. This online resource will allow users to search through different strategies localities have used to increase the supply of affordable housing in high-cost, high-demand areas. These include examples from both large urban areas as well as smaller communities. This portal was produced by research intern Emma Tinsley and senior research associate Robert Hickey, who has produced several reports on inclusionary housing best practices.

In October the Center will release a report examining promising practices in providing broadband access to the residents of subsidized affordable communities. This report will be another important resource to those working on this issue and will become a valuable education tool for the ongoing policy efforts of NHC’s Connectivity Working Group.

Our major event of the fall, Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods, will occur November 5-6 in New Orleans. This day and a half-long convening will include a mobile workshop featuring some of the inspiring, cutting-edge redevelopment work happening in that city. We’ll also host workshops on topics like public safety and community development, fair housing, housing and health care collaboration, neighborhood stabilization, property and asset management strategies and more. We will also offer roundtable sessions for participant-led discussion of key issues.

This is a unique national conference with a regional flavor that promises to offer a look at the entire spectrum of affordable housing and community development. Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods will feature some of the best work happening in New Orleans as well as speakers from across the country. This is a great opportunity to attend a national conference that caters to developers, local governments, lenders, syndicators, service providers and program administrators. Register for the convening and secure your hotel room today!


Introducing the new NHC website

News from NHC
by Amy Clark, National Housing Conference


NHC’s board of governors and staff spent 2014 thinking deeply about the work NHC can do for our members and the housing community at large. We identified providing resources to the housing field as a key value NHC brings to the housing community. NHC has been producing more research and different kinds of resources than ever before, like webinars, webcasts and communications tools. And as a national organization, the primary way the majority of our members and others will access all of these resources is online. Those factors add up to one thing: Providing the highest-quality online resources possible must be a top priority.

We put together a two-part plan to address this need, and today I’m proud to officially introduce you to part one: An NHC website that clearly describes our work and gives you easy access to the events, resources and tools you’ve come to rely on.

At the new nhc.org, you’ll find many new features, like:
·         Simplified navigation that leads you straight to events, membership and our program areas: policy, research and communications.
·         A new webinars library featuring embedded videos and an easy-to-navigate, topic-based organization.
·         Enhanced resource pages in our research and communications libraries that offer downloadable PDFs of our reports, as well as press kits, webinars when available and information about the authors of our reports.
·         A Housing Landscape data portal that connects you with new interactive state and metro data tools.
·         Improved site search that enables you to find whatever you need quickly and easily.

As happens when organizations build new websites, you may discover that your bookmarks to NHC webpages are broken or resources have moved from where you are used to finding them. We are also still in the process of uploading some of our past work to the site. So if you can’t find what you’re looking for right away, try using the search bar at the bottom of any page on nhc.org. If that still doesn’t get you what you need, let me know.

While I’m thrilled to have this new site up and running, the part I’m most proud of is that the entire site was built by Sarah Bond-Yancey, our summer communications intern. Working with NHC marketing and communications associate Radiah Shabazz and me, Sarah chose a platform, designed the information architecture and developed all of the great new features you now have the chance to use. Her programming knowledge, project management skills and ability to quickly understand NHC’s work and interpret it for different audiences have been invaluable. We are so grateful to Sarah and wish her well as she moves back to Washington State to pursue a master’s degree and further her career in housing and community development. 

I hope you enjoy visiting the new nhc.org and touring the new features. I also hope you’ll send me an email letting me know about your experience and about additional tools and resources you’d like to see on the site. The second part of our site redevelopment will involve making our site even more interactive, adding new data visualization tools and incorporating content from all of NHC’s sites, like HousingPolicy.org, Foreclosure-Response.org and the Housing Communications HUB, into nhc.org so you can access all of our resources in one place. We’ll be reaching out to our members for input and ideas throughout this process to ensure that all our online resources truly meet your needs. 

Connect with NHC's policy and advocacy work

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


For all of our members and partners who engage in policy development and advocacy, NHC’s new web site offers a lot. Use it, share it and love it—we do. But a lot of policy and advocacy work happens in person, and we hope you will participate with NHC in those opportunities, too: our task forces and working groups.

If you’re advocating at a state or local level for affordable housing, our signature publications Paycheck to Paycheck and Housing Landscape are now easier to find. I particularly like the state map interface as a way to find the data on housing affordability challenges in a particular area. NHC’s Policy Library shows a simple, chronological view of our advocacy work, all guided by the policy priorities developed by our Policy Committee and approved by our Board of Governors.

It’s in the task forces and working groups that NHC members can really roll up their sleeves and dig into the policy work. This summer, our Connectivity Working Group has had several meetings with the Federal Communications Commission about increasing broadband availability in affordable housing.  The working group is also helping to guide research into best practices that will inform the many ways housers are trying to get residents connected. Our Green Affordable Housing Coalition is building widespread support for energy efficiency in affordable housing as a way to help meet requirements in the Federal Clean Power Plan, with webinars, conference presentations, written comments and meetings with regulators. Perhaps the largest effort right now is our Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods convening coming Nov. 5-6 in New Orleans, which builds on a year of research and policy development in the Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force.

You can find lots to learn from us online, but please don’t stop there. Reach out and get involved in any areas that interest you. We are all stronger together.