Monday, June 6, 2016

NHC Policy Symposium 2016: Housing as People and Places Change

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

Last week’s Annual Policy Symposium drew together the threads of our nationwide poverty challenges and the unique aspects of rural housing. Speakers offered practical solutions, strategies for sharing our message and most of all a sense of unity. As Chris Estes put it at the event, “We have to think of ourselves as one movement trying to change the shape of housing and its impact on Americans.”

Our keynote speaker, the Honorable Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture, shared her perspective on rural housing challenges. She highlighted the role of homeownership as a foundation to build wealth and security in rural communities, the need for reliable broadband access everywhere to create economic opportunity and the importance of preserving rural multifamily housing as an ongoing resource for communities. She encouraged all of us to help make the case investment in rural America in the idea of place and belonging.

Amy Clark, NHC’s Director of Marketing and Communications, spoke briefly about communication strategies for building support for and overcoming opposition to affordable housing. She talked about the recent initiative by Washington, D.C., to create a network of homeless shelters across the city to illustrate the role of political leadership, message framing and ideology. Learn more about NHC’s communication efforts, including our Solutions for Housing Communications convening, to get involved.

A panel discussion on rural areas in transition brought out the challenges of affordable housing in places where green fields are changing to homes and businesses. Moderator Daryl Shore, Vice President of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, prompted speakers to highlight housing challenges and policy solutions. Highlights from the many ideas offered:

  • Tony Hernandez, USDA Rural Housing Administrator, pointed to housing as a jobs generator and the need to engage the business community in crafting solutions.
  • Mary Tingerthal, Commissioner of Minnesota Housing, showed Minnesota solutions for matching housing resources to places of job growth and good transportation access, micro-regional planning and above all the need for more resources.
  • Chris Jones, Senior Vice President and Chief Planner for the Regional Plan Association, noted the opportunities for changing finance policy to encourage mixed use development in traditional downtowns and also uniting affordable housing advocacy with open space preservation around smarter, denser development.
  • Chris LaGrand, Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel at the Woda Group, talked about practical development strategies for growing rural areas and highlighted policy changes to align government requirements to reduce development costs.

Our closing panel took on the connections between housing and poverty, guided ably by Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Speakers drew on the history of housing in the U.S. and examples from abroad to explore policy solutions in anticipation of the forthcoming GOP proposal to address poverty. Notable thoughts:

If you missed the Policy Symposium (or just want to relive the glory), check out the archived webcast. These conversations and more will continue at Solutions for Affordable Housing on Dec. 14 in D.C. following How Housing Matters on Dec. 13.

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