Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump administration releases budget proposing drastic housing cuts

by Rebekah King & Kaitlyn Snyder 

The FY 2018 budget proposal released today by the Trump administration would drastically cut the housing help that rebuilds communities, spurs economic development and protects millions of Americans.  The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to housing work supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture and several independent agencies would take policy in the wrong direction at a time when housing costs are an increasing burden to working families.

The president’s budget proposal would eliminate funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME Investment Partnership, Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, Section 4 Capacity Building, the National Housing Trust Fund (via a legislative proposal) and Choice Neighborhoods, among many other initiatives shown in the chart below. The proposal would also eliminate funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural single family housing direct loan program and the Section 504 homeownership repair program.

The chart below shows HUD and USDA funding for selected programs for the President’s FY 2018 budget request and enacted funding levels going back to FY 2014. Red numbers indicate decreases compared to FY 2017 enacted levels, green numbers indicate increases and black numbers indicate flat funding.

NHC’s full statement on the President’s budget request is available here. Also included in the proposal are provisions that:

  • For Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA)  and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA), public housing, Section 202 and Section 811 would:
    • require tenants to contribute 35% of their income towards rent (up from the historic norm of 30%)
    • establish mandatory minimum rents of $50
    • end utility allowance reimbursements, effectively increasing costs to tenants
  • According to the congressional justification, HUD will implement the 35% tenant rent contribution as a pilot in PBRA, 202, and 811 in 2018; it does not plan to implement this in the Public Housing or TBRA programs in 2018.
  • No longer provide higher payments for enhanced vouchers for Section 8 TBRA
  • Eliminate funding for the Capital Magnet Fund and Community Development Financial Institutions Financial Assistance program
  • Eliminate funding for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and provide $570,000 for payroll and severance
  • Eliminate federal funding for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and provide $27.4 million to prepare for the discontinuation of federal funding
  • For FY 2018, the HUD Secretary may elect through notice not to provide rent adjustments for Section 202, Section 811, Section 236 or Section 8 PBRA properties. 
  • Eliminates the RAD cap and supports including 202 Project Rental Assistance Contract's in the RAD program
  • Gives the HUD secretary authority to transfer project-based rent assistance under specific circumstances related to housing quality and property inspections
  • Gives the HUD secretary to provide waiver authority for PHAs for statutory or regulatory provisions related to PHA administrative, planning, and reporting requirements, energy audits, income recertification, and program assessments.
  • Creates an administrative support fee, up to 4 basis points, to support modernizing Federal Housing Administration systems
  • Creates flexibility between PHA capital and operating funds
  • Allows Continuum of Care (CoC) grantees to receive one year transitional grants as they transition from one program component to another

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Solutions for Housing Communications showed the power of the housing messaging movement

On April 27-28, over 120 housers joined NHC in
Minneapolis for a range of sessions on
building support for affordable housing
by Amy Clark, National Housing Conference

Last week at Solutions for Housing Communications, NHC’s annual convening on building support for affordable housing and countering community opposition, we heard from housing communicators from around the country about ways the housing community can tackle today’s communications challenges. Solutions showed us a lot about how far we’ve come as communicators, and about the progress we can still make.

Research-backed messaging is a movement
Friday morning, Michael Anderson of the Housing Trust Fund Project at the Center for Community Change shared what he and his housing and community development colleagues in Portland, Ore., learned in the early 2000s about advocacy messaging: The typical jargon-filled advocacy message about programs simply doesn’t work. Instead, we have to talk about our work using overarching values. As Michael’s presentation showed, this approach has spread, with state and local housing coalitions and campaigns across the country doing their own messaging research and training advocates in values-based messages. The housing campaign wins on Nov. 8 are part of this movement.

There’s more work to do
In spite of the work of state and local groups, and the valuable new research into message backfires presented by Dr. Tiffany Manuel of Enterprise Community Partners, the housing community can still improve our communications practices. Change is never easy, and it’s especially difficult to focus more on values and solutions and less on problems and data when our habits are so ingrained. We also need to push ourselves to have more day-to-day conversations with people whose views differ from ours, whether that difference comes in the form of politics or simply that they do different work. Over the two days of the convening we heard examples of cross-sector conversations and discussions among people across the political spectrum that revealed areas of potential agreement and collaboration. This is an area where we can, and must, do more.

We have what we need to succeed
In her presentation, Ashley Kerr of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama showed us the universal nature of housing values. Alabama is a conservative, religious state, but the messages that worked to win support for housing funding there were strikingly similar to the messages that worked in Portland, Ore., and other “blue” parts of the U.S. It’s not a matter of partisanship. Americans understand the value of home, and can be convinced to support systemic solutions to housing challenges. We just need to craft messages that truly account for the way people actually understand and process information.

Solutions for Housing Communications was about a lot more than messaging. I hope you get a chance to view the plenary sessions online and check out some of the slide decks we’ve shared on our website. 

A united field

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

NHC just wrapped up a very successful Solutions for Housing Communications convening in Minneapolis last week. Special thank you to our event partners, the Minnesota Housing Partnership, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, Minnesota Housing and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, to our Premier National Sponsor JPMorgan Chase, mobile workshop sponsor the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, and convening sponsors Family Housing Fund and Minnesota Housing Partnership. Slides and a link to view plenary session recordings are available on our website.

As I have noted previously, these are times of great challenge in terms of federal funding, and great opportunity when it comes to success with local funding initiatives and increased awareness of need. It is vital for the whole community development and affordable housing sector to understand how to communicate more effectively  and to avoid messages that actually backfire, working against our efforts to build more support.

One potential opportunity to communicate as a united field is an episode of PBS’s Frontline , jointly produced with NPR and airing May 9. The television and radio broadcasts will examine the significant challenges of housing affordability and the programs used to respond to those challenges. We anticipate a good opportunity to highlight the needs of working and vulnerable households across the country, paired with criticism of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and the developers that use it.

National organizations are working diligently to prepare congressional supporters and key committee members for this program, but we also know that the story could gain traction at the local level. Our position, and the message we will share, is that working people should be able to afford to rent a decent place to live in a thriving community, but in too many places across our country that’s just not possible. Quality, affordable rental homes are scarce while wages are stuck in place. We need all the tools we can to tackle this scarcity, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has brought decent homes at reasonable costs to millions of Americans.

You know your local media and can make the best decision about how to respond, but I want to make sure you are aware and prepared. The other big news is of course the recent FY 2017 budget agreement that keeps the government fully operational through September. Kaitlyn Snyder and Rebekah King have the details of what the agreement means for housing funding.

I want to call your attention to NHC’s 45th Annual Housing Visionary Award Gala on June 8 and Annual Policy Symposium on June 9 in Washington, D.C. This year NHC will honor former HUD Sec. Shaun Donovan and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), along with Habitat for Humanity International and Rebuilding Together. Please visit our website for tickets and sponsorship opportunities. The Gala is NHC’s single annual fundraising event and is a tremendous opportunity to honor great work while networking with friends and colleagues. I hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Reinventing public housing: Once more with funding

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

I’m spending a portion of this week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the 49th National Congress on Housing and Homelessness convened  by the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. Talking with housing colleagues from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom reminds me clearly that we in the United States need to think seriously about reinventing how we own, finance and operate public housing. We also need to revisit our public funding commitment. Adjusting the balance of public and private responsibilities can help us find efficiencies, but no amount of tinkering can substitute for a sustained funding commitment.

Everywhere, publicly owned housing has its particular struggles. In the United Kingdom, production is falling behind demand even as the population is living longer. A recent change to send housing subsidy to tenants rather than directly to housing providers has, unsurprisingly, resulted in rent collection problems and potentially evictions. The nonprofits that own formerly state-owned housing (thanks to a massive transfer under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s) continue to merge in pursuit of economies of scale. Underfunding of housing is a major election issue.

In Canada, the new government is planning a national housing strategy that will “support healthier families and build stronger communities and better housing for all.” This laudable national commitment is a much-needed correction to the federal cuts of housing funding in the 1990s, and tiptoeing back in the 2000s. Issues of high need among the poorest parallel quickly rising costs in major cities, especially Toronto, which is facing criticism from community members and a capital backlog. Social housing (owned and operated by a mix of government, nonprofit and cooperative entities) is a key component of solutions but also faces expiration of long-term subsidy agreements.

Australia has a much smaller social (that is, publicly owned) housing sector: less than four percent of the housing stock. It is owned by small agencies, most with little or no net assets on their balance sheets and limited by inconsistency in government funding. The federal government is struggling to measure results from use of housing funds by states. At the same time, the private rental sector is growing rapidly with few protections for renters.

Here in the United States, innovative public housing agencies are finding ways to renovate properties and improve services to residents, often by shifting financing out of the traditional public housing model (see the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission and the San Diego Housing Commission for great examples). For many agencies, however, the public housing properties are the oldest in the country, and the local agencies who own and operate them have suffered decades of underfunding. Policy changes have shifted previously mixed-income public housing into concentrations of the neediest. The backlog of unfunded capital needs was $26 billion at last count.

The American success with public-private partnerships for affordable housing is a reminder that we have the technical capability to do the job well. The experiments abroad, however, are a reminder that there are many paths to affordable housing, each with trade-offs. Public control can bring accountability and mission focus. Private control can bring innovation and efficiency. Either can fail at the extremes, and neither does well by the residents or the real estate when funding is insufficient or inconsistent. It is surely time to revisit how we handle public housing in this country, but only if we match that spirit of innovation with a commitment to meeting the need. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Home and neighborhood are key ingredients for economic opportunity

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference

In reading “As D.C. families get richer, staggering disparities persist, report finds” in the Washington Post last month, I found myself thinking about the role that a home and neighborhood plays in an individual’s access to opportunity. As stated in the article, as the overall incomes of households have risen recently, low-income households have been displaced from neighborhoods undergoing rapid increases in rent and home prices to neighborhoods in the city with less opportunity.

This is a serious problem because displacement of low-income households to neighborhoods with higher crime rates, less access to services, weaker educational options and lower-quality housing can not only have immediate negative impacts on individuals, but also limit their chances for economic mobility in the future.

Research has demonstrated that constant, toxic stress created by “persistent poverty, trauma  and social bias—stresses commonly faced by low-income households” can change the way that people make decisions. It alters a person’s focus to be reactive and deal with constant crisis. In addition to the importance of living in a safe neighborhood with quality schools, access to transportation and services, access to affordable, safe and decent housing is also critical for its myriad positive impacts on a person’s life. One of those is providing a platform for economic opportunity.

Living in a quality home in a safe, connected neighborhood can reduce some of those toxic stressors for low-income households. It also can free up time and energy to focus on pursuing jobs, education or training to enhance their economic opportunities because they do not have to worry about the condition or cost of their housing.

In our recent webinar, “Affordable Housing: A Key Platform for Economic Mobility,” we discussed ways affordable housing can help contribute to financial stability and serve as a vehicle for delivering financial education or housing counseling services to help individuals pursue their financial and economic goals. In particular, this webinar addressed how to continue this work in a way that would elicit bipartisan support. You can view the webinar recording and access resources here

Congress reaches agreement on omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2017

by Kaitlyn Snyder and Rebekah King

Last night, the House Rules Committee dropped the omnibus spending bill that would fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2017, through September 30, 2017. Many programs saw slight increases in funding compared to last year, but overall funding is essentially flat, especially when considered relative to rising housing costs. Notably, this budget does not include requests by President Trump to zero out Choice Neighborhoods and SHOP and to fund CDBG at $1.5 billion.

The chart below shows HUD and USDA funding for selected programs for the newly released FY 2017 omnibus, President Obama’s FY 2017 budget request and enacted funding levels going back to FY 2014. Red numbers indicate decreases compared to FY 2016 enacted levels, green numbers indicate increases, blue numbers indicate increases from FY 2016 but lower-than-historical levels and black numbers indicate flat funding.

Also included in the bill are provisions that:
  • Extend the sunset provision for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness to Oct. 1, 2018 (p.1631);
  • Raise the Rental Assistance Demonstration cap to 225,000 units (p. 1624);
  • Appropriate $15 million for  the Jobs Plus program within the public housing funding (p.1562); and 
  • Continue allowing private owners of Section 8 properties to make Family Self-Sufficiency programs (already available in participating public housing properties) available to residents. (p.1567)

The bill does not include the expansion of RAD to Section 202 Project Rental Assistance contracts.

Congress needs to vote on the package by Friday, May 5, when the short-term continuing resolution expires.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Appropriations outlook for housing, FY 2017 and 2018

by Kaitlyn Snyder

As NHC's Ethan Handelman predicted in an earlier appropriations discussion, appropriations for both Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and 2018 are indeed messy, again. Funding for the federal government for FY 2017 is set to expire on April 28. Senators return from a two-week recess on Monday, April 24 and representatives return on Tuesday, April 25, leaving just a few days to pass a bill. Of the 12 spending bills, 1 (military construction and veterans affairs) has already passed both chambers of Congress and become law, another (defense) was passed by the House and now awaits passage by the Senate. We expect to see the remaining 10 bills attached to the defense bill, pass the Senate, and then go back over to the House for a final vote. To achieve this, we expect Congress to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution that will fund the federal government for a week or so, and then pass a larger bill that will fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, till September 30th, 2017.

However, complicating matters is President Trump’s request to cut $18 billion from discretionary spending programs for the remainder of FY 2017. Cutting $18 billion over the remaining 5 months of the fiscal year would amount to zeroing out entire programs. HUD alone would face about $1.7 billion in cuts coming from the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (-$125 million), the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) (-$1,494 million), and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) ($56 million). Congressional leaders from both parties have largely dismissed the cuts and are hoping to stick to the agreed upon funding in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 which raised the sequester caps. Should Congress pass a spending bill that largely ignores the president's proposed cuts, President Trump could decide to veto the bill. It is unlikely that the bill will have a veto-proof majority, leaving an alternative path uncertain. With the uncertainty around FY 2017 funding, public housing agencies have been administering fewer vouchers in case the program does get cut when Congress addresses FY 2017 spending. No cuts to housing programs have gone into effect yet. However, a full-term continuing resolution for FY 2017 would essentially be a cut to housing programs, discussed below.

Once the federal government is funded for the remainder of FY 2017, appropriators will immediately focus on funding for FY 2018. President Trump released his skinny budget in March and we expect to see a full budget in mid-May.  The skinny budget would keep the overall FY 2018 spending cap of $1.065 trillion set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011, but increase the defense side of the budget by $54 billion and decrease the non-defense side by $54 billion. Under President Trump’s skinny budget, HUD faces a $6.2 billion or 13% cut for FY 2018. While the skinny budget did not provide much detail, it did propose eliminating CDBG, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, SHOP, Choice Neighborhoods and Section 4. Altogether, eliminating those 5 programs would cut about $4.45 billion, meaning an additional $1.75 billion needs to be cut from the HUD budget to reach $6.2 billion. And that’s just within HUD; many housing programs that aren’t based within HUD would face similar cuts.

Appropriations for FY 2018 were already going to be messy because sequestration would take full effect in FY 2018. Notably, the full impact of the sequestration law has never taken place because Congress has found alternatives. The caps only applied to 6 of 12 months in FY 2013. FY 2014 and FY 2015 caps were raised by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, otherwise known as the Murray-Ryan deal. FY 2016 and FY 2017 caps were raised by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Absent another bipartisan deal to raise the caps, non-defense discretionary funding would be cut by $3 billion from sequestration alone, only to be cut by an additional $54 billion from President Trump’s budget.

While congressional appropriators may not fully support President Trump’s request for $54 billion in cuts, the request alone has changed the discussion and made smaller, but still harmful, cuts seem reasonable. The HUD budget requires a 3-4% increase every year just to keep up with inflation and rising housing costs. So even keeping funding levels at current levels effectively amounts to a cut for HUD. The housing community must come together to stave off these proposed cuts. This is why the National Housing Conference has teamed up with groups like NDD United and the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding to support efforts for robust federal funding of affordable housing and other domestic programs that help lift families out of poverty and enable them to reach better outcomes.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Changing the trajectory by changing the message

by Chris Estes

Uncertainty and change. These have been the watchwords in Washington, D.C. since the November election and somewhat naturally go together. Change typically brings some degree of uncertainty. A new presidential administration and a new one-party majority in the White House and Congress are always going to bring change. This administration’s nontraditional background brought more than the usual uncertainty to who would be appointed and how affordable housing and community development policy would be perceived.

Some things are certain, however. We know that the Trump administration has proposed deep cuts to housing programs that would reduce the number of people receiving housing assistance, increase homelessness and worsen the shortage of affordable rental housing that is still mostly silent in terms of political prioritization. While these proposed cuts have served to rally the field across the spectrum of homelessness, multifamily housing, homeownership and community development broadly, we expect that President Trump’s budget will not be implemented as proposed.

What I am less certain about is whether we all recognize how our advocacy and education efforts must change if we are to position housing as a politically popular bipartisan issue at the federal level. While I have been really pleased with the efforts by many groups and campaigns to talk about the whole housing continuum rather than just a specific priority, I don’t think we have really moved beyond a “program and problem focus” for our advocacy. Our advocacy often still centers on the magnitude of the problems our communities face, versus conveying more of the value, success and impact of housing solutions for people and places.

One area of hope and guidance is the success of many communities across the country in adopting new funding for affordable housing development locally. As someone who worked at the local and state levels for 20 years before coming to D.C., I know that state and local organizations have long been investing in new messaging and framing around values and impact. It has been interesting to watch some of this trickle up to national-level discussions, where the concepts feel new, and to see folks struggle with how to incorporate new messaging practices into advocacy and education efforts without falling back on old strategies.

At NHC we’ve worked for more than five years on identifying, distilling and creating resources on how the housing community can improve our efforts to more effectively build support at all levels of government. This is why our Annual Budget Forum focused on how folks are making the case for housing programs in this new political and budgetary environment, rather than focusing on the proposed budget cuts themselves.

This is also why we convene Solutions for Housing Communications each year. This annual event is targeted directly at how to overcome local opposition to affordable housing development in your community. We know that neighborhoods are where housing is built and where it visibly impacts lives. While Solutions provides practical tools for overcoming local opposition, it also provides guidance for how we can adapt these strategies to our state legislative and congressional educations efforts.

If you missed our Annual Budget Forum, I hope you’ll take time to view the recording. I also hope you’ll register for our Solutions for Housing Communications convening in Minneapolis April 27-28. You can get a 10 percent discount on registration using code “save10” now through April 7.

NHC will continue to work to be a resource for the field on messaging and on improved coordination and collaboration among national organizations, networks and campaigns. There is still much we must do together to change the trajectory of political support for our work over the long run as we stave off harmful reductions to vital resources today.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What is the “wrong pocket” problem and why is it important?

by Janet Viveiros

Often during discussions about the connection between housing and health, education and employment, housers will reference the “wrong pocket” problem, the concept that investments in affordable housing development and preservation have benefits that yield savings in sectors outside of housing. This makes it difficult to create a measure for the return on investment in affordable housing, which can help make a strong business case for public investment in affordable housing. Yet return on investment is something that influences policymakers’ decisions on how to spend public funds in efficient ways.

In the current political climate, affordable housing developers and providers will have to do more to serve low-income households with fewer resources. This makes it even more important that they understand what kinds of affordable housing investments may yield the greatest benefits for the people they serve. It also means that they will have to create effective arguments for allocating public resources to affordable housing because of its many benefits.

The good news is that in the area of health, in particular, there is evidence of a return on investment for affordable housing. There has been significant research into how permanent supportive housing, which serves some of the most vulnerable Americans, can lead to better health outcomes and healthcare savings. The research, summarized in NHC’s report “How Investing in Housing Can Save on Health Care,” makes a strong case that increasing the number of permanent supportive homes can lead to improvements in the health and well-being of individuals who were formerly homeless and reduce health care spending for this population. In addition, recent research from the Center for Outcomes Research and Education has demonstrated that providing affordable housing of various kinds to low-income Medicaid enrollees leads to better health outcomes and lower health care costs. 

There is not an equivalent body of evidence to measure the return on investment in other sectors such as education or economic opportunity. However, there is research to demonstrate many of the benefits.

It is important for housers to educate policymakers and the public about the full return on investment for affordable housing. Affordable housing for low-income Americans not only puts a roof over their head, but also helps them be healthier, perform better in school and be more productive because living in a stable and affordable home provides an opportunity to focus on pursuing financial and employment goals. This all can contribute to significant economic gains.

As affordable housing advocates, we must continue to add to our understanding of how affordable housing creates benefits and savings in health, education and economic opportunity. We must also share this information with the public to help improve understanding of affordable housing as a key platform for American’s success. 

The good housing stuff ain’t all in HUD, but it is at risk

by Ethan Handelman

Housing stakeholders nationwide were alarmed by President Trump’s proposed budget cut of $6.2 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Such deep cuts would prevent meaningful investment in the future while endangering much existing affordable housing supported by Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, Section 8, HOME and CDBG block grants and other well-known housing programs. But the proposed budget would also cut many other, lesser-known programs with proven success in creating economic opportunity, drawing in private investment and reaching people and communities often left behind in times of prosperity.

When affordable housing is mentioned, most people’s minds jump right to HUD. But affordable housing support has a place in several agencies, many of which the president’s budget targets for elimination. Here are a few successful housing programs you may not have heard about, each targeted for cuts or elimination:

·         U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service creates and preserves affordable housing in rural America, but the budget proposes cutting the state office staff who implements this work.
·         Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) focuses on regional economic development, with natural connections to housing, in a region that has struggled with declining employment and population for years. Congress established the ARC in 1965.

·         Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) capitalizes mission-driven lenders who leverage private capital for community development and affordable housing. The CDFI Fund is part of the Department of the Treasury. 
·         Neighborworks® America, aka Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, empowers a network of locally based nonprofits who strengthen communities through affordable housing and community development work. It is a nonprofit chartered by Congress in 1978.
·         Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program (Section 4) is in HUD; Congress authorized it in 1993 to help nonprofits build their capacity for affordable housing and community development work. It currently goes to Enterprise Community Partners, Habitat for Humanity International and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
·         Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) is another little-known HUD program. Nonprofits use SHOP funds, authorized by Congress in 1996, to create affordable homeownership using sweat equity from the new homeowners themselves. The Housing Assistance Council has one example among many SHOP programs.

·         Weatherization Assistance Program is in the Department of Energy, and it does just what it sounds like. Federal funds go through states and localities to help make homes more energy efficient, which saves money, keeps families healthier and sustains homeownership for low-income households. 
·         Hazard Mitigation Grant Program in the Department of Homeland Security (via FEMA) helps communities mitigate the risks of natural disasters by making homes and other buildings more resilient. It turns out that preventing damage from hazards like floods is also a great way to save money
·         United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) coordinates the efforts of 19 federal agencies to end and prevent homelessness. USICH is an “independent establishment” within the executive branch that was originally authorized by Congress in the 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Lawmakers recently introduced bipartisan legislation to make USICH permanent
·         The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program is a competitive program that supports innovative transportation projects, including multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional projects, which are difficult to fund through traditional programs. The Capital Investment Grants program is the only federal program dedicated to supporting new public transportation lines. Both of these Department of Transportation programs affect the creation and preservation of affordable housing near the transportation investments.
What these examples of effective housing programs targeted for cuts have in common is that they are long-term investments in America’s people and communities. They are in many different agencies because housing connects to many different parts of our lives: our health, our economic future, our connections to our neighbors and more.

As we discussed last week at NHC’s Annual Budget Forum, our advocacy for housing funding should build on the intersections between housing and the values each of us hold dear. If you missed the live broadcast, I encourage you to view the recording for ideas and strategies that can strengthen the message of support for affordable housing.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Housers can continue progress on green affordable housing, even with Clean Power Plan facing review

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

This post originally appeared on Sept. 30, 2016 and has been updated to reflect new developments.
On March 28, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to review and then revise or rescind the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The order also rescinds other prior federal actions on climate change. Regardless of the final outcome for CPP, housing stakeholders should continue their efforts to create affordable housing that is healthier, more energy efficient and better for the environment. While the CPP certainly provides a strong incentive for states to invest in green affordable housing to meet carbon reduction goals, several states have already made those investments before the CPP was around. Other states have pledged to take further steps on their own. The rationale for greener affordable housing is compelling on its own merits and a strong voice from housing stakeholders can encourage public investments in energy efficiency to include affordable housing. Affordable housing stakeholders can also explore partnerships with state energy offices and utilities to explore how to work together and support healthy and energy efficient housing.

Earlier post:
On Sept. 27, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments supporting and opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in February while legal action was ongoing, which leaves the status of the CPP unknown. A decision could come in early 2017. Housing stakeholders should continue their efforts to create affordable housing that is healthier, more energy efficient and better for the environment. The rationale for greener affordable housing is compelling on its own merits and we should encourage it through the CPP process and elsewhere.

The Clean Power Plan continues to present an opportunity to make affordable housing greener as a cost-effective way to meet environmental goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Once legal issues are resolved, states that are still moving forward will likely move to implement the plan swiftly, so affordable housing stakeholders should engage with new partners like air regulators, utilities and state energy offices. Preparatory outreach and education by housing stakeholders in states that have not begun working on CPP is also valuable, so that housing solutions are part of the menu of options states will consider using.

Regardless of the outcome of the legal challenges, housing stakeholders should seek out state partners in the energy and clean air sectors and engage in discussions about the importance of energy efficient, healthier and greener affordable housing. Affordable multifamily housing is a sector that has been overlooked in many places, but the benefit to low-income residents and the sustainability of the affordable housing properties would be significant. The CPP certainly provides a strong incentive for states to invest in green affordable housing to meet carbon reduction goals, but several states have already made those investments before the CPP was around. Other states may take further steps on their own if CPP stops. In any of those eventualities, a strong voice from housing stakeholders can encourage public investments in energy efficiency to include affordable housing.

The National Housing Conference will continue to work with housing stakeholders and allies to pursue more ways to invest in energy efficiency improvements in affordable housing. As part of this work, NHC has submitted a comment letter with partners on the Clean Power Plan’s Clean Energy Incentive Program, which gives states a head start on meeting standards under the Clean Power Plan. This proposed rule is open for comment until Nov. 2, 2016. NHC will continue to follow the legal actions on the Clean Power Plan to keep our membership informed. Creating greener affordable housing provides better outcomes for resident health, building quality and the environment, and NHC looks forward to its ongoing work to support green affordable housing.
If you want to learn more about how to get involved, here are some places to start:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Solutions helps Suzanne transform her work

by Andrea Nesby and Amy Clark

Suzanne (second from right) is joined with
 NACEDA staffers at the Solutions 2016 convening 
As a communications director at the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), Suzanne Gunther is responsible for the whole spectrum of communications work: event promotion, media relations, brand management and more. NACEDA is an alliance of 45 state and regional community development associations in 28 states and D.C.

On top of all that, Suzanne’s role includes helping the communications staff of NACEDA member associations keep up to date with the latest communications best practices. She organizes training opportunities and recommends resources and trainings by experts in the field.

When Suzanne learned about NHC’s Solutions for Housing Communications convening, she knew it would be the place to see great examples from other housing communicators and connect with her peers in the field. In just two days, she could learn, network and bring back fresh examples and information she could use all year long. She registered herself and recommended the convening to communications staffers at community development associations around the country. Seven communications professionals from the NACEDA network attended.

Suzanne started her Solutions for Housing Communications 2016 experience in New York City with the mobile workshop touring supportive housing developments in the Bronx.

“The tour reminded me why I do this work,” she says. “I was truly inspired by the local stories.”

She says the marketing and public relations workshop taught her new approaches for framing messages, and provided her with real-life examples of how to use communications techniques like pivoting.  

Solutions for Housing Communications gave Suzanne the opportunity to connect with people she would have otherwise never met, gave her new communications approaches she and her members could use and inspired her to keep up the hard work of housing communications.

If you’re looking for two days of inspiration and practical advice, then #Solutions2017 is where you want to be! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Digging deep into who struggles to afford housing in your region

by Janet Viveiros

Most Americans know that there are serious gaps between what housing costs and what people can afford in many communities across the country. Many know this first hand from their struggles to make their rent or mortgage payment each month, others know it secondhand from watching friends and families struggle and others simply hear the periodic news stories about how housing costs in New York City or San Francisco have reached new highs.

Despite a general and widespread acknowledgement that affordable housing challenges exist for some, most policymakers and members of the public are not aware of how dramatic the gaps are between what people earn and what they’re able to afford, particularly outside of high-cost regions. NHC’s recent webinar,“Paycheck to Paycheck: More than Housing,” explored these housing affordability gaps. Few people think about low-cost Midwestern metro areas like Gary, Indiana, or Detroit, Michigan, as being places where workers face serious housing affordability challenges, yet for many, they are.

The webinar also shared these key findings from NHC’s recent supplement to the data tool, More than Housing:”
  • Housing costs comprise a significantly higher percentage of income for lower-income households compared to higher-income households.
  • Low-income renters spend relatively more of their income on housing than low-income homeowners.
  •  Both renters and owners are more likely to encounter major housing affordability challenges in and around major cities along the East and West Coasts.

As discussed during the webinar, the housing affordability picture changes when you look at typical earnings and housing costs in the context of other household costs. Many working households are not able to make ends meet when you add up all their expenses.  For example, a Colorado family of four with a combined monthly income of $4,749 could fall short of paying for necessary household expenses by $1,032 each month.

The Paycheck to Paycheck data tool and the “More than Housing” supplement are important tools to help policy makers and the public visualize how incomes often fall well short of what households need in order to afford their rent or mortgage, along with food, transportation, health care and more. I hope this knowledge can spur more thinking about the role communities should play in ensuring there is affordable housing for workers across a spectrum of incomes.   

Thursday, March 16, 2017

NHC's statement to media on Trump Administration's proposed housing cuts

Earlier this morning, NHC sent the following statement below to the media regarding President Trump's FY 2018 budget proposal. Given the threats this budget poses, housers must come together as an interconnected and interdependent housing and community development continuum to make a compelling case for housing funding. Please join us for our March 30 Budget Forum webinar to discuss advocacy and communications strategies to help us connect with lawmakers from both parties.

Today the Trump administration released a budget proposal for FY 2018 that includes a $6.2 billion cut to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The proposal would also cut additional housing and community development funds from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Treasury. If enacted by Congress, these cuts would devastate the housing and community development efforts that are building new infrastructure, revitalizing neighborhoods, spurring economic development and ensuring access to safe, decent affordable homes for millions of Americans.

"President Trump's budget for HUD would severely limit the ability of state and local governments to meet their communities' housing and infrastructure needs," said Chris Estes, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, a nonpartisan affordable housing advocacy organization. "The president's proposed budget sacrifices the security of older adults and people with disabilities, and will actually make it harder for President Trump to bring opportunity to urban and rural America as promised."

The proposal from the Trump administration includes elimination of aid to communities large and small through the HOME Investment Partnerships and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); painful limitations on public housing and rental assistance despite rising need;  elimination of capacity-building programs for nonprofits doing affordable housing and community development; elimination of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund which supports community development and affordable housing lending; elimination of regional initiatives to address rural poverty; elimination of homeownership help beyond FHA lending; cuts to staffing in USDA Rural Development offices that support rural housing; and many other cuts.

HUD and USDA assistance provide access to affordable homes in urban, rural and suburban communities and are a key part of the solution to the shortage of affordable rental homes currently experienced in communities across America. Essential workers are often shut out of the rental and homeownership markets in the communities where they work. For example, NHC research finds that school bus drivers are unable to afford to rent or own a home in any of 210 metropolitan areas in the U.S. The tradeoff for many Americans is long, stressful commutes, substandard housing or difficult choices between paying the rent and paying for other essentials like medical care.

"Programs like rental assistance and CDBG are about more than just development. Living in an affordable, healthy home directly affects the ability of children to succeed in school and the health of older adults and people with disabilities," said Estes."Access to quality stable homes is a key component of reducing health care costs, especially in Medicare and Medicaid. We look forward to joining our colleagues in housing and community development to work with members of Congress to ensure the final HUD and Agriculture budgets better meet the needs of our communities."

The budget release is short on detail, leaving most of the work in Congress' hands to put together a FY 2018 budget that meets the pressing needs of people and communities in America.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lifeline program continues to offer opportunities to housing providers under new FCC leadership

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

The announcement by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on changing the status of nine newly designated Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBP) last month raised concerns among many who are focused on increasing broadband access, including NHC.  Our understanding after meeting with the FCC is that expansion of broadband and opportunities for housing providers remain, although the new FCC chairman has signaled some revisiting of specific aspects of the Lifeline program, including designation of LBPs. NHC continues to see the Lifeline program as a significant opportunity to get more affordable housing residents connected.

Since 2014, the National Housing Conference has encouraged expansion of broadband in affordable housing to close the digital divide for low-income families. One tool in this effort is the FCC’s Lifeline program. In 2016, the FCC changed the program to allow the Lifeline subsidy to be used for broadband service in addition to phone service. For housing providers, these changes created an opportunity to aggregate Lifeline subsidy among many residents to create a funding source for property-level broadband.

In addition to allowing the Lifeline subsidy to be used for broadband, the Lifeline Modernization Order also created a way for new internet service providers to participate in Lifeline as Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs). On February 3, 2017, FCC Chairman Pai revoked the status of nine new LBPs because of concerns about the legality of the LBP status. NHC reached out with our concerns about the future of the Lifeline program, and last week we met with Chairman Pai’s staff.

At the meeting, we learned that Chairman Pai wants to work on closing the digital divide. We determined that housing providers should still pursue broadband solutions using Lifeline, and we discovered that providers can still pursue becoming an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier at the state level. Under the modernization order, aggregation projects are possible wherein nonprofits or housing providers can negotiate with internet service providers (ISPs) to do the program qualification and sign-up paperwork for a fee. This financial support could enable housing providers to pursue broadband solutions at the property level as explore local partnerships around digital literacy and equipment. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is exploring how the aggregation process could work. NHC is engaged with USAC and hopes to share ideas from NHC members about how to best structure this option. Additionally, for housing providers interested in serving as their own ISP, organizations can still apply for eligibility to participate in Lifeline through their state public utility commissions, while the LBP status is being reconsidered.

NHC hopes housing providers will fully explore how they can best utilize the Lifeline program to benefit their residents. We are a resource and can provide guidance. To learn more about NHC’s Connectivity Working Group and work on broadband in affordable housing, please email me

Innovation in ballot campaigns and rental development at NHC’s Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

Every month, NHC brings speakers to our Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force who discuss innovative strategies to empower comprehensive community development. I’m always excited to learn about what practitioners are exploring on the ground, and March brought two opportunities. Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust (NHT), shared information on their High Opportunity Pilot, where NHT is taking a market-oriented approach to give voucher holders access to high-opportunity neighborhoods. And Rhode Island Housing and the United Way of Rhode Island shared their success in a state ballot measure to create a $50 million state bond for affordable housing. Both initiatives required thinking about and messaging about affordable housing differently in order to make progress.

NHT’s High Opportunity Pilot acquires market-rate multifamily housing. The goal is to create a mixed-income community by opening up a portion of the market-rate units to Housing Choice Voucher holders over time, as opposed to trying to construct an affordable housing development in a high-opportunity neighborhood. This approach focuses on conversion of existing privately owned market-rate housing stock. On the surface, this may sound rather simple. However, this model requires partnership with public housing authorities, as well as with nonprofits who can help counsel voucher holders and certify their eligibility. It also requires access to equity and conventional financing that can be deployed quickly, and the ability to compete in a fast moving process. The affordable housing development process is not a quick one, so this model requires a different kind of engagement in the market.

Rhode Island Housing and the United Way of Rhode Island led an effort in 2016 to pass a statewide ballot measure that would create a $50 million state bond for affordable housing. The “Yes on 7” campaign focused its messaging on “housing opportunity,” a term that advocates felt did not invoke a negative frame among the public. The campaign also focused on highlighting beneficiaries of development; not just residents but also employers and businesses. The campaign took a strategic approach, recognizing the value of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as the importance of events like groundbreakings to build public support and engage community partners.

In an uncertain federal environment, seeing examples of new strategies being used to fund and market affordable housing confirms how housers can continue to be successful on the state and local level. Join us April 27-28 in Minneapolis for Solutions for Housing Communications to see many similar examples of successful approaches to building support for housing at the state and local level.

You can view both presentations from the March 2017 Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force meeting here. If you’re interested in learning more about the task force, please email me.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A message from Chris Estes on the budget outlook for housing

By now, many of you will have seen the leaked budget documents referencing a potential $6 billion cut to HUD. Such a cut would be devastating to housing and community development efforts: elimination of HOME and CDBG, deep cuts to public housing and rental assistance, and near elimination of now-smaller programs like housing for the elderly and people with disabilities.

What this means right now: The leaked documents are not a formal statement from the administration, so President Trump's budget proposal could be different when it arrives. This is also a negotiating process between the White House and Congress on top-line budget numbers and program priorities. Major budget changes like these will require deal making both within and between the two political parties and the House and Senate.

All signals thus far, however, suggest President Trump's budget will propose major cuts to non-defense domestic spending, including housing. We don't know if this year may be similar to past years in that Congress will set the budget timeline and decide funding levels with little reference to the president's proposal or if Congressional leaders give the president more deference in his first proposed budget. We do know that the baseline spending levels Congress is starting with under the sequester and the Budget Control Act also require cuts to spending.

What you should do: Prepare for ongoing, coordinated advocacy for housing and community development. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Most important is to advocate for housing and community development funding overall, rather than defending particular programs in isolation. If legislators hear from each housing advocate, "Cut some other housing program to pay for mine," or, "This program or group is more vital than others," they will know that housing as a field lacks organization, will be fragmented in its defense and is ripe for cuts.

Our strength lies in unity.

Watch the Washington Wire from us for more news and opportunities to advocate.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

NHC’s Gala honorees are moving housing forward

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

I hope you’ll join NHC for our 45th Annual Housing Visionary Award Gala and 2017 Annual Policy Symposium on June 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C.!

The Housing Visionary Awards Gala honors great examples of collaborative, comprehensive community development work. This year NHC is proud to honor Habitat for Humanity International and Rebuilding Together.

Both organizations are well-known for the mobilization of thousands of volunteers to build and repair homes for low-income households. They continue to innovate beyond their founding models and have evolved in initiatives that improve outcomes and maximize the community development impacts of their work.

Habitat has moved away from single green field developments to more infill partnerships with other housing and community development efforts. Their builds often are part of larger development strategies that include Low Income Housing Tax Credit developments, rehab and repair of existing homes with partners like Rebuilding Together, and school and small business development with partners utilizing the New Markets Tax Credit.

Similarly, Rebuilding Together has progressed from their all-volunteer “Christmas in July” home repair origins to using sophisticated evaluation of air quality, energy efficiency and overall healthy home metrics to drive their work. Rebuilding Together also partners with groups like Habitat, community development organizations like NeighborWorks® America and for-profit developers doing new single-family and multifamily development in the same neighborhood.

At the Gala, we’ll also honor former HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, and Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio's 12th District for his long support for affordable housing.

Rep. Tiberi has been a tireless champion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credit programs, the nation’s most productive public-private affordable housing and economic development partnerships. Former Sec. Donovan led HUD through the nation’s most severe housing crisis and made important new advancements in combating homelessness and the redevelopment of public housing through the RAD program.

I hope you’ll join me at this important gathering to honor these great organizations and policy leaders, and attend our Annual Policy Symposium the next day. Visit our website for more information on how to purchase tickets and tables, become a sponsor or register for the PolicySymposium.

NHC member places youth at the affordable housing forefront

photo by: HACM/Paul Williams
by Andrea Nesby, National Housing Conference

NHC member Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM)’s YouthBuild program aims to help teens and young adults develop building skills while rehabilitating homes for low-income or homeless families. Through this program, participants are developing construction skills to create a path for employment and giving back to their community.

YouthBuild USA, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, first formed the program in 1990. Today, the program is sub-contracted to multiple agencies nationwide, including HACM, to provide job training and educational opportunities for at-risk youth ages 16-24. The U.S. Department of Labor is now a primary funder. 

Since its launch in 2015, participants have successfully completed rehabilitation of one home for a family. Starting out, participants built two dog houses to develop their professional roofing, framing and siding skills. When it comes to personal development, participants express gaining a sense of pride in their work, with one participant saying, “We want to make sure everything’s nice and neat when the new family moves in.” A total of 20 participants have completed HACM’s YouthBuild program, and recruitment for the 2017 cohort is currently under way.

Milwaukee’s YouthBuild program is one example of how a community can be innovative in adopting solutions to neighborhood restoration. NHC’s Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force (RNTF) convenes members from communities nationwide to develop solutions to restore neighborhoods that are still struggling to recover from underinvestment and neglect. We encourage representatives from communities, who are engaged in programs like YouthBuild, to join RNTF. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Kaitlyn Snyder at ksnyder@nhc.org

Friday, March 3, 2017

Flood insurance offers opportunities for positive housing policy

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

Affordable housing stakeholders should pay attention to flood insurance, because it offers one of the few areas for imminent, positive policy change. Lawmakers are planning to start soon on reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Reauthorization offers a chance to improve the program in ways that get people out of harm's way while directing help with costs to those in need. NHC along with our partners in the SmarterSafer Coalition briefed Senate staff last week, and we will keep focus on the flood insurance issue.

In the last two major NFIP reauthorizations, affordability has been at the center of the policy debate, but without much input from the affordable housing community. Both the 2012 Biggert-Waters law and the 2014 Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act struggled with the tradeoff between 1) making flood insurance rates reflect real risk and 2) raising the cost of flood insurance, which can be required for a mortgage. Affordability loomed large in feedback legislators received from constituents, whether they were homeowners on the margin for whom any increased cost could be unaffordable or wealthier homeowners surprised and upset by the prospect of much higher than anticipated insurance bills.

The NFIP expires in September, and Congress is preparing to act. Chairman Hensarling of the House Financial Services Committee has said reforming NFIP will be a major focus this year. Senators on the Banking Committee are also looking at the issue and invited SmarterSafer to brief them last week. Flood insurance is a rare area that offers possibility for bipartisan action with direct benefit to people nationwide.

So what needs to change in NFIP? The cost of flood insurance should send true signals about risk; it doesn't now. Indeed, the program effectively subsidizes homes at high risk. We need to improve the mapping of risk, create more private options for better insurance coverage and encourage homeowners and communities to mitigate the risks they face. These are essential changes for a program nearly $24 billion in the hole.

Affordability help is key to this change. They only way these program changes can happen is if we ensure that no one is displaced because of the cost of flood insurance and that homeowners and communities get the help they need to mitigate risk. The SmarterSafer proposal sketches out ways to help, including means-tested assistance for homeowners that can convert to up-front mitigation help that is implemented through private loans. We also propose community-level mitigation help using natural features to buffer against hazards whenever possible.

We're still a long way from NFIP reauthorization, but with the right efforts from the affordable housing community, we may very well see real, positive change this year.

It’s time to get serious about aging in place

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference

As my affordable housing colleagues work toward achieving positive outcomes when it comes to the  future of affordable housing, and as talk swirls around the nation around potential changes or replacement of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” I think about older adults. Many of them have intertwined housing and health needs, as both their incomes and health will decline with age. Now, more than ever, is the time to seriously engage in developing strategies to increase the amount of housing that is affordable, accessible and that meets the diverse safety and service needs of the rapidly growing number of older adults.

As reports from NHC and other organizations like Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies have shown, the affordable and accessible housing needs of the growing older adult population are far from met. By 2030, 132 million Americans will be 65 or older. Many of these older adults will pay more than what is affordable on rent, mortgage, property taxes or utilities. Furthermore, many may be at great risk of injury through falls and other mobility related challenges and many may not be able to complete basic daily activities without some help. Currently, there is just not enough housing available to meet the varied needs of these older adults. 

As the country grapples with these issues, it is important to remember that not only do most older adults want to age in their home or their community instead of in a nursing home, it is also much less costly. At our December How Housing Matters Conference, Catherine Anderson, vice president of state programs at UnitedHealthcare Community & State, explained that managed care organizations estimate that providing health services to older adults at home amounts to approximately a third of the cost of caring for them in a nursing home. The combination of significant savings and the strong preference for aging at home means that we must scale up and build upon existing efforts to help older adults age in place. This fits squarely at the intersection of housing and health, since the housing needs of older adults are affected in great part by their health.

I recently discussed with Justin Worland of TIME Magazine how the unsettled questions currently surrounding the future of healthcare and housing in America means we are not addressing the needs of older adults. As the country thinks about the future of both housing and health, we must also consider how to better coordinate work at the intersection of housing and health to better meet the needs of all Americans, and in particular, the complex and diverse needs of older adults.

Opening a path to meaningful dialogue

by Andrea Nesby, National Housing Conference

When it comes to bringing affordable housing options to a community, fear of the unknown can be the biggest catalyst of opposition. That is why proactively educating a community on affordable housing is crucial. NHC previously conducted an informal survey of our Restoring Neighborhoods Working Group members to better understand the types of community opposition they face, and a majority of respondents indicated the most commonly encountered opposition centered on who the residents will be.

This made me think about the severe opposition my former employer faced when opening a housing program for homeless veterans in a wealthy area. Residents had concerns about potential impacts on their property values, crime and safety. When the organization held open houses for community members to tour their other housing programs, it illuminated for me how important face-to-face interaction is to changing community members’ perceptions. When one single mom, who escaped an abusive relationship, welcomed community members into her home, she was eagerly trying to make sure everything was in its place, since her unit was in the process of being renovated. The visitors assured her everything looked fine. She joked about how it would all be messy again anyway when her two kids returned from school, and one community member laughed and said, “I can definitely relate.” This brief interaction demonstrated how few differences there are between people and humanized the housing program participants for community members.

In a 2015 report, NHC outlined seven effective strategies for countering community opposition. The report makes clear that face-to-face interaction is key. Two of the strategies touched on understanding the community’s values and addressing them and inviting community members to the discussion before decisions are made. Holding community meetings and open houses can provide an opportunity to do just this.

Part of the planning process often includes inviting community members to a public meeting to discuss the projected plan. This is where we as housers can address concerns and educate the community about why affordable housing is important and to whom. Consider coming prepared with a story or inviting a resident, who is already housed in one of your programs, to share their story. This can help put a face to the housing development and can help community members feel connected with future residents. After the planning process has passed and you’ve broken ground, an open house can provide the opportunity to share how the community’s input and needs have been incorporated into the design or program structure. For example, if a community expressed concerns about safety, you can discuss plans for residents to participate in a Community Watch program and point out security features in the development.

Practicing these strategies will prove how face-to-face interaction can go a long way, but of course it won’t always be a walk in the park. This is why we hold our Solutions for Housing Communications convening to help you think of creative solutions, so you can advance your work.  

We hope you will join us for this year’s convening on April 27-28 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we will discuss best practices for countering community opposition and tour local examples of housing developments who are innovating in their approach to countering community opposition.

If you have a strategy you’ve put in action and learned from, please comment below!