Thursday, October 20, 2016

How Housing Matters sparks community program for seniors

by Amy Clark, National Housing Conference

When the sectors come together, change happens. That was certainly the case for Debora Keller of Bath Housing near Portland, Maine. As a new housing director, Keller sought innovative ways to serve senior citizens in her community.

As the Urban Institute’s Maya Brennan shares at, Deborah Keller needed to connect the dots between the housing and health sectors and seniors' well-being. When she heard about the How Housing Matters Conference, she knew she had to attend.

The one-day conference featured a packed agenda and diverse topics, including senior housing. It opened her eyes to the possibilities of collaboration to leverage Bath Housing's strengths and change more lives.

On the plane home, Keller drafted a plan and a list of partners. Within one year, a new program was off the ground: Community Aging in Place (CAP). As an alternative to elderly disabled housing, CAP provides home maintenance and accessibility modifications so seniors can age in place in their own homes.

Gain tools and partners to impact your own community with successful cross-sector initiatives. Register and attend How Housing Matters Conference 2016 to connect, collaborate and make change happen!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Addressing historical inequities through preference policies in Portland

by Kaitlyn Snyder, National Housing Conference 

Last Thursday, NHC hosted a webinar on Portland’s restorative justice and preference policy which we learned about through NHC’s Inclusive Communities Working Group. The panelists (Dr. Lisa Bates, Portland State University; Kurt Creager, Portland Housing Bureau; Bishop Steven Holt, Kingdom Nation Church; Victoria James, Portland Housing Bureau; and Matthew Tschabold, Portland Housing Bureau) provided historical context for the City of Portland and the North/Northeast neighborhood and walked through the development, outreach and ongoing implementation of the policy.

During the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the city of Portland used condemnation and eminent domain to acquire land for the construction of Emanuel Hospital and Memorial Coliseum. As a part of the Albina Community Plan of the 1990s, the city marginalized and displaced vulnerable households by not implementing the actions identified to mitigate the negative impacts of the plan.
From the early 2000s to present day, the city has been involved in urban renewal through the development of a light rail line into North/Northeast Portland. While the light rail line brought significant public investment to North/Northeast Portland, it was also a factor in driving gentrification and new private investments in the area, which caused long-time residents to face rising rents and displacement.

As seen in the image below, residents impacted by one of these events receive one preference point, residents impacted by two of these events receive two preference points and residents impacted by all three of these events receive 3 preference points. The points are then applied to the waitlist for 65 new home ownership opportunities and 12 micro-condominiums.

Portland was able to move past the all-too-common argument of whether or not gentrification is good and to acknowledge that most people want revitalization, investment and improvements made, especially in low-income neighborhoods. But gentrification often comes with the negative effects of rising rents and displacement pressures for long-term residents who should also be able to benefit from community improvements. The preference policy is able to address some of these concerns by giving preference to families based on the amount of urban renewal activity that occurred where they lived (as described above), addressing generational displacement of families by urban renewal, giving preference to families regardless of where they currently live and giving top priority to families whose property was taken by the city. 

Historically, preference policies have been used as an exclusionary tool to keep people out of places. Portland was able to flip the old model on its head and use a preference policy as a tool for inclusion and bulwark against gentrification. Doing so requires a certain amount of nuance and can be difficult for localities to navigate.  The Portland Housing Bureau worked with local community members, academics, members of the business community and members of the local faith community to form a community oversight committee. The oversight committee is tasked with the “responsibility of reviewing and monitoring the development and implementation of policies and programming associated with the North/Northeast Neighborhoods Housing Strategy and the accompanying $20 million”

In the words of local resident, oversight committee chair and webinar panelist Bishop Steven Holt, “It’s about time that the amount of energy and effort to address those who have been historically wronged be equal to the amount of energy and effort to wrong them. It wasn’t accidental. It was very methodical. It was strategic. It was intentional and throughout the history of our nation, not just in this city but in every major city, all of the people who are… under-served or who are oppressed in one way or another are usually targeted and impacted by most actions. It would be great that the amount of scrutiny and effort that’s used to make sure that we’re not doing things to violate would be equaled by the amount of scrutiny and effort, or I should say the amount of intention, that went into creating the problem.” 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Exploring HUD’s proposal on energy benchmarking

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

To help reduce energy costs in affordable housing, HUD has issued a proposal for “spot check” utility benchmarking in HUD-assisted multifamily housing and to require benchmarking in public housing. Last week, I attended an information session hosted by HUD on benchmarking for multifamily housing to enhance my understanding as NHC drafts its comments on the proposal. As many NHC members may be reviewing the proposal, I wanted to share some highlights and resources from the event. For members interested in working with NHC on a comment letter, please email me.

Energy benchmarking tracks the utility consumption of a multifamily development, calculating the energy and water efficiency of the development and comparing it to that of similar developments. It can help owners understand their buildings’ energy performance, detect malfunctioning equipment and billing errors, prioritize capital improvements and plan for future budget needs. Under the proposal, HUD will require multifamily building owners to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Portfolio Manager, ideally using whole-building data to create each building’s energy baseline. If whole-building data is not available, HUD will accept a sample of tenant utility data combined with owner utility data.

At the information session, HUD staff gave an overview of the proposal and EPA reviewed the Portfolio Manager tool. Presenters also shared their expertise on the value of benchmarking and the perspective of utilities. Studies have shown the benefits of benchmarking in terms of reduced energy and water use as well as providing an important baseline for exploring energy retrofits. NHC appreciates HUD’s leadership in this area to move the portfolio further towards energy and water efficiency. One primary concern with the proposal is the ability of owners to access utility data, especially at the tenant level. Some utilities are reluctant to provide this data, even if aggregated and anonymized to address privacy concerns. Many utilities also do not have the systems in place to provide this data. Getting the data necessary for benchmarking from utilities could be a time- and labor-intensive process which is an important factor to consider when analyzing the proposal.

HUD has resources available to owners to help with the benchmarking process, and HUD reviewed the many resources available on utility benchmarking at the event. These resources include case studies on benchmarking from participants in the Better Building Challenge as well as instructions on how to collect utility data. HUD has also provided information on how to use Portfolio Manager. HUD has created a database to look up how to request tenant utility data for the 40 largest utility companies in the U.S., and HUD will expand this database to the 100 largest utility companies. In November 2016, HUD will open an application process for 12 Environmental Defense Fund Climate Core Fellows who will help owners set up benchmarking in the summer of 2017. HUD will host webinars to train housing providers and hopes to build additional functionality around Portfolio Manager to make the process more valuable for owners. HUD will also issue a housing notice with operational guidance to help with implementation of the proposal.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Enrich your community with solutions to educational disparity

by Amy Clark, National Housing Conference

Thinking of attending How Housing Matters on December 13? Don't miss Building Bridges between Education and Housing Stakeholders, a community conversation on cross-sector approaches to education reform.

This important session will shed light on housing-based educational enrichment with input from these experts:

  • Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, will address education sector pain points with a focus on reducing school absenteeism.
  • Christi Huck, executive director of City Garden Montessori School, will discuss creating high-quality, diverse schools in low-income neighborhoods that serve students and neighbors alike. 
  • Vanessa Hernandez, resident services manager of Eden Housing, will share innovations in afterschool programming and resident engagement that support educational outcomes. 
This panel will take on the tough issues: educational inequity, school segregation and cross-sector approaches to education reform. You'll leave with enhanced perspective on how education and housing are connected as well as best practices you can apply in your own community.

This is just one session of How Housing Matters Conference 2016 that will explore the possibilities of cross-sector collaboration. Register for free today to join the full conversation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Explore placemaking and mobility at a special Solutions for Affordable Housing double session

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

High-opportunity places, especially newly energized communities, need inbound pathways for new
residents. Outbound pathways to places of higher opportunity need landing spots. Housing strategies succeed most when they align with people's choices for schools, employment and community life.

In a two-panel double session at Solutions for Affordable Housing, NHC’s 2016 national policy convening, speakers will discuss new ideas in placemaking and explore emerging best practices in mobility strategies that connect the two approaches.

A combined approach
Solving our communities' housing challenges requires bringing all our resources to bear. Focusing solely on community revitalization, or on mobility and choice alone, would necessarily leave some families and neighborhoods behind.

On December 14, I’ll moderate a panel that will strive to move housing forward with a combine mobility and placemaking approach, with the help of these experts:
  • Ted Chandler, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
  • David Cristeal, Arlington County
  • Chrystal Kornegay, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Carol Naughton, Purpose Built Communities
  • Marisa Novara, Metropolitan Planning Council
  • Barbara Sard, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Celia Smoot, LISC
Join the conversation
Solutions for Affordable Housing is where the housing community will convene to chart the course for federal housing policy after the November election. Register now to be part of it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Broadening the picture of housing need

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

I have written previously about NHC’s years of research at the intersection of affordable housing and education, health, transportation and economic opportunity. As part of that economic opportunity lens, NHC for many years has produced our annual report, “Paycheck to Paycheck,” contrasting the median wages of over 80 occupations with average rental and homeownership costs in the largest 210 metro areas. Each year this report also features a set of occupations from one sector to highlight the different housing challenges of that sector. Past reports have included healthcare and tourism, while this year’s report focuses on education. You can print the report from our website that details the education occupations featured as well as see how those salaries meet rental and ownership costs in the top 50 metro areas.

The Paycheck to Paycheck data tool allows you to produce custom charts of the housing costs and occupations most relevant for your metro area and use them as educational resources on the affordability challenges of your region’s workforce. This feature allows you to highlight your metro area’s full range of wages and further enforce the message that many occupations do not earn a wage that meets the cost of housing in your community. While past housing advocacy efforts have often referred to households in the 80-120 percent AMI range as in need of “workforce housing,” we know that many people at much lower incomes still work, and still need help with housing. By broadening the picture of housing need using tools like Paycheck, we can increase understanding of affordable housing need without unhelpfully categorizing lower-income working people as outside the workforce.

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the 15th anniversary celebration of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH). Headquartered in Boston, POAH has an impressive track record of impact in their region as well as more recent expansion to other parts of the country like Chicago and Washington, D.C. Opened with an interesting keynote from Urban Institute CEO Sarah Wartell, it was a great evening of celebration and discussion about what was next for the field as well as the opportunities in front of us to change our current narrative and strategies in order to build more public and political will. Congratulations to CEO Aaron Gornstein as well as the POAH staff and board on a great event and a tremendous first 15 years of work!

U.S. incomes increasing, but school workers still struggle to afford housing

Solutions through research
by Brian Stromberg and Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference 

Paycheck to Paycheck 2016: A Snapshot of Housing Affordability for School Workers” focuses on five school-related occupations: bus drivers, social workers, daycare teachers, groundskeepers and high school teachers. These workers and other members of a school’s staff collaborate to create a safe and nurturing environment for students. Through this work, these individuals become part of the fabric of the community, whether they are bus drivers, groundskeepers or teachers. However, in many metropolitan areas across the country, the salaries of these workers do not allow them to live in the communities that they serve.

Our analysis comes at a time when the economy is giving strong indications of recovery. Most telling are the data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. They show that median household incomes grew 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015. While this recovery is something to celebrate, housing costs are still unmanageable for many households. This includes many of those described in the “Paycheck to Paycheck” report. Housing costs can force difficult choices on households when they begin to encroach on other elements of a household’s budget like food and healthcare. Can a child care teacher move to a more affordable neighborhood and spend more time and money on transportation? Should a groundskeeper absorb the higher housing costs required to live near work and spend less on other items, like healthcare and food? The ability to live affordably near work is a key element in retaining workers. Unaffordable housing can drive away skilled workers, or cause them emotional and physical stress.

The data in the 2016 analysis suggest that housing affordability is a struggle for workers across the income range. None of the occupations highlighted in this report earned salaries that were high enough to guarantee either renting or owning in all 210 metropolitan areas, and the discrepancies between the earnings of several occupations and the housing costs in certain metropolitan areas were massive.

For example, in the super-heated real estate market of California’s Bay Area, the typical rent for a two-bedroom home would consume almost 75 percent of a child care teacher’s median income. Even more striking is the qualifying income for ownership in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which is $298,238. This is over eight times more than the median income for a child care teacher. The disparity between salary and housing costs is certainly extreme in such a high-cost market, but child care teachers can only afford to rent in five percent and own in six percent of the 210 metropolitan areas included in the report.

The implications of the data in the 2016 report go beyond the education sector, as many of the occupations in the full Paycheck to Paycheck data earn salaries that are comparable to the ones highlighted in the report. They were chosen to represent the broad range of both teachers and non-instructional school workers, as well as the diversity of occupations across the country. With this in mind, the report also discusses the range of policies and programs that are designed to improve access to affordable housing. Expanding support for these would benefit not just education workers but workers in every sector in communities across the country.

The full report, a database of wages and housing costs for 81 occupations in 210 metro areas, an explanation of our methodology and a supplemental research brief are available here.  

Since the September 14th release of “Paycheck to Paycheck” and the online tool, NHC has discovered that final checks of the data were insufficient to detect miscalculations. Upon review of the analysis, NHC discovered errors in the graphs in the online tool and incorrect data in “Paycheck to Paycheck.” 

As a result of the errors in “Paycheck to Paycheck”, we underestimated the magnitude of the housing affordability challenges facing school bus drivers and child care workers in Greenville, S.C., as well as the housing affordability challenges of households across the country earning the area median incomes who want to purchase a home. We have corrected these issues, recommend you review the updated report if you used this information and re-run any data you may have previously obtained from the online Paycheck database. If you have any questions regarding the changes to “Paycheck to Paycheck” or the online tool, please contact Janet Viveiros at