CHCDF Series on Housing as Infrastructure

Infrastructure Includes Substandard Housing

By , National Rural Housing Coalition

Family-Framing-in-the-sunset-300x225The lack of adequate water and waste disposal systems is a major infrastructure need of rural America and it is directly link to another pressing infrastructure need – substandard housing.

Most violations of federal drinking water standards are made by small communities with limited resources to dedicate to compliance.  Small and rural drinking water systems constitute nearly 85 percent of the 53,000 community water systems in America. The 2013 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Needs Assessment indicated a national need of $64.5 billion for small community water systems.[1] This represents 17.4 percent of total national need. The lack of adequate water and waste water systems has a direct impact on the quality of housing. The American Community Survey found that almost 630,000 occupied households in the country lack complete plumbing facilities – meaning they do not have one of the following: a toilet, tub, shower or running water.

President Trump proposed to triple funding for EPA’s Safe Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), which would make $6 billion available. However, while approximately 96 percent of all health-based violations occur in systems serving a population of less than 10,000, less than a third of the SRF outlays are directed at these same small systems. Thus, this proposal would not meet the needs of America’s small towns.

The National Rural Housing Coalition has recommended that 20 percent of the new proposed level of funding for EPA’s SRFs be transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use in its water and waste disposal loan and grant program and Sections 504 and 533 repair programs. USDA’s Water and Sewer loan and grant financing program is a key component of economic development in rural America.  The agency boasts a portfolio of more than 18,000 active water/sewer loans, more than 19 million rural residents served, and a delinquency rate of just 0.18 percent.  USDA is better equipped to address rural community facilities needs than state SRFs.

With the USDA Section 504 Loan and Grant program and the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant program, rural communities have been able to address substandard housing needs that stem from a lack of adequate plumbing. These programs can provide critical assistance to shore up this infrastructure. For example, with an expanded HPG grant of $400,000 and $370,000 in leveraged funds, Self-Help Enterprises in California provided basic health and safety improvements and drill on-site water wells for 23 families in the drought-ravaged San Joaquin Valley.

The bottom line is that the Administration and Congress should take a holistic approach to addressing America’s infrastructure needs, and include funding for housing and water/wastewater systems in any infrastructure package.

This article is the sixth in a blog series of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding that ties housing to infrastructure. To read the other blog posts, please click here.

[1] Defined as serving 3,300 and fewer persons.

This article was originally published at:

2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

Community Outreach Housing, Making Strides Towards Reducing Housing Poverty in Texas

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer


Community Outreach Housing (COH) leaders, Tamra and Darrell Gardner, were nominated for this year’s 2017 Organizer Award because of their selfless and extensive work in bringing affordable and decent housing to the low income residents of Stephenville, Texas.

COH’s main goal is to provide stable and affordable homes to low income residents of Stephenville and organizers Tamra and Darrell are leading the way. The organization’s work centers on managing below market rate housing for low income residents of Stephenville, where the median family income is $34,501. COH maintains single family rental homes in mixed income neighborhoods zoned for high performing schools. Thus, residents of COH have access to quality education in less segregated neighborhoods. Currently, COH operates 17 rental homes and has plans to double that number in the near future, expanding critically lacking affordable housing to some of Stephenville’s most vulnerable residents.

In addition to their rental homes, COH also organizes service projects to improve the homes of community members in need, including seniors, veterans, students, and low income families. Recruiting volunteers and in-kind donations from local suppliers, COH was able to complete renovations on 7 homes during 2016, expanding decent and affordable housing in the community.

The community member who nominated Tamra and Darrell described them as “generous, humble and truly kind…giving back to the community instead of profiting themselves.” Their work expands access to quality, affordable housing while raising awareness for the need for further investment in the community.

To learn more about COH’s ongoing work to achieve expanded mixed-income housing in areas of opportunity, visit their website at:

CHCDF Series on Housing as Infrastructure

Investing in Affordable Housing is Investing in Latino Communities

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAimAAAAJGVmMDkzMWE4LTdlYzEtNDhhNS05MDBmLTIzOGIxZmFlYWRiYgBy Daniel Palacios, Policy Associate, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB)

During his campaign, Donald Trump emphasized and expressed frustration about the lack of economic opportunity and mobility for Americans across the country. The idea that upward mobility is out of reach for many Americans proved to be a compelling message for many voters, paving the way to victory for President Trump.

For many Americans, the challenge of economic opportunity is acutely felt in the context of housing, whether being able to afford rent, secure a mortgage or purchase an affordable home. The price of a mortgage is now more expensive than it has been in half a decade thanks to rising interest rates and growth in home values. While this challenge is not unique to any one demographic group, Hispanic Americans disproportionately bear the weight of affordable housing challenges. According to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies, 23 percent of Hispanic households are severely burdened by debt, compared with just 14 percent of white households. Given that Hispanics represent a large and rapidly growing segment of the population, a reduction of the affordable housing burden would free up more money for spending and investment, resulting in a direct stimulus to the economy and greater housing security for Hispanic families.

The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) strongly supports programs that work to address the affordable housing challenge facing many Hispanic families. When the housing market works better for low-and moderate income Hispanic (LMI) consumers, the entire country benefits. That is why the Trump administration should continue the federal government’s support for programs that equitably invest in LMI Hispanic communities.

A key strategy for the Trump administration to address the affordable housing challenge is through the continued support for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and the HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME). CDFIs are community-based, private-sector financial entities that address the lending, debt and equity needs of LMI communities. CDFIs bring a community-centric lens to investing in affordable housing, a vision that mainstream financial institutions do not often share. Equally as important are the CDBG and HOME programs, which provide funding for new home construction, rehabilitation of existing homes, and mortgage principal reduction assistance. Combined, these three programs provide a vital set of tools that enable communities to address the many elements of their affordable housing needs.

To see these tools in action, look to Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. (AHSTI). Headquartered in McAllen, Texas, AHSTI enhances the quality of life for the people of South Texas by providing affordable home ownership opportunities and related services to eligible families. South Texas has a high concentration of Hispanic residents, many of whom are LMI working people seeking affordable home ownership opportunities. AHSTI creates opportunities through land development, provision of general contracting services and mortgage financing exclusively for low-income working families who do not qualify for conventional home loans. Over the past six years, AHSTI has deployed a total of $36,889,416 in single family mortgages, creating 529 new homeowners in various cities across South Texas. Twelve percent, or $4,453,806 of these funds, have come directly from Financial Assistance Awards from the CDFI Fund, while 11 percent, or $3,992,479 of these funds, have come from CDBG and HOME combined.

Funding from the CDFI Fund, CDBG program, and HOME program have proven vital to meeting AHSTI’s mission, allowing it to leverage multiple sources of capital to finance affordable home construction. AHSTI serves as a prime example of the fact that no single program offers the solution to all affordable housing challenges. Rather, it is through a combination of resources, both private and public, that organizations like AHSTI will be better equipped to meet the affordable housing opportunities of the communities they serve.

Enabling families to purchase a home of their own is an accomplishment by itself, but AHSTI’s work extends well beyond homeownership. AHSTI’s construction of new, affordable homes also generates employment opportunities for local construction companies and an increase in the tax base for municipalities, spurring greater economic opportunity throughout the community.

Affordable housing investments, like those supported by AHSTI, serve as catalysts for economic development in Hispanic communities across the country. If we truly wish to improve our national infrastructure, we should continue to support public and private investments that make affordable housing a reality for all people.

This article was originally published at:

Mr. President, Our Communities Cannot Afford Further Cuts to HUD

By Elayne Weiss, Senior Policy Analyst

“Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?” Those were words stated by then-candidate Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Well, Mr. President, your administration’s proposal to cut HUD’s budget by $7.7 billion will do anything but that.

While President Donald Trump is expected to send Congress a high-level budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 next week, an overview of early drafts by the Washington Post shows the severity of cuts under consideration. Multiple sources confirm that the administration could slash HUD’s budget by as much as $7.7 billion from FY17 funding levels, a 16% cut.

Specifically, the leaked HUD budget would:

  • Cut funding for public housing repairs by $1.3 billion or 68%.
  • Cut funding for Housing Choice Vouchers by $980 million, adjusted for inflation. Such a cut translates to 200,000 vouchers lost.
  • Cut funding that would result in approximately 10,000 homes for seniors and 6,000 homes for people with disabilities being lost.
  • Cut funding for Native American communities—that have some of the worst housing and most dire housing needs in America—by a 25% or $150 million.
  • Eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME), the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, and the Self-Help Housing Opportunity Program (SHOP).


With a national shortage of 7.4 million homes affordable and available to the lowest income people in the country, these cuts are not only unacceptable—they are downright dangerous. Such cuts would likely lead to more families facing eviction and living on the streets instead of having a warm, stable and affordable home—a place where their children can play and do their homework, where seniors can live out their golden years, or where people with disabilities don’t have to worry about accessibility issues.

In the Chicago metro area, the city Mr. Trump often speaks of, there is a shortage of 264,000 homes that are affordable and available to the lowest income renters. That means for every 100 extremely low income renter households, there are only 26 homes that are affordable and available to them. Seventy-six percent of these lowest income renters in Chicago spend more than half of their income on rent, leaving them one emergency away from homelessness.

The proposed cuts would seriously exacerbate this shortage. They would allow public housing properties, which are chronically underfunded, to fall further into disrepair, putting at risk the homes of more than 1 million residents who are often elderly, have a disability, or both.

People who could lose the rental assistance they receive from HUD, like Housing Choice Vouchers, would have to pay even more of their limited income on rent. As a result, they would have fewer resources to spend on other basic essentials, like food, healthcare, and education—the very things that help kids reach their full potential.

And by eliminating block grant resources for community development and housing production, the Trump budget would undermine the ability for states and communities to invest in their communities, address their housing shortage, and meet other pressing needs.

So again, how does a $7.7 billion cut to the HUD, which has lifted four million people out of poverty—including 1.5 million children—make life better for kids growing up in Chicago or any other community in the U.S.?

If anything, we should be increasing federal investments in affordable housing.

Such investments provide families and communities with the resources they need to thrive. Access to affordable housing has wide-ranging, positive impacts. Evidence-based research has shown that when families have stable, decent, and accessible homes that they can afford, they are better able to find employment, achieve economic mobility, perform better in school, and maintain improved health. Increasing and preserving access to affordable housing in areas of opportunity helps families climb the economic ladder, leading to greater community development and bolstering economic productivity and job creation.

In contrast, evidence has also shown that people, especially children, experience poor outcomes in many areas of their lives when they experience homelessness and housing instability.

It’s time for advocates to speak out against these cuts by contacting their members of Congress. Tell your lawmakers any further cuts to HUD are unacceptable and will hurt the very people they represent.

The NLIHC-led Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) will be hosting a webinar on March 20 to discuss the proposed budget cuts and ways to effectively engage lawmakers.  We hope you’ll join!

CHCDF Series on Housing as Infrastructure

Energy Savings Can Help Preserve the Supply of Affordable Units

By Kathi Whalen, Public Housing Authorities Directors Association
Originally published on PHADA

Congressional funding for the public housing program has sharply declined. In the last eight years successive deep cuts to the Operating Fund have resulted in more than $6 billion in losses. And the Capital Fund is consistently funded at levels well below the annual accrual needs. This means that the infamous $26 billion capital backlog continues to grow unabated. These funding levels threaten the existence of public housing – housing currently occupied by many of the neediest families, seniors and disabled persons in more than 3,000 communities across the country. Ambitious infrastructure spending is needed to preserve and update the public housing inventory.

In the midst of this current funding crisis HUD continues to spend a significant portion (1 in every 5 dollars) of its public housing budget to pay for utility costs. HUD pays utility expenses calculated on actual consumption. Housing authorities (HAs), in turn, pass these funds through to utility providers. Neither HUD nor housing authorities have adequate resources to change the trajectory of this spending. Since 2012, HAs have received only a portion (81–90%) of their operating needs from Congress but must, of course, continue to pay 100% of their utility bills. The combination of unchecked utility costs and declining operating funds means fewer remaining dollars to serve residents and to maintain their housing units. An infusion of infrastructure spending for energy improvements could break this costly cycle by providing housing agencies the financial resources to pay for 21st-century technology to sharply lower utility (typically gas, electricity, oil, water) consumption and costs. Savings generated by reductions in utility costs could then be put to work preserving public housing on behalf of public housing residents. The new Trump Administration has a few options for finding energy savings that also support public housing preservation. They are:

1. Energy Performance Contracts (EPC) with Energy Service Companies (ESCO)

The Department has encouraged housing agencies to enter into Energy Performance Contracts with energy service companies (ESCO) to address their public housing energy-efficiency needs. This allows housing agencies to use private borrowing to make energy improvements. HUD agrees to continue to pay utility costs at a “frozen” consumption level for 20 years. The savings – the difference between the frozen consumption level and the new reduced energy spending allows for repayment of the ESCO loans. This approach has limited application since it tends to work best for larger agencies that can produce major costs savings with the energy improvements. After 20 years agencies have much more efficient, more financially secure properties and HUD can pay utilities at lower consumption levels.

2. Frozen Rolling Utility Base

HUD should apply the frozen consumption (rolling utility base) used successfully in energy performance contracts to all public housing agencies to provide a financial mechanism to create widespread energy improvements and savings. Agencies that are allowed to generate savings and to then use those proceeds to improve their properties will shortly become expert at establishing energy-saving priorities. Moving to Work (MTW) flexibility has helped some agencies become leaders in energy conservation. Because of low Operating and Capital Fund levels the improvement will be incremental and not as dramatic as those in ESCO partnerships. Retained savings from energy savings will benefit struggling properties and their residents. And as with ESCOs, after 20 years agencies have much more efficient, more financially secure properties and HUD can pay for utilities at lower consumption levels.

3. Direct Infrastructure Investment – “It Takes Money to Save Money”

Direct infrastructure investment for energy improvements would allow housing authorities to create more energy-efficient properties more quickly. This would improve comfort and livability for residents and help to preserve properties for the next generation in need. It would importantly end the long-term demand for HUD to fund utility consumption levels indefinitely. Direct infrastructure investments in energy improvements could cause larger savings across the public housing inventory to accrue even more quickly. With adequate investments agencies could also optimize their energy solutions. For instance, an agency with aging boilers could do more than just replace boilers. The better long-term solution might include a more thorough approach – perhaps the installation of a geothermal field along with more insulation and high performance windows and doors. These one-time comprehensive solutions are rarely an option with declining Congressional funding. Public housing units and building are often clustered and contiguous making energy investments helpful and effective for a large numbers of households. Infrastructure investments in renewable might reasonably allow some properties to be less dependent on the electrical grid or to become net producers of energy.