Spotlight on Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, NLIHC’s 2017 Organizing Award Nominee

By Mary Burke Rivers, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing executive director 

otrch 1Over-the-Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH) , the owner and manager of a low income housing site in the gentrifying Over-the-Rhine section of Cincinnati, was nominated for NLIHC’s 2017 Organizing Award for their impressive organizing and mobilization efforts, preventing the demolition of a neighborhood park and community public space.

OTRCH has a history of mobilizing the Cincinnati community. Since the 2006 merger of two local housing justice organizations, they have developed over 300 units of affordable housing, have managed over 400 units, and have saved 45 historical buildings from demolition. Over-the-Rhine is a diverse community that has experienced a dramatic loss of affordable housing while also experiencing a dramatic increase in up-scale housing. Neighborhood residents felt excluded from attempts at progress in the area and wanted stability.

In early 2015, OTRCH, its neighborhood Community Council and other residents learned of a plan working its way through the city to sell off 84,000 square feet of public land to a private developer for the purposes of constructing  21 high-end single family homes, in the otherwise dense, low income and mostly black and brown neighborhood. The plan included the demolition of current community assets—a public park and basketball courts where neighborhood kids play, and a community garden maintained by a neighborhood-based nonprofit—with no public input process with residents who would be deeply affected. OTRCH’s Children’s Creative Corner, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and Peaslee Neighborhood Center’s Agents of Change program together created their Keep Our Courts/Do Development Differently (KOC/DDD) campaign to convince city officials to abandon their proposed privatization and development plan, and to institute notions of equity and justice in future development efforts.

otrch 2

The campaign earned the support of other organizations and movements, including the city’s chapter of Black Lives Matter. Activities of the campaign included public education and mobilization components; a neighborhood cookout, kid’s basketball tournament and block party at the public park and proposed development site; lobby visits with numerous public officials; and testimony before the city council by advocates, residents, and children who would be impacted by the demolition of their neighborhood park. KOC/DDD was successful in pressuring the City of Cincinnati to re-examine the terms of its exclusive development contract with the private, for-profit developer; as a result, the developer opted not to renew this contract. The city is now working to improve community input processes for more inclusive community preservation and development proposals in the future.

To learn more about OTRCH’s community mobilization and work on resident-centered developmental proposals, visit http://otrch.org and http://peasleecenter.org/agents-of-change/

NYers Join Forces at #NoCuts Rally to Protest Proposed HUD Cuts

By Jessica A. Facciponti, New York Housing Conference (NYHC) director of policy & programs

Schumer Press Conference in Support of NoCuts

Senator Schumer Press Conference in Support of #NoCuts

The #NoCuts Coalition organized a rally on Thursday, April 20th, protesting the $6.2 billion in HUD cuts nationwide that were proposed by the Trump administration. Under President Trump’s Budget Blueprint, New York State is estimated to lose over $1 billion in annual funds for critical housing programs.

New York State is already in the midst of a growing homeless and affordable housing crisis with 88,000 homeless New Yorkers and close to a million families paying more than half of their income towards rent each month.  New York City’s irreplaceable public housing infrastructure is deteriorating after years of federal disinvestment and is in dire need of a federal capital infusion to restore decent, healthy and safe living conditions for its residents. In addition, more than 200,000 of New York City’s senior citizens currently wait an average of seven years on Section 202 waiting lists for affordable housing.  Trump’s cuts would woefully exacerbate NY’s affordable housing problem by forcing many senior citizens, disabled households and families with children out of their homes and onto the streets or into shelters. To oppose these harmful and draconian cuts, elected officials, tenants, religious leaders, union workers and affordable housing advocates joined forces to form the #NoCuts Coalition and rallied in protest.

Based on the Budget Blueprint projections, 20,293 Section 8 households in New York would be at risk of homelessness. New York State would lose $430 Million in Public Housing Operating & Capital Funds, which includes New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) operating funding loss of $100-150 million and capital funding of $216 million. NYCHA already has a $17 billion Capital repair backlog. These cuts would further inhibit NYC’s ability to maintain and repair this critical affordable housing infrastructure. Given these needs, the federal government should be increasing the housing budget not cutting it.

Moreover, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) programs were completely eliminated in Trump’s Budget Blueprint. New York City’s neighborhoods would be hit hard by the loss of CDBG funding for homeless services, senior center upgrades, daycare services, building code enforcement and emergency building repairs among other uses. In Upstate NY, CDBG is a critical program used to leverage investment in economically disadvantaged communities. HOME funding supports new construction of housing for very low-income renters including supportive housing for the formerly homeless and senior housing. It also provides direct rental assistance for homeless families.

Trump’s proposed HUD budget cuts would not only harm New York’s vulnerable and working families, but it will negatively impact New York’s economy. A HR&A 2017 report funded by NYSAFAH[i] calculated that affordable housing development and preservation activities in New York generate $11 billion in annual economic activity during construction. It also creates 66,000 annual jobs.  It also would effectively halt the production of affordable apartments in NY which have been created at a pace of 26,000 units over five years and would further limit the amount of available affordable units for low income households for years to come.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and several local Council Members spoke at the rally denouncing the unconscionable cuts while highlighting the disastrous impacts they would have on NY and its residents. Senator Schumer showed his support by hosting a #NoCuts press conference on Tuesday, April 18th. He is also a member of the #NoCuts Coalition.

Velazquez Denouncing HUD Cuts

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez Denouncing the HUD Cuts

If enacted, the President’s budget would contribute to a rise in homelessness, accelerate the decline of public housing infrastructure and curb production of affordable housing across the country. Join NYHC and NLIHC to protect federal housing funds!


[i]HR&A Advisors, Inc. (2017). Economic Impacts of Affordable Housing on New York State’s Economy. New York, NY: HR&A Advisors, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.nysafah.org/cmsBuilder/

Continuing the Fight on the Local Level: Views from NLIHC Organizing Award Recipients

By NPH Executive Director Amie Fishman and EBHO Executive Director Gloria Bruce 

Preface: The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) awarded its annual Organizing Award to the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) during its “2017 Housing Policy Forum: Advancing Solutions in a Changing Landscape” on April 3.

NPH and EBHO are honored to be recognized by NLIHC for our longstanding roles and partnerships initiating, supporting, and driving success for affordable housing investment policy via a number of local revenue measures in the San Francisco Bay Area this past fall.

We took on this work because we knew acting locally mattered. What we didn’t know at the time, but has become increasingly and devastatingly clear since Election Day, is just how vital local action on affordable housing would become. The following is our perspective on why it’s important to continue defending affordable housing policies on the national level, but we should also stay vigilant to drive progress locally.

***

In 2011, California’s governor and legislature dissolved our state’s redevelopment agencies, cutting $1 billion annually in funding for housing for low-wage workers, seniors, people with disabilities and veterans. Coupled with federal cuts, some California counties experienced a reduction of 89% in affordable housing investment – all while housing needs continued to grow.

Advocates recognized that we needed to take control back into local hands. Working with elected and community leaders, NPH and EBHO worked to find local and regional opportunities to create affordable housing investments. Then, we looked within to identify unique opportunities to galvanize our affordable housing community, including building and mobilizing a robust resident engagement program.

Building up to the November 2016 election, our organizations worked with leaders, partners, members, residents, and community members to initiate, support, and win a number of local affordable housing funding measures to invest in the affordable housing opportunities and options our communities needed. Including our work on Measure A (Santa Clara County), Measure A1 (Alameda County), Measure K (San Mateo County), Measures KK and JJ (Oakland), and Measure U1 (Berkeley), we secured more than $2 billion new, urgently needed revenue to create affordable housing opportunities in our communities this past fall.

NPH worked with resident leaders across Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda County to develop a voter registration and education program for affordable housing residents, including speaker trainings, distributing more than 11,000 voter materials in seven languages to affordable housing residents, and organizing member staff and residents to support campaigns directly through phone banking and precinct walking.

Amie phone banking

EBHO resident leaders from affordable housing communities in Oakland made more than fifty presentations across the city and worked tirelessly to reach neighbors, friends, faith communities, and other local groups with the message to vote yes for affordable housing.

EBHO Gloria

Providing strategy, developing strong coalitions, fundraising, and organizing our communities proved well worth our efforts and an important step in driving solutions. We’re obviously proud of our work and honored by NLIHC’s recognition. But with more cuts coming from the federal level, it’s no time to rest on our laurels. Our commitment to advance inclusion, racial and economic equity in our communities is more important than ever.

Anyone following NLIHC is certainly aware of the new federal policies, proposals, and considerations that will impact our affordable housing work. Affordable housing advocates’ concerns include, but certainly, are not limited to:

  • The confirmation of Ben Carson as HUD Secretary. Carson has made on-record statements demonstrating his support for rolling back housing protections and policies;
  • President Trump’s executive orders. One of Trump’s first actions as president was to roll back an FHA mortgage loan policy that was intended to support young and moderate-income Americans seeking to become homeowners;
  • Uncertainty over tax reform under the Republican Congress, including disruptions to the tax credit market;
  • The “skinny budget” proposal which would cut more than $6 billion from HUD’s budget, down 13% from last year’s bare-bones budget — and down 15% from the funding level for FY17, resulting in more than 200,000 families, seniors, and people with disabilities who benefit from housing assistance becoming at immediate risk of homelessness;
  • The proposal to eliminate a number of important programs, including Community Development Block Grants and HOME Investment Partnerships, as well as dramatically reduce funding to other core programs that our communities rely on.

Any one of these bullets would cause concern. All together? It’s not an overstatement to recognize the direction of the federal administration as a direct attack on our ability to create thriving, inclusive and equitable neighborhoods.

We’re thankful to have national partners like NLIHC working hard to fight back against these cuts and harmful proposals, and to press HUD Secretary Ben Carson on commitments to HUD’s mission. We believe that local and regional organizations must support these efforts and do what we can do to bring voices from all over the country to support their strategies.

But, given the sheer enormity of current situations, it will take more than our status quo. It’s more important than ever that we push on our local and state leaders to defend our communities and find new solutions.

For those of us in blue states, it’s not enough for our local leaders to decry the federal administration’s actions – they must commit to take the actions they can to defend our most vulnerable communities, fight for affordable housing, and preserve our values.

Here in California, advocates are looking to local and state leadership to help defend our most vulnerable communities, fight for affordable housing, and protect our neighbors. To echo Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), we know that California’s housing crisis existed before the Trump administration took office – but there is no doubt that this Presidency is exacerbating and inflaming the problem.

California, and especially the Bay Area, has long been known to lead ‘worst of’ lists when it comes to housing affordability and opportunities. But we’re proud of the work our communities have been doing to step up and emerge as leaders in finding solutions too. Affordable housing advocates are coming together to work closely and strategically in one voice, in a way like never before to make sure our leaders do their part in supporting the needs of our neighbors and the values of our communities.

For those of us in more conservative states, remind your elected officials that affordable housing is not a partisan issue: In fact, polling from Ipsos Public Affairs showed that more than 3 out of every 4 voters were more likely to support a candidate who made affordable housing a priority in government. In fact, a strong majority of Republican, Democrat, and Independent voters alike want to make affordable housing a core component of their party’s platforms.

Especially at this national moment, those of us working in cities and states across the nation need to push on decision makers to find local solutions to advance housing justice. Voters have demonstrated their unity behind affordable housing. Now, we should push on our local and state leaders to keep up the urgency and keep building on the movement. While we can’t give up on fighting at a national level, it’s more important than ever to look at local, regional, and state leaders in order to drive progress.

What Affordable Housing Means to Me…

AFFORDABLE HOUSING SUCCESS STORY: ALASKA
COOK INLET HOUSING AUTHORITY

Mission: Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA) is one of 14 regional housing authorities established in the 1970s to address poor housing conditions throughout Alaska. Its service area includes the state’s largest urban center, Anchorage, small towns, and remote Alaska Native villages accessible only by sea and air. CIHA is a Tribally Designated Housing Entity that leverages Native and non-Native federal housing resources to serve all eligible Alaskans. It has become one of Alaska’s largest housing developers and managers, with a rental portfolio of more than 1,400 homes. CIHA’s developments have been recognized nationally by the National Association of Home Builders, the Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Awards, HUD, and the American Planning Association.

Story: Because of complex market conditions, mixed-income housing developments are uncommon in Anchorage. Because of the availability of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), Indian Housing Block Grant program (IHBG) funding, and other private and state resources, CIHA was able to develop Loussac Place, a mixed-income community, despite the market barriers. Loussac Place is home to an incredibly diverse community. Its first residents include a recent widow with five young children, a retired senior couple on a fixed-income, a pharmaceutical marketing professional with a college degree, a single father employed as a traveling sales representative, and a recently homeless veteran. Loussac Place includes a community building, where residents have access to a library and a computer lab. A gathering room provides space for financial fitness classes, job and education fairs, and cultural celebrations. CampFire Alaska provides onsite afterschool programming for families living at Loussac Place, allowing them to work or to pursue education or job training. After five years, Loussac Place is enabling families to stabilize and thrive. The Lupie family lives at Loussac Place and proudly reports that for the first time in their lives, their Alaska Native children do not feel subjected to racial discrimination in their own community.

loussac_photo_4Through a partnership with CampFire Alaska, several Loussac Place families received scholarships to send their children to an overnight summer camp, where the kids experienced many “firsts”—including their first canoe ride, first hike, and first time away from home. A parent told us, “I can’t afford to take my kids to something like this. Thank you for bringing CampFire here.” One child who attended the camp shared, “I never knew how to follow the Big Dipper to the North Star. I’m going to look for it at night.”


Opportunities Created
City: Anchorage

Congressional District: AK-AL

Use of Funds: New construction

Federal Programs:
Indian Housing Block Grant: $4.17 million
LIHTC: $20.65 million

Total Federal Dollars:
$24.82 million

Other Financing: 
$12 million

Total Project Cost:
$36.82 million

Affordable homes created or preserved:
120

Contact: 
Gabriel Layman
P: 907-793-3004
E: glayman@cookinlethousing.org
W: cookinlethousing.org 


To view other affordable housing success stories, go to: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/A-Place-To-Call-Home_Profiles.pdf

2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

Neighbors United for Progress Empowers Austin Residents

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer

NUP Picture

Neighbors United for Progress (NUP), a resident-driven community leadership development project, has been nominated for this year’s 2017 Organizer Award for their adept community engagement in Austin, Texas.

In the past year, NUP has hosted 3 affordable housing forums engaging participants and informing them of their rights as residents. They also represent the interests of low income families at monthly Austin City Council Meetings, capitalizing on relationships with council members in order to best advocate for residents’ interests.

NUP’s work is extensive and aligns with NLIHC’s goals in a variety of ways. As noted in the nomination, “Through community conversations, bilingual housing workshops, training, and building relationships with city, state and national advocacy organizations and policymakers, NUP is furthering NLIHC’s mission to educate, organize, and advocate to ensure decent, affordable housing for everyone in the United States.”

To learn more about the NUP’s efforts to build the awareness and capacity of community members to navigate the issues and structures related to affordable housing, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/NUPATX/ and their website at www.nupatx.org.