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/

What Affordable Housing Means to Me…

Affordable Housing Success Story: Florida

Ability Housing 

Mission: Ability Housing’s mission is to build strong communities where everyone has a home. To fulfill this mission, we develop and operate quality rental housing affordable to people with extremely limited incomes, focusing on the needs of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and adults with disabilities. Ability Housing partners with area service organizations so our residents have the supports they require to ensure housing stability and increase their independent living skills. In 2015, Ability Housing’s housing stability rate was 95.5% across its affordable developments. This exceeds the HUD Continuum of Care performance benchmark (80%) for permanent supportive housing.

Story: Consuello lost her housing in 2012 due to several setbacks caused by her anxiety and depression. After weeks in transitory motels and shelters, she lost custody of her daughter. Michael was forced to leave his grandmother’s home due to family conflict. When he and Consuello met, an immediate bond of faith and love was formed between them. But they could not find housing as they were unable to find work and were forced to live outside of an abandoned warehouse. Jacksonville, like many communities, has a crisis with affordable housing with more than half of the city’s renters being cost-burdened and 337 people identified as chronically homeless. When they met Joe Johnson, the program manager at Ability Housing, Consuello and Michael said that their prayers had been answered. The Village on Wiley was developed specifically to provide 43 units of permanent supportive housing for the community’s highest users of crisis services. The couple moved into their new home at this beautiful complex in 2015. With the support resources provided by HUD Continuum of Care program (CoC) funds, they found the capacity to rebuild their lives and married in early 2016. Consuello and Michael are now receiving benefits that have further stabilized their income and Consuello is now supplementing their income with work at McDonald’s, having gotten her license and a car to help her get to work. They have moved into a two-bedroom apartment at Ability Housing’s Mayfair Village so they can have their children back in their lives. Education seemed like an unattainable dream when Consuello and Michael were experiencing homelessness, yet they are planning to attend Edward Waters College to study music, with the goal of teaching children. With the support of Ability Housing, their future is as bright as their smiles.

consuello_and_michael_ability_housing_village_on_wiley_2016_2

Contact:

Tanya Adams; 904-359-9650; tadams@abilityhousing.org

abilityhousing.org

Organization Information:

City: Jacksonville

Congressional District: FL-4

Use of Funds: Rental Assistance

Federal Programs: CoC: $925,414

Total Federal Dollars: $925,414


Success stories from the A Place to Call Home report are available at: 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.

2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

Greater Newark HUD Tenants’ Coalition Seeks to Preserve, Expand Affordable Housing While Empowering Residents

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer

Newark Renters Blog Picture

The Greater Newark HUD Tenants’ Coalition (the Tenants’ Coalition), was nominated for the 2017 Organizing Award in recognition of the group’s commitment to empowering tenants and expanding access to affordable rental housing in Newark, New Jersey.

The Tenants’ Coalition members include public housing tenant organizations, tenants living in subsidized housing, public housing residents, other renters, and homeowners. Seventy-three percent of Newark residents rent their homes.  The Greater Newark HUD Tenants Coalition advocates for the needs of this broad population in addition to the specific needs of residents of federally assisted housing.

The Tenants’ Coalition works to maintain the city’s decreasing number of public and private federal subsidized homes, to preserve Newark’s strong rent control ordinance, and to create a strong inclusionary zoning ordinance. In 2016, the group successfully fought to preserve 166 units of affordable housing units in the City of Newark by relocating households to new apartments using U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers. These relocated households had been living in affordable housing that was slated to be demolished.

The Tenants’ Coalition also raises support for residents of subsidized housing at public events.  Two examples of events include a June 2016 rally in support of repairs to public housing apartments and a September demonstration at Newark City Hall as a part of the National Renters Day of Action. At the September event, coalition members called for city leaders to protect their constituents against gentrification and displacement.

Finally, the Tenants’ Coalition works to educate and empower residents across the city, helping tenants understand their rights and fight eviction.

Writing in support of the Tenants’ Coalition’s nomination, Arnold Cohen, Senior Policy Coordinator at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, an NLIHC State Partner, said, “Their work has meant concrete improvements in very low income tenants’ lives…they have worked with tenants to successively keep their buildings affordable by fighting rent increases and stopping owners from opting out of HUD subsidies.”

To learn more about Greater Newark HUD Tenants’ Coalition’s ongoing work to fight for tenants’ rights and to preserve low-income affordable housing, visit their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/The-Greater-Newark-HUD-Tenants-Coalition-110719232320697/