It’s Time to Broaden the Affordable Housing Movement


By Mike Koprowski, Campaign Director for Opportunity Starts at Home 

A safe, decent, affordable home is a foundation of opportunity, but it’s out of reach for far too many.  The evidence is quite clear that we are witnessing a severe housing affordability crisis in America, and its consequences are spilling over into many other sectors such as education, health care, civil rights, homelessness, and economic mobility.  As acclaimed sociologist, Matthew Desmond, explains: “It is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need.  Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country.  The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”    

I’ve recently taken on the role of National Campaign Director of Opportunity Starts at Home, a new multi-sector housing campaign to meet the housing needs of the nation’s low-income people.  The National Low Income Housing Coalition launched this campaign together with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children’s HealthWatch, Make Room, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and with a steering committee of partners including the Children’s Defense Fund, Community Catalyst, Food Research and Action Center, NAACP, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Education Association, and UnidosUS. 

The driving idea behind this campaign is that a diverse range of stakeholders from various sectors will be necessary to make affordable housing a national priority and to effectuate federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing.  The federal government already plays a significant role in addressing the housing needs of low-income families, but it is not nearly strong enough considering the magnitude of the problem.  Today, only 1 out of 4 eligible households receive the help they need.  Contrary to the myths and false stereotypes, only 6% of households receiving housing aid are “work able” but not employed.  The problem is that wages are much too low to afford a decent rental home without financial help.  In fact, there are only 12 counties in America where a full-time worker on minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom rental.

The time to act is now: the housing affordability problem has reached disastrous levels; federal housing assistance is chronically under-funded and faces unprecedented threats in the current political climate; housing advocates are increasingly realizing that they can’t do this work alone; many other sectors are increasingly realizing that housing is inextricably linked to their own priorities and goals; and the research continues to mount that housing is fundamental to nearly every social and economic outcome that matters to our country.

Perhaps surprisingly, I personally arrived at these conclusions through my experiences in the education sector – specifically, as the Chief of Transformation and Innovation for the Dallas Independent School District.  There, I became convinced that many of the challenges we face in the education field – low college readiness, yawning achievement gaps, inequitable funding – actually have their roots in housing-related issues.  Like most major cities, Dallas is experiencing a growing affordable housing problem and has long experienced crushing levels of residential segregation, which we know lies at the core of educational inequity.

Through my time on the ground in Dallas, I became convinced that, as scholar Richard Rothstein said, “School reform cannot succeed without housing reform.”  I remain an enthusiastic supporter of many important education efforts, such as raising academic standards, increasing funding for high-poverty schools, investing in professional development and better teacher pay, and focusing on early childhood development.  But still more is needed.  As former Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Paul Reville, said: “Even when optimized with high expectations, strong curriculum, and expert instruction, today’s schools have not proven powerful enough by themselves to compensate for the disadvantages associated with poverty.”

Research consistently shows that achievement differences between students are more attributable to out-of-school factors than in-school factors.  After all, children spend the vast majority of their time in and around their homes.  We know that poor children in affordable housing do better on tests than poor children in unaffordable housing – if rent doesn’t eat up parents’ hard-earned paychecks, they can more easily invest in their child’s development.  We know that poor children who constantly change schools due to housing instability struggle academically and suffer later as adults.  And we know that affordable housing options located in “high-opportunity areas” can lead to mixed-income neighborhoods, which, in turn, can lead to mixed-income schools that consistently produce strong academic and social outcomes for affluent and low-income students alike.

If you look at my résumé, you might see someone who “switched” from the education field to the housing field.  But I reject this notion.  For me, the fight for affordable housing is also very much a fight to advance student success.  It’s time to re-think the artificial organizational silos we’ve created.  The complexities of modern-day challenges require us to be more fluid, to look beyond our respective lanes, to acknowledge our interdependencies, and to implement solutions together.  These issues are too complicated and difficult for one sector to solve alone.  Education advocates ARE housing advocates – and the same could be said for health care advocates, civil rights advocates, veterans advocates, anti-poverty advocates, and many more.

That’s a big reason why I joined this multi-sector housing campaign.  I am enormously grateful for the chance to lead the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, and I look forward to working with our stakeholders to ensure that low-income people have access to safe, decent, affordable housing in neighborhoods where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive.

Learn more about the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign at:

Housing Forum Raises Valid Concerns Through Thoughtful Discussion

By Kate M. Kelly

Housing Forum Takeaway: A Home is the Center of Life and Must be Part of New Jersey’s Story

On Thursday, October 12, 2017, a Public Policy Forum on eviction in NJ with Princeton sociologist Dr. Matthew Desmond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (NJ-D) was held at Drew University in Madison, NJ. The forum was held at The Concert Hall on Drew’s campus. Over 300 people attended the event and it received television and newspaper coverage.

On October 16, 2017,, the USA Today owned papers including the Record and the Daily Record published an editorial on the housing forum “Drew forum on housing raises valid concerns.”

“Public forums like the one at Drew engage both the general public and students – our future leaders – in thoughtful discussion about a statewide crisis that must be resolved. More is needed.”

Dr. Desmond said, “The house is the center of life. It’s part of the America story.”

“It must be part of the New Jersey story as well.”

“As Michael Izzo reports, in 2016, there were 3,054 evictions out of 44,651 rentals in Morris County, meaning 7 percent of Morris County tenants were evicted. That wasn’t even the highest eviction rate in New Jersey.” In fact, Essex County had the eviction rate of 25%.

In his remarks, Dr. Desmond told the audience “We have the richest society with the worst poverty.”

This divide between the rich and poor is a growing issue in New Jersey.

“New Jersey is an expensive place to live for the middle class, which struggles with staggering property tax bills. The battle is harder for low-income families living paycheck to paycheck with no cushion for even small emergencies, as Booker said. And the Trump administration is not focusing on the needs of the poor.”

“The tax code rewards wealth, and we’re told that will help the poor, and that’s just lies,” U.S. Senator Cory Booker told the audience.

“The opportunity to address the affordable crisis exists at both the state and federal level.”

Monarch Housing agrees with editorial’s conclusions.

“Clearly, the federal government must do more in providing housing vouchers that allow low-income families to pay 30 percent of their income toward a home with the federal government picking up the difference. But on the state and local levels, we also must do more to reduce the cost of rental units.”

Sponsoring the forum were Monarch Housing, NJ Policy Perspective, the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ, the Supportive Housing Association of NJBridges Outreach, the Mental Health Association in NJ, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, Homeless Solutions and the Drew University Center for Civic Engagement.

The Public Policy Forum was underwritten by a grant from the Investors Foundation.
Follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #EvictionNJForum

This article was originally published on October 19, 2017 at:

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Tuesday, September 12, 2017


  • Supporting recovery. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated: “Congress passed a critical down payment on disaster relief last week. If more assistance is required due to Irma, we are ready to do what is needed.” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also stated willingness to speedily pass new relief funding if necessary.




Two amendments were made on September 11 to the initial disaster declaration, enabling people in eight more counties, for a total of 17, eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA).

The Seminole Tribe declaration of emergency now has a FEMA Hurricane Irma webpage (EM-3388). The Hollywood Indian Reservation is eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA). 


President Trump made an emergency declaration for all 67 Alabama counties and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on September 11. This authorizes FEMA to provide emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance (PA) program with the federal government covering 75% of the cost. FEMA has an Alabama Hurricane Irma webpage (EM-3389).  Warren Riley was named the Federal Coordinating Officer. 


Two amendments were made to the initial emergency declaration, one on September 10 and another on September 11, enabling an additional 129 counties eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA). 


USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved a temporary waiver and supported other actions that will help households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Florida, Georgia, and the Virgin Islands as well as the Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico access food in the wake of Hurricane Irma, including:

  • Allowing SNAP participants in Florida to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits through September 30.
  • Supporting Florida’s plan to issue all September SNAP benefits on September 7 and Georgia’s plan to issue all remaining benefits for September on September 10. Both actions will ensure families have access to their monthly benefits sooner.
  • Supporting Puerto Rico’s action to issue all September Nutrition Assistance Program benefits on September 5.

FNS is working closely with the affected states and territories to be ready, if appropriate, to make use of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to offer continuing food assistance after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to prepare food at home. 


  • Miami Public Housing. With the closure of a public housing development due to potential mold concerns, residents, many of whom are older Latinos, are left at the mercy of local agencies. Public transportation in the county has been halted, so these residents are left with few options.
  • Damage in Florida and South Carolina. An estimated 25% of homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed with another 65% suffering major damage. Road blockades into the Keys have been lifted, allowing residents back to return to their homes. Jacksonville and Charleston, SC are also dealing with flooding. Authorities rescued almost 400 people in Jacksonville yesterday.
  • Power down in PR. While most of Puerto Rico escaped Hurricane Irma’s power, much of the capital city of San Juan is still without power.
  • Crisis in Virgin Islands. An estimated 80% of structures on the island of St. John have suffered extensive damage. The U.S. military has deployed service members to help with relief efforts, and supplies from the mainland are being delivered. Food and other resources remain limited.



  • By the Numbers: (As of Tuesday afternoon)
    • 223,246 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
    • $305,046,333 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
    • $180,665,906 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
    • $124,380,417 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
    • $181,034,279 Public Assistance (PA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Disaster Recovery Center. A mobile DRC opened in Wharton.
  • FEMA Hiring Texas Residents. In partnership with the State, FEMA is hiring workers across Texas for administrative, logistical, and technical jobs related to hurricane recovery. Jobs posted recently pay between $14 and $34 per hour. Some of the jobs include: administrative support assistant, civil engineer, communications specialist, construction cost estimator, courier, crisis counselor, customer service specialist, environmental specialist, floodplain management specialist, graphics specialist, hazard mitigation outreach specialist, historic preservation specialist, registered nurse, voluntary agency liaison, among others. Those interested should register at com, the Texas Workforce Commission’s website, where application instructions are posted. FEMA will announce more jobs soon.
  • Fact Sheet on Renter Assistance. A FEMA fact sheet reminds renters that they could be eligible for disaster recovery assistance from FEMA and SBA. Renters may be eligible for FEMA grants to help with such disaster-related expenses as:
  • Renting a home when the renter’s previous one is uninhabitable due to the disaster.
  • Disaster-related medical and dental expenses.
  • Replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the disaster, such as appliances and furniture, textbooks and computers used by students, and work equipment or tools used by the self-employed.
  • Repair or replacement of vehicles damaged by the disaster.
  • Disaster-related funeral and burial expenses.

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. They are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, welfare assistance, SNAP benefits, and several other programs.

Renters may qualify for a low-interest SBA loan of up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. 

  • Fact Sheet: Why Return an SBA Loan Application. A FEMA fact sheet provides guidance regarding receipt of an SBA loan application. It indicates that after someone applies for FEMA disaster assistance, they might be contacted by SBA and asked to submit an application for a low-interest SBA disaster loan. Eligible households do not have to accept an SBA loan.

Those who do not qualify for an SBA loan will be referred back to FEMA for consideration for other FEMA grants or Other Needs Assistance (ONA) which covers items such as disaster-related car repairs, clothing, household items and other expenses. Households cannot be considered for these FEMA grants unless an SBA loan application is submitted. However, some types of Other Needs Assistance, such as medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not depend on completing the SBA application.

The filing deadline to return SBA loan applications for property damage is October 24, 2017, and the deadline to return economic injury applications is May 25, 2018.

  • Helping People who Have Disabilities. A FEMA fact sheet explains that it:
    • Can provide sign language interpreters and materials in alternate formats, such as Braille, large print and electronic formats.
  • Has amplified telephones, phones that display text, and amplified listening devices for people with hearing loss. Magnifiers are available for people with vision loss.
  • Makes Video Remote Interpreting available at Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), and that in-person sign language is available by request. DRCs also have accessible parking, ramps, and restrooms.
  • If FEMA is participating in a local event, anyone has the right to request reasonable accommodations to support their communication needs. FEMA can provide services such as sign language interpretation and captioning if a request is made through the meeting or event host.


  • Many in the Houston area remain displaced, staying at a shelter or loved ones’ homes. Over 1,000 remained at the George R. Brown Convention Center as of Friday. Others have been forced to return to their water-damaged home, despite health risks.
  • Shortage in Port Arthur. Landlords are evicting tenants because of water damage to the units. Many residents have evacuated to Dallas and are unaware of the eviction. Large numbers of evictions will cause a housing shortage in the city.
  • Houston housing shortage. People in the Houston area have been scrambling to rent any available units, especially because many properties were offering several months of free rent. Homes for sale, especially raised homes, are also in high demand with prices rising accordingly.
  • Unaffordability. Due to the housing shortage, Houston, a city that has remained relatively affordable despite rapid growth, may see housing prices rise over the next few years.
  • Help from Louisiana. Officials from Louisiana are using their experiences with last year’s floods to assist Texas with the process of re-housing people, including providing insight to their Shelter at Home program and working with FEMA.

August 31: Latest updates on Hurricane Harvey housing recovery

Dear partners,

As the scope of the damage becomes clear, experts and policymakers are stressing just how important housing solutions will be for long-term recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Vice President Mike Pence said that “housing is the biggest long-term concern in the hurricane zone.” Current FEMA director Brock Long said, “the state of Texas is about to undergo one of the largest recovery-housing missions that the nation has ever seen,” and experts like former FEMA director Craig Fugate have predicted that the “primary largest impact on the region will be housing.




We’ve been in close touch with key Congressional leaders. The Texas delegation has begun conversations about disaster aid with House and Senate leaders, FEMA, and the White House. Republican leaders have said (although this is certainly subject to change) that Congress will take up a limited disaster aid bill in mid-September, with additional resources to follow at the end of the month when Congress enacts a Continuing Resolution and afterwards. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is calling for $150 billion in aid to assist in recovery efforts. Republicans in the delegation are also calling for significant disaster recovery funding from Congress.  


  • FEMA’s website devoted to Texas Hurricane Harvey lists the designated areas currently eligible for three forms of assistance:
    • Public Assistance grant program provides assistance to government organizations and certain private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities.
    • Hazard mitigation grants provide assistance to state and local governments and certain private nonprofits to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural disasters.
    • Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides for certain housing and other needs. Housing needs covered include temporary housing, lodging expense reimbursement, and costs not covered by insurance to repair or replace owner-occupied homes. Other needs covered include the cost of: child care, medical and dental treatment, funerals, damage to household item such as appliances, vehicle damage, clean up, and moving and storage.


  • Rural Development: RD has created a webpage, outlining assistance available after a disaster for displaced residents, owners of USDA-financed multifamily housing, and homeowners with USDA loan. 


Other Resources:

More to come…



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