2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

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

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer

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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: http://www.coh3436.org/

Home Is Where You Feel Physically and Emotionally Secure

Isabelle Headrick, Executive Director Accessible Housing Austin!

Isabelle Headrick, Executive Director       Accessible Housing Austin!

Isabelle Headrick is the Executive Director of Accessible Housing Austin! She has been a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) since 2005. On March 9th, the NLIHC Board of Directors elected her as a new Board Member. In this interview, we spoke to her about her decade-long affiliation with NLIHC and how she benefits from her membership.This interview is a part of our ongoing series of conversations with NLIHC members that we are presenting to our readers in the wake of NLIHC’s Membership Month. We asked Isabelle, among other topics, why she would recommend NLIHC to our prospective members.

Why are you a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)?

Since I first became professionally involved in affordable housing 13 years ago, I have been impressed by the quality of the policy work that NLIHC does in housing education and advocacy. NLIHC supports the work that we as advocates do at the state and local level by providing us with policy resources and advocating for funding at the federal level. So, I feel that it is critical to support the work that they do.

How did you first get involved in affordable housing?

I started volunteering in a homeless woman’s shelter in Chicago during high school. Later, my first job after being a stay-at-home mom was with a neighborhood-based community development corporation in Austin, Texas.

What do you find most challenging about affordable housing advocacy?

I’m frustrated by the fact that the current emphasis on getting the chronically homeless off the streets ignores (and in some cases diverts resources away from) the substantially larger population of invisibly homeless and housing-insecure Americans. Our policies are being driven by a movement that is not inclusive of all extremely low-income people, let alone of people who don’t need or want supportive services; and I think this is a mistake.

What is your best advice for housing advocates?

All housing advocates, even those with whom you may disagree sometimes, have incredible resources of talent, intelligence and dedication. Get to know your colleagues, find the issues on which you can collaborate, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be generous in sharing your own expertise.

What is your favorite thing about being a member of NLIHC?

Knowing that my support translates into high-quality advocacy and policy work.

What does “home” mean to you?

For me, it means a place raise to my kids: a place where they will be comfortable and physically and emotionally secure, feel connected to their community and neighborhood, and have access by walking, bike-riding, or public transportation to their schools and friends.

Any good book recommendations? (i.e. books related to social justice, housing advocacy, homelessness, poverty etc.)

This is not directly related to any of those, but Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia is a fascinating read about the origins of slavery and racism in the American colonies – some of the very issues whose legacies we are still dealing with today.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a member of NLIHC?/ Why should someone join NLIHC?

NLIHC is the premier national organization advocating for very and extremely low-income renters and public housing residents. For those of us who live in states whose legislators do not support affordable housing funding, it is all the more vital to have an ally at the federal level.The annual Out of Reach report provides critical information about our states and communities to help us advocate for affordable housing to our policymakers and legislators. NLIHC gives us the resources to do our jobs as advocates…and advocates for the resources for us to do our jobs as affordable housing providers and homelessness preventers.

Describe a time when you have used NLIHC research.

I spoke to a Community and Regional Planning class at the University of Texas at Austin about quantifying the need for accessible, affordable and integrated housing for extremely low-income people with disabilities and showed them Out of Reach as a data resource.

Describe a time when you took action as a result of a Call to Action (CTA) from NLIHC.

I called my Congressman this week to ask for the sequester caps to be lifted and to advocate for HOME and the National Housing Trust Fund.

Read Related Interviews:

Why I Joined NLIHC: A Member’s Reflections
Affordable Housing for Extremely Low Incomes is Possible: Ruth A. Matz
Lack of Understanding of the Affordable Housing Crisis Is Frustrating: Anne M. Williams

Everyone Should Have a Decent and Safe Place to Rest One’s Head: Joseph M Ventrone

Joseph M Ventrone, Vice President for Regulatory and Industry Relations, National Association of Realtors

Joseph M Ventrone, Vice President for Regulatory and Industry Relations, National Association of Realtors

Joseph M Ventrone is the Vice President for Regulatory and Industry Relations at the National Association of Realtors. He has been a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) since 2003. As a part of our ongoing Membership Month and a series of interviews with some of our committed members, we are pleased to interview Mr. Ventrone about his affiliation with NLIHC and why he would encourage others to join NLIHC.

Why are you a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)?

My entire professional life has been devoted to federal housing policy since my first job out of graduate school. NLIHC plays an important role in the housing industry by ensuring people with the lowest incomes in the U.S. have a voice.

How did you first get involved in affordable housing?

My first professional job was at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1974.

What do you find most challenging about affordable housing advocacy?

The most challenging job is messaging the multifaceted issues and navigating the extremely tight budgetary environment.

What is your best advice for housing advocates?

In the upcoming Presidential election don’t pit one form of subsidy against another form of subsidy. Educate candidates and the public on the support for all forms of housing assistance.

What is your favorite thing about being a member of NLIHC?

Agreeing with Sheila Crowley more often than not, but very respectfully disagreeing with Sheila (my very respected friend) on the need for the home mortgage interest deduction!

What does “home” mean to you?

Some think home is an economic investment and some think home is where the heart is. No matter what your belief everyone should have a decent, safe and sanitary place to rest one’s head!

Any good book recommendations on social justice, housing advocacy, homelessness, poverty etc.?

On Shaky Ground by Bethany McLean. This is a sequel to her previous book All the Devils are Here a very good book on the financial crisis and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a member of NLIHC?/ Why should someone join NLIHC?

No matter if you are at the local, state or federal level, NLIHC provides timely research for housing advocates. The NLIHC Washington Conferences attract top caliber speakers and policy makers as well.

What do you wish other people knew about NLIHC?

NLIHC in its short history has attracted top notch Presidents, from its founding President Cushing Dolbeare to Barry Zigas and now to retiring Sheila Crowley. I wish the NLIHC Board of Directors luck in finding someone to follow in these footsteps! Very Best Wishes to Sheila in a well-deserved career move to full time spouse, mother, and grandmother and a great American Citizen!

Read Related Interviews

Home Is Where You Feel Physically and Emotionally Secure
Lack of Understanding of the Affordable Housing Crisis Is Frustrating: Anne M. Williams
Why I Joined NLIHC: A Member’s Reflections
Affordable Housing for Extremely Low Incomes is Possible: Ruth A. Matz

Lack of Understanding of the Affordable Housing Crisis Is Frustrating: Anne M. Williams

Anne M. Williams

Anne M. Williams, Housing Director of St Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc

In the third interview as a part of our ongoing series of conversations with the senior members of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), this week we will talk to Anne M. Williams, Housing Director of St Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc, Eugene, OR, about her affiliation with the NLIHC. Since September is our National Membership Month, we asked Anne why she joined NLIHC, how she benefits from her membership and why others should also join NLIHC. A member of NLIHC since 2008, Anne counted the numerous benefits of being a part of NLIHC and how it helps her work as an advocate for affordable housing.

Why are you a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition?

NLIHC’s membership gives our agency valuable data which we use for funding applications. It gives us a more powerful voice in advocacy on the federal level, and provides us with data to educate our Board and the Housing Board, church groups and other community forums. We also often refer folks to NLIHC’s web site for data.

How did you first get involved in affordable housing?

I worked for a small non-profit in Northern California, and began to see a dramatic increase in homelessness among families. I began my first housing project in 1985 to help address this need; then my husband was transferred to Oregon, and I deliberately looked for work with an agency that developed affordable housing. Since then, I have been doing this work.

What do you find most challenging about affordable housing advocacy?

The most frustrating /challenging thing for me is the total lack of understanding about the crisis in affordable housing is the federal divestment currently underway. This is where I came into this movie in the late 80’s. Divestment lead to rapid rise in homelessness. Why should Congress make this mistake again?

What is your best advice for housing advocates?

Personal contacts!  We are on a first name basis with our Oregon delegation and they have gained a real understanding about housing development issues and resources.

What is your favorite thing about being a member of NLIHC?

Research done for me!  Beyond Reach.

What does “home” mean to you?

Home for me is the place where I am safe and secure and where I have a nurturing neighborhood of friends…where I can walk to the services I need, and where my housing cost-burden is 4% of my income!

 What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a member of NLIHC?/ Why should someone join NLIHC?

The voice of many is far greater than the voice of one.

Describe a time when you have used NLIHC research.

We use NLIHC data in all our housing development application. When defining need, I’d like to start national, and narrow down to local. Out of Reach provides us with an Oregon perspective and poverty data help us to establish trends.

Describe a time when you took action as a result of a Call to Action (CTA) from NLIHC.

I respond to most action alerts, but am particularly concerned about HOME and the budget caps.

Describe a time when you were helped by a member of NLIHC staff.

We use data and advocacy alerts. We have never sought direct assistance. We are a 57-year old agency and have a housing development staff with combined experience of over 60 years, and do not use consultants for any projects except those involving New Market Tax Credits.

What do you wish other people knew about NLIHC?

Excellent source for data, advocacy and analysis.

Anne can be contacted at: anne.williams@svdp.us

Read Related Interviews:

Why I Joined NLIHC: A Member’s Reflections

Affordable Housing for Extremely Low Incomes is Possible: Ruth A. Matz

Why I Joined NLIHC: A Member’s Reflections

Andrew Aurand, NLIHC Vice President for Research

Andrew Aurand, NLIHC Vice President for Research

This is the first of a series of interviews with our longstanding members that we are publishing as a part of our membership campaign that kicked off on September 1st. In these interviews, we ask our members why they decided to become NLIHC members, how they benefit from the Coalition’s work and why others should also consider joining NLIHC.

Our this week’s interview is with Andrew Aurand who joined NLIHC in July 2015 as the Vice President for Research but he has been a member since 2006. Before joining the staff of NLIHC, he served as a faculty member in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University, where he taught graduate courses in housing policy, community development, and research methods, and where he completed research on the impact of comprehensive planning and land use on the supply of affordable housing for low income households. He has also worked in the Research Division of the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Why are you a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)?

I became a member because I recognized the importance of NLIHC’s mission, and also because I was using NLIHC’s reports that were on-line. Before becoming a staff member at NLIHC, I taught housing policy and community development at two universities. Very early on, I found that NLIHC’s reports were useful for raising students’ awareness of the housing problems that low income households face. Out of Reach’s housing wage is usually a surprise to people, the Housing Spotlight is a good summary of the affordable housing shortage, and the Advocates’ Guide provides a good brief overview of all of the national housing programs and affordable housing issues. I knew that reports like these are expensive to produce, so I became a member to help support them.

How did you first get involved in affordable housing?

While I was getting my graduate degree in social work, I was given an internship at ACTION-Housing, a non-profit housing organization in Pittsburgh. The internship was my introduction to the difficult work of developing and managing affordable housing. While I was there as an intern, and then briefly as a staff member, I worked with residents on advocacy for better public transportation and coordination of services, so I became aware of the challenges residents faced even while living in affordable housing. I’ve been involved in housing policy ever since.

Photo1What do you find most challenging about affordable housing advocacy?

There is a constant flow of information on Twitter, blogs, and various news sites about what is happening on Capitol Hill and in individual states and cities, as well as about new research. There often isn’t time to follow everything. Before becoming a staff member, I would look at the Memo to Members and other organizations’ newsletters to get the highlights of current activity.

So, what does “home” mean to you?

A safe and comfortable place where I can relax. A place that I always want to return to.

Do you have any good book recommendations related to social justice, housing advocacy, homelessness, poverty etc?

After watching HBO’s Show Me a Hero, I want to read the book. I recommend watching the mini-series if you haven’t seen it.
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich is still very relevant today.
Housing Policy in the U.S. by Alex Schwartz. It’s a textbook about housing policy, specifically our federal housing programs, fair housing, and tax policy. You might not read it from cover to cover, but it is a great resource for people wanting to learn about affordable housing policies and programs in the U.S.
The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. It’s not about housing, but is an interesting book about randomness if you like books about statistics and probabilities. It’s interesting even if you don’t.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a member of NLIHC? Why should someone join NLIHC?

NLIHC offers a lot of resources to advocates. I think the biggest reason to be a member is to support those resources. Membership dues support the Memo to Members’ weekly policy and field updates, the research reports, and staff who regularly represent affordable housing interests on Capitol Hill.
But just as important is that NLIHC, as an advocacy organization, has greater strength with greater numbers. NLIHC’s dues are voluntary, so you can become a member without paying dues.

Describe a time when you were helped by a member of NLIHC staff.

I was preparing a housing presentation for a specific county and wanted to include its shortage of affordable housing for extremely low and very low income households. This was before I was hired by NLIHC. A significant stock of older housing in the county was affordable, but I wanted to point out that many of these units probably weren’t occupied by low income households and, therefore, not available. I had never met my predecessor at NLIHC, Megan, but I emailed her asking if she had information for my county. She wound up sending me a very helpful file that saved me a lot of time.