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/

My Time as an Intern with NLIHC

By Hannah Keith, former communications & graphic design intern

I admit before I joined NLIHC I knew little about the housing crisis in American and how serious it is. As both of my parents work for the government they have always told me the importance of being socially responsible. Being able to be a part of NLIHC has been an eye-opening experience for me. One morning while I was on the way to work I saw a lady upset as someone had stolen her metro card. As she looked flustered I asked her if she needed help, but there wasn’t anything we could do about the situation.  She would find a way to get to work.  Then I thought back to what NLIHC’s President & CEO Diane Yentel said, that many people are “one emergency, one broken-down car, one illness, one missed day of work away from not being able to pay their rent.” As I hopped on the metro car I thought about that and the daily struggle so many others face each day.

One of the most memorable experiences I encountered in my time with NLIHC was being able to be a part of the 2017 Housing Policy Forum. Everything from preparing for it and seeing the time and effort my coworkers put into it really showed me how much each and everyone cares about the cause.  I enjoyed most importantly having the opportunity to hear the voices of those who live in low-income housing and how the housing crisis affects them.

NLIHC Staff at 2017 Housing Policy Forum

Hannah (far right) & staff at 2017 NLIHC Housing Policy Forum

I graduated from High Point University with a degree in communications and a minor in graphic design. Being a part of the Communications team has taught me many skills that I can carry along with me in my career path as I learn how to better create digital media. It only took me a few days though, working with such great NLIHC staff, listening in on meetings and, it seemed, everything they talked about, for me to also become a passionate low-income housing advocate – and I will always be one.

Making a Splash in Policy: A Policy Intern during the Trump Administration

May 19, 2017
By Natalie Brown, former NLIHC policy intern

Natalie Brown - Policy Intern

Natalie Brown, policy intern with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Being at NLIHC has been one of the most immersive and incredible experiences a policy intern could ever ask for. Not kidding. Because I know with twisted absolute certainty that I would not trade my first time working in Washington D.C. for any other time than now. Why? Because I have learned more while fighting against majority interests than I could have while comfortably defending them.

I applied to be a policy intern at NLIHC for a variety of reasons, but one of my biggest aims was to explore a policy realm I had less experience in. During my coursework at Cornell, I had studied a variety of entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SNAP which made my belief in their importance resolute. A piece felt missing, and that piece was an understanding of the importance of housing, which could fairly be considered the most important part in the security of low-income families. NLIHC’s mission of supporting socially just policy that promotes access to housing to those with the greatest needs greatly appealed to me, and I was blessed with the opportunity to hit the floor running this January.

The facts I learned about the affordable housing crisis were staggering. Nationwide there are 35 units affordable and available for every 100 extremely low income Americans. Waitlists to receive help are in the thousands in many cities. Only one-quarter of those who qualify for housing assistance receives aid. And so our job was to spread the message. Attending meetings on Capitol Hill with the Policy Team to talk with Congressional staff about these issues was invigorating: I had never imagined I would be this close to the people crafting policies changing the lives of everyday Americans. I learned more than I ever thought I would, and I am confident I will use it in future work and advocacy.

To conclude, I’d like to talk about the three most poignant truths about policy during my time interning in D.C.

  1. Change is less like water being poured out a pitcher and more like miraculous tiny drips and splashes. Every optimistic and starry-eyed Political Science major wants to come to Washington to see the curtains drawn back on what our government does. To watch big changes pour out of the doors of the Congressional chambers and to bask in the glow of them. I was no exception. Peculiarly, being here has shown me that big changes take time. Even though the idea of quick solutions is encouraging, there is no doubt that Congressional staffers and members put so much time and effort into the work they do in order to craft the solutions they believe in. For the job to be done right, quick-fixes just are not good enough. If for example, Congress allocated one trillion dollars in a block grant to a good cause (affordable housing, to be especially pertinent) with no mechanisms for oversight or no thought about what the disbursement guidelines will be, funds could easily be misused in a variety of different ways that could not only not solve the problem but exacerbate it. Policy, though expansive, should be carefully crafted and not taken lightly in order to be effective.
  2. Do your homework. Knowledge is power! Understanding the issues is the first step in solving them. When I first stepped into the office, the first thing I was instructed to do was to read up on housing programs, and I could not believe how large the issues are. As an advocacy organization, we strive to provide facts and data to offices so they can make the most informed policies and decisions. So even someone who is not an advocate but just wants to have a policy position should search for facts far and wide in order to come to a decision.
  3. Compromise is inescapable. If the government was about always getting what you want, life would be simple (and would lose almost all of its intrigue). Compromise is inevitable, and a big part of a long term strategy. In today’s climate, it may be tempting to retreat to one side of the aisle and not entertain the idea of a middle ground. But that gives up the fight entirely! Find middle ground when possible while still fighting for what’s right. This doesn’t work when an issue is black-and-white, but in many cases having support on both sides is better than fighting alone.

Throughout my time as an intern at NLIHC, I have had the opportunity to delve into affordable housing policy. It’s been a better primer than I ever could have asked for. Being here when tax reform has reemerged onto center stage and in the midst budget battles has been incredible. Being here when the fight is just beginning has been amazing and I cannot thank NLIHC enough for the opportunity to fight alongside you.

What Affordable Housing Means to Me…

AFFORDABLE HOUSING SUCCESS STORY: AMERICAN FAMILY HOUSING1.6[1].jpg

Mission: Founded in 1985, American Family Housing (AFH) is a nonprofit organization that provides a continuum of housing and a broad spectrum of services to vulnerable populations facing barriers to achieving housing stability, including veterans and adults with disabilities and mental illness. AFH operates 63 housing sites with 283 apartments that serve more than 1,300 adults and children each year in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. AFH is committed to permanently ending the cycle of homelessness by helping low income families and adults achieve a self-sustaining way of life and become active members of their communities.

Story: Orange County and Los Angeles have made great strides toward providing permanent housing for the homeless, yet Southern California is seeing an increase in homelessness, particularly among veterans. With some 1.4 million individuals at risk, AFH broke ground in 2016 on a first-of-its kind multifamily housing project called Potter’s Lane located in Midway City, California. With a targeted February 2017 completion date, the ultra-green, energy-efficient and sustainable housing site will fulfill one of the community’s greatest needs: permanent housing for chronically homeless veterans. Built using GrowthPoint Structures, whose innovative construction methods will up cycle steel shipping containers to create 16 beautiful 480-square-foot living spaces designed to complement the surrounding environment. AFH employed many people throughout the process, including over 120 local construction workers and over 250 volunteers. Designed with community input, Potter’s Lane will include a community room, fitness court and landscaped gardens. In addition to housing, AFH is also providing wrap-around services to help these veterans achieve stability and self-sufficiency. HUD provided AFH with operational assistance including Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers for eight of the 16 apartments. AFH is also master leasing seven apartments to the Illumination Foundation for its HUD Continuum of Care (CoC) Bonus Project, which provides HUD dollars for services and rental assistance.

City: Midway City
Congressional District: CA-48
Use of Funds: Rental assistance
Federal Program: Coc: $117,600, VASH:$120,672/year
Total Federal Dollars: $238,272
Affordable homes created or preserved: 16

Contact: Donna Gallup
P: 714-897-3221
E: dgallup@afhusa.org
W: afhusa.org

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/