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.

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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.

5 things I heard Secretary Carson say at the NLIHC 2017 Housing Policy Forum

By Sharon Cornu

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the National Low Income Housing Coalition conference in Washington, DC on April 3 as part of his listening tour. Here are five things he said and actions housing advocates can take to ensure that everyone has a place to call home.

  1. “Home is a place where you can feel secure. Housing is an integral part of well-being mentally and physically. There are three to four times as many people who need affordable housing as we can provide. Millions are paying 50% of their income for housing.”
    • That’s absolutely right – why, it reads almost like housing advocates’ talking points.
  1. “Healthcare is important. The emergency room costs three times as much as the clinic and doesn’t do preventive care. Exposure to lead hurts kids permanently.”
    • Again, we agree, and that’s why so many people worked hard for health care reform and especially the expansion of Medicaid to America’s lowest income families. We see the connection to housing as so many medical experts do, and we’re glad Secretary Carson supports this view. Unfortunately, he is part of an administration that may try again to take healthcare away from 24 million people.
  1. He proposed “Housing Savings Accounts” for unit-by-unit maintenance of public housing, where the individual resident is incentivized not to report common structural conditions or simple repair needs.
    • This is bad policy and disastrous property management. A spate of fires – and related deaths — in my community in Oakland, CA recently has reminded all of us that code compliance and regular maintenance protects human life.
  1. “The Low Income Housing Tax Credit is effective.”
    • We agree, and that’s why we are working at the state level to expand it, and at the federal level to preserve it. We encourage Secretary Carson to share this non-alternative fact with his administration and to join housing advocates in supporting affordable homes for everyone.
  1. “People are concerned about this new budget like it’s a crisis and the end of the world.”
    • We hope you are, too!  According to NLIHC, the budget “proposes to zero out HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods grants, cut the Community Development Block Grant in half, and eliminate the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program and NeighborWorks grants.” The budget has its values upside down and redirects investment to the wealthiest 1%.

He closed with, “As Jesus said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Actually, Dr. Carson, that was a man named Abraham Lincoln.)

During the Q&A portion, NLIHC’s President & CEO Diane Yentel pushed back with the diplomatic skills Washington has forgotten.  She pressed, “These budget cuts are real and immediate. People will be losing their homes. What assurances are you offering?” Carson answered that only waste and inefficiency will be cut – fueling the fears of people like me, who feel he is one of the cabinet officials dedicated to closing the Department whose critical mission he was entrusted to serve.

HUD programs have great consequences for millions of Americans in cities, suburbs and rural communities across the country. The essential investments offer families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities the security and opportunity of stable housing and a place to call home.

To learn more about why we need serious talk and legislative action to support housing, visit the Non-Profit Housing Association website for California issues and NLIHC for federal. You’ll find urgent and important actions to take to defend our communities and support affordable housing.

Join us on calling on Secretary Dr. Carson to first, do no harm.


Sharon Cornu is political director for the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and adjunct professor at Mills College.

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 

What Affordable Housing Means to Me…

Affordable Housing Success Story: California
West Hollywood Community Housing Corp. 

Mission: West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (WHCHC) develops safe, decent and affordable housing for people with limited incomes, including those with special needs, enhancing the community and supporting economic diversity. We envision sustainable communities of healthy, diverse neighborhoods within the greater Los Angeles, California area. Our residents include people with disabilities, seniors, people with HIV/AIDS, transition-age youth, families, and people who have formerly been homeless. As of December 2016, WHCHC houses 813 residents, 60% of whom are 55 years old or older. Most WHCHC affordable projects include HUD HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME) funds from the County of Los Angeles Community Development Commission and the City of Glendale, as well as HUD project-based vouchers (PBVs) from both the County and City of Los Angeles housing authorities. WHCHC also relies on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC) in developing its projects.

Story: After almost 10 years of homelessness, Stephen was selected from a lottery in 2009 for an apartment at Sierra Bonita Apartments in West Hollywood, California. It changed his life.

stephen_sadler_photo_2_whchcStephen, a paraplegic from back injuries, was awarded a Shelter Plus Care (S+C) voucher, but he was unable to find an apartment that would accept his voucher. In fact, because of the housing shortage in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, Stephen’s voucher expired twice while he was trying to find an apartment. Ultimately, Stephen found WHCHC, the only landlord in West Hollywood accepting new residents with vouchers.

Sierra Bonita Apartments is a 42-unit new construction project for people with disabilities, located in a low-income neighborhood where much of the housing stock is aging and deteriorating. The project was awarded $3 million in HUD HOME funds in 2008, and it received 32 HUD project-based vouchers in 2011. The development created approximately 45 construction jobs and two permanent jobs. The WHCHC Resident Services department provides Sierra Bonita tenants with educational and economic opportunities, and staff help to promote housing retention and positive health outcomes.

While living at Sierra Bonita, Stephen keeps fit by working out and surfing with his friends at “Life Rolls On.” WHCHC’s Resident Services staff provide services as needed, but Stephen is becoming less reliant on supportive services in his daily life.

Contact:
Robin Conerly; 323-650-8771; robin@whchc.org
 whchc.org

Organization Information:
City: West Hollywood
Congressional District: CA-28
Use of Funds: New construction, rental assistance
Federal Programs: HOME: $3 million PBV: $164,448/year LIHTC: $7.09 million
Total Federal Dollars:
Development: $10.90 million
Rental Assistance/ Services: $164,448/year
Other Financing: $3.79 million
Total Project Cost: $18.77 million
Affordable homes created or preserved: 42


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 

The Changing Post-Election Landscape for Affordable Housing

Dear NLIHC friends, allies, members and partners,

The stunning election results are still sinking in, and there remain more questions than answers to what it all means. In all the uncertainty, this much is clear: Donald Trump is our next president, he’ll be working with a Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives, and they will advance policy and spending proposals that will have major impacts on affordable housing programs, the millions of low income people who depend on them, and the millions more who are in need.

President-elect Trump said little about housing or affordable housing on the campaign trail. But some of what he did comment on gives us important insights into how his administration may impact affordable housing. He has committed to increase defense spending at the expense of non-defense spending, which could mean billions of dollars in cuts to housing and other anti-poverty programs. In addition, Mr. Trump has said he wants to cut non-defense spending by 1% every year, which would be devastating to affordable housing programs including Section 8 vouchers, public housing, and project-based rental assistance. Earlier in his professional career Mr. Trump was accused of violations of the Fair Housing Act, and as a candidate for president he committed to rolling back fair housing rules and requirements.

Much of what’s next for how a Trump administration approaches affordable housing depends on who is appointed to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There are a few former HUD alumni from the Bush administration working on the transition team, and several names have moved to the top of the short list for HUD secretary. Among them are Pam Patenaude, President of the Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, and former Senator Scott Brown, who also serves on the Terwilliger Center’s executive committee. Both Ms. Patenaude and Senator Brown have deep knowledge of, experience with and proven commitments to affordable housing. Both would be excellent choices.  Also on the shortlist for HUD secretary, however, are Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who has spent over a decade fighting his obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. Who President-elect Trump decides to nominate will give us important insights into his priorities for housing programs.

In Congress, House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell will have full reign to advance the Republican policy and spending agenda. They will use the parliamentary procedure of “budget reconciliation” to advance much of it, freeing themselves from any threats of filibusters and needing only a simple majority to enact legislation. So, what’s in store for housing policy in the next Congress? We will see efforts to lower domestic non-defense spending and to implement much of Speaker Ryan’s anti-poverty agenda, which could include welfare reform-type changes such as work requirements and time limits to all anti-poverty programs. Congress will move quickly to enact comprehensive tax reform – legislative drafts are already being written – that dramatically lowers corporate and individual tax rates by reducing or eliminating tax expenditures and credits, threatening the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Reform of the mortgage interest deduction (MID) is on the table as another “pay-for” to lower tax rates. We’ll need to pull out all the stops to ensure that savings from MID reform are reinvested into affordable rental housing programs. The Republican Congress may also work towards dismantling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

That brings us to the national Housing Trust Fund, which may be threatened from multiple angles. I expect efforts by House Republicans to eliminate the HTF to resurface quickly, and we could again see appropriators attempt to fill HUD budget holes with HTF dollars. FHFA Director Mel Watt could be replaced by someone who shares former FHFA Director DeMarco’s view that contributions to the HTF should be suspended while Fannie and Freddie remain in receivership.

Here’s the bottom line: We have our work cut out for us in the coming years. The threats to critical affordable housing programs that serve the poorest households are real and significant. With the housing crisis having reached new heights, and with the lowest income families being hit hardest and suffering the most, we have to redouble our efforts – to not only protect, preserve and defend critical housing programs, but to demand more.

This work has never been easy – increasing resources for the poorest seniors, families, kids, people with disabilities, and veterans has always required a long and determined struggle. Did the work just get harder? Yes. But our commitment to ending homelessness and housing poverty is unwavering. And knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of us uniting behind this cause makes me confident we will prevail in the end.

You can read much more about the election’s impact on affordable housing issues in the lame duck and next Congress at: What Will President Trump Mean for Affordable Housing?

Also, please join us for a special webinar on The Changing Post-Election Landscape for Affordable Housing  on Friday, December 2, 1 pm ET.*

And if you’re not yet a member of NLIHC, there’s no better time to join. Our members are our strength!

Thank you for all you do,

diane_sig

*This presentation can be viewed here: http://nlihc.org/events/webinars