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

Congress at Home, Advocates Should Urge Action in Fall

 

Will you be meeting with you representatives this month while they are in district?  Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are on recess during the month of August, resuming legislative business on Monday, September 8. While they are in their home districts and with most House Members and 27 Senators seeking reelection in November, housing and homeless advocates should take the opportunity to remind them of the work they have left to do before the end of the 113th Congress.

A top “must pass” item is the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act (PTFA). The current PTF law expires at the end of 2014. Unless it is made permanent or extended by December 31, many tenants whose landlords or property owners lose their properties to foreclosure will no longer have federal protections against imminent eviction. The laws governing tenant rights will revert to the array of state laws on the status of tenants at foreclosure, most of which still offer less protection than the federal law. S. 1761 and H.R. 3543 are the two Permanently Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure bills that need a vehicle for enactment this year.

Congress also must complete its FY15 HUD and USDA Rural Housing Appropriations bills. The Senate and the House will delay finalizing these bills until after the November election, but all Members need to hear that you expect funding at the levels in the bills that have cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee.

While no further action is likely on either housing finance reform or tax reform, advocates should stress that when Congress does act on these issues in the 114th Congress that robust funding for the National Housing Trust Fund must be included.

For more information on these issues and more, go to http://nlihc.org/issues.

News Round-Up: Funding Housing, Ending Homelessness

Sunday morning, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry hosted a wide-ranging discussion on the aspects of America’s housing crisis that don’t get the attention they deserve: namely, housing discrimination, the impact of foreclosure on renters and the shortage of housing affordable to the lowest income Americans.

In the discussion’s first segment, panelists James Perry, former NLIHC board member and Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center; Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition; Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for the Washington Post; and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas discussed predatory mortgage lending aimed at communities of color. The panelists also noted the over-investment in and skewed focus on home ownership in the United States.

The focus of the second part of the discussion was foreclosure and its impact on communities of color, and on renters. As Ms. Crowley noted, NLIHC has found that 40% of households impacted by foreclosure are renters.

The segment closed with a discussion of the National Housing Trust Fund, which if fully funded could end homelessness in the United States. Panelists agreed that it is time to rebalance federal housing policy so it no longer provides disproportionate benefit to higher income homeowners at the expense of the lowest income families.

Host Melissa Harris-Perry concluded that mayors should strongly support housing tax reform and an investment in the National Housing Trust Fund as it would result in an investment in the exact communities that had been wrenched apart by the foreclosure crisis. We can end homelessness, she said, and not to do it would be a violation of who we are as Americans.

News Round-Up: Desperate Times, Inadequate Measures

Evidence has been mounting for decades that there exists in the United States an extreme shortage of rental housing affordable to the lowest income Americans. What those with influence choose to do about this situation is another matter.

The Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post reported last week that a Los Angeles landlord took advantage of that city’s demand for low-cost rental housing by subdividing a triplex into 44 separate apartments. While housing this substandard is illegal, and criminal charges have been filed, as Huffington Post notes it is no surprise that demand exist for this kind of living situation, when the national Housing Wage is $18.25.

Presumably, those Los Angeles renters must now move to new apartments. As reported by Affordable Housing Finance and in Memo to Members, a recent study from the Brookings Institution and First Focus shows that switching schools due to a move is detrimental to a child’s education, as well as to her physical and mental health. The report recommends funding the National Housing Trust Fund, as well as increasing funding for HUD’s voucher, public housing, and project-based rental assistance programs.

How will Congressional appropriators address this issue? The House passed its FY13 budget for HUD on Friday with inadequate funding for key programs serving low income people. According to Coalition president Sheila Crowley, in spite of the efforts of a few Representatives to introduce helpful amendments to the bill,

“The U.S. House of Representatives broke faith with many thousands of the poorest, most vulnerable Americans who are served by the programs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing assistance is not an abstraction. Real people, the majority of whom are elderly or disabled, will lose their homes if these cuts are enacted. And turning the clock back on fair housing shows that the House is out-of-step with 21st century American values.”

It might be some time before the FY13 budget is decided; the Senate has yet to weigh in with its own appropriations bills.