2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

Neighbors United for Progress Empowers Austin Residents

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer

NUP Picture

Neighbors United for Progress (NUP), a resident-driven community leadership development project, has been nominated for this year’s 2017 Organizer Award for their adept community engagement in Austin, Texas.

In the past year, NUP has hosted 3 affordable housing forums engaging participants and informing them of their rights as residents. They also represent the interests of low income families at monthly Austin City Council Meetings, capitalizing on relationships with council members in order to best advocate for residents’ interests.

NUP’s work is extensive and aligns with NLIHC’s goals in a variety of ways. As noted in the nomination, “Through community conversations, bilingual housing workshops, training, and building relationships with city, state and national advocacy organizations and policymakers, NUP is furthering NLIHC’s mission to educate, organize, and advocate to ensure decent, affordable housing for everyone in the United States.”

To learn more about the NUP’s efforts to build the awareness and capacity of community members to navigate the issues and structures related to affordable housing, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/NUPATX/ and their website at www.nupatx.org.

2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

Greater Newark HUD Tenants’ Coalition Seeks to Preserve, Expand Affordable Housing While Empowering Residents

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer

Newark Renters Blog Picture

The Greater Newark HUD Tenants’ Coalition (the Tenants’ Coalition), was nominated for the 2017 Organizing Award in recognition of the group’s commitment to empowering tenants and expanding access to affordable rental housing in Newark, New Jersey.

The Tenants’ Coalition members include public housing tenant organizations, tenants living in subsidized housing, public housing residents, other renters, and homeowners. Seventy-three percent of Newark residents rent their homes.  The Greater Newark HUD Tenants Coalition advocates for the needs of this broad population in addition to the specific needs of residents of federally assisted housing.

The Tenants’ Coalition works to maintain the city’s decreasing number of public and private federal subsidized homes, to preserve Newark’s strong rent control ordinance, and to create a strong inclusionary zoning ordinance. In 2016, the group successfully fought to preserve 166 units of affordable housing units in the City of Newark by relocating households to new apartments using U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers. These relocated households had been living in affordable housing that was slated to be demolished.

The Tenants’ Coalition also raises support for residents of subsidized housing at public events.  Two examples of events include a June 2016 rally in support of repairs to public housing apartments and a September demonstration at Newark City Hall as a part of the National Renters Day of Action. At the September event, coalition members called for city leaders to protect their constituents against gentrification and displacement.

Finally, the Tenants’ Coalition works to educate and empower residents across the city, helping tenants understand their rights and fight eviction.

Writing in support of the Tenants’ Coalition’s nomination, Arnold Cohen, Senior Policy Coordinator at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, an NLIHC State Partner, said, “Their work has meant concrete improvements in very low income tenants’ lives…they have worked with tenants to successively keep their buildings affordable by fighting rent increases and stopping owners from opting out of HUD subsidies.”

To learn more about Greater Newark HUD Tenants’ Coalition’s ongoing work to fight for tenants’ rights and to preserve low-income affordable housing, visit their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/The-Greater-Newark-HUD-Tenants-Coalition-110719232320697/

2017 Organizing Award Nominees Series

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

By Sarah Jemison, Housing Advocacy Organizer

e218d278f9db92938a2d273921f7efcb

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/

CHCDF Series on Housing as Infrastructure

Investing in Affordable Housing is Investing in Latino Communities

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAimAAAAJGVmMDkzMWE4LTdlYzEtNDhhNS05MDBmLTIzOGIxZmFlYWRiYgBy Daniel Palacios, Policy Associate, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB)

During his campaign, Donald Trump emphasized and expressed frustration about the lack of economic opportunity and mobility for Americans across the country. The idea that upward mobility is out of reach for many Americans proved to be a compelling message for many voters, paving the way to victory for President Trump.

For many Americans, the challenge of economic opportunity is acutely felt in the context of housing, whether being able to afford rent, secure a mortgage or purchase an affordable home. The price of a mortgage is now more expensive than it has been in half a decade thanks to rising interest rates and growth in home values. While this challenge is not unique to any one demographic group, Hispanic Americans disproportionately bear the weight of affordable housing challenges. According to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies, 23 percent of Hispanic households are severely burdened by debt, compared with just 14 percent of white households. Given that Hispanics represent a large and rapidly growing segment of the population, a reduction of the affordable housing burden would free up more money for spending and investment, resulting in a direct stimulus to the economy and greater housing security for Hispanic families.

The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) strongly supports programs that work to address the affordable housing challenge facing many Hispanic families. When the housing market works better for low-and moderate income Hispanic (LMI) consumers, the entire country benefits. That is why the Trump administration should continue the federal government’s support for programs that equitably invest in LMI Hispanic communities.

A key strategy for the Trump administration to address the affordable housing challenge is through the continued support for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and the HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME). CDFIs are community-based, private-sector financial entities that address the lending, debt and equity needs of LMI communities. CDFIs bring a community-centric lens to investing in affordable housing, a vision that mainstream financial institutions do not often share. Equally as important are the CDBG and HOME programs, which provide funding for new home construction, rehabilitation of existing homes, and mortgage principal reduction assistance. Combined, these three programs provide a vital set of tools that enable communities to address the many elements of their affordable housing needs.

To see these tools in action, look to Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. (AHSTI). Headquartered in McAllen, Texas, AHSTI enhances the quality of life for the people of South Texas by providing affordable home ownership opportunities and related services to eligible families. South Texas has a high concentration of Hispanic residents, many of whom are LMI working people seeking affordable home ownership opportunities. AHSTI creates opportunities through land development, provision of general contracting services and mortgage financing exclusively for low-income working families who do not qualify for conventional home loans. Over the past six years, AHSTI has deployed a total of $36,889,416 in single family mortgages, creating 529 new homeowners in various cities across South Texas. Twelve percent, or $4,453,806 of these funds, have come directly from Financial Assistance Awards from the CDFI Fund, while 11 percent, or $3,992,479 of these funds, have come from CDBG and HOME combined.

Funding from the CDFI Fund, CDBG program, and HOME program have proven vital to meeting AHSTI’s mission, allowing it to leverage multiple sources of capital to finance affordable home construction. AHSTI serves as a prime example of the fact that no single program offers the solution to all affordable housing challenges. Rather, it is through a combination of resources, both private and public, that organizations like AHSTI will be better equipped to meet the affordable housing opportunities of the communities they serve.

Enabling families to purchase a home of their own is an accomplishment by itself, but AHSTI’s work extends well beyond homeownership. AHSTI’s construction of new, affordable homes also generates employment opportunities for local construction companies and an increase in the tax base for municipalities, spurring greater economic opportunity throughout the community.

Affordable housing investments, like those supported by AHSTI, serve as catalysts for economic development in Hispanic communities across the country. If we truly wish to improve our national infrastructure, we should continue to support public and private investments that make affordable housing a reality for all people.


This article was originally published at: http://www.nalcab.org/news/investing-cdfis-investing-latino-communities/

Advocates in the Spotlight: Angela Lariviere and the Youth Empowerment Program

Many people, from staff and board members to conference attendees and members, work with the Coalition to help us achieve our mission. “Advocates in the Spotlight” celebrates different types of advocates, from people in the field to those behind-the-scenes working in our office every day. See the rest of the series here

Imagine studying for the SATs in a homeless shelter. Or finding yourself traveling the country alone at 18 because the law says you’re too old for foster care. Or relying on distant relatives for temporary housing while your parents try to transition from homelessness to stability. You’re imagining what it’s like to be a homeless child.

Angela Lariviere, once homeless herself growing up, saw just how many Ohio children were growing up homeless as an AmeriCorps volunteer working at COHHIO, an NLIHC state coalition partner in Columbus. She realized she hadn’t been as alone as she thought, and that she was in a position to help.

Ethan, Ben, Angela, Shane and Lashonda

Angela joined with homeless youth she met in Ohio homeless shelters to form the Youth Empowerment Program, a grassroots network of young people experiencing homelessness that addresses the needs of homeless, transitioning and unaccompanied youth age 11-24. A youth-directed organization, YEP’s goal is to prevent and end youth homelessness through state, local and federal advocacy.

We caught up with Angela and four YEP youth- Ben, Lashonda, Ethan and Shane- during their recent visit to Washington, D.C. to meet with Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) and tour the nation’s capital.

The five advocates looked tired from a long morning of travel, but their passion for advocacy and helping homeless youth shined through during our interview.

It was clear that for Ben, who became homeless through aging out of foster care, the opportunity to advocate for his own and other YEP members’ needs was empowering and validating. He spoke eloquently about the need not to manage the crisis of youth homelessness, but to prevent it. He explained that the five focus issues of YEP- housing, education, foster care, physical and mental health, and juvenile justice- must all be addressed in order to end youth homelessness. “It’s all interconnected,” Ben said. “It’s not just one thing [homeless] youth face.”

Lashonda has been involved with YEP since meeting Angela in her AmeriCorps days 11 years ago. She saw the power of advocacy first-hand when shelter regulations meant her 13 year old brother would not be able to stay in the women and children’s shelter with Lashonda and their mother, because of his age. Her brother spoke to lawmakers and paved the way for this rule to be changed, making it easier for homeless families to stay together. Lashonda credits her involvement with YEP for her extensive knowledge of housing and homelessness issues, and for helping her become more comfortable offering her own experiences in order to help others.

Angela emphasized that a key focus of YEP is advocating for policy that accounts for the true circumstances of homeless youth. YEP is governed by homeless youth, and YEP used focus groups and surveys of homeless youth to develop its advocacy agenda and identify necessary policy changes. YEP youth are empowered not just to tell the stories of their lives, but to become leaders in advocacy and social change.

The camaraderie among Angela and the YEP youth was evident, and they all made clear that YEP functioned as a support network for its members as well as being an engine of advocacy. YEP youth use Facebook to keep in touch with each other and make sure to reach out to those experiencing hardship. They learn to rely on each other, and to be relied on. Angela explained how vital this support is to homeless youth, as it is “constantly a conflict to pull out of” the circumstances that cause homelessness.

Affordable housing, of course, is a key issue and at the top of YEP’s advocacy priorities. “Housing is a sense of stability,” Lashonda said. “Instability in your life leads to other [negative] things.”

Are you as inspired by Angela and YEP as we are? Share your thoughts in the comments.