New Affordable Housing Preservation Tool Empowers Advocates to Save Housing

Have you ever wanted to get a list of all of the federally assisted multifamily properties in your community, but couldn’t find one that was truly comprehensive? Have you ever wished you could see if a property had more than one subsidy attached to it, but didn’t want to have to go to multiple datasets to do it? Do you want to be able to see which affordable properties in your community have upcoming contract expiration dates so you can focus your efforts on ensuring those properties remain affordable? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then you will be happy to hear that a new tool is now available that will allow you to do all of the above and much more!

The National Housing Preservation Database is an address-level database of all federally subsidized multifamily properties in the country. It includes information on properties with the following types of assistance:

This database contains the most comprehensive information about the location and status of over 70,000 properties and 3.5 million units.

We encourage you to take some time to explore this brand new resource. There is a “Preservation Tool” that allows you to search for specific types of properties in the geography of your choice, and there is a “Research Tool” that allows you to download the entire dataset. A detailed User Guide provides more information on how to use each of these tools. You can also view a map of all of the federally subsidized properties in your community on this website.

Affordable housing advocates know how vital the existing stock of project-based housing is to low income households in this country and have been waiting for a tool like this that might assist them in their efforts to identify and preserve this housing. Many cities and states have created similar databases for their locality and local governments, tenant organizers, nonprofit developers and others have used these databases to preserve affordable housing in those communities. Now, it is possible for people all over the country to create similar databases and coalitions.

If you are interested in creating a local database that includes properties with state and local subsidies from this larger database, feel free to contact Megan Bolton, Research Director at NLIHC at megan@nlihc.org.

Let us know what you think of the database and the mapping tool, and share with us how you might use this information to preserve affordable housing in your community. Let’s talk preservation in the comments!

Meet Our Interns: Riley Keenan

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Our summer interns have been sharing their experiences at the Coalition with you over the last few weeks. This is the last of their posts before our fall interns begin. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here! We’re still accepting applications for both communications and research interns.

I began my research internship with the National Low Income Housing Coalition with a somewhat

riley marcus becca chelsea

Riley Keenan with fellow summer interns Marcus Mello, Becca Larew and Chelsea Dalziel

daunting task: calculating the number of housing units available to low income households in each county in each state in the United States. Although not all of my responsibilities were this complex, I think this example illustrates an important point about the research internship at NLIHC. The research department is the engine room of a data-driven advocacy machine, and as a result, there are times when research interns will feel like they are drowning in numbers. One of the most valuable aspects of the internship, however, is the opportunity to discover the many ways in which those numbers can directly impact the success of NLIHC’s advocacy mission.

Rights issues for low income individuals have been important to me since my first foray into the professional world in 2010. That summer, I interned with Reston Interfaith, an outstanding organization that runs a homeless shelter, food bank and subsidized childcare center in my hometown of Reston, VA. This experience encouraged me to get more involved with low income rights issues when I returned to school at the University of Virginia in the fall. I began volunteering with the Legal Aid Justice Center, a clinic that provides subsidized legal services to low income individuals in the Charlottesville area. When it finally came time to look for work after graduation, these experiences led me to consider opportunities in low income rights advocacy, and this position at NLIHC stood out to me as an excellent fit.

My degree from UVA is in American Studies and History, so my coworkers are often surprised to learn that data analysis is a type of work that I very much enjoy. My quantitative skills came in handy this summer with a variety of projects, including the Congressional District Housing Profiles and data analyses for our state-level partner organizations. I also found that the writing skills I developed in college were useful in my internship, as I was tasked with drafting articles on new housing research for our membership newsletter, Memo to Members. On the other hand, many of the tasks I encountered at NLIHC were new and challenged me to grow as a professional. For example, as part of a research project on state-funded rental assistance programs, I was asked to reach out via email and phone to government officials and to director-level staff at our state partner organizations. This helped me to expand my professional communication and interpersonal skills.

I chose to intern with the National Low Income Housing Coalition this summer for a simple reason: affordable housing issues affect everybody. If you are committed to working for change, are looking to gain experience with a mission-driven team and don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty in Excel, then I highly recommend this internship experience to you.

A Research Repository that Empowers Housing Advocacy

As part of our work to expand the capacity of advocates for low income housing, the National Low Income Housing Coalition works with state-level housing and homelessness advocacy organizations to support them in their federal housing advocacy work. One of the most important roles our State Coalition Project plays is in providing our state partners a venue, whether in D.C., in conference calls or online, to share information and exchange ideas about how to do their work.

Often, our state partners themselves suggest ways the Coalition can assist them in expanding their capacity as advocacy organizations. Over the years, our partners have used the Coalition’s state partner listserv to share research and reports they’ve produced on important housing issues in their states. Our research team decided that these reports should have their own place on our website, and the State Internet Research Repository was born.

SIRR includes research reports, white papers and other materials on housing need, the economic impact of housing, homelessness and other relevant issues. Each of them provides good information and can act as a starting point for developing similar work in your own community. Thinking about creating a predatory lending database? Read this report from Illinois on a database pilot project there. Do you work with a tenant council? Learn best practices for creating an elected leadership body in this report from Delaware. Looking for creative ways to present data on housing need? Check out this report from Washington State for inspiration.

We aim for SIRR to showcase research from as many states as possible. Know of a good report to add to the collection? Mention it in the comments.

Meet Our Interns: Chelsea Dalziel

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Over the next several weeks, each of our summer interns will share their experiences at the Coalition with you. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here!

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about public interest and social justice issues. This passion led me to become an active volunteer throughout my high school and undergraduate career, as well as to my decision to attend law school, where my desire to serve the public interest is reinforced on a daily basis.

As an active member in Charlotte Law’s Pro Bono Program, I have had multiple opportunities to assist vulnerable and underrepresented populations in my community. Being part of this program has led me to develop a desire to serve the underserved on the larger scale through research and policy work. So I was immediately interested in applying for an internship position with the National Low Income Housing Coalition as soon as I learned of the opportunity.

At NLIHC, I am currently one of two research interns. I am extremely fortunate to hold such a position, because it allows me develop a diverse skill set that would be hard to obtain elsewhere. My responsibilities as a research intern vary greatly, including writing articles for NLIHC’s weekly newsletter, Memo to Members; researching low income housing trends and programs in place to assist low income individuals; and updating state housing profiles. I have also had a few opportunities to attend congressional hearings to help show the organization’s support or opposition to certain legislation.

While it can be challenging being a new intern, it is a challenge that should be met head on. The staff at NLIHC is friendly, supportive and very appreciative of all of their interns. They understand that new interns might not be savvy to the inner workings of the organization, or to all of the prevalent issues NLIHC was established to address. They are happy to answer as many questions as you may have, as well as expose you to as much as they possibly can.

Although my internship position has not yet ended, it has already produced multiple benefits for my future. For example, holding such a position has helped me secure an advocacy intern position with the Charlotte Housing Authority that I will begin in the fall. It has also played a part in my acceptance onto the editorial board of a new law journal that focuses on civil and social justice issues, where I plan on utilizing the knowledge I have gained from NLIHC to develop and publish an article focused on low income housing issues.

If you are a public interest-minded individual seeking a diverse and rewarding experience in the heart of D.C., and interested in assisting a distinguished nonprofit organization with their mission, I would highly recommend an internship with NLIHC.

We need the facts – We need the ACS.

Many Americans probably wonder how decisions are made about what federal, state, and local funds will be spent on. At all levels of government, one of the most useful tools for understanding the needs of a community and for determining how funds are spent is the American Community Survey (ACS). At NLIHC and throughout the affordable housing field, ACS data are used to determine the need for affordable housing, making this resource extremely important to the work we do. Here’s how it works:

Approximately three million households across America participate in the ACS every year, providing timely data on the social, economic, demographic, and housing characteristics of the U.S. population.

NLIHC and other affordable housing organizations use the ACS data to produce resources and educational tools such as Out of Reach, the Congressional District Profiles, and other research reports like editions of Housing Spotlight.

Policy makers, academics, researchers, and advocates learn about real economic and housing trends in communities across America from the ACS data, helping our country make informed decisions on how to spend more than $400 billion in federal and state funds every year.

The House votes to eliminate the ACS Survey.

Wait, something isn’t right here – but you read that right… Much to our surprise, last week the House passed a bill with an amendment sponsored by Representative Daniel Webster (R-FL) that would eliminate all funding for the ACS. It also approved an amendment sponsored by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) that would make the ACS voluntary. Research shows that a voluntary ACS would make the survey more expensive, less accurate, and less beneficial for research purposes.

So what’s the next line in this story?

Housing advocates and concerned citizens alike use their voices to ensure that this critical national survey is continued in a way that maintains its statistical reliability.

You can join NLIHC and do just that, and here’s how:
•    As an organization:  Sign on to a letter urging Senators to continue funding the ACS in its FY13 appropriations bill. The letter was produced by the Census Project, a coalition of organizations including NLIHC that is dedicated to a fair and accurate census. Sign on by emailing Brendan Nichols (bnichols@ccmc.org) your organization’s name and the city and state in parentheses. Click here to read the letter; the deadline is close of business TODAY so sign-on now!
•    As an individual:  Call your Senator and urge them to protect this critical housing data tool.  You can also contact your Senators directly by calling the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351 to be connected to your Senators’ offices. Or enter your zip code into the “Contact Congress” box on the bottom of the right side bar at www.nlihc.org.

NLIHC and other advocates tell a story of a country desperately in need of more affordable housing. But what makes this story so important and compelling are the hard facts behind it. The ACS provides critical data on the incomes and housing conditions for households across America. These data are what strengthens the argument made by NLIHC that there is a lack of, and need for, more affordable housing. And that’s why these data, and this story, are so important.