United for Homes in the News

“I always like it when people and groups think big.”

That’s what Mark Fogarty, editor-at-large of National Mortgage News, wrote yesterday in his column about the United for Homes proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund through mortgage interest deduction reform.

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Read & Share the column featuring NLIHC President Sheila Crowley

We ask supporters of the United for Homes campaign to work with their local media to secure more coverage. Pitching a story to the media can seem daunting, but our growing national campaign is unique, interesting, and attention-grabbing.

Why is this story relevant?
The mortgage interest deduction has been viewed as a sacred cow, but as Washington moves toward comprehensive tax reform, this expensive tax expenditure will be part of the debate. United for Homes would not eliminate a mortgage interest tax benefit. Rather, we are proposing fair and innovative tax reform which taps into the public’s growing interest in addressing wealth inequality.

Why is this different than other pitches?
Because we are offering a solution. The media hears a lot about negative impacts, but our proposal offers a refreshing and rare viewpoint. We can improve the mortgage interest tax benefit to help more homeowners, while also solving our nation’s affordable housing crisis. Being part of a movement for positive change is appealing to everyone – including reporters.

Who cares?
Lucky for us, America does! The United for Homes proposal would help end homelessness, and that is something that resonates with everyday readers and policymakers.

You can make a difference by:

  • Pitching the newsworthy story to local reporters who cover housing or tax policy;
  • Submitting a letter to the editor in response to related news (“Great piece, but the article overlooked an important solution that exists…); and/or
  • Writing an op-ed from your compelling human-interest angle. Why did YOU endorse the United for Homes campaign?

And we’re here to help! Contact Sarah Brundage at sarah@nlihc.org or call 202-662-1530 x246 to get started.

A Real Solution

On Tuesday, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) gave a floor speech on his proposal to reform the mortgage interest deduction. The revenue raised through these smart and fair changes would allow us to address America’s affordable housing crisis by funding the National Housing Trust Fund.

Mr. Ellison raises an important issue: “The budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development we consider today does not meet our nation’s affordable housing problems.”

NLIHC and the United for Homes campaign agree with Mr. Ellison. We need to engage in real solutions to help the millions of Americans who are struggling to maintain housing stability… And reforming the mortgage interest deduction to be a more accessible tax benefit that also opens up the opportunity to create more affordable housing in communities across America is just that. 

Do you think it’s time that our budget responds to the 7 million extremely low income American households that cannot find an affordable and available home?

If so, join us in supporting Mr. Ellison & the United for Homes campaign through 3 easy actions:
1. Share this blog post and the YouTube video, so that more renters and homeowners can learn about a proposal that would benefit both of them.
2. Tweet about it. You can also RT @NLIHC, tag @keithellison, and/or use the hashtags #NHTF or #UnitedForHomes.
3. Lend your support in the YouTube video’s comments section. Americans needs to know that we can end homelessness, and our policymakers and elected officials need to hear that we demand change.

Learn more and join the movement at http://www.unitedforhomes.org.

More Reflections from the Road…

NLIHC staff have been on the road a lot, connecting with advocates and educating new audiences on the United for Homes campaign to fund the National Housing Trust Fund. We set out to help more people get involved, but as it often happens, we got just as much out of the trips by connecting with passionate advocates.

 Here are some reflections from Outreach Associate Joseph Lindstrom, who accompanied NLIHC President Sheila Crowley on a road trip to Michigan earlier this month:

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I returned from Michigan deeply impressed by the number of people who took time out of their day to get involved with United for Homes. It was also great to see that people from the various communities clearly understood mortgage interest deduction reform and the need for the National Housing Trust Fund. It has been said that reforming the mortgage interest deduction is a complex issue and can be confusing to explain, but everywhere we went the questions had less to do with the intricacies of the proposal and more to do with how people can help. It was inspiring to see how many people were ready to take action.

We were happy to tell new advocates how they can make an impact, and many times our current endorsers in Michigan were able to coordinate efforts with new allies. Just by participating in the events and showing overwhelming community interest in housing policy, attendees were advancing United for Homes.

Connecting with people throughout the country will continue to be important as the campaign builds momentum. I am grateful to have had this experience, and look forward to expanding on our success for future events. I learned a few new things about planning events, a few new things about generating support, and a whole lot about the wonderful advocates in Michigan.

View more pictures from Joe and Sheila’s Michigan road trip on the United for Homes Facebook page.

Last week, our State Coalition Project Director La’Teashia Sykes trekked all the way to Alaska! Here are reflections from La’Teashia on her trip:

Last week, I had the opportunity to present the United for Homes proposal at the conference of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, an NLIHC State Partner. Service providers and advocates from across the state came together to share strategies and discuss solutions for the state’s housing and homeless crisis. Not only were attendees clearly eager for change; people were excited to hear about how the United for Homes proposal could bring that change.

Like every other state in the country, Alaska struggles with affordable housing issues – further perpetuating homelessness in the state. Alaska is a unique state in many ways, but its sub-zero harsh winters set it apart from most U.S. states. No one should be without a safe and decent home at any point, period. But, with Alaska’s housing shortage at 12,329 for people with the lowest incomes in the state, many have no choice but to brave the cold when the shelters are too full or when they have reached their maximum days of stay.

“Living in your car? That doesn’t work! It’s like an ice box,” a formerly homeless man shared with conference attendees. He also mentioned that some purposefully cycle through the criminal system just to stay sheltered, warm, and fed during winter months. Now that he is in a permanent home, he does not have to worry about his limited food and water supply freezing over in his tent. In warmer months, he no longer fears bears or other wild animals ravaging his makeshift shelter in search of food.

Organizations like Catholic Social Services Anchorage and Beans Café are doing what they can to help people that do not have a place to call home. However, the needs are growing and the burdens on the shelter systems are heavy. With cuts to federal programs that serve those with the greatest needs, the burden will unfortunately continue to expand. I met with staff of NeighborWorks Anchorage, one of the organizations providing affordable rental housing. They discussed the need for funds to build housing affordable to poor families. With Alaska being a small population state, it gets a smaller allocation of federal funds for programs like HOME and CDBG– and it’s just not enough to produce housing for all in need of a home.

I learned many things during my trip, but what sticks out the most is that advocates and providers in Alaska care deeply about the people they serve, and because of that they work collaboratively to maximize and strengthen services for citizens in need. They are also hungry for real solutions to end the housing and homeless crisis. After my presentation of the United for Homes proposal, people asked detailed questions about the flexibility of the National Housing Trust Fund and how the proposal would affect Alaska. People were excited to see how much money Alaska could receive to build and preserve homes for those who need help the most if the National Housing Trust Fund is funded.

Other questions followed, but the best question I received from multiple people was: What can I do to advance United for Homes?

You might have guessed it, but one easy way advocates can advance United for Homes is by hosting a campaign event! NLIHC staff can help put together anything from a town hall meeting to a presentation for your board or a conference workshop. We are also happy to provide a state-specific PowerPoint presentation or coordinate a webinar.

After all, when it comes to engaging more people with the United for Homes campaign, we are happy to go to great lengths.

To find out more about hosting a campaign event, email outreach@nlihc.org.

The Solution

Home is the foundation. How do we ensure that every American has an affordable one? Watch the video to find out.

Reflections from the Road, by Sheila Crowley

The first road trip of the United for Homes campaign took place last week in the state of Michigan. Joseph Lindstrom and I visited eight communities in three days meeting with advocates and providers of low income housing, services to people who are homeless, and services for people with disabilities. We visited a CDC in Flint, a public housing agency in Reed City, a service center for people with disabilities in Kalamazoo, a statewide meeting of homeless service providers in Ann Arbor, and more.

We learned that the voucher administrator in Traverse City may have to give up the program because there are not enough funds to keep running it. We were told about families living in deer blinds in rural areas. We heard people with disabilities express their fear that they will lose their homes because of the federal government shutdown. We talked to homeless service providers who have laid off many members of staff because of the sequester. Everywhere we went, the common theme was the housing shortage for people who are poor and a feeling of desperation that it would only get worse.

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Sheila speaking in Kalamazoo

NLIHC received high praise for our research and the voluminous data we make available to advocates to use to make the case for more rental housing that is affordable to the lowest income families in their communities. But I heard something more about what these data mean to people who are struggling to help poor and homeless people find affordable homes. The data help them to understand why their jobs are so hard and to “maintain sanity” in the face of overwhelming need. The data explain what is really going on.

We spend a lot of time in our local meetings going over the details of the United for Homes proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund with revenue raised by modifying the mortgage interest deduction. We got a lot of good, thoughtful questions that indicated that how engaged people were. We were able to show how few people in Michigan borrow over $500,000 to buy homes (0.5% of all mortgages between 2009 and 2011) and how much money would come to Michigan to solve the housing problems of the poor if our proposal became law. Having something to work towards, instead of just defending the status quo, offers advocates hope.

Many thanks to our hosts across the state for the warm welcome and encouragement. We are honored to partner with you to advance the United for Homes campaign for as long as takes.