Omnibus Spending Bill Protects National Housing Trust Fund

National Housing Trust FundOmnibus Spending Bill Protects National Housing Trust Fund
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Affordable housing and homeless advocates are elated that the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations bill protected the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), unlike the earlier House version of the THUD spending bill. As noted above, the omnibus bill was signed by President Barack Obama on December 18.
Now that threats to NHTF funding have been removed, the path has been cleared for HUD to implement the NHTF in 2016 with resources collected from a modest assessment on the annual volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The NHTF will allocate the first funds to states in 2016 for the production, preservation, and operation of rental housing affordable for extremely low income households.
“We applaud Congress for not raiding the National Housing Trust Fund and for making modest increases to other key affordable housing programs,” said Sheila Crowley, NLIHC’s President and CEO, in a press release. “However, many more resources are needed to fight the monumental challenges of homelessness and the lack of decent, available and affordable housing for the lowest income people in America.”
The NHTF was created to address the current shortfall of 7.1 million affordable rental units available to extremely low income renter households in America.
The omnibus bill also contained an amendment that prohibits the Department of Treasury from selling any of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock without Congressional approval. This blunts the efforts by hedge funds and some civil and consumer rights advocates to convince the Obama Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to recapitalize Fannie and Freddie.

LHA Annual Listening Tour/Candidates Forum a Success

LHA Annual Listening Tour/Candidates Forum a Success
LHA’s annual Listening Tour took place during the months of August – October, ending the week before the state primary elections. Recognizing the importance of the Governor’s race and the many legislative races in contention, LHA modified this year’s Tour format and conducted candidate forums throughout the state. And though candidates in 2 communities failed to participate, those that did in the remaining communities actively engaged their audiences. Candidates were asked a series of questions, provided in advance by LHA, and given resource information to aid in their understanding of the issues. One key question—Would you sponsor or support legislation creating dedicated funding for the Louisiana Housing Trust Fund?—was almost universally answered in the affirmative, particularly if the funding source was not a new tax or fee, and did not come from the state general fund. This is good news for advocates, who pushed an unsuccessful funding measure in the 2015 session that would have met this criteria and may now have a greater opportunity for success in the future.
More than 650 voters and over 35 candidates attended the forums, including Governor-elect John Bel Edwards who attended the Baton Rouge forum.
Special thanks to our Forum partners the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, Louisiana Councils on Aging Directors Association, and Louisiana Budget Project.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The issues of housing and domestic violence are intricately connected- domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Louisiana. Here are three things you can do this month to help end domestic violence and assist Louisiana families that are experiencing the problem:

  1. Learn about new housing protections for domestic violence survivors that were recently signed into law in Louisiana: SB174 was signed into law on August 1 and offers new protections for survivors of domestic violence when it comes to housing. Whether you’re a survivor, advocate, or housing provider, it’s important to get up to speed on these new protections. Here is a summary of the law’s protections from the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
  2. Participate in the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s 2015 week of action this October 19-23. The week of action makes it easy for anyone concerned with the issue of domestic violence to take concrete steps- like talking to your network, engaging in social media based advocacy, and participating in an informative webinar- to end domestic violence.
  3. Wear purple in October to outwardly display that ending domestic violence is important to you and help strike up conversations about it. Domestic violence is often a difficult topic for people to discuss openly but it must be done in order to effectively address the problem once and for all!

Do you have other activities planned for Domestic Violence Awareness month? Comment below and let us know!

Sheila Crowley Retiring after 17 Years as President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Board Announces Executive Search

This month, Sheila Crowley announced that she will retire in 2016 from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) after leading the organization as President and CEO for over 17 years. Dr. Crowley will continue with NLIHC through April 2016 to ensure a smooth and successful transition for her successor.

The NLIHC Board of Directors has formed a Search Committee, composed of Ms. Clement, six current board members, and George Moses, who was the Board Chair from 2006 to 2012. The board has engaged the consulting firm Nonprofit HR to facilitate the search. A job announcement will be released in the coming month.

For further information, as well as to provide recommendations to the Search Committee, please contact NLIHC’s Executive Search Consultant, Patty Hampton, CSP, Managing Partner at Nonprofit HR via email at phampton@nonprofithr.com or 202-785-2060 ext. 103.

State Accepting Public Comments on Plan to Allow Interim Housing Expenses, Additional Construction Assistance for Non-Compliant Road Home Grantees

BATON ROUGE – The State of Louisiana is accepting public comments on Action Plan Amendment 65, which would allow Road Home grant recipients to claim interim housing expenses previously incurred as an unmet need. This amendment augments the previous APA 58, which modified Road Home Program policies for homeowners who had diverted grant proceeds to pay for unmet needs due to circumstances beyond their control.

The proposed APA 65 also provides some additional construction assistance for Road Home Program grant recipients who have not yet returned to their homes. APA 65 will allow homeowners participating in the Road Home’s rehabilitation or reconstruction program who have not yet reoccupied their homes and whose construction expenses exceed the amount of their Road Home grant and other duplications of benefits (i.e. insurance) to be eligible for funding for that expense through a shared equity agreement. To be eligible, the homeowner must be unable to obtain other financing, and the funds must be repaid upon the future sale of the home.

“Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were unique, not just in their scope of regional devastation but also in the nature and range of recovery issues that had to be addressed in the aftermath,” OCD-DRU Executive Director Pat Forbes said. “Many people lost not only their homes, but their neighborhoods, their jobs, their children’s schools. And both the public and private sectors experienced lag times in the distribution of money to repair homes. With the financial crisis of 2008 factored in, the effect was a greatly increased likelihood that additional resources would be required for interim living expenses.”

Following the storms, insurance policies and various federal programs provided funding for temporary housing costs or actual alternative housing options, but those resources had limited time frames in which they were available. Under the above described circumstances, it is not unreasonable that once those temporary housing programs were concluded, a homeowner uncertain whether sufficient funds existed to complete the work necessary to return home, would consume resources on interim housing.

These proposed measures are intended to provide additional resources for existing Road Home Program grant recipients to return home and become compliant with the program. The plan does not provide for new Road Home applicants to enter the program, nor does it provide additional compensation grants. Road Home and Liaison staff will continue to work with homeowners to help them determine their best path forward, and they will now have additional tools.

Action Plan Amendment 65 can be accessed online here: http://www.doa.la.gov/Pages/ocd-dru/Action_Plans.aspx. The proposed amendment will be published in Vietnamese and Spanish translation at the same website.

A copy of the plan can be requested by calling (225) 219-9600.

The formal public comment period for the action plan begins Sept. 23, 2015 and continues until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. After accepting public comments, the state will submit the plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for final federal approval.

Written comments on the proposed Action Plan Amendment 65 may be submitted beginning today and must be received no later than 5:00 PM (CST) on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015.

Members of the public may submit comments several ways:
• Using the online form at http://www.doa.la.gov/Pages/ocd-dru/Action_Plans.aspx;
• Emailing them to ocd@la.gov ;
• Mailing them to Disaster Recovery Unit, P.O. Box 94095, 70804-9095, Attn: Janice Lovett; or
• Faxing them to the attention of Janice Lovett at (225) 219-9605.

Updates on the 2015 Listening Tour- You Can Still Join Us!

This year, our Listening Tour took the form of candidates forums for the upcoming legislative elections around the state. The goals of the forums are to provide:

  1. Local/parish/regional voters with an opportunity to learn about and compare legislative candidate positions on housing and other issues in a neutral setting, and
  2. Candidates with an opportunity to make voters aware of their positions on issues in an educational, multi-partisan format.

Also, this year, we’ve partnered with the Louisiana Budget Project and the Louisiana Council on Aging Directors Association (LACOADA) in an effort to ensure the conversation and issues addressed are broader than just affordable housing.

There’s still time for you to participate! Here are remaining dates and location information:

October 6: Baton Rouge

9:30am-1pm

Capital City Event Center

6955 Florida Blvd

Baton Rouge, LA

October 13: Houma

6-7:30pm

Terrebone Parish Library

151 Library Drive

Houma, LA

October 15: Hammond

6-7:30pm

City of Hammond Council Chambers

Louis J. Tallo Building

312 East Charles

Hammond, LA

Also, make sure you are registered to vote! You can do so online here. The deadline to register to vote in order to vote in the November 21 Gubernatorial Election is October 21!

Questions? Email slshorter@lahousingalliance.org. See you soon!

Photo courtesy of Kevin Armstrong via Flickr

September Resources

Conferences and Trainings

SRABC Annual Conference: Moving from Talk to Action 

October 8-9, 2015 Beau Rivage Resort, Biloxi, Mississippi

Click here for more details and registration

The conference’s purpose is to engage a diverse group of practitioners, researchers, policymakers, funders and other stakeholders from economic development and asset-building fields to discuss challenges and solutions for economic growth for the Southern region of the United States. Special emphasis will be placed on defining policies and programs that support low-income families and communities. The focus is to provide participants with the latest information and research, to provide opportunities for collaboration, and to foster consideration of innovative ways to assist low- to moderate-income families in building wealth.

LAAHP Tax Credit Compliance Training

October 14, 2015 Hilton Hotel, Baton Rouge Capital Center

Click here for more details and registration

If you have any further questions please contact Cheyenne Little at info@laahp.org.

NHC’s Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods Convening

November 5-6, 2015, Marriott Convention Center New Orleans

Click here for more details and registration

Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods brings together practitioners and advocates from across the housing community to explore solutions for creating affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods. Conference sessions are framed from a comprehensive community development perspective that treats housing as a nexus connected to education, transportation, economic development, health, the environment, public safety and other social issues. Presenters will come from around the country and the New Orleans region to share ideas, propose solutions and offer practical lessons for all to take home.

Neighborworks Training Institute 

December 7-11, 2015, Washington, DC

Click here for more details and registration

Research

The National Housing Conference’s resource, Paycheck to Paycheck, is comprised of an online, interactive database and accompanying report prepared by the Center for Housing Policy, the research  division of the National Housing Conference, that compares wages for selected occupations with the income needed to buy or rent a home. The purpose of the database is to examine how full-time workers fare in housing markets around the country.

The most recent update to Paycheck to Paycheck highlights five occupations representative of the kinds of jobs held by millennials: administrative assistant, retail cashier, e-commerce customer service representative, food service manager and cardiac technician. Database users can opt to compare housing costs and wages for a default set of community workers: elementary school teacher, police officer, licensed practical nurse, retail salesperson and janitor.

Funding

USDA Housing Preservation & Revitalization Demonstration Loans & Grants: The program restructures loans for existing Rural Rental Housing and Off-Farm Labor Housing projects to help improve and preserve the availability of safe affordable rental housing for low income residents. Pre-applications due in December, more info available here.

Member Spotlight: SAC Couples Housing with Business Development in Northwest Louisiana

One of our most recent members is the Strategic Action Council (SAC) of Northwest Louisiana. SAC is “a broad-based regional, business, and civic organization created to enhance the capacity of the region so that it can compete in today’s global, technology-driven economy. SAC is dedicated to improving economic and enterprise development, education, and healthcare throughout the region. The Strategic Action Council’s mission is “To make our region healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Through the diversity of its organizational membership, as well as through the engagement of its four committees, Community Development, Regional Healthcare, Education, and Regional Economic Development, the Strategic Action Council strives to make Northwest Louisiana an even better place to live.”

We recently caught up with SAC’s Executive Director, Jeffrey Thomas, to talk about how his organization is involved in the issue of housing and why LHA membership is a good choice for SAC.

At its core, SAC is dedicated to forwarding business strategies that foster equitable economic development for all residents of Northwest Louisiana. Not surprisingly, the organization has identified that investing in high quality housing development is one way to achieve their overall mission. As such, “the Northwest Louisiana Community Development Fund I (The Fund) was created to invest in real estate in those low and moderate income urban and rural areas of the twelve parish region of Northwest Louisiana that have under-appreciated resources, and thus represent the unrealized investment opportunities for the community and the region. These areas represent emerging markets with the potential to contribute to the growth and vitality of the Northwest region of our state.”

So far, the Fund has purchased two multi-family apartment complexes in low to moderate income areas of the region. Then SAC was able to provide $600,000 worth of work to members of its Minority Supplier Institute in order to redevelop the complexes. Now, the apartments are back on market. Ultimately, SAC was able to both improve the quality of over 200 apartment units and provide business to minority contractors in the region.

Mr. Thomas joined LHA because of the critical networking and training opportunities it provides. For example, he attended the August Neighborworks Training Institute in Philadelphia on an LHA scholarship. He is interested in gaining a greater understanding of how foundations, venture capital, and private equity firms view housing, economic and community development in order to strengthen SAC’s work in the area.

If you are interested in supporting SAC’s work in the Northwest Louisiana region, here are three ways to get involved:

1) Let SAC know if you are aware of any projects in the region that may benefit from SAC involvement. You can email them or call (318) 562-1155 with information.

2) Similarly, if you are working on a project and would like to partner with SAC, get in touch!

3) Consider joining the SAC affiliated Minority Supplier Institute, a non-profit organization committed to the mission of addressing the racial income and opportunity gap that blocks economic progress in Northwest Louisiana by helping the region’s minority business grow and proposer. More information about the group is available here.

LHA Releases Report on the State of Affordable Housing in Louisiana

On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, the Louisiana Housing Alliance released a new report, 2015 Report on the State of Affordable Housing in Louisiana. The report was prepared by Nick Sorrells with the assistance of Dr. Marla K. Nelson of the University of New Orleans and Marla Y. Newman of the Louisiana Housing Alliance. The Greater New Orleans Foundation provided underwriting for the research and publication of the report.

A copy of the report is available here.

The report is divided into five sections: Housing Affordability, Housing Conditions, Rural Housing, Special Populations, and Recommendations. Highlights of the report include:

Part I: Housing Affordability

In the aftermath of the great recession, neither incomes nor housing construction have kept pace with the housing needs of Louisiana residents. As homeownership rates have declined, the rise in the rental population has led to significant decreases in vacancies, as well as surging monthly payments. Housing costs now present a challenge even for middle-class employees in growing sectors of employment such as the medical and educational fields. For low-income and especially minimum wage workers, securing quality affordable housing has become nearly impossible without financial assistance. Among the findings:

-In order to afford a 2 bedroom apartment, a full time employee in Louisiana must earn an hourly wage of $15.45, well above the average hourly wage of Louisiana renters–$12.71.

-A minimum wage employee would have to work 85 hours a week to rent a 2 bedroom unit.

-A shortage of over 105,000 affordable and available housing units now exists for both very low-income (earning less than 50% of the median income) and extremely low-income (earning less than 30% of the median income) individuals seeking housing.

-The number of affordably priced units has fallen in recent years, and a great deal of new construction has focused on luxury units and high-income households.

-National, state and local funding for affordable housing construction and rehabilitation has declined, and falls far short of that necessary to meet the dire need for affordable homes.

Part II: Housing Conditions

Given the absence of comprehensive data on conditions at the state level, the LHA sought to gauge the extent of substandard housing through an examination of variables known to correlate with high numbers of inadequate structures. The report also draws on data from the U.S. Census and American Housing Survey as well as inspections at the city, state and federal level. In summary:

-Louisiana features many of the risk factors for substandard housing, including high rates of poverty, low-value units, and in some areas, a large stock of older homes.

-Minorities, low-income residents and renters in Louisiana all experience inadequate housing and health risks at a rate far higher than the general population.

-Windshield surveys (visual inspections) performed by select cities and parishes reveal that many neighborhoods contain significant numbers of blighted and/or substandard homes.

-Inspections conducted by HUD indicate that federally assisted properties statewide feature widely varying conditions. Many cities and parishes have multiple properties with a failing grade, while others have ratings approaching 100%.

-Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) data, commonly used to survey incidences of inadequate housing, finds that nearly half of all Louisiana residents have at least one of four problems measured by the system.

Part III: Rural Housing

Louisiana contains many areas of persistent poverty in rural regions, especially in the Lower Mississippi Delta. While high rates of “free and clear” owners in rural communities make for a lower overall housing cost burden than in metro areas, several obstacles to homeownership have arisen in recent years. Financing barriers, persistently low incomes, and rising land prices have all contributed to a decline in housing affordability. Huge disparities exist between renters and owners, and minorities suffer disproportionately heavy burdens.

-Less than 20% of rural homeowners pay more than 30% of their income on housing, compared to nearly half of renters.

-Rural homeownership rates fell statewide between 2000 and 2010.

-Combined housing/transportation costs in rural areas exceed those in cities, leading to cost 
burdens not typically captured in housing studies.

-Shipments of mobile homes have declined since the recession. Manufactured housing has historically been the main affordable option for low-income rural residents.

Part IV: Special Populations

Many groups encounter additional obstacles in their search for quality housing. Louisiana’s seniors often face housing cost burdens, and even when affordable housing exists it may not suit their special requirements for comfort and mobility. Although the state has reduced chronic homelessness, tens of thousands of residents—although not officially homeless—have no permanent residence. Youth aging out of foster care are particularly vulnerable to insecure housing situations, as they generally lack any sort of formal or informal support network.

-Louisiana’s percentage of residents with disabilities significantly exceeds the U.S. average.

-Forecasts predict over 300,000 additional Louisiana residents over the age of 65 by the year 
2030. These seniors will require housing compatible with their unique needs.

-The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 38,000 children in Louisiana are either homeless or in some type of insecure housing situation.

-Studies find 25-50% of youth nationwide aging out of foster care lack stable housing.

-Ex-offenders face significant housing challenges upon leaving prison, contributing to 
statewide recidivism rates of nearly 50%.

Part V: Recommendations

This report identifies several promising strategies to address the state’s housing challenges and increase the supply of affordable homes. Based on a review of programs instituted by state and local governments nationwide, the LHA suggests that the state take the following steps:

-Secure a permanent source of revenue for the state housing trust fund.

-Establish a housing data center (or state data center with housing as a component).

-Work with communities statewide to improve resiliency and lower surging flood insurance rates, which have had a devastating effect on housing affordability in coastal areas.

-Direct additional funds toward the rehabilitation of existing units, and encourage adaptive reuse.

-Encourage flexible zoning approaches and alternative forms of housing.

Read the full report here.

Baton Rouge Candidates Forum October 6th

LHA has partnered with the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging for the Baton Rouge stop on its 2015 Annual Listening Tour. The event will take the form of a candidates forum and will take place October 6, from 9:30am-1pm at the Capital City Event Center, 6955 Florida Blvd.

If you’re in the Baton Rouge area, please join us!

More details available here.