Tag Archives: Housing Choice Voucher Program

Fighting homelessness and generational poverty with affordable housing

The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (NC) is honoring Housing America Month this October, but more importantly, the clients and residents it serves every day. The Oaks at Tenth_Winston Salem

This year, HAWS partnered with the Bethesda Center for the Homeless by committing to set aside 42 public housing units for those persons in the community experiencing chronic homelessness. Since 2012, HAWS Collaborative Program has helped 49 homeless individuals.

Affordable housing is at a premium in Winston-Salem much like the rest of the country. That’s why HAWS recently broke ground on a new 30-unit public housing property called Camden Station. The property is set to be completed in the summer of 2015. HAWS also recently completed its Stoney Glen Apartments project, a newly renovated public housing community. The Apartments began leasing this month. Both properties come with energy efficiency washers and dryers and require residents to work. Earlier this year, HAWS also completed The Oaks at Tenth, HAWS’s first ever working requirement activity community.

HAWS also focuses on helping its residents further their education. Eight first generation college students will continue their education at local colleges and universities thanks to HAWS and funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Stoney Glen Renovation_Winston Salem

For more information about how agencies like the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem are positively impacting their communities, visit the Housing America Campaign website.

Community Focus on Affordable Housing for ’17Days’

From Sept. 19 through Oct. 5, artwork created by youth living in assisted housing provided by the State Representative Alma Adams with GHA youth at HA eventGreensboro Housing Authority (NC) was featured at the 17Days Arts and Culture Festival in celebration of Housing America Month. Artists in grades K-12 created art that expressed what home means to them.

“We are delighted to have our ‘What Homes Means to Me’ posters included in the 17DAYS Arts & Culture Festival,” said Tina Akers Brown, president and CEO of GHA. “This is the first time that an agency such as ours has had the opportunity to participate in the community event.  It will be great exposure for the children and will help highlight the many positive things that happen in our communities.”

03_72dpi_Harmonee_FebIncluded in the exhibit was Greensboro’s national winning 2015 ‘What Home Means to Me’ contest entry created by 18 year old, Harmonee.

Greensboro (NC) Mayor Announces 2015 What Home Means to Me National WinnerArtsGreensboro’s annual festival celebrates “all things beautiful and exciting.” In 2013, more than 85,000 people attended the festival including State Representative Alma Adams. This year, Greensboro Mayor Nancy B. Vaughan joined GHA at the 17Days Arts and Culture Festival to highlight not only wonderful work of the children, but the integral role affordable housing plays in education and job training and development.

Going Digital: Housing Choice Voucher Waiting Lists

Providing shelter for families, children and adults who have fallen on hard times is a housing authority’s main function. And in these difficult times, any way to speed up and improve the process of helping those in need find shelter is helpful. The Lafayette (La.) Housing Authority did just that this month, by moving its administratively burdensome Housing Choice Voucher waiting list application process from in-person to online.

When LHA last opened its waiting list, they were greeted at their door by thousands of people hoping to secure an affordable home.  “Two years ago, we accepted nearly 1,200 names in two hours,” said Katie Anderson, executive director of the Lafayette Housing Authority. “To date, we have just under 3,000 people who have applied to be added to the wait list. I’m anticipating about 4,000 names to end up going to the lottery for selection.” This year, at the end of the lottery process, 1,000 names will have been added to the waiting list, and the process itself will have been streamlined. The lottery closes on Oct. 14.

Housing authorities across the country are shifting the process online. Over the last few months, Baltimore Housing, Charlotte Housing Authority, and the St. Louis Housing Authority have all transitioned their application processes online, giving families a chance to apply without disrupting their work or school schedules.

Today, the Housing America Campaign celebrates the Lafayette Housing Authority and the countless others who continue to find quicker and more efficient ways to help those in need of safe, quality and affordable housing.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority: More Than A Home

The Philadelphia Housing Authority, a Moving to Work agency, is more than just an affordable housing provider. PHA is also the largest social service agency in the City. Over the past year, the authority has made an impact in the lives of families, seniors, at-risk individuals, veterans and persons living with disabilities. Here are some outstanding examples proving PHA is more than just a home. CommunityPartnersResidentFair-Philadelphia Housing Authority

Helping residents to reach self-sufficiency is the driving motivation behind much of PHA’s work. Through the authority’s Education Department, 679 residents have received adult basic education testing in English, Math, and Reading helping them to become eligible for one of PHAs highly demanded job training programs. The Community Partners Program provides training in customer service, culinary arts and human services in addition to entrepreneurial training, certified nursing and commercial driving training. PHA’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program offers long-term employment at the housing authority itself for residents interested in working as a maintenance mechanic, painter or other trade specialist, or laborer. In July 2014, 171 PHA residents were also PHA employees making up 12 percent of the total agency workforce. PHA hopes to see that number grow to 25 percent, and with a waiting list of more than 50 residents, it certainly seems like the agency will reach its mark.

BookbagGiveaway_LeeMazin-Philadelphia Housing AuthorityPHA does not take education lightly. That’s why, in 2013 and again in 2014, PhillySeeds Inc., a subsidiary of PHA, partnered with Staples, Citizens Bank, Santander Bank, Weichert Realty and local colleges and universities to get residents ready to head back to school. Through the partnership, PHA and local businesses distributed 7,000 book bags filled with school supplies in preparation for the new year. But before the school year even got started, the authority was busy offering healthy, safe activities, like participating in the Housing America Campaign’s annual “What Home Means to Me” poster contest, as well as breakfast and lunch to youth residents through their Summer Food Service Program, a PHA staple for more than 30 years. Thanks to the Summer Food Service Program, more than 61,000 meals were served in 2014 and an additional 43,000 meals were served in 2013 while simultaneously providing part-time employment for clients and residents.

One of the largest barriers to residents’ purchase of affordable homes in Philadelphia is obtaining the funds to cover closing costs. PhillySeeds, Inc., not only helps raise money for academic scholarship and entrepreneurial ventures, but it also fundraises grant money for low-income persons or families in the market to purchase an affordable home.

In 2014, PHA expanded rental housing opportunity for seniors, currently homeless and at-risk persons through partnerships with developers and local housing providers. PHA contributed 65 Project-Based Vouchers to various new developments in the metro region in an effort to increase access to affordable housing and eventually, self-sufficiency.

NAHRO thanks you, PHA, for your commitment and dedication to not only providing a home for those most vulnerable, but a way forward.

#SOTU14: What NAHRO Wants to Hear

About this time each year, Washington is buzzing about the annual State of the Union Address otherwise referred to as the SOTU.  NAHRO for years has been a part of the process and has prepared a written response re our thoughts on the address good and bad.  Our thoughts are sent to the media, members of congress and others to ensure that affordable housing issues are on the table.  More recently we have live tweeted the speech to our ever growing list of followers.  This year we will be tweeting from @NAHROnational and we will prepare a more formal response following the Presidents remarks.

The Administration forwarded talking points to us today in advance of the speech.  The list of talking points is not altogether surprising:

  • The President will deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night, driven by three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism.
  • The core idea is as American as they come: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed. In America, your ability to get ahead should be determined by your hard work, ambition, and goals – not by the circumstances of your birth.
  • The President will lay out a set of real, concrete, practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it.
  • In this year of action, the President will seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way on behalf of the American people. But when American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress.
  • The President has a pen and he has a phone, and he will use them to take executive actions and enlist every American – from business owners, workers, mayors and state legislators to young people, veterans, and folks in communities across the country – in the project to restore opportunity for all.
  • It will be an optimistic speech. America has a hard-earned right to that optimism thanks to the grit and determination of citizens across the country. Five years after the President inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our businesses have created more than eight million new jobs in the past 46 months, and they’re primed to create more.
  • The President will remind the country that, with some action on all of our parts, we can help more jobseekers find work, and more working Americans find the economic security they deserve.
  • In the week following the State of the Union, the President will travel to communities across the country – including Prince George’s County Maryland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Nashville – before returning to the White House to outline new efforts to help the long-term unemployed.

This is the first time that I can recall that talking points such as these were broadly distributed in advance of the speech providing a window into what we can expect to hear from the President. Yes, it would have been better to see the word housing or better yet, affordable housing in the talking points, but we hold out hope that the work that NAHRO members do every day to ensure that vulnerable populations are being served will be recognized in some way. Specifically, we hope the President will speak to the following NAHRO “talking points” in the SOTU:

  • The most vulnerable in our nation should know that providing decent, safe and affordable housing is still a priority;
  • The investment we make in providing affordable housing will serve those in need, create good paying jobs and will help stimulate the economy through the sale of goods and services;
  • The Administration recognizes that any attempt to address “income inequality” must include a vigorous well thought out plan to address the housing needs of the most vulnerable;
  • Improving our nation’s infrastructure includes preserving our nation’s irreplaceable housing inventory of affordable housing. The two are not mutually exclusive;
  • Efforts to get our fiscal house in order going forward should not come at the expense of domestic discretionary accounts generally and HCD accounts specifically;
  • He intends to focus on a plan to restore our nation’s aging inventory of federally assisted-housing (including public housing and section 8 assisted housing) in the remaining months of his term as President;
  • He hopes the Congress will send him tax reform legislation or at a minimum tax extender legislation that preserves both the 9% and 4% LIHTC credits.
  • He has directed HUD and other government agencies to expedite regulatory reforms that save the federal government money and relieve the administrative burdens that such regulations impose upon local providers;
  • He wants to work with mayors and all those who utilize both the HOME and CDBG programs to maximize the effectiveness of both programs in the larger effort to meet the housing and service needs that exist in our communities;
  • He wants to ensure that the needs of seniors, the disabled and children living in federally supported-housing are part of this Administrations overall commitment to ensure quality housing and a quality living environment for those in need.

Too much to ask for in one speech? Maybe.  A reasonable set of objectives to shoot for this year and for the remainder of the President’s term in office?  We certainly hope so.

Today marks the second time the bipartisan budget conference will meet to discuss a short-term budget deal which all Americans hope will save the country from yet another disastrous game of Washington chicken. As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and Democratic key player Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Republican key player and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) work together to find a solution, we, the affordable housing industry, must continue to advocate for the importance of low-income housing and community development programs.

Last month, a NAHRO commissioned poll found that 41 percent of respondents agreed that sequester cuts should not apply to federally subsidized programs that assist vulnerable populations including the elderly, poor, children and disabled. Troublingly, 36 percent answered “not sure” and 23 percent disagreed.

Another survey question asked whether, regardless of the respondent’s views on the federal budget deficit, they agreed or dis- agreed that the federal government should continue to assist low-income families and seniors, veterans and disabled in acquiring decent, safe and affordable housing. Over two-thirds – 67 percent – agreed, with 19 percent answering “not sure” and 14 percent disagreeing.

Respondents also showed support for specific HCD-related initiatives such as adding affordable housing funds to infrastructure repair bills (55 percent supported this, 23 percent were not sure and another 23 percent opposed it), the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (59 percent for it, 21 percent against it, and 20 percent unsure) and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) (54 percent in support, 23 percent against and 23 percent unsure).

While the data does indicate substantial support for housing and community development programs, it also signals that much the American public does not know specifically how our programs help our most vulnerable populations. It is our responsibility as housers to educate all Americans through outreach to our local, regional and national news outlets, social and new media and grassroots advocacy efforts on the importance of safe, decent and affordable housing.

If you are interested in joining the fight to protect housing and community development, sign up to be a Congressional District Contact (CDC). This group is NAHRO’s legislative team on the ground, a loud voice for housing and able to take quick action when needed.

You can also take small daily actions that help to make a big difference. Call, email or tweet your members of the House and/or Senate asking them to include affordable housing and HCD programs in the budget conversation. Be sure to tell them that any further sequester cuts would be devastating to our daily and long-term operations.

Every day we sit silently by, the more dollars our programs will lose. Now is the time to make a stand and speak up. Join NAHRO in the national fight to preserve funding for the programs that are the safety nets for many families across the country.