Last summer, we launched a Twitter campaign called #WHAAT Wednesdays. Each Wednesday, we ask housing authorities across the country to use the hashtag #WHAAT to share ‘What Housing Authorities Accomplished Today’ on Twitter with their local leaders and members of Congress. Momentum for #WHAAT Wednesday continues to build.
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.
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.
For more information about how agencies like the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem are positively impacting their communities, visit the Housing America Campaign website.
From Sept. 19 through Oct. 5, artwork created by youth living in assisted housing provided by the Greensboro 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.”
ArtsGreensboro’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.
By Elva Trevino
I am an eighteen year old girl who happens to be the oldest sibling in the family. I love school, playing with my family, and talking to my mom. I, however, do have a very strong dislike for insecurity, instability, and having to say goodbye to the ones I love the most. In all honestly, the latter I do not “strongly dislike” as much as I hate.
Life has proven to be a great roller coaster to my family ever since I was small, which may unfortunately be the same for many. My family and I have moved unceasingly, from being in the process of owning our own house to losing that opportunity, moving to another country to living in the countryside, to having to stay with relatives and friends away from parents and siblings. I have never relied on a paternal figure; my mother has been both my mother and father for most of my life. She is also the one that has been carrying the entire financial burden of the family in her shoulders. There was a time in which I lived away from her, and I hated the feeling of leaving her side to get a better life while she struggled in a daily basis to raise my youngest siblings. Six months after we reunited, we finally had a place we could call home.
I have been a resident in Public Housing for five years now. Thanks to this assistance, I have been able to make long lasting friendships, been able to excel in school, volunteer in my community, and help my family financially: things foreign before that point in my life. I would have never imagined myself in such stability back when I was in elementary. Back then all of this would have been a wonderful dream. Today I am grateful to say that this dream has finally become a reality for my family.
I have been able to show exactly “What Home Means to Me” by participating more than once in NAHRO’s poster contest under the same name. My illustrations depict what I find in my home, some things that I lacked while growing up. “Love, security, knowledge, happiness” and, most importantly, “a place where loved ones await” are words that decorate my illustrations. I hated that time in my life where my mom was not present, where I could not play with all my siblings, which is why I longed for a place where we would safely reside, a place that I could call “home” and affordable rental housing has made that happen.
In two weeks I will be attending Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas in order to pursue a career in medicine — away from home, but now by choice. I plan to come back and become a resource to the community that has helped my family greatly. I also wish to help my family financially, help them become self-sufficient, in order to give Edinburg Housing Authority the opportunity to assist another family in need.
Elva Trevino is a two-time national winner of NAHRO’s annual ‘What Home Means to Me’ poster contest. Her artwork has been displayed on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
For more information about the ‘What Home Means to Me’ poster contest – part of the Housing America Campaign – , visit http://www.housingamericacampaign.org/
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.