The National Housing Conference (NHC) hosted the 2017 Annual Policy Symposium on June 9, 2017. The keynote speaker was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson. While the Secretary discussed several topics, he also mentioned his support to lift the cap on units for the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. Secretary Carson noted it would help leverage funds to provide more affordable units using public-private partnerships. He also discussed the importance of homeownership and recent data that shows an upward trajectory of homeowners. Secretary Carson noted concerns that “millennials may become a lost generation for homeownership, excluded from the American dream and punished as an unintended byproduct of the financial crisis from 2008.” He urged stakeholders to do more to find reasonable and affordable pathways with investors and lenders in order for more individuals to join the housing market. One solution mentioned was the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA), which allows the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to lower the owner occupancy minimum from 50 to 30 percent to allow more individuals to use FHA loans to attract more millennials to buy condos.
The Symposium also included two panels that discussed new directions for federal housing policy and how affordable housing organizations adapt to changes through advocacy. The first panel, titled “Flood Insurance Reauthorization: Bipartisan Housing Legislation in The New Congress,” was moderated by Ethan Handelman, NHC Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. As the Congress works to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance program by September 30, the panel shared reform ideas to serve the collaborative mission to protect communities, and especially the many low-income households affected by flooding. Throughout the discussion, panelists discussed the serious cuts HUD is facing and described how affordable housing advocates need to collaborate and educate Congress about new policies that are necessary for success. The discussion focused on the importance of location, mitigation, and affordability as stakeholders need to think about the insurance analytically to discover methods to best reduce the risk of water damage. Panelists emphasized improving flood hazard maps to ensure safe development to ensure no community experiences dramatic surprises. Key points on the reauthorization needs included significant mitigation for risk-reduction to allow support for those who cannot afford flood insurance and the need to create a long term vision to create stability in the market. Panelists want to see a flood insurance reauthorization bill addressing the synergy between the housing and conservation communities as they both strive to protect property, water quality, and provide green space to make communities more livable
The final panel discussion was titled “Connecting Diverse Interests for Housing and Community Development.” Each panelist discussed the traditional models of housing development and expanded their comments to include community revitalization, home rehabilitation, and veterans’ housing. They stated that there is a call to advocacy participation at the local, state, federal, and global level to work with affordable housing needs. Panelists agreed that housing advocates need to discuss their plans with the vulnerable populations they serve to ensure their goal align with the community’s goals. The panel stressed advocating for resources including government, AmeriCorps VISTA members, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the Home Investment Partnership Programs (HOME), which was identified as the most crucial resource for several panelists. The panel concluded by encouraging broad-based support to transcend past divisions to guide each community to recover from many years of underinvestment through new policies and activism.
To learn more you can watch the recorded webcast here.
Questions? Contact Lydia Miller at LMiller@nahro.org.