National Housing Trust Allocation Meeting in Columbus

With the historic victory of finally funding the National Housing Trust Fund, it is time to decide how to implement this program in Ohio.  There is a meeting down in Columbus on 2/25 to decide how this money will be allocated.  Cleveland has one-third of the poor people in the state, but we always seem to lose out to the rural communities.  It will be important to attend this meeting that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency is organizing to demonstrate the needs up on the great North Coast.  Here is a link to register

Brian Davis

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News Briefs for the Week

Chef Arnold Abbott named Advocate of the Year by National Coalition for the Homeless.  He stood up to the bullies in Florida who were holding food hostage down in Ft. Lauderdale.  He is 90 years old and has been repeatedly ticketed for following his religious belief to give out food to homeless people.  He was ticketed on a regular basis after trying to distribute food to homeless people as he had done for over a decade.  Chef Abbott appeared on national news programs regularly to demonstrate the injustice of not being able to get food to its people.  He also challenged the law in court and was able to get a stay of the tickets until a judge makes a decison.

More Republican Governors are opting to expand Medicaid.  This is free money from the health care reform to get the lowest income residents to access affordable health care and it is 100% paid by the federal government.  It is purely political to not accept these funds.  We provide a chart of the amount of money being lost by the states refusing to accept Medicaid expansion

Number of homeless families increasing in the Bay area. As in the Cleveland and many other communities, there is a sharp rise in the number of homeless families.  We have focused our attention on the long term homeless, and families have suffered.  

NBC News covers large number of homeless families.  This is one of the typical stories during the holidays when we turn our attention to those struggling with housing.  It is especially accute this year when families are overwhelming the system or when we have so many kids sleeping in a church floor in the overflow shelters.

National Alliance to End Homelessness has a good summary of the results of the budget compromise on homelessness.   It is $271 million less than the President had requested.  This will keep funding level for the homeless programs and only the housing vouchers for veterans will increase.  It is an amazing change in Washington when advocates are championing that "at least the government will not shut down" as good news. 

Finally, some good news out of Washington with the funding of the National Housing Trust Fund.  The program was created in 2007, but the housing market collapsed and so no funding was ever delivered.  This fund should create and preserve affordable housing in the United States.  Ohio has a state Housing Trust, but Cuyahoga County does not have a local resource to build new housing

Brian Davis

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News of Affordable Housing that Impact Cleveland

There are a bunch of stories in the media over the last few weeks about affordable housing. The first and most important was the Plain Dealer support for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program that the Cleveland Housing Network called our attention to in their newsletter.  In an article by one of the reporters separated from the Plain Dealer wrote about the concern by advocates over the loss of the Tax Credit program.  The tax credit program is not the best way to develop affordable housing because the housing is not really affordable to the lowest income people in our community, but it is still an important program.  Typically, the rents are reduced but they are not reduced to the point of the housing voucher program or Public Housing.  In a society that has seen a 25 reduction in the number of affordable housing units in most every community in the country any tool available is needed and necessary.

The Cleveland Housing Network has used the program here locally, and we have built about 100,000 units in the state of Ohio.  There are hundreds of thousands waiting for housing in Ohio with 64,000 declaring a need for housing in Cleveland the last time the voucher program opened their waiting list. We need every possible tool in the toolbox to build housing and reduce homelessness.  We need a trust fund at the federal and local level.   We need a massive expansion of the housing voucher program (including for disabled individuals) and public housing for veterans and families struggling with housing.  And we need corporations to get a break on their taxes if they invest in the development of beautiful efficient and affordable housing in our community.  Our society would be so much healthier if people had a stable place to call home, and were not constantly in fear of where they were going to sleep at night.

Mark Naymik (who survived the slaughter on Superior this last week) took a swipe at the Union Miles Development Corporation for owning a large number of eyesores in their neighborhood.  He went through much detail into the court cases they are involved in and the community critics who say that they have over extended themselves.  They own over one dozen homes that have been condemned by the City of Cleveland.   There were homes built with tax credits only seven years ago that are now rotting in their neighborhood.  One house seemed to be the staging area for a dog fighting ring.  One third of the homes that they own are vacant, and they do not seem have staff dedicated to managing these properties.  This seems like a good neighborhood to construct an urban homesteading program.  Lease these homes to skilled homeless people to preserve, fix and eventually own these properties.   It certainly could not hurt and I am sure the neighbor would prefer a group of homeless people fixing up housing to a dog fighting venue as a neighbor. 

Then one interesting national note...The National Low Income Housing Coalition in July filed suit against the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency for failing to uphold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's obligation to fund the National Housing Trust from 2008.  The law was passed that any surplus in these two account should go to the Trust, and then the bottom fell out on the housing market.   In 2008, both entities were taken into federal conservatorship to avoid their bankruptcy and any transfer to the Trust Fund was suspended before it even started.   In 2012, the two entities did $1.4 trillion in business, which should have delivered $382 million to the National Housing Trust fund.  NLIHC is asking that the suspension of transfers to the Trust Fund be lifted since the crisis is over.   The board of NLIHC along with low income potential tenants want the Trust Fund to start building, preserving and expanding opportunties for the millions of Americans waiting for a place to live. 

Brian Davis

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Cleveland Endorses National Housing Trust

At the May 13, Cleveland City Council meeting the members passed a resolution in support of HR 1213, the Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2013.  The goal is to get all of our local Congressional members to endorse this campaign.  The United for Homes campaign under the direction of the National Low Income Housing Coalition worked over the last few years to develop a strategy to fund the National Housing Trust.  Congress created the trust, but the funding source collapsed as the 2008 housing bubble burst.  They put their heads together and proposed a reform of the mortgage interest deduction so that some of the proceeds go to develop affordable housing.

Congressman Ellison of Minnesota proposed a law to reform the mortgage deduction and his bill would expand funding to CMHA, the Housing Choice Voucher program, the National Housing Trust, and expand the tax credit program.  We have posted a copy of the City of Cleveland resolution on our website under May 2013 in our advocacy section (just click on the pdf to circulate or view the resolution.)  We hope that Congresswomen Fudge and Kaptur will sign on to the resolution.  We hope that Cuyahoga County will pass a similar resolution. 

PS: We have to thank Rachel, staff of Councilman Joe Cimperman, for quickly getting this to the Council.  Also, Councilman Cimperman was very gracious in moving this to the floor for a vote before the summer vacation.

Brian Davis

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Don't Miss the Editorial in the New York Times

On the day we find out that our own local paper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is planning to fade deeper into obscurity by laying off another few dozen reporters, the New York Times had a wonderful editorial about the sad state of affordable housing in America.  We have copied it for posterity on our member site (need a login as a member to access our member site.) Here is how the New York Times characterized it as:

These programs provide decent housing for about only a quarter of the low-income families who qualify for them. And with nearly nine million households teetering on the verge of homelessness, the country clearly needs more support for affordable housing, not less.

This is the basis for the affordable housing crisis in America that the New York Times references.  They make two solid recommendations that we certainly have advocated at the national level.  Those include funding the National Housing Trust in order to preserve and expand housing and the Affordable Housing Self Sufficiency Improvement Act which would allow major cost savings in the current programs.  The National Housing Trust is the single most important piece of legislation that needs some funding as soon as possible.  The trust was created, but with the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had no funding.  There are a few problems with the current AHSSIA bill, but the core legislation is solid and deserves passage.  From a city that saw 64,000 people apply for a housing voucher in 2011 and only 10,000 names were selected, Cleveland is the prime example of why we need additional resources for the Housing Authority and for private non-profits to develop new opportunities for low income workers to move out of the shelters. Most of the affordable housing waiting lists in Cleveland are 5 to 7 years long.  Paying the emergency housing costs of all of those individuals including food, shelter, and the additional health care costs is a lot more than the cost of providing a housing voucher. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry