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Affordable and Electoral

Why aren't the political candidates talking about affordability

Why don’t political candidates talk about affordable housing?
     A new survey by Ipos shows that 59% of Americans think affordability is a key political issue that should be discussed in the 2016 elections. 
     So why are politicians talking about paying ransom for hostages and who’s got the biggest genitalia? Because politicians don’t live in rental housing and they don’t know anyone who does. Everything they know about rental housing comes from the Finance, Investor, Real Estate, Developer (FIRED) industry. And the industry thinks that everything is fine in the rental world. They are making money because of rising rents, tight mortgages, and short supplies of affordable units. AND, the FIRED industry donates money to candidates, buys tickets to politicans events, and invites them to speak at industry events.
     Time for a change! Despite calls by national advocacy organizations, local advocates seem not to be engaging in the political process. Maybe local advocates are too dependent the FIRED donors or on local government officials for their funding? Another problem for potential housing advocates is being focused on the trees (individual victims) instead of the forest (housing policies that favor wealth creation at the expense of middle class renters ) This week’s victory in Toledo points to some of the keys to success: 1. coalition efforts, 2. facts, not feelings, and 3. no blaming, and 4. persistent education of the opinion leaders and decision makers. 

New report on LIHTC and affirmatively further fair housing raises challenges for OHFA
     A new report (see attached below) shows that the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC) in Ohio is failing to meet the Federal law that requires grantees to "affirmatively further fair housing" because the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) is putting new affordable units in areas of concentrated poverty. For several years now, advocates have urged OHFA to take steps to assure that LIHTC properties are located in “opportunity areas.” The study shows little real progress towards the goal of "affirmatively furthering." The current situation can be compared to the case of Texas vs. Inclusive Communities Inc, which was decided in the US Supreme Court in favor of Inclusive Communities (a fair housing advocate) just a year ago. Since then, HUD has issued new guidance for Federal funding recipients to transform their programs to locate affordable developments in communities with employment and educational opportunities as well as reduced crime and environmental risks. Just adding services in a distressed area doesn’t create an opportunity environment.
      By week’s end, OHFA was mounting a defense. In a story broadcast on WKSU, OHFA Planning Director (and RHINO member) Kelan Craig explained that developing affordable housing in middle and upper income areas was more expensive than developing in lower income neighborhoods. Craig added that OHFA is planning to “incentivize housing eligible for the tax credits in a variety of neighborhoods.” PRI’s Marketplace has a related story on the "High Cost of Constructing Affordable Housing."
       In fact, the State of Ohio will need to develop plans to comply with new Federal guidance on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. So far, Ohio has been in a ‘grace period’ because the most rigorous enforcement of the HUD regs don’t kick in until 2018. But because the new report was sponsored by the Legal Services of SW Ohio, it’s reasonable to assume that fair housing advocates might consider their legal options instead of waiting for the slow machinery of government to get around to making change.
       Convincing doubtful leaders may also be in order. In an interesting editorial round table this week, Plain Dealer opinion writers show a range of opinions about economic mobility for the poor. The delicately balanced presentation has two proponents of mobility and two opponents. Reading the "opponent" opinions is troubling because you gotta figure that these are educated opinion leaders who just don't understand economic and social inequality. There's an urge to send them out into the real world instead of writing about it from a plush office. Second best would be an advocates meeting with the editorial board members. Kudos to the Plain Dealer for pulling back the curtain on these divergent editorial opinions. Advocates need to supply some facts
posted August 21, 2016

 What's News?

Make affordable housing an issue in this election
      While the polls tell us that housing justice is on the minds of voters, the politicians don't get it. The absence of housing in the electoral agenda is not just at the national level. State and local candidates are blissfully ignorant. 
     Here's a theory. The people that candidates look to for guidance on housing issues are not first time buyers or low income renters, but members of the real estate/financing/developing complex and that network of mortgage brokers, real estate brokers & property managers and home builders and developers are doing fine and like things just the way they are. 
     Solution? Advocates need to press candidates at all levels on the problem of lack of supply of affordable units and skyrocketting rents. 
posted August 20, 2016

Everyone in the US knows there's an affordability crisis...except... your elected officials?
     NextCity features a story called "Voters to Presidential Candidates: Start Talking About Affordable Housing." From the article: "...nearly 60 percent of respondents felt that their local elected officials are not doing enough to improve housing affordability. Only 37 percent felt that Congress is. Just under half reported not remembering the issue of housing affordability ever coming up at one of the 22 presidential debates thus far."
     While this sounds like one of those surveys designed to prove the position of the survey sponsors, still the "Make Room" project is putting its mouth where it's money is. RHINO member LouT was among a group who presented to the RNC in Cleveland. 
     Still, you are not off the hook RHINOs. Just because the elected officials have not gotten the news yet, just means that your job of educating "your public servants" is not over yet. 

posted July 23, 2016