Affordable Housing Advocate Cushing Dolbeare Dies
The death of Cushing N. Dolbeare, 78, was announced on March 18 by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. She died the previous day of cancer at her home in Mitchellville, Md.
“Cushing Dolbeare was one of the nation’s strongest voices for affordable housing,” said NAHB Executive Vice President Jerry Howard. “We share in her abiding view that housing provides the foundation for America’s family, neighborhood and community life. Few in Washington have demonstrated their commitment to housing as effectively, and she will be sorely missed.”
Cushing began the National Low Income Housing Coalition in 1974 when she organized the Ad Hoc Low Income Housing Coalition in response to a moratorium on federal housing programs. She served as the organization’s executive director from 1977 to 1984 and from 1993 to 1994, and remained active as a researcher, policy analyst and board member until her death.
Dolbeare was one of the nation’s leading experts on federal housing policy and the housing needs of low-income people. She created the coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report on the gap between housing costs and the wages of low-income workers.
In 2000, Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) appointed Dolbeare to the Bipartisan Millennial Housing Commission, which was chartered by Congress to examine and make recommendations on providing affordable housing. In 2002, she was appointed senior scholar at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. At the time of her death, she was a member of the board of trustees of the Enterprise Foundation, and she was on the boards of directors of the Housing Assistance Council, the Alliance for Healthy Homes and the National Housing Conference.
She was a friend and advisor to several secretaries of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and former HUD Secretaries Carla Hills, Jack Kemp, Henry Cisneros and Andrew Cuomo, along with former Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), serve as honorary chairs for the Cushing N. Dolbeare Endowment Fund campaign. She served as Sen. Brooke's alternate on the President's Commission on Housing in 1981-82.
Among her many honors, in 2002, she received a Heinz Award “in recognition for 50 years of tireless commitment to the principle that decent housing is basic to our social fabric.” She donated the $250,000 award to the coalition to establish an endowment fund.
Dolbeare is survived by her husband of 49 years, Louis P. Dolbeare; their son, Louis N. Dolbeare; their daughter, Mary O’Kane; her sister, Alice Lynd; and four grandchildren.