HUD to Support Preserving Affordable Rental Housing
The Obama Administration will bring renewed energy and resources to groups that seek to preserve the nation’s stock of affordable housing, according to Administration officials and industry leaders who spoke at a recent symposium on the preservation of rental housing.
“There is so much to build on, and so much to do, but state and local leaders across the nation have a new partner in HUD in order to ensure there is a continued focus on preservation at the federal level,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
Donovan spoke at a one-day symposium hosted in Washington, D.C. by the National Housing Conference (NHC) and the MacArthur Foundation.
The conference, “Partners in Innovation: A Dialogue on Federal, State and Local Rental Preservation Solutions,” featured panel discussions of the issue, as well as keynote talks by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
“Today, about one in three families — or more than 75 million people — rent their homes, a number that is rising because of the foreclosure crisis and weak home sales. Yet, the supply of affordable rental homes is shrinking,” said Conrad Egan, president and CEO of NHC. “We can and must do more to preserve our existing affordable rental housing supply through sound local, state and federal policies.”
In February, the MacArthur Foundation awarded a total of $32.5 million in grants and low-cost loans to 12 states and cities — including Denver, Florida, Iowa, Los Angeles, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and Portland, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington and Seattle — to launch projects to preserve affordable rental homes for more than 70,000 families. The foundation also directly supports 25 mission-driven non-profit housing developers, specialized financial intermediaries and model preservation programs in New York City and Cook County, Ill.
Representatives of the grant recipient cities and states participated in the panel discussions and offered their perspectives on the challenges of preserving affordable rental housing.
“The MacArthur Foundation has truly been a voice in the wilderness for rental housing preservation, and NHC has done much to keep federal housing efforts on the map,” Donovan said. “The work of these recent awardees, consisting of many innovative partnerships at the state and local level, serve as examples that can be carried out on a national stage in a new way.”
Donovan’s remarks focused on three things:
- The stimulus package, known officially as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
- Data and research initiatives at HUD
- New policy direction at HUD
Donovan praised the stimulus package that President Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, and said funds in the package for public housing are already being invested and used to renovate housing and create jobs. The recovery bill, he said, will “set the foundation from which broader and more ambitious preservation efforts can be built.”
Regarding research and data, Donovan said that his agency will do more to inform the public and to be a source of information for the housing policy community. And HUD itself must establish better ways of assessing its own efforts. “It is fundamental to the work we do to measure and to understand the impacts of the work we do,” he said. “At HUD, I don’t think there is a real sense of what success looks like.”
“We will provide regular, transparent data to you, and we will ask in return that in implementing your programs on the ground, you share with us the lessons and the data that we need to be able to make judgments,” Donovan said.
“You will also see in our 2010 budget proposal a renewed commitment to HUD being a center of innovation and research in our policy development and research area,” he said. “We will commit significant funds and work with Congress to get the flexibility we need to evaluate and measure every single program that we have within HUD.”
And regarding new policy direction, those who want to preserve rental housing “need a partner in the federal government who no longer stands in the way of the work and the innovation that you want to do on the ground, that no longer focuses just on process and programs, but focuses on people and places,” Donovan said.
“I commit to you a new kind of partnership and new authority in the field offices around the country, to be the kind of entrepreneurial partners that you need in preservation,” Donovan said.
Donovan’s entire keynote speech at the symposium can be heard on NHC’s “Open House” blog at www.nhcopenhouse.org.
For more information, e-mail Blake Smith at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8583.