Like much of the nation, the Midwest and Great Plains regions of HUD, face a critical housing shortage. What most don't know is, is that when it comes to tackling the affordable housing crisis, leaders in these states are generating solutions. More importantly, as Secretary Marcia Fudge called for earlier this year, they are being shared with HUD under the Our Way Home banner.
On October 5, HUD Regional Administrators (RAs) Diane Shelley and Ulysses "Deke" Clayborn and their respective teams, held a roundtable discussion in the Quad Cities, an area comprised of the southeastern Iowa cities of Bettendorf and Davenport and the northwestern Illinois cities of East Moline, Moline, and Rock Island. They gathered with elected, appointed and other civic leaders to tour housing projects and discuss what has been working and what stands in the way of broadening the options for affordable housing development and opening access to homeownership for more families.
The event's creation was a joint effort between RAs Clayborn and Shelley. They envisioned a collaborative convening, driven by the idea that the way home for individuals experiencing poverty must be an ever-escalating proposition. It is meant to be a pathway for individuals, households and ultimately communities, to progressively move from meeting their basic housing needs, to securing the wealth building benefits of homeownership, and ultimately gaining an ability to transfer that wealth to forthcoming generations that otherwise would have faced ongoing disinvestment.
For all intents and purposes, the event was a success as defined by the tenets of Our Way Home. It identified ways to produce and preserve affordable homes for renters and homeowners. It addressed the tools that work and the tools that are still needed to for community adoption. It showed a united front of federal, state, local and philanthropic agencies. But most important, concrete ideas were shared that others can use in their own communities to improve the supply of housing and the opportunities for inter-generational wealth building.
Areas of success identified by the convening:
- Davenport Habitat for Humanity discussed the integration of homebuyer assistance and renovation counseling in their homebuying process and how it is a replicable path for other communities to increase low-income household access to homeownership.
- The city of Rock Island is joining with Moline and East Moline to form the Quad-Cities Land Bank Authority. One advantage of the arrangement is that the land bank will be able to pay off tax liens on abandoned properties, which can be costly to cure by prospective buyers, enhancing economic growth and expansion of the housing supply. The arrangement is covered more in-depth in a March 2022 Quad City Times article here.
- A coalition of communities that won a competitive Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) award from HUD under the Obama administration, are a decade later, still lifting up the accomplishments of the program. The Quad Cities have benefitted from the program's allowance of local governments to assist a wide income spectrum, up to 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI). In practice, most federal programs are focused on those households with AMIs less than 80%. The NSP grant originally was used to do hundreds of units of single-family housing infill, created new communications synergies between local partners, and led to a sustainable source of new funding through the NSP "program income" in which the proceeds of each sale were re-invested in additional units, creating a longer-term subsidy.
Areas for further exploration identified by the convening:
- Helping public housing authorities (PHAs) better understand how to self-perform as real estate developers is key. A focus on helping them learn more about leveraging "developer fees", especially those that are to be deferred and used instead as a source of project capital, needs to be explored.
- How to develop more funding sources for supportive services to assist those living in affordable rental properties or that are homeowners was also discussed. Housing is a key social determinant of health, but it can't help people on its own. Services like job assistance, education and financial literacy counseling, accessibility assistance, healthcare and others are absolutely necessary to help people move to opportunity.