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Policy Update 9-19-19

Pamela Atwood, Director of Housing Policy

Presidential Campaigns Update

Housing continues to attract the attention of presidential candidates, even though the topic was left untouched by moderators at the most recent Democratic debate. Former HUD Secretary, Julian Castro brought up the importance of affordable housing on the fabric of a community during one of his remarks. Expanding on Castro’s previously released housing proposals, this week Castro also released a platform of policies to end homelessness by 2028. Castro proposes to increase McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants to $7.5 billion, triple the current amount. Castro also plans to incentivize local governments to remove local prohibitions against “loitering and vagrancy.”

This week Senator Bernie Sanders released his housing policy platform, “Housing for All.” The plan invests $2.5 trillion in housing programs, including $1.48 trillion to the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund over 10 years to build and maintain 7.4 million units of affordable housing. If elected, Sanders’ intends to prioritize the development of 25,000 units specifically for housing the homeless during the first year of his administration, along with $500 million to state and local governments to aid in connecting homeless persons to case management and social services. Sanders’ plan would also implement a national rent control policy and establish taxes aiming to reduce “house flipping” and speculation. 

Also this week, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke spoke about homelessness and housing while in Los Angeles visiting the city’s Skid Row area, one of the nation’s largest concentrations of homeless people. While he has yet to release formal housing policies, O’Rourke stated that if elected he intends to invest $400 billion towards housing development with some focus on creating mixed-income communities and inclusionary zoning.

White House Council of Economic Advisors Releases Report on Homelessness

On September 16th, ahead of President Trump’s trip to California, the White House Council of Economic Advisors released “The State of Homelessness in America,” a report assessing the extent of homelessness, its causes, potential solutions, and the role of the federal government in addressing homelessness. The report identifies local policies as factors that have increased homelessness and proposes policing as “an important tool to help move people off the street and into shelter or housing.” The report also says that deregulation of the housing industry could lower homelessness by an average of 31%. 

Advocates decried the report and its implication that policing and detaining the homeless would somehow alleviate homelessness. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition released a statement on the report’s proposals, stating that they are “unconstitutional and cruel.” Diane Yentel, the CEO & President of NLIHC, points to court decisions that have ruled that arresting persons for sleeping on the street amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” since the human need for sleep is unavoidable. Read Diane’s remarks here.

NC Budget Update & WHLP

Last week the N.C. House of Representatives voted 55-9 to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget. The vote was a surprise, as members had been told there would be no votes until later in the afternoon, and not all members were present. The override bill now moves to the Senate where a vote from at least one member of the minority party is needed. The budget includes $20 million in non-recurring funds for the Workforce Housing Loan Program that was impacted by the veto. The override now moves to the Senate, and the Senate is recessed until the end of the month. 

NCHC Developers’ Council Visits Capitol Hill

The Coalition and a handful of members of the Developers’ Council visited Washington D.C. on September 16 & 17 to meet with North Carolina’s Congressional delegation. The purpose of the visits was to advocate for the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA, a bill which would increase Low-Income Housing Tax Credit authority by 50%. The current version of the bill (S. 1703/H.R. 3077) already has the support of Representatives Ted Budd, George Holding, and Mark Meadows. The prior version had sign-ons from 12 of NC’s 13 House members. The Coalition’s group met with the offices of eight Housemembers and both Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. The meetings were productive and the Coalition will be following up with Representatives and their staff to secure all previous signatories and those of the newly elected Housemembers Dan Bishop and Greg Murphy. As discussed on this week’s Housing Call, the Coalition is asking stakeholders to call or email NC’s Senators and Representatives to urge their support for the AHCIA. Visit the call notes for links to find your representatives.

New Harvard JCHS Report Chronicles the Decline of Low-Cost Rentals

A new report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies was released this week that examines the decline in low-cost rentals. “Documenting the Long-Run Decline in Low-Cost Rental Units in the U.S. By State” features a comprehensive overview of how the number of low-cost rentals, units that would be affordable for those at lower incomes, have declined over the past two decades. The reduction in units at the lower end of the market places additional demand pressure for the low-cost units that do exist. The report examins the phenomenon and its broader impacts.

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