Remarks of David M. Dworkin at the 2022 National Housing Conference Housing Visionary Awards Gala
Welcome! I am glad to see you all – really see you – with shoes on and everything! What a great way to celebrate our work, recognize our achievements, honor our visionary leaders, and begin the National Housing Conference’s tenth decade. It’s been three years since we gathered like this, and what a long, strange trip it’s been. In March of 2020, as the country shut down, many of us worried this pandemic was not just a threat to our families and friends, but also a threat to the organizations we worked for and led. How would we adjust? Would our organizations survive?
Tragically, more than a million Americans and countless millions more around the world have lost their lives, including some of our own family members and other loved ones. But for those of us in this room, it has also been a period of unprecedented opportunity to serve our country and our communities. Our funders often called us before we called them to say, “unrestrict our funds, improvise, and tell us what you’ve done when you’ve done it.” Courtney Hodapp, Eileen Fitzgerald, and Angie Garcia Lathrup, I will never forget those calls from you.
Our employees worked harder and longer hours than ever before, and our leaders collaborated with each other in ways we had not imagined.
Together, we achieved unprecedented successes on behalf of the people we serve. Collectively, we helped house – and keep housed – millions of our fellow Americans. We successfully advocated for nearly $50 billion in emergency rental assistance, $10 billion in emergency assistance for homeowners, and $5 billion in emergency aid for the homeless.
At NHC, we worked with our members across the political spectrum to develop common principles for emergency rental assistance that helped keep us aligned – even while some of us were suing each other over eviction moratorium policies. We agreed that no matter how much we might disagree on some things, helping people pay their rent was the most important objective.
NHC created a website, the COVID-19 Housing Resource Center, to make it easy to keep up with each other’s work on a daily basis. Thousands of you have used this resource in your efforts to stay up to date on the work all of us have done, and over 100,000 renters and homeowners have used the site to find help to pay their rent and mortgages.
And we brought together the leadership of major housing organizations to meet twice a month on Tuesday nights at 5 pm for over two years to share our priorities, challenges, and opportunities for collaboration.
That call allowed NHC to lead a coalition of over 60 organizations to successfully advocate for the Homeowners Assistance Fund despite initial administration and Congressional opposition to including it in the American Rescue Plan. We were told not to worry, there would be another even bigger bill to include all our housing priorities. We respectfully responded, no, that’s not our bus, this one is. They responded, in part because our coalition was so incredibly diverse, and put it in the bill.
That second bus never came, but thousands of families are sleeping in their own beds tonight as a direct result of the work done by so many of you in this audience. And none of us have stopped working for housing to be included in another reconciliation bill. No matter its size, we all agree housing must be a part of it.
We also came together to address deep racial inequities on our nation’s road to “a more perfect union.” We created a Black Homeownership Working Group of NHC members to address the decimation of Black homeownership in America – today, it’s lower than it was in 1968 when housing discrimination was still legal. As more of our stakeholders increased their own efforts, we all agreed we would work more effectively if we collaborated with, and leveraged, each other.
So, we created the Black Homeownership Collaborative, which is run by a steering committee made up of the National Urban League, the NAACP, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the National Association of REALTORS®, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the National Housing Conference, with research by the Urban Institute. Next week, we will be in Atlanta to launch a new website geared to Black renters seeking guidance on the road to homeownership and recognize the first year of the 3 by 30 initiative, our audacious goal to create 3 million net new Black homeowners by the end of 2030.
So, on behalf of the National Housing Conference Board of Governors and leadership, but more importantly, on behalf of countless thousands of Americans, most of whom we will never meet, thank you!