By David M. Dworkin
This week significant progress was made on the housing front with the signing of a $2 trillion emergency spending package to begin to provide relief for Americans who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. The package includes several measures to help homeowners, renters, and the homeless, detailed below. NHC members worked tirelessly to advocate for these essential resources. Other critical elements of the housing community still face existential threats, including mortgage servicers, securitizers, affordable housing investors and home builders. We must think ahead eight weeks from now and eight months from now or we will not be prepared to address a housing crisis of potentially unfathomable proportions.
As Carol Galante, faculty director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in her recent blog post on insights from the 2008 housing crisis, “the most important lesson that I learned…is that the inability to predict how bad it could become led the country and its political leaders to be too timid and too indirect.”
I am pleased to announce that NHC’s COVID-19 Housing Resource Center website will be up and running soon. This online clearinghouse of information on COVID-19 will provide timely, accurate and medically vetted information to housing stakeholders, regardless of NHC membership, and the organizations, families and individuals they serve. Our objective is to enhance their efforts to manage and contain the spread of COVID-19, and ultimately recover from this historic crisis, through convening, information sharing and coordination. Early this week, we will send a link to our Board of Governors and National Advisory Council members for beta testing and expect to do a full launch of the site to all housing professionals around the country shortly thereafter.
It is crucial for housing practitioners on the ground to have access to the most reliable and timely information on the pandemic as well as the evolving best practices from those of you who are engaged in slowing the spread of the virus and meeting the needs of the people who depend upon us. Vetting and sharing these practices will be a primary objective of the COVID-19 Housing Resource Center, in addition to consolidating the plethora of information being made available across dozens of stakeholder websites, providing regular briefings and webinars, and sharing information on the priorities and activities of housing advocates.
NHC’s web development team is hard at work building out the website at record speed. We are also hiring graduate student research assistants from universities around the country under the direction of our Senior Advisor Bob Simpson, who many of you know through his distinguished career at Fannie Mae, most recently vice president for affordable multifamily lending and now consulting at Simpson Impact Strategies.
Our first webinar was co-led by my brother, Dr. Mark Dworkin, the Associate Director of Epidemiology in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. We anticipate contracting with a similar resource on a longer-term basis. This authority will be responsible for approving links and stories on the website, answering questions submitted by NHC members and vetting best practices and weekly “leave behinds” for constituents.
Finally, on a personal note, I want to share how proud I am of my brother, Mark, who is on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, treating critically ill patients with carefully rationed treatment and protective equipment that would normally be available without a second thought. I know we all have heroes like this among our families and friends, whether they’re doctors, nurses or first responders on the street. Let’s think of them first, as we struggle with our own challenges and workloads.
Be safe and healthy,
David M. Dworkin is President and CEO of the National Housing Conference.