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Key takeaways from the Regional Housing Forum

Last week NHC hosted a regional housing forum in Chicago, in partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. The day-long event had four great sessions, and I’ve shared a few highlights below.In summary, I was reminded that we need a long-term strategy to address the historically underserved populations in this country, which requires some action at the federal level. In the meantime, communities are innovatively responding to the needs they face and deploying creative programs and strategies in the Illinois and Wisconsin region and across the country. They are effectively utilizing available resources and also pursuing new strategies; the diversity of partnerships showcased between nonprofits, lenders, foundations, local and state governments and CDFIs was amazing. You can view the recorded event here.

Housing’s Past
  • It’s important to understand how we got here and apply lessons learned as we move forward from the housing crisis.
  • The demographics of this country are changing rapidly and our housing finance system needs to recognize that reality; seven out of 10 new households formed will be households of color.
  • We don’t need to loosen underwriting; we need to refine it. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are using credit score models that are 10 years old.

Housing’s Future

  • Our current challenge is the left behind markets and navigating neighborhood changes, like foreclosed homes becoming rental properties and the role of large investors in those shifts.
  • Importance of programs like FHA Section 542 Risk Share to help finance small rental projects and the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative (begun in Detroit and coming to Chicago next) to address hardest hit areas.
Return on Investment
  • Organizations are exploring how to measure impact as well as how to include social return in investments.
    • Forward Community Investments focuses on projects that increase equity.
    •  The Housing Partnership Network’s (HPN) has created a Real Estate Investment Trust to create a way to assemble capital early so it can act quickly to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.
  • At a project level, given limited resources, this means choosing strategic properties that are critical to their community.
  • Important to recognize the potential funding options of impact philanthropy and mission related investing.
Service Enriched Housing
  • Service enriched housing covers a continuum of need, from lighter touch to wrap-around services aimed at ending chronic homelessness.
  • States can use traditional affordable housing tools like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, HOME and property-based rental assistance to create service enriched housing, as well as specialized tools like cooperative agreements with local public housing authorities.
  • Limitations we face in more supportive and service enriched housing are the lack of existing relationships with healthcare providers and the lack of funding for resident service coordination.
  • Creative programs are proving effective like CSH’s pilot, Keeping Families Together, working with vulnerable families in the welfare system.
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