Last week’s Annual Policy Symposium drew together the threads of our nationwide poverty challenges and the unique aspects of rural housing. Speakers offered practical solutions, strategies for sharing our message and most of all a sense of unity. As Chris Estes put it at the event, “We have to think of ourselves as one movement trying to change the shape of housing and its impact on Americans.”
- Tony Hernandez, USDA Rural Housing Administrator, pointed to housing as a jobs generator and the need to engage the business community in crafting solutions.
- Mary Tingerthal, Commissioner of Minnesota Housing, showed Minnesota solutions for matching housing resources to places of job growth and good transportation access, micro-regional planning and above all the need for more resources.
- Chris Jones, Senior Vice President and Chief Planner for the Regional Plan Association, noted the opportunities for changing finance policy to encourage mixed use development in traditional downtowns and also uniting affordable housing advocacy with open space preservation around smarter, denser development.
- Chris LaGrand, Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel at the Woda Group, talked about practical development strategies for growing rural areas and highlighted policy changes to align government requirements to reduce development costs.
- Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, reminded us of the recommendations from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission to increase the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program and make rental assistance available to all in more flexible forms.
- Christopher Ptomey, Senior Director of Government Relations at Habitat for Humanity International, pointed to housing finance reform as necessary for any housing solutions. He also shared a compelling example from Recife, Brazil, of how housing investment led to safer homes, safer water access, new business development and new schools.
- Moises Loza, Executive director of Housing Assistance Council, noted the unique challenges of rural poverty: lack of capital, lack of philanthropy and lack of visibility.Kristin Siglin, Senior Vice President for Policy at the Housing Partnership Network, highlighted the housing solutions developed overseas that can inspire new solutions here in the U.S., including long-term, portfolio-based ownership by nonprofits.