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The future of NHC and U.S. housing policy

This week, the Board of Governors of the National Housing Conference (NHC) and several members of our National Advisory Council will travel to Nashville, Tenn. for a retreat to develop a strategic plan for the next three years. Given the growing prominence of housing in the national political conversation, this could be three of the most consequential years in housing policy in generations. If not, it could also be among the most devastating. To paraphrase Spiderman paraphrasing Jesus, with much opportunity comes much responsibility. NHC’s members and stakeholders will be in a position to influence which of those outcomes is in our future. I am optimistic.

There are several factors in our favor. The first is that both red and blue communities are experiencing this housing affordability firsthand. Housing costs are simply too high to be economically sustainable for anyone. That doesn’t mean we’ll have a housing crash. It means our economy cannot sustain forever rising housing costs, and the inequalities this promotes. It’s as much an economic imperative as a moral one.

A second factor is that housing is one of the few policy areas where Republican and Democrats are already working together. A major step towards closing the rental housing gap has already been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act includes major provisions from the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which will create 200,000 additional units of affordable rental housing. The bill passed the House 357 to 70 after a 40-3 vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. But the Senate has still not acted on the bill.

Shelter costs have once again slowed progress on getting inflation under control while millions of Americans struggle to afford their housing. We can’t waste another year.

While single family homebuilders have stepped up to close the gap in housing available for first time homebuyers, there are also millions of homes across the country that need major rehabilitation, or vacant lots where new affordable housing for homeownership can be built.

In hundreds of communities throughout the country, the cost of rehabbing or building a new home surpasses its value when completed, perpetuating a vicious cycle that keeps neighborhoods underwater and hinders revitalization efforts. The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA) creates a federal tax credit that covers the gap between building or renovating a home in distressed areas and the price at which the home can be sold. As Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) said in his note to our members last year, in Indiana NHIA would support the construction and renovation of more than 9,000 new homes over a decade. Senator Young introduced the bill with Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.). It currently has 10 cosponsors in the Senate, including five Republicans.

Another factor that makes me optimistic about the future is that NHC is uniquely positioned to work with all sides to help bring the diverse world of housing organizations together. Not every time, and not on every issue, but more than we often expect. A case in point is the recent response to the Basel III Endgame rule proposed by banking regulators. That’s the kind of technical policy that makes most people want to play Wordle during a Zoom briefing. Cameras on, please.

Banking lobbyists concerned about the coming rule never even thought to ask NHC or our more progressive members for help. I happened to read about it in a news story and immediately reached out to my members in the civil rights community and as we discussed it, it was clear that the proposed rule would harm first-time homebuyers and communities of color. NHC quickly organized a working group to write two letters. The first, urging regulators to reconsider the rule before it was voted on by regulators. The second, a detailed comment letter laying out in great detail why we opposed the proposal. This coalition got a lot of attention because it was so broad, but for us at NHC, it’s simply how we do business. Frankly, if we didn’t exist, you’d have to invent us.

We nearly didn’t exist, weathering an existential crisis six years ago that almost led to our demise after 86 years. We found our way back into a leadership role and financial stability by returning to our founding principle as the” unlikely coalition.” Our founder, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, understood that housing was not just a moral imperative, it was an economic imperative, declaring to newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt in his White House office that “housing is jobs and jobs is housing.” Our first success was the inclusion of the first federal funding for affordable housing in the nation’s history in the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.

This week, NHC’s leadership will examine how we are serving our members, how we can build on our value proposition, how we contribute to bipartisan policy-making and bipartisan policymakers, and how we ensure a strong financial future. We can’t do good if we don’t do well.

That’s where you come in. We need your financial support as well as your intellectual capital. If you are currently a member of NHC and haven’t paid your 2024 dues yet, please visit our website to renew your membership. If you aren’t a member, please join us today. You will receive discounted tickets to our events, and this weekly Member Brief without interruption (you may be receiving this one as part of one of our promotional periods). You’ll also be able to join us as we make important decisions on how to engage in critical policy issues in the months and years to come.

Finally, I’d like to invite you to join us at our Solutions for Housing Communications convening on April 3. There, we will hear from Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Adrianne Todman, CNBC’s Senior Climate and Real Estate Correspondent Diana Olick, who will moderate a panel about the current state of the housing market, and Pulitzer Prize Winning Washington Post investigative reporter John Sullivan, who will discuss how data shapes news narratives. Housing industry and communication leaders will also offer insights and strategies for addressing today’s housing issues. Topics that will be discussed include the role of nonprofit-corporate partnerships in the housing sector, using data to tell the housing story, tactics for addressing housing challenges among older Americans, and successfully combatting NIMBYism, among other topics. We will also formally unveil our new Housing Resource Center (HRC), one of our most ambitious projects ever.

NHC’s HRC offers users easy access to over a thousand housing policy resources including studies, research data, blog posts, media like podcasts and webinars, and a plethora of other assets. It also includes a calendar of events to help you plan your year. For the first three months, the HRC will be available to everyone. Then it will be limited to NHC members, journalists, and federal policymakers.

We will be making the HRC public on April 3, but if you are interested enough in the future of NHC to read this entire note, we want your feedback on it now. You can access the HRC today at I hope you’ll take a look. If you notice resources that are missing, or have thoughts on how to improve it, please reach out to Kara Beigay, NHC’s Senior Director for Marketing and Communications at

The next three years will be an exciting, challenging, scary and potentially historical time in housing in America. We look forward to working with you on realizing our vision of an America where everyone is able to live in a quality, affordable home in a thriving community.

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