In October 2019, I was fortunate to attend Urban Institute’s Foundations for the Future of Housing Conference in Chicago, thanks to a generous scholarship provided by NHC’s Emerging Leaders in Affordable Housing (ELAH) program. At that time, the challenges and devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic were still unimaginable. Now, with millions of households behind on rent and struggling to continue making ends meet, themes from that conference resonate with greater urgency—particularly the importance of innovative partnerships that center resident outcomes.
The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) is a national Community Development Financial Institution and proud member of NHC. As LIIF’s policy manager, I work closely with NHC on a range of federal policy issues, from Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations to policies to address the racial homeownership gap. These policies were important long before the current public health and economic crises laid siege to our communities and have only become more urgent as communities of color and other historically underserved populations experience disproportionate harm from the pandemic.
Fortunately, there are opportunities to be bold in our nation’s response to these inequities. At LIIF, we recently refined our mission to put racial equity at the center of our investments in communities. As part of our new strategic plan, LIIF, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future and the National Affordable Housing Trust, a national nonprofit Low Income Housing Tax Credit syndicator – entered into a joint venture aligned around a shared commitment to housing equity. Our partnership focuses on building quality, safe affordable housing with an approach that centers resident voice and community choice to achieve our vision for more equitable, opportunity-rich communities. Together our work will provide more streamlined access to financing for the entire lifespan of a development, advance the creation of new products that are responsive to community needs and support developers of color.
The importance of forming innovative partnerships and leveraging resources for greater impact were two of the biggest lessons I took from the Foundations for the Future of Housing Conference. It is encouraging to see these ideals play out within my own organization, especially at a time when our support for underserved communities has never been more urgent.
My experience with NHC has also been one that is built on strong partnerships. Through participation in a variety of working groups and events, I have found NHC to offer a valuable venue for housing experts to convene in pursuit of common-sense solutions to difficult problems.
Most recently, I joined NHC’s CRA working group to develop recommendations to strengthen the flow of capital into underserved communities. LIIF’s own comment letter to the Federal Reserve Board was strengthened thanks to the thought leadership of NHC and its working group members. LIIF was also pleased to join NHC in sending letters to the Biden administration and congressional leadership requesting $25 billion in direct assistance to homeowners facing hardships as a result of COVID-19. This support is particularly important to protect people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are now more likely to be past due on their mortgage as a result.
NHC will continue its important convening role in the coming months as the host of multiple important housing events, including Solutions for Housing Communications on March 18. This year, LIIF’s Chief Strategy Officer, Lucy Arellano Baglieri, will discuss the steps LIIF took to both maintain and evolve our brand through unprecedented change in 2020 that disrupted the status quo.
And as a member of NHC’s ELAH group—which provided the opportunity for me to attend the Foundations for the Future of Housing conference—I will be attending the Emerging Leaders in Affordable Housing Webinar: The year ahead in housing, on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 2:00 p.m. ET. If you would like to attend, you can sign up to be an ELAH member here.
2021 brings with it a host of new opportunities and challenges, but with strong partnerships and a continued commitment to advancing resident well-being, the future of housing can be more equitable and inclusive than we thought possible back in October 2019.