Category Archives: Budget cuts

National Day of Action Against HUD Cuts Planned for July 29

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In an effort to stop draconian cuts that the Trump Administration has proposed for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, activists are organizing a National Day of Action. Under the banner “Our Homes, Our Voices,” thousands across the country are expected to come out for a series of rallies, teach-ins, HUD site visits, and Congressional meetings.

The Trump Administration has proposed $6 billion in cuts for HUD, which would have devastating and wide-ranging effects. Hundreds of thousands of low-income families would lose their rent vouchers and potentially their homes. Public housing, already in a desperate state of disrepair, would further deteriorate, putting children and families across the country in danger.

In DC, funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program, the District’s impactful first-time homebuyer assistance, is under threat. 80 percent of HPAP money comes from Community Development Block Grants—a program with bipartisan support that the Trump Administration has proposed eliminating entirely.

Action to oppose these cuts will be crucial, as Congress has so far shown that public involvement (or lack thereof) is the determining factor in its willingness to stand up to the Trump Administration.

Check back in here closer to July 29th to see what events are happening in DC, and be sure to let your enfranchised friends know that they need to call their representatives.

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HAT, Partners Work Against Racial Wealth Gap with Town Hall; Trump Administration Exacerbates It

One-sixteenth.

That’s the average wealth of a black family compared to a white family in America. It’s the result of centuries of racist policy in education, employment, and especially homeownership.

MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team has long had an explicit focus on closing the racial wealth gap in our communities, and along with our partners at the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development and the Latino Economic Development Center, this past Saturday we hosted a Homeownership Town Hall aimed at connecting low-income families, especially families of color, to homeownership opportunities.

HAT and our partners are proud of the work we do, and we can see the impact that it has in DC. At the same time, however, we realize that there needs to be national progress in order to achieve justice in our country. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, is looking for a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top; one that’s sure to widen America’s racial wealth divide.

The Town Hall

Close to 200 people came on Saturday for a series of workshops, vendor tables, and presenters covering every step of the affordable homebuying and ownership process. Participants learned about how to improve their credit scores, how to connect with organizations like MANNA that can help them find a home, and the wide variety of city programs that can help make affordable homeownership possible.

Current homeowners were able to learn about city property tax laws and legal estate planning, helping to ensure that their homes will be passed on to their children.

MANNA’s Director of Homebuyer Education, TC Caviness, started off the strong lineup of speakers by articulating the extent to which a gap in homeownership holds back wealth building for black families. Even other areas that are typically thought of as wealth builders, like education level, pale in comparison to the impact that homeownership has.

Despite having worked around housing for years, said TC, “I was shocked when I saw these charts.”

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A college education, while important for many, many reasons beyond money, does almost nothing to close the racial wealth gap, explained TC. Homeownership, on the other hand, shrinks that gap by more than a third.

Polly Donaldson, Director of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, and Councilmember Anita Bonds, Chair of the Council’s housing committee, both spoke about the importance of affordable homeownership for building a city where all residents can thrive.

Councilmember Bonds, reflecting on the positive impact of recent increases to DC’s Home Purchase Assistance Program for first time low- and moderate-income homebuyers, told the crowd, “Next year, I want to increase it again!”

Trump Administration’s Reverse Robin Hood

That was in stark contrast to the ideas that are coming out of the White House. The Trump Administration has released a series of tax cuts for the wealthy that would collectively cost around $6.2 trillion over the next decade.

To pay for them, the President has introduced a budget plan that would drastically cut many programs targeting poor families, among which families of color are disproportionately represented.

Here are a few of his proposed tax and budget cuts, juxtaposed for context.

  • $192 billion cut to food stamps pays for $174 billion giveaway by abolishing the Estate Tax
  • $143 billion in cuts to student loans helps pay for $158 billion lost by repealing a tax on the unearned income of the wealthy (interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.)
  • $40 billion in cuts to EITC and the child tax credit vs. $400 billion lost by abolishing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT is often the only tax paid by billionaires)

(from Americans for Tax Fairness)

While HAT and others are prepared to continue our push for fair funding in the District, we need help from our national partners and from people all around the country to stop the Trump Administration’s disastrous and immoral plan to take from the poor and give to the rich. We know that the impact of this theft will disproportionately fall on communities of color, causing the racial wealth gap to grow wider and wider.

Looking at our country’s history, it’s certainly not unprecedented. But as MANNA’s work in DC has proven, it’s not inevitable, either.

The GOP Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library

With Cuts, Trump’s HUD Targets Low-Income Families

A leaked copy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) upcoming budget request presents a grim picture for the future of affordable housing in America. The draft shows over $6 billion being cut, representing almost 15 percent of HUD’s annual budget. If enacted, experts estimate over 200,000 low-income households will lose their rental support, and thousands more will be prevented from moving to an affordable situation.

What makes these cuts even more perverse is the “reverse Robin Hood” essence of their design. Despite the ubiquitous nature of Republican calls for a reduction in federal debt, the Trump administration currently has plans for massive tax cuts for the very wealthy. Along with an additional $54 billion in military spending—almost double what commanders have requested—the picture is clear. These cuts do not represent budget balancing, but rather budget priorities.

The depth and breadth of these cuts is overwhelming, both nationally and for the District. Below we break down several of the top targets for the chopping block and the functions they fulfill.

Community Development Block Grants

Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG for short, provides flexible money for localities to use in community development. In the District, CDBG money makes up 80 percent of the budget for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), DC’s mortgage assistance program for first time homebuyers. As we have written countless times before, HPAP plays a vital role in building homeownership among DC’s low-income families.

CDBG actually has strong bi-partisan support. Republicans like it because it gives money back to local communities to use as they please, a core conservative tenet.

HUD’s proposed budget, however, would cut the program’s $3 billion budget entirely. That would leave cities and states across the country scrambling to cover myriad services that their residents depend on. In many cases, poor families would simply fall through the cracks.

Housing Choice Vouchers

Housing Choice Vouchers act as a sort of backstop for many low-income families. Under the program, households are able to find a rental property on the open market and be guaranteed to never spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing—whatever costs go above this are covered by the voucher.

The HUD proposal would cut $300 million from this program, leaving about 200,000 families without assistance. Sadistically, here the Trump administration looks to take money from veterans for the military—included in this program are housing vouchers targeting formerly homeless veterans.

Public Housing

In 2010, HUD released a report describing the desperate state of public housing in America. Those conditions remain unchanged today. Buildings are crumbling, and the conditions many families live in are deplorable. In that 2010 report, HUD estimated that it would need tens of billions of dollars in additional funding to catch up on overdue maintenance.

Instead, President Trump’s HUD has proposed cutting public housing’s maintenance budget by $1.3 billion, a third of its total value. The proposal also takes $600 million from the operating budget, ensuring that more problems will arise even faster as time goes on.

HOME Investment Partnership Program

Like CDBG, HOME represents a pot of money that localities can use in a variety of ways. DC typically uses its share to fund affordable housing construction, like MANNA’s Willowbrook Condominiums.

Yet again, faced with a nationwide affordable housing crisis and a program that gives local governments control of federal dollars, the Trump administration looks to pull the plug. HOME, like CDBG, would be entirely eliminated. Another billion dollars for affordable housing would be lost.

What to do

The good news is that none of this is final. This proposal represents a draft of what the Trump administration will present to Congress. Marshaling the opposition of lawmakers will be crucial, especially among Republicans who see the positive impact that these locally controlled dollars have in their own districts.

You can help make sure that these cuts don’t happen. Call your representatives and let them know that funding bombs and billionaires over low-income families is unacceptable.

Two more communities preserved – going from market to affordable!

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What does it take to create or preserve affordable housing? What does it take to partner with and improve the quality of life for lower-income families, enhancing the economic diversity of communities all over the city?

These efforts, often spearheaded by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and its members, were celebrated during last week’s Community Development Week in D.C. The week of October 11th included events ranging from open houses to ribbon cuttings to groundbreakings, celebrating hundreds of affordable housing units being created or preserved all across the city.

This past Tuesday, to help launch Community Development Week, the Urban Institute published an online database highlighting one type of affordable housing in the District: assisted rentals.

Maintained by NeighborhoodInfo DC and CNHED, the database, called DC Preservation Catalog, contains a map of 39,000 affordable rental units spread out across the city. Along with the map, the catalog also offers property names, locations, and data on the various subsidies that contribute to a property’s affordability. This tool will be infinitely helpful to the DC Preservation Network (DCPN) and others, providing information that housing counseling organizations, legal services providers, affordable housing developers, local and federal agencies can use to assist lower-income renters in preserving their affordable rental housing over the long haul.

Over the past decade, the District has suffered a 50 percent loss in their low-cost housing supply due to a rapid rise in housing costs. The preservation of already existing affordable housing will ensure that lower-income residents will be able to stay in the communities that they have called home to for a long time.

And two more rental communities were added to the Preservation Catalogue last week! On Thursday, October 13th, MANNA hosted a groundbreaking event for the rehab of two rental buildings in Ward 4’s Brightwood neighborhood: 1370 Ft Stevens Dr NW and 734 Longfellow St NW. The event featured guest speakers ranging from tenants, to DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development, city council members, banks, non-profit financiers and more.

Tenants in these buildings worked with the Latino Economic Development Center to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase rights when their buildings went up for sale. They selected MANNA to rehab their buildings and operate them as an affordable rental into the future. The financing MANNA is using, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, will keep the buildings affordable for residents under 60% of the Area Median Income for 15 years. These time frames are one of the most important things tracked by the Catalogue, allowing entities to keep tabs on when subsidies will expire and start conversations with owners and tenants early to ensure that the buildings will be maintained as affordable into the future.

Maintaining and preserving affordable housing should be one of the city’s top priorities. Councilmembers Todd, Silverman, and White are all committed to affordable housing in the city, but agree that more resources are required, and those resources need to be invested in the right things. As Councilmember Silverman pointed out, she and her peers are committed to affordable housing, “but it’s going to take a lot more time and resources.”

This groundbreaking event proved that it doesn’t take a lone individual to create change in affordable housing, but instead it takes a diverse community. Community organizers, policymakers, banks, District agencies and tenants all play a role. And although all these entities are involved, there is still a great deal left to be done to create more affordable housing.
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Affordable Housing – It Doesn’t Just Happen!

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Over the past couple of weeks alone, the city of Washington has committed $20 million to affordable housing projects across the city.

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) says that it has dipped into the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund to fund more than 100 units of affordable housing in Wards 6 and 8.

The 100 plus units will be spread over two apartment buildings. The first apartment is a 93-unit building located a few blocks from the Anacostia Metro Station. The units will be reserved for residents making less than 50 percent of area median income (AMI). The second apartment building is a 12 unit cooperative within walking distance of the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. These units will be reserved for residents making less than 80 percent of AMI.

In Ward 4, the District has committed $13 million to rehabilitate a majority affordable-housing apartment complex in Brightwood Park. The building will be updated top-to-bottom, and 45 units will be reserved for residents earning up to 60 percent of the area median income.

Where did this money for housing come from?

The Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) is the District’s largest affordable housing program. The Trust Fund supports the construction, rehabilitation, and acquisition of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income residents.

The HPTF provides grants and loans to affordable housing developers. These funds can be used to acquire, rehabilitate, and build low-cost housing. The Trust Fund assists both homeownership and rental housing. Since 2001, the HPTF has helped build or renovate over 9,000 affordable homes throughout the District.

Since she took office in 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to commit $100 million every year to the Trust Fund. The Housing Production Trust Fund is a great thing, but it is also really important to understand how all this money got there. It was residents, community organizations and others that banned together to create the political will to fund affordable housing at this level. And more is needed.

Let’s take a look at the Housing For All Campaign. The Campaign was launched by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and its mission is to call on District officials to invest in housing programs that meet the needs of all District residents. In a matter of four years, the campaign succeeded in bringing the District from massive cuts in affordable housing budgets (a 70% drop to $20 million in HPTF in FY 12) to the level of committed funding we are now seeing.

Rallies are one way to mobilize people into joining your cause. They not only educate people about a certain injustice, but they also encourage people to take action. And you have to be diligent to build support and couple rallies with other kinds of action, both public and behind-the-scenes.

It is amazing to watch the evolution from the Housing For All rally in 2012, when affordable housing budgets were drastically cut, to just this past year. In 2016 the Housing For All Campaign put on its largest rally to date, packing Foundry Methodist Church with over 1000 people and public officials wanting to show support. The message was clear: DC is our home, and everyone in it should have a home.

Several prominent District officials, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, also made an appearance. The city’s mayor continued her commitment to increase investments in a wide variety of affordable housing types. “When we think about the $100 million for affordable housing I know we have to think about it across the entire spectrum. From very very low income housing to middle income housing. We have to think about new housing and we have to think about preserving housing…I consider this among the top things I have to do as Mayor.”

And the rallies for meeting affordable housing need continue. Over this past weekend, a small group of activists planned to gather in front of D.C. General and D.C Jail to press the city for a larger investment of time and resources into affordable housing and anti-poverty strategies. The rally was aimed to get the attention of Mayor Muriel Bowser and other District officials, another seed in the push for making DC a place where all can live, thrive and grow.

 Activism comes in all shapes and sizes; a large organization, or a single person can spearhead it. These actions all build off a one another and we have  to get involved and be strategic to continue building political will to meet the affordable housing needs that still exist. We’ve come a long way, and there is more to go…

What’s your story? Do you believe that everyone should have the right to a roof over his or her head? How are you getting involved? What will you do advance the cause and help create change?

Mount Pleasant On My Mind

mt-pleasant-photoby Max Walker, Fall Advocacy Intern, MANNA

The Mount Pleasant neighborhood, situated in Northwest DC, has been my home for over 21 years. Throughout my time living here, I’ve seen many people come and go. My neighbors have changed countless times, and so too has the scenery.

In 2006, I was a 5th grade student doing a class project on my neighborhood. I was tasked with describing what my neighborhood was like, as well as talking to my neighbors about how they’ve seen or felt the neighborhood change since they’ve lived there. The first person I talked to was Mr. Eddie. Mr. Eddie, one of my favorite neighbors growing up, was an elderly black man who used to sit out on his porch every day. His response to my question was “I’m scared”. He told me that with the rapidly changing neighborhood, he was afraid that he would no longer be able to afford to live in the place he’d called home for the past 30 years. Two years later, Mr. Eddie moved out of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Northwest DC.

Also in 2006, The Washington Post published an article titled “Un-pleasant Gentrification”. This article revolved around the ongoing battle between Mount Pleasant’s new residents, and long-time local business owners. Minority storeowners feared being bought out by developers, and restaurant-owners feared that the changing community would lead to lack of business.

Alberto Ferrufino, the owner of Don Juan’s, a popular restaurant in Mount Pleasant, agreed with the neighborhood alliance to make some aesthetic changes to his restaurant in order to cater to newer clientele. He banned live music, and even re-painted the outside from blue and red to a dull gray. Although voluntary agreements, Mr. Ferrufino said that he feared that the neighborhood would want him out should he not agree.

Other minority community members spoke out as well, voicing their concern over their changing neighborhood. In Mount Pleasant, a place that at the time was predominately Hispanic, the Hispanic community seemed to be on the sidelines in issues over their own neighborhood. Arturo Griffiths, a community activist and Panamanian immigrant who had lived in Mount Pleasant for over 40 years, had this to say:  “We built this community in many ways. We are the flavor of this community, and now we are getting kicked out.”

Mount Pleasant was once a cultural hub. The streets were lined with Central American restaurants, bodegas, and family-owned shops and eateries. But over the past ten years, things have been changing.

In an article published by the American Observer in 2016, the authors shine light on just how much the Mount Pleasant neighborhood has changed over the years:

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the zip code encompassing Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, 20010, is among those across the country that have seen the highest increase in white residents over the last decade, jumping by 24.7 percent.”

Immigrants that were once from El Salvador have turned into immigrants from the Midwestern United States. Families have become younger, whiter, and more affluent. Condos have replaced homeless shelters. Chain coffee shops and restaurants have replaced locally owned businesses.

It is hard to combat gentrification and displacement, but a few of the District’s community leaders got together at the end of the summer to talk about how they would tackle gentrification. An article by Greater Greater Washington brilliantly summed up the panel discussion hosted by the Washington Post and these community leaders.

The conversation boiled down to the government’s role in creating, and combating, the displacement of long-time community residents. The main point was that “better public policy can shape the outcomes of economic gentrification.” The article also highlighted several ways in which the government can have an impact on gentrification:

“Communities are marginalized when they are displaced from their homes, so if housing could be more affordable, the level of displacement would decrease.”

“In an attempt to level the playing field, government needs to be held accountable for ensuring that all residents can afford to live in D.C., while balancing the power of developers and special interest groups.”

As so many people are forced to leave the neighborhood they’ve called home for many years, it is ultimately up to the government to combat the displacement of these people.

At the beginning of the summer, I took a walk around my neighborhood and remembered the conversation I had with Mr. Eddie. To this day, his fears are still relevant. I’ve seen many people just like him succumb to the changing neighborhood and rising rent. I thought about how the people living around me are starting to look less and less familiar. I thought about how confused the neighborhood made me feel. I thought about how my “home” was starting to not feel like home anymore. I thought about how long my family has before they too have to pack up and leave.

This fall, I will be holding these personal experiences close as I explore how organizing and policy, both current and new, can help maintain or recreate some socio-economic diversity in my neighborhood and others.

 

Displacement Comes in all Forms

A couple weeks ago marked the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. August 29th, 2005 was a historically disastrous day as the peak of the storm was tearing through the streets of the southeastern United States.  Strong winds knocked trees onto cars and houses. Torrential rainfall led to the flooding of streets and homes. Everything was destroyed. At least 1,800 people were killed by the storm and subsequent flooding, and more than 400,000 people were displaced from their home, community, and city.

Everyone knows what happened that fateful summer month in 2005. Countless families lost loved ones as well as the place they called home.  But did you know that in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina’s 11th anniversary, 11 families in DC were displaced after severe weather damaged their DC public housing apartments?

Natural disasters come in all shapes and forms. On one hand, it can be the largest hurricane the United States has ever seen. But on the other hand, it can be something as small as a thunderstorm. Both on seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum, yet both providing the same outcome: the damaging of homes and the displacement of families. Although a huge natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina is a tragedy, it should not take something so catastrophic to bring the issue of displacement to light.

Families are not only displaced by natural disasters, but by accidents as well. Did you know that in the middle of August, an apartment complex in Silver Spring, MD caught on fire and exploded? At least 7 were killed and more than 100 people were displaced.

These are just some of the few ways families become displaced every day. Take the story of Jose Hernandez for example, a Salvadoran immigrant who has lived in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Northwest DC for over 25 years. For the past decade, he and his landlord have been in fisticuffs over increased rents amid terrible living conditions. This article highlights the injustices that minority renters face at the hands of their landlord. Mr. Hernandez is still battling with his landlord, but for many, displacement due to increasing rent is just something that comes with being a lower-income renter.

In an article put out by Greater Greater Washington, the relationship between rising rents and the District’s lower-income renters is very apparent. From this article we learn several important issues:

1. “The rent is too damn high”: over 60 percent of extremely low income, and over 30 percent of very low income renters, spend more than half their income on housing.

2. Rent in the District is rising faster than income, particularly for low-to-moderate income households: for those in the middle to lower end of the income distribution, wages have remained fairly stationary while rent has continued to increase.

3. DC’s supply of affordable housing has drastically decreased: “between 2002 and 2013, affordable units (those priced under $800) went from making up 40% of the rental stock to barely 20%. “

Displacement happens every day and there isn’t one sole cause. That is why preventing it, or minimizing it as much as possible, is truly important. Changing, creating, and sustaining political policy is key when it comes to mitigating displacement. The tenants can only do so much. It is up to the government to put in place the right laws and assistance programs to reduce the number of families displaced each year.

The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) is one of the very few laws in place to help tenants. This act allows tenants the opportunity to purchase their place of residence before the landlord sells the property to a developer (or anyone else). But there needs to be more.

Programs that help lower-income families transition from renting to homeowning are also extremely vital, as homeowners don’t have to deal with rising rent brought on by greedy landlords.

Other necessities include imposing rent controls to keep people like Jose Hernandez and his family in their homes; raising the minimum wage to allow lower-income minorities the chance to keep up with their ever-increasing rent; and creating and establishing relocation assistance programs for those who are displaced due to natural disasters, severe weather, and house fires.

Families are displaced every day, and it is up to the government to help protect these families and reduce displacement.

The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Home Buying is a Must

Manna Blog PhotoIn an out-of-touch and at times baffling article, Washington Post opinion writer Charles Lane recently penned a piece he entitled “Why the decline of the homeownership rate is good news.”

He’s referring to the fact that the homeownership rate in the U.S. has dropped below 63 percent to its lowest level in decades. We covered this news slightly differently several weeks ago.

In the article, Lane tries to simultaneously make the case that homeownership is a bad investment and that the government is unable to affect homeownership rates. The only option, he says, is to get government out of the housing market.

Homeownership has long been the American Dream, with studies showing that it contributes in positive ways to everything from education to wealth-building. So why does Lane think that Dream is dead? His argument can, with some effort, be broken into two pieces.

  1. The Great Recession shows that homeownership is too risky to be a good investment.

“If the Great Recession taught anything, it was that… homeownership is not a surefire ticket into the middle class. It can be downright risky.”

This is an interesting example from someone who is advocating for less government involvement in the housing market. The Great Recession, as many readers may recall, was precipitated by the collapse of the predatory mortgage market.

Mortgage brokers and Wall Street bankers, who for the better part of a decade had been getting rich off of deceitful loans to poor families (and people of color at disproportionate rates regardless of income), saw their party come to a bitter end in 2007.

That crash logically left two options: to provide greater government oversight of loans, which we know for a fact to be effective from CRA data, or to let homeownership become an exclusive pursuit of the wealthy.

Homeownership remained a solid investment throughout the recession for many low- and moderate-income families with fair mortgages (and good counseling), especially now on the other side of the collapse as prices begin to rise again.

As you might have guessed, however, Lane picks option two, where owner-occupied homes become the yachts of the future.

But jettisoning homeownership is unavoidable for Lane because of his second point…

  1. The government has no place in the housing market.

Why? Because… Europe.

“[Europe’s] modern experience suggests no simple connection between a high homeownership rate and the ‘positive externalities’ often attributed to it.”

Lane makes a convoluted argument about European countries, some with homeownership rates higher than the U.S., others lower, and draws the conclusion that government policy doesn’t matter.

But to borrow a quip, it must be noted that we are not Denmark.

Government intervention has clearly had huge impacts on homeownership rates in the U.S., although it’s not surprising that Lane has missed this.

Lane, like many Americans, seems to have only a vague understanding of the racial wealth gap in America. He does mention this phenomenon briefly, right after celebrating falling homeownership and right before deriding government involvement in it.

“…the reconcentration of home equity, while positive for those who own homes and for the overall stability of the economy, is regressive with respect to wealth distribution. This is especially so because African Americans and Hispanics remain less likely to own homes than whites.”

A fleeting moment of insight. The gap in homeownership between whites and people of color is a huge part of the reason that black families on average have just 1/16th the net worth of white families. The numbers are similar for Latinos.

But what Lane fails to mention is that these lower homeownership rates for people of color are no accident.

A whole series of racist government policies, some of which were dismantled just fifty years ago, provided bountiful opportunities for white families to own their homes, while locking black and Latino families out of the process.

And unsurprisingly, that dynamic shows up in the data. The reason white families have a homeownership rate today that’s about 30 points higher than black and Latino families is precisely because of this government intervention.

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U.S. homeownership rate by race over time; from the Economic Policy Institute

We can see that since 1975, shortly after the end of explicitly racist housing policies, the homeownership rate for different racial groups has moved more or less in sync. All groups had made solid gains by 2006 before the crash wiped them out.

So a recap on our history lesson…

In the early 20th century, the government made a push for white families to become homeowners. This effort was successful and resulted in higher homeownership rates and greater wealth for white families.

In the decades after the U.S. did away with its explicitly racist policies, homeownership rates for different racial groups began moving together. By 2006, all Americans had seen an increase in the homeownership rate.

But due to an under-regulated mortgage market, which disproportionately targeted black families with sub-prime loans, many of those gains were erased. Families with fair mortgages who were able to keep their homes have still seen solid returns on their investments—a point Lane unintentionally hammered home at the opening of his article—but many others have not had that opportunity.

The logical question, then, would seem to be what the government can do to close the racial gap in wealth and homeownership that it has created.

Unfortunately, the logic in Lane’s article is about on par with his framing of history.

Farewell to MANNA – A Year of Growth

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By Ruth Bordett, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer through NeighborWorks 

With my time as AmeriCorps VISTA at MANNA  nearing the end, I would like to share some of my thoughts about my year as part of the development department at MANNA. When I arrived at MANNA in August 2015, I had little to no knowledge of affordable housing and its role in the District. I previously wrote a blog post in December (“Wading Through a Sea of Housing Jargon”) about the difficulty I had in grasping all of the housing jargon and procedures that have become essential to my work at MANNA. The past year has served as a crash course in affordable housing policies and development. I am proud to say that I am walking away from my year at MANNA with a much better comprehension of the importance of affordable housing.

All of my memories from MANNA share the common thread of serving as proof of the long and impactful history the organization has had on so many families and the Washington, D.C. community as a whole. I am honored to have witnessed the role MANNA has taken over the past year in striving to provide services and resources to the community East of the Anacostia River. The creation of our Ward 8 Homebuyers’ Club and the annual East of the River Homebuyer Fair are important strides towards our mission and continuing to deepen our partnership with communities in overlooked areas of the city, like Wards 7 and 8. Additionally, MANNA’s 24-unit condo complex in Southeast, the Buxton, was featured in a Washington Post article (“Finding an Affordable Anchor in D.C.’s Wave of Gentrification”). Seeing the hard work of my colleagues and MANNA’s buyers documented in this way has been extremely rewarding.

MANNA’s staff are truly a family and have always been welcoming to me. This is evident at our large fundraisers, like Friends of MANNA, and in the lunchroom each work day. The staff recently put together a retirement party for our former Director of Homebuyer Education, Willamena Samuels. The Homebuyers’ Club room was filled with guests and almost every person present had a personal story or sentiment to share about Willamena. Her 18 years of dedication to MANNA and each person’s obvious appreciation for her and the organization’s long history is what makes MANNA special.

Despite my lack of experience in affordable housing, each person I have encountered at MANNA has welcomed me and imparted their knowledge to aid the fight for affordable housing in D.C. For this, I will be forever grateful. As I continue to pursue a future in nonprofit work, I hope to stay connected to MANNA. MANNA has already left its mark on the District’s history, but I know it will continue to serve and improve our community for many years to come.


Congressional Republicans Take Aim at Federal Housing Funds

As June draws to a close, it’s becoming clear that local and national leaders have very different ideas about how to best celebrate National Homeownership Month.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (breitbart.com)

                                                       House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (breitbart.com)

While the District government led its June Housing Bloom initiative, Republicans in the House and Senate released two separate plans that would result in billions of federal dollars being directed away from affordable housing. This comes at a time when more American renters than ever before are severely cost burdened, paying over 50 percent of their income for housing each month.

In the lower chamber, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been busy rolling out his comprehensive legislative agenda. Titled “A Better Way,” Ryan’s proposal contains the traditional conservative mainstays: consolidation and elimination of federal programs, work requirements for families receiving government assistance, and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

In its tax reform recommendations, it decries the current corporate tax code, which it says is “littered with special-interest deductions and credits.” To fix this (and to at least partially off-set its massive corporate tax rate cut), the plan calls for the elimination of all corporate deductions except those used for research and development.

Caught up in the bloodbath is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC, pronounced “lie tech”), a program that has provided financing for over 2 million affordable units since its creation under the Reagan Administration. That number includes thousands of units in Washington, DC and even a current affordable rental project of MANNA’s.

LIHTC provides a tax credit to developers for housing that is affordable to renters making 60 percent or less of their Area Median Income—apparently just the kind of “special interest deduction” that Ryan’s plan finds so repugnant.

Senate Bill

In the Senate, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the “Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act,” which would dismantle all current federal housing programs and replace them with a block grant to states.

Modeled off of legislation announced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) earlier in June, it would mean the end of federal housing funds for means-tested programs. Instead, states would need to develop their own plans.

These new plans would also have to deal with ever-decreasing funds—the bill calls for cutting federal housing aid in half over the next decade.

Rep. Ryan has recently been attempting to reform Republican rhetoric on poverty, chastising himself and his colleagues for referring to poor mothers and others receiving government assistance as “takers.” It seems, however, that these reforms were indeed purely rhetorical.

If you would like to express your feelings about the importance of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, you can do so at http://waysandmeans.house.gov/taxreform/. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the “Tax Blueprint Feedback” form.