Bridging the Wealth Gap-East of the River Homebuyer’s Fair!

As noted in a recent Washington Post article Study Ties Black Wealth Gap to Stubborn Disparities in Real Estate, “The racial wealth gap is the civil rights agenda for the 21st century,” said Thomas M. Shapiro, the study’s lead author and director of the institute at Brandeis. “It is a concrete way of assessing where we are as a society when it comes to racial justice.”

The article adequately depicts the current financial situation for many African American families across the nation, a reality that is very present in Washington, DC. For Manna, Inc. whose mission is to, “…help low and moderate income persons acquire quality housing, build assets for families through homeownership, revitalize distressed neighborhoods and preserve the racial and ethnic diversity” the article affirms a commitment to ending the cycle of poverty through creating access to home equity through homeownership. The article also points to the continued discrepancy between whites and blacks in the ability to gain wealth through increased employment opportunities regardless of profession or education level. However, access to homeownership and the equity it creates is cited as the most pressing issue:

 Still, the biggest driver of the wealth gap between whites and blacks remains homeownership. “Blacks and whites have always had unequal   access to the housing market,” said Thomas J. Sugrue, a professor of sociology and history at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the years after slavery, black homeownership was limited by violent racism and discrimination. The expansion of homeownership during the New Deal era all but excluded blacks. Then, redlining limited mortgage financing in many black communities.

Blacks began to gain a real foothold in homeownership in the 1960s and 1970s. But whites and businesses often fled the neighborhoods preferred by blacks, Sugrue said.

Blacks began to make steady progress in the 1990s, and the black homeownership rate peaked at 49 percent in 2004. But blacks were more often steered into subprime and other high-cost financing. The housing crash led to a massive wave of foreclosure that hit blacks disproportionately hard. The crash and subsequent recession eliminated half of the collective wealth of black families. The black homeownership rate is now 44 percent, far below the white rate of 73 percent.

*Taken from Study Ties Black Wealth Gap to Stubborn Disparities in Real Estate

In response to these stark realities, Manna in partnership with DHCD will be holding its second annual East of the River Homebuyer Fair. The event will include financial workshops; credit counseling; listings of available properties; downpayment assistance opportunities and mortgage lending services. This event will be held at Thurgood Marshall Academy and will be marketed to current residents in both Wards 7 and 8. Current residents will have opportunities to get better acquainted with the home purchasing process and to benefit from homeownership East of the River.

According to Manna’s Frank Demarais, Vice President and Director of Manna Mortgage, DC is in the midst of an affordability window that may never come again. Potential buyers should understand that interest rates and home prices East of the River are at an all-time low (3-3.5%) but may not stay this low for very long:

1.) If rates move up 1.5% (back to ‘normal’ levels) monthly costs go up $180 per month ($200,000 home price example)

2.) If home prices move up $20,000 for same house, costs go up $110 per month

3.) So, if a $200,000 house goes up to $220,000, that would cost about $290 more per month when rates move up

4.) That is $3,500 more a year, and buyers would need income of about $9,000 a year more to afford the same house.

The time to buy is now and the financial and educational resources exist! Please get the word out and plan to attend Manna’s 2nd annual East of the River Homebuyer’s Fair!

 

 

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Housing Matters to Chairwoman Bowser

    Carefully, succinctly and intentionally, Chairwoman Bowser asked questions of 30 different public witnesses that attended the oversight hearing for the Department of Housing and Community Development. While the Department is under scrutiny, the overall vibe of the hearing was positive, largely due to DHCD Director Michael Kelly and his dedication to the District’s housing issues. Manna was well represented by Willamena Samuels, Jim Dickerson, Sarah, and Diane Spaite. The need for continued HPAP monies and the ongoing urgency of Affordable Dwelling Unit homeowners’ situations was addressed publicly by many witnesses and government officials.

    Following the testimonies of public witnesses, Chairwoman Bowser stated her intentions to take action on many pressing affordable housing issues. Her demonstrated knowledge as it pertained to concerns surrounding TOPA, ADU units, Lead-based paint concerns and Inclusionary Zoning issues made it clear she acknowledges affordable housing as a vital part of her role as Chairwoman of the Economic Development Committee. Due to the necessity of moving affordable housing policy issues forward with the assistance of the DC City Council, Bowser’s action-oriented leadership was a welcomed sight. Councilmember Jim Graham also made an appearance and asked a question pertaining to DC General’s homeless population. In addition, he publicly acknowledged issues pertaining to ADU units and specifically mentioned Kenyon Square condo owners. His support is needed in the days ahead as the HAT team must continue to advocate for timely solutions for ADU owners.

    On a more personal note for Manna, there were two new homeowners who testified surrounding the importance of HPAP dollars. Both owners are recipients of the CityLIFT $20,000 downpayment assistance program offered to enable their home purchase. Their testimonies highlighted the need for changes in the HPAP program so DHCD doesn’t repeat their under spending budget mistakes of FY 2012. Public witnesses and agencies reported that underspending took place due to delays in adminstrative functions, stringent underwriting standards for properties, challenges in finding banks who will work with HPAP and the high price of housing across the District. Director Kelly expressed his desire to continue to keep HPAP monies available. The Department verbalized a commitment to improving the administrative process and enhancing the HPAP marketing efforts.

    Representation from across the Continuum of Housing included CNHED, LEDC, SOME, Inc., Greater Washington Chamber of Commerce, Calvert Street Tenants Association, Housing Counseling Services and the University Legal Services as they shared constructive criticism and expressed appreciation for services offered by DHCD. In order to support DHCD’s mission of preserving and creating affordable housing, it will take individuals, non-profits, government agencies and for-profit companies partnering together for the good of the community. Evidence of this communal commitment to affordable housing in the District was palpable at today’s oversight hearing.

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Q & A: Sequestration & The Impact on Housing

What effects would sequestration have on March 1st to housing across the nation according to HUD?

1.) About 125,000 individuals and families, including elderly and disabled individuals, could lose assistance provided through the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and be at risk of becoming homeless.

2.) Sequestration cuts would also result in more than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans, being removed from their current housing or emergency shelter programs, putting them at substantial risk of becoming homeless.

3.) Sequestration cuts to the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program would result in 7,300 fewer low-income households receiving permanent and short-term supportive housing assistance, including rent or utility assistance. This could result in some people falling into homelessness, which would further exacerbate this tragic problem.

4.) Safe, decent, and affordable housing is desperately needed in Indian Country, and HUD is an important source of assistance. Sequestration cuts would mean that over 900 fewer Native American families would be able to obtain housing loan guarantees.

5.) Sequestration would cut important programs offered by HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control and related HUD programs addressing housing-related health hazards. As a result, more than 3,000 vulnerable children would not be protected from lead poisoning and other safety hazards in the home.

What effects would sequestration have on families, communities and the national economy?

From HUD’s perspective, the March 1 sequestration would also have even broader harmful effects on middle class families, on communities, and on the economy across the nation.

1.) Sequestration would result in 75,000 fewer households receiving foreclosure prevention, pre-purchase, rental or other counseling though HUD housing counseling grants. This counseling is crucial for middle class and other families who have been harmed by the housing crisis from which we are still recovering, and are trying to prevent foreclosure, refinance their mortgages, avoid housing scams, and find quality, affordable housing. Studies show that housing counseling plays a crucial role in those efforts.

2.) The impact of sequestration would force public housing agencies (PHAs) to defer maintenance and capital repairs to public housing, leading to deteriorating living conditions and, over the longer term, risking the permanent loss of this affordable housing that serves 1.1 million of the nation’s poorest residents.

3.)  The cuts caused by sequestration would prevent state and local communities that receive funding under the HOME Investment Partnerships program from building and rehabilitating 2,100 affordable housing units for low-income families. These cuts will have an even broader effect on local economies, particularly because historically, every dollar of HOME funding is leveraged with almost four dollars of other governmental or private investment for the production or rehabilitation of affordable single or multifamily housing.  This will mean fewer jobs in and more harm to local construction and related industries.

4.) Sequestration will also result in significant cuts to community development funding for public services, facilities, and infrastructure improvements across the country. This will harm middle class families who rely on such services and reduce jobs in local economies across the nation. These funds improve our local communities, and also support jobs for construction workers and others who build or rehabilitate public facilities, infrastructure, and housing, and for those providing social services at the local level. Historically, it has been estimated that community development related funding over the past decade has sustained 400,000 jobs in local economies across the country. In 2012 alone, nearly 21,800 permanent jobs were created or retained using CDBG funds and more than 32.5 million people benefitted from CDBG funded public facilities activities.

5.) Finally, sequestration would directly affect the employees who work for HUD itself, along with their families and communities. I am privileged to lead just over 9,000 HUD employees around the nation in 81 field offices around the country.

*Information taken from the written testimony of Shaun Donovan. Go here to see the full report!

 What will HUD’s immediate course of action be if sequestration goes into effect?

*Taken from the Housing Affairs Letter: CD Publications February 15, 2013

If federal spending is slashed by 5% across-the-board March 1, HUD is preparing to reduce its administration capacity by 20% to meet the demand. In an internal memo obtained by HAL, the department’s executives are scouring contracts, grants and other forms of spending to determine what will be cut or eliminated.

“In many cases, this could mean making cuts to vital programs, or curtailing spending on contracts,” the memo states. “We will also take steps, wherever possible, to cut operational or administrative costs in areas such as travel, training, facilities, and supplies.”

The memo says the department is mulling temporary furloughs or other actions for certain employees, noting that affected employees would be given at least 30 days’ notice. But HUD sources tell HAL that the department likely would settle on placing all 9,000 employees on four-day workweeks, giving up one day’s pay per week.

The shortened workweek, under consideration at other Cabinet departments as well, would avert a confrontation with employee unions.

What should the DC local advocates be prepared to do if sequestration goes into effect?

Local housing advocates who are reading about the effects of sequestration, immediate and mandated federal budget cuts, impacting local affordable housing capacity can see the need for national advocacy. However, local advocacy will also be needed! If these cuts come into play, HAT advocates will need to ask the DC local government to use its surplus to ensure essential housing programs such as the Housing Production Trust Fund and the Housing Purchase Assistance Program don’t see major funding loss. The HAT team should be ready to rally their voices post March 1, 2013 if sequestration goes into effect and petitioning the DC City Council to continue following through on the Mayor’s promise to reach 10,000 more affordable housing units by 2020 and to add to the $100,000 million allocated this budget season for housing.

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Needed: Youth Voices

Manna8-R2-18A

Youth Civic Engagement Project

The Need: Affordable Housing needs continue to grow in the District of Columbia, while the funds available for affordable housing dwindle. In 2011, 47,500 households in DC spent at least half of their income on housing in 2007. Lower income residents are being squeezed out by higher rental and home prices (currently, the median rent is $1500 for a 2-bedroom apartment) and there is lower public funding/downpayment loans for all types of affordable housing

Last year there were about $30 million dollars in cuts made to the budget by the Mayor. Because of the strong advocacy of Manna, Inc.’s Housing Advocacy Team, in partnership with the Housing for All campaign run through the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development, the City Council chose to restore $25 million to the budget.

We need more youth voices!! You have powerful insight & experience to contribute to our HAT team!  

Who: Talented High-School Aged young folks (13-21) who are interested in advocating for affordable housing

What: Meet once a month with HAT, work to increase our knowledge of affordable housing, write public testimonies and have opportunities to give testimonies before City officials

When: Once a month in February, March & April with opportunity to give public testimony in mid-April & May

Where: Please plan to join in our next month’s meeting on Monday, March 11th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Dinner provided!!

Contact Person:  Diane Spaite-202-832-1845 ext. 252

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Affordable Housing Annoucement Receives Standing Ovation

Mayor Vincent Gray promised in his address at the “Housing for All” rally to reveal more information about his plan to support affordable housing across the Continuum of Housing. While housing advocates approached the promise with a bit of skepticism, it appears Gray will follow through with significant dollars. In a full house gathered at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, a standing ovation ensued following Gray’s announcement of a one-time $100 million dollar investment directed to affordable housing for the creation and preservation of 10,000 units.

While this is monumental for housing advocates, Bob Pullman, Director of the CNHED points out that it will take more than $100 million to support 10,000 units of affordable housing.  The City Paper reported the coalition’s view towards the Mayor’s promise: Mayor Pledges One Time 100 million investment in affordable housing. Some District residents celebrate this success, including housing advocate, Michael Brown. Meanwhile, others continue to stigmatize affordable housing claiming new units will be crime-ridden and promptly turn into run-down ghettos. Comments made on the Post’s article: DC Mayor pushes 100 million investment plan for affordable housing clearly indicate there’s progress needed in helping District residents to understand the importance of affordable housing, especially the benefits of  home ownership.

For those skeptical about the need for affordable housing, it is imperative for advocates to speak up. Affordable home ownership continues to be one of the best answers for crime prevention, increased educational opportunities, increased political participation and the ability for equity accumulation. HAT supports the Mayor in valuing both “haves and have-nots” in the District but find it essential for “have-nots” to have the ability to move within the Continuum of Housing if they desire to do so.

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Missing Pieces: Fixing Inclusionary Zoning for ownership

Yesterday, an article was posted on Greater Greater Washington addressing Inclusionary Zoning policy, specifically as it pertains to ownership units (which have permanent resale and rental restrictions) and similarities with current Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU) in DC.  Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth proposed “a few steps can fix IZ” and went on to explain her viewpoint. Cort noted three major areas of flaw with the IZ policy: severe understaffing at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD); rigid IZ regulations in the administration of the program and rigid FHA lending rules. While these claims are all accurate, there are some major pieces missing.

First and foremost, there is no mention or conversation with any folks who have actually owned an ADU unit in the District. In addition, the predominate issue of escalating condo fees that many of ADU owners have experienced is completely absent from the article as a whole. Conversation ensued following Cheryl’s article and Sarah, Director of Advocacy at Manna, Inc. said this:

“It is really disheartening to see the deafening silence in this article of escalating condo fee issues that current ADU owners in mixed-income buildings in DC are facing and that have plagued IZ ownership programs in similar housing markets to DC (see http://hatdc.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Learning-From-Experience-Affordable-Homeowners-in-Washington-DC-Oct-2012-.pdf). The IZ ordinance does not address this issue and DHCD officials have confirmed this. We have to be honest about these issues and not put more folks at risk of the same.

Use of FHA and DHCD’s administration of the program are issues, but they are not the sole issues. ADU owners have said this publicly over and over. There is a huge difference between IZ rental and ownership units, and the costs and benefits. One City Council staff recently termed IZ ownership as “half ownership”, which is a very good categorization. “Half ownership” may work for some, especially those without a growing family or those with higher incomes that have a higher education to fall back on as far as economic advancement (though many ADU owners in that category now wish they had never purchased). Why should DC put so many of its eggs as far as affordable homeownership into a program with some very large issues that doesn’t allow families to access equity or achieve any sort of economic advancement? I believe DC can do better and that there are different tools at our disposal than permanently restricted ownership units. For rental, by all means. For ownership, I wouldn’t dare purchase an IZ unit right now in this city.”

We must hear from folks who currently own ADU units and can speak to how this has impacted their lives. Cort’s article can be found by clicking on this link: A few steps can fix Inclusionary Zoning. ADU owners, it’s time for us to hear from you!  Take a moment today to read the article and add your comment to the ongoing conversation in the District surrounding ADU units and Inclusionary Zoning.

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State of the District: Housing Matters

It’s time for the State of the District! The Mayor will make an announcement about monies and resources to be invested in affordable housing. This will be an important opportunity to show that affordable housing matters. In addition, we’ll be keeping our ears peeled for updates of  status of the HPAP program in the coming weeks. We’ve been invited to meet up with the folks from CNHED (“Housing for All!” campaign folks), to wear our yellow t-shirts (let me know if you still need one), and to sit together for the event!

WHAT/WHO:
Mayor Vincent C. Gray will deliver the 2013 State of the District Address, where he will report on the status of the city and his administration and outline his agenda and priorities for the coming year.

WHEN:

5:30 pm, Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WHERE:

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Sanctuary, 600 I Street NW
*The event will start at 7:00 p.m. but in order to have seats we must arrive early!
If you intend to come, please RSVP to @ dspaite@mannadc.org.
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We are stronger together

             Manna’s HAT advocacy team was well represented by our very own Robert Cooke at Saturday’s Housing  for ALL rally hosted by CNHED. Elizabeth Falcon and the CNHED crew organized a phenomenal rally attended by District residents across the 8 wards. In addition to a diverse representation from residents most impacted by the immediate need for housing, the group was able to draw the attention of Mayor Vincent Gray, Councilmember Jack Evans and Councilmember Muriel Bowser. All of the elected officials expressed support to continue to seek to find ways to fund affordable housing for district residents. 

       After the elected officials were welcomed to share with the crowd, Robert rallied the group by asking each of the wards represented to identify ourselves and then united the group reminding us we are indeed stronger together! Manna’s group included Jim Dickerson, Jim Melson, Christine, Easton & Joshua Law, Diane & Dave Spaite, Sarah, Darren Spence, Pamela Johnson along with Robert Cooke. This group added in number to the 350 people who gathered in the Martin Luther King, Jr. library to publically advocate for the Continuum of Housing.

            Director Adrianne Todman, Director of the DC Housing Authority made the remark, “Work is love made visible”. While holding steady in the face of potential cuts to her departments funding, she reminded us all that our work together is essential to demonstrate the love and desire we feel for our fellow human beings who are in need of one of the most basic human rights: A place to live.
           
           The momentum of this group is bound to propel housing advocates forward toward the need attend the Mayor’s upcoming State of the District address and to be present at the council for the upcoming spring budget season. May we take Director Toddman’s advice and continue to make our love visible through our consistent housing advocacy dedication.

 

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Press On

Last week the HAT group gathered for their regular Monday night meeting at Manna, Inc. As the group discussed the upcoming year and the shifts in the DC City Council, some were discouraged by the persons elected, while others were hopeful about their ability to partner with those in office. Celebration and the desire to remember victories amidst continued action was noted. Progress was appreciated and fondly remembered:

March 2012
Mayor came out with his FY2013 budget: $30 million cuts to the housing budget

April-May 2012
HAT advocates participated with the Housing for All campaign to testify and meet with City officials about the importance of housing, HAT advocates were one of the largest presences during this time

June 2012
The City Council officially voted to restore $25 million to the housing budget from local dollars, including $2.5 million for HPAP

October-November 2012
Ward Town Halls and Task Force Hearings – HAT advocates testified about importance of HPAP and the horrible reality of long-term resale restrictions, more people woke up to the issues with ADUs

December 2012
ADU hearing about condo fee increases and resale restrictions, truncated legislation was voted through the City Council

The 2012 calendar year brought mountain top moments, while other parts were marked with discouragement and despair. HAT has faithfully and consistently led the fight for affordable housing justice. This became more evident as those who gathered for the annual HAT holiday party thanked Manna’s staff for their hard work and as Manna staff honored those who have given of their time, efforts, story and testimonies.

Those who were honored and able to gather on Monday, December 10th are listed below; however, there were many others who sacrificed their time and energy to give public testimony this year from all 8 wards!

Pamela Johnson-Ward 8
Willamena Samuels-Ward 2
Tia Norde-Ward 1
Gloria Lowery-Ward 7
Griselda Martinez – Ward 4
Jim Dickerson-Ward 1
Jim Melson-VA
Samone Hoston-Ward 6
Tadina Ross-Ward 6
Beth Korman-Ward 6
Tanya Morris-Ward 1
Sekwana Horge- Ward 1
Ciara Simpson-Ward 1
Nathan Smith-Ward 1
Eugene Griffin- Ward 1
Robert Cooke-Ward 5
Marilyn Philips-Ward 8
Billy Hart-Ward 6
Renee Sumby-Ward 8
Edith Cromwell-Ward 8
DeLisa Barrons-Ward 5
Sheila Miles-Ward 8

This upcoming year will bring with it opportunities for advocacy, specifically fighting for the abolishment of long-term resale restrictions, options for distressed ADU owners and continued advocating for funding for the full Continuum of Housing with the primary purpose of moving people out of poverty. HAT has continued to increase its advocacy and members will continue to look for ways to engage others in this essential work. There is much more work to be done in the future! But, it can’t be done without residents speaking for themselves!

Specifically, the HAT core intends to use the momentum from the fall NeighborWorks community organizing conference the team attended to increase youth advocacy participation through partnership with local youth-based organizations. This upcoming year is filled with possibility!

However, when adversity comes knocking, HAT members will need to continue to remind each other to press on. Or as Manna’s beloved founder, Jim Dickerson frequently reminds those he advocates with, “Don’t ever give up!”

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Roundtable on Resale Restriction Issues Tomorrow!

Council of the District of Columbia
Committee on Economic Development and Housing
Notice of Public Oversight Roundtable
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20004

COUNCILMEMBER MICHAEL A. BROWN, CHAIRPERSON
COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING

PUBLIC OVERSIGHT ROUNDTABLE ON

Strategies to address the loss of affordability in District funded affordable housing programs

Councilmember Michael A. Brown, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic Development and Housing, announces a Public Oversight Roundtable on strategies to address the loss of affordability in District funded affordable housing programs. This Public Oversight Roundtable will address a number of issues including concerns regarding excessive condominium fees in Affordable Housing Units (AHU) financed by the District, resale restrictions on affordable for sale units and affordability issues within Affordable Housing Units for senior residents. The Committee will also seek input on the District’s housing counseling programs and determine whether there are adequate counseling services that address the prevention of the loss of affordability to AHU program participants. The public oversight roundtable will be held on December 13, 2012 at 11:30 a.m., in room 120 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.

Thursday, December 13, 2012 – 11:30 a.m.
John A. Wilson Building, Room 120
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Those who wish to testify should contact Carol Sadler at (202) 724-8198 or csadler@dccouncil.us, and provide your name, organizational affiliation, and title of organization by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. Witnesses should bring 20 copies of their written testimony to the hearing. The Committee allows each individual 3 minutes and organization 5 minutes to provide oral testimony in order to permit each witness an opportunity to be heard. Additional written statements are encouraged and will be made part of the official record. The official record will close ten days following the conclusion of the roundtable.

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