In early 2019, the HAND Board and staff completed a Strategic Alignment process to determine how to leverage the power of its membership to make meaningful progress on the housing affordability crisis. After interviewing and surveying hundreds of members, one of the clearest messages that emerged was that HAND must do more to leverage the power of its members to influence affordable housing programs and policy in the Capital Region of Baltimore, Washington and Richmond.
HAND accepts this challenge and is committed to taking bold steps to build public and private will, and to catalyze action that addresses the crisis in a substantial manner. Keep reading for more details on these efforts and how HAND has played a role in advocacy and policy to date:
Bolstering HAND Member Campaigns
HAND has traditionally signed letters of support for broad-based initiatives (LIHTC, NMTC campaigns, etc.). The organization has also extended its communications platforms to members looking to leverage their activities on the HAND website, News & Notes distribution list (7,500+ inboxes), blog and social media.
Communications Action Network
United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA) awarded HAND $50,000 in designated affordable housing funds through an Affordable Housing Initiative grant. With the grant funds, HAND and its partners, the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, led the development of a communications action network that implemented and coordinated a low-cost, high-impact affordable housing communications campaign developed by affordable housing leaders in the greater Washington region. The group engaged communications professionals from the region’s businesses, nonprofits and state and local governments. Additionally the network compiled and communicated research, new developments, programs and best practices.
2014 – Present
Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington
In 2014, HAND served as a founding member of the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington (HLG). This collection of more than a dozen public and private sector leaders concerned about housing affordability has examined: 1) the nature of the affordable housing shortage in the Greater Washington region; 2) the relationship of housing affordability to economic growth; and 3) strategies to increase affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households in the region.
In March 2019, HAND partnered with HLG to launch the Capital Region Housing Challenge, an initiative to secure one billion dollars in new private and public capital to advance the preservation and creation of affordable housing.
“Day in the Life of a Child” PSA Campaign
To coincide with its 24th Annual Meeting and Housing Expo, HAND released the a series of an unprecedented public service advertisement (PSA) campaign directed towards highlighting the need for housing affordability. The “Day in the Life of a Child” series focused on the disparity between wages and affordability in the Washington, D.C. area by highlighting the professionals in a child’s life whose average salary often does not sufficiently cover market-rate housing in addition to the other basic necessities of life.
HAND has enjoyed a great partnership with Make Room for the past several years. Dedicated to giving a voice to struggling renters, elevating affordable rental housing on the national agenda, and advocating for better policy solutions, the organization’s goals aligned well with those of HAND and its members. Make Room has wound down its operations, but its very important work continues with another valued partner in this space: the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Exelon and Pepco Merger
When the Exelon Corp., one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, announced its intent to acquire Pepco Holdings Inc. in 2014, the National Housing Trust (NHT) approached HAND about working together to secure investments for energy efficiency improvements in affordable rental housing. To win approval of the merger from the Maryland and District of Columbia Public Service Commissions (PSCs), the utilities had to demonstrate that the transaction would result in direct benefits to customers through investments in rate credits, energy efficiency, and other opportunities. The challenge was ensuring that affordable housing owners and residents would share in those benefits.
NHT, HAND, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC), joined forces to convince the utilities, PSCs and other stakeholders that the merger shouldn’t be approved unless it included investments in energy efficiency for affordable housing owners and residents. HAND helped generate letters of support from affordable housing owners and enlisted representatives from about a dozen affordable housing organizations to testify in person at community hearings about the need for energy efficiency investments. In the end, nearly $20 million in funding for energy efficiency investments in affordable housing will become available across both D.C. and Maryland.
WGL Holdings-AltaGas Merger
HAND also partnered with NHT, NCLC and MAHC to serve as an intervener with the Washington Gas merger proceedings in Maryland and Washington DC. As a result of these efforts, NHT’s energy efficiency team successfully negotiated a commitment with WGL to invest a total of $8.8 million to make energy efficiency improvements in housing for low-income Maryland and D.C. residents. This included a $4.2 million investment from AltaGas to support low and limited-income residents in affordable multi-family housing and provide financial contributions to the Washington Area Fuel Fund for emergency utility bill assistance to Washington Gas consumers who meet income requirements. NHT also secured a commitment from WGL to actively support Earned-Income Tax Credit (EITC) outreach through both in-kind contributions and a financial commitment of $250,000 to the D.C. EITC Campaign. The EITC is a special tax break, based on the federal EITC, designed specifically for low- and moderate-income workers.
HAND collaborated with Enterprise and other partners in Puerto Rico to develop “Together, We’re Better,” the inaugural program for a new collaborative initiative to support the nonprofit sector. The event featured Puerto Rico-based nonprofits, stateside organizations and local government agencies experienced in working on recovery and rebuilding efforts following disasters. HAND was instrumental in coordinating the initiative’s launch.
Housing Indicator Tool
The completion of HAND’s Strategic Alignment Process in February 2019 birthed the Housing Indicator Tool (HIT). This one-of-a-kind platform will provide the most up-to-date information on housing production and preservation across the region, and allow members and industry stakeholders to: track local efforts to produce and preserve affordable rental housing; hold public & private sectors accountable for making progress on expanding housing options; and provide a high-level evaluation on the effectiveness of local programs and policies intended to bolster affordable housing production.
LeadingAge Senior Housing NOW Rally
HAND served as a Co-Host of LeadingAge’s Senior Housing NOW Rally on Capitol Hill in May 2019. Affordable senior housing residents and advocates from around the country convened at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC to urge Congress to protect and expand funding for the HUD 202 program. This critical program finances supportive housing for very low-income elderly individuals and provides rent subsidies to make these homes affordable.
Housing Priorities Coalition
In October 2019, HAND and its fellow members of the DC Housing Priorities Coalition successfully advocated for key amendments that ensure affordable housing and the prevention of displacement are priorities of the DC Comprehensive (Comp) Plan. As the primary document that guides what and where development occurs in the District for the next few decades, the DC Comp Plan has the power to stem the tide of economic and residential segregation. HAND also sent a letter to the Office of Planning in January 2020 with comments to the last draft update of the plan. This letter emphasized HAND’s support of the amended Framework Element of the Comprehensive Plan as passed by the DC Council in October 2019, including its acknowledgement of the need for increased affordable housing and protections against displacement.