Archive for category: HAND Thought Leadership

Five Minutes With EagleBank

September 27, 2021
September 27, 2021


Pictured:Rich Devaney and Dara Koller 

The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In the latest edition, we have a conversation with EagleBank‘s Rich Devaney, Senior Vice President and Dara Koller, SVP & Deputy Director. They chatted with us about their extensive experience in the affordable housing and community development industry and how they landed in this space. Rich highlights past challenges, lessons learned, and his advice to emerging leaders seeking to make an impact. Dara shares key takeaways from her experience, what she is bringing into her new role, and other her interest outside of affordable housing. Check out our dialogue below:

HAND: Both of you have extensive experience in the affordable housing and community development industry  – Can you tell us about your professional journey and how you landed in this space?
DK: I have 20 years of industry experience, working in leadership roles at Freddie Mac and agency lenders supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac multifamily executions, primarily focused on affordable rental housing executions for both agencies, including new construction and preservation of affordable rental housing properties.  While at Freddie Mac, I was also involved in the development and roll-out of  a few new products supporting the affordable rental housing industry as well.  When I first began working on affordable rental housing transactions, it was not the most well understood or popular asset type in the industry compared to market rate rental housing, but I always believed it was extremely important and I was excited to be part of an industry focused on solving the growing need for affordable rental housing in the U.S.  
RD:  I began my career just after the passing of the CRA legislation and immediately prior to LIHTC legislation being rolled out, working with and for some of the most respected and innovative industry icons in the DC market.  It was an exciting time, fusing the tension between regulatory pressure in the banking industry and innovation and expansion of and in the community development and non-profit sector intent on increasing its impact in significantly underserved neighborhoods.  My focus and vision was grounded in building high-impact community development and affordable housing businesses within and with large institutions (Bank of America, Fannie Mae, top 5 Life Companies) under the rubric of profitability, sustainability and scalability.  My experiences took me through the capital stack and from neighborhoods to national presence.  Throughout, my greatest experience to date was setting up this FHA business within EagleBank, coupling the best of financial strength, innovation and flexibility in its ability to deliver capital within the community it serves. 

HAND: Rich, you launched EagleBank’s FHA Multifamily Lending Division in 2015, in addition to several other investment initiatives for the bank. Can you tell us about one of your largest challenges over the past six years and what you have learned?
RD: Our FHA Multifamily business is a product line that falls squarely within the Bank’s commercial real estate span of lending.  As such, our task was to integrate this business in a collaborative way, not competitive, with the balance sheet lending activity, getting the buy-in from the line lenders and alignment in goals and objectives…..”Enlightened self-interest”.  Having set up multiple businesses over my 35- year career, this one presented unique challenges, including how to integrate.  It took a solid 3 years of repetition, “proving the thesis” and trust building to get to the point where the value chain is clear and tangible.  Presently, every single transaction within the FHA pipeline will touch the Commercial Real Estate balance sheet.  Lesson learned was that you can get buy-in strategically at the highest level, but you must get buy-in tactically where the rubber hits the road with the people who make the business happen. 

HAND: Dara, you are fairly new to the bank – what key takeaway(s) from your experience thus far are you bringing into your new role?
DK:

  • There is a continuing need for safe, decent affordable rental housing and supportive services in our local communities and EagleBank has made a significant contribution to the growth across the Washington D.C. market and in communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic over the last 20 years. EagleBank continues to play an important role in financing affordable multifamily rental housing, which has helped build and maintain safe and economically stable communities which significantly improve the quality of life for its residents. 
  • We have a tremendous opportunity to continue to make a contribution to the local community to provide much needed affordable rental housing through our deep relationships with affordable housing developers and investors, as well as EagleBank’s FHA multifamily business, which allows us to do business anywhere in the U.S. We are a community bank, with national capabilities with our FHA multifamily licenses.  I think that is a powerful combination.
  • My strong affordable housing and multifamily experience will augment EagleBank’s growing FHA multifamily business. In this new role, I will be dedicated to FHA loan originations, business development as well as serving as a resource for the Bank’s focused efforts on affordable rental housing. 

HAND: Rich, do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability and creating more equitable communities in our region? If so, what do you think that is? What do you think is the largest obstacle?
RD: I believe the private financing vehicles and resources are readily accessible and in sufficient amounts to have great impact.  There needs to be, and always has been, focus on equity in the delivery and availability of affordable housing.  One of my greatest mentors emblazoned in my mind “you are what you measure”, so to solve issues related to equity, we need goals, transparency and accountability….period!  My perspective is that the largest obstacles in the production of affordable housing are the public entitlement process, zoning, planning, and permitting.  Some municipalities have processes that take up to 3-5 years which infuses risk, uncertainty and viability to the process. 

HANDRich, what advice would you give to emerging leaders who are seeking to make an impact in this space?
RD: Be flexible – issues are rarely binary choices, every situation is a learning experience – accept set-backs as a gift and surround yourself with diversity – holistically.

HAND: Rich and Dara, what are you most looking forward to over the coming months at EagleBank? Are there any projects or programs that you are particularly excited about?
RD & DK: Furthering the synergies within the Bank, our investment in the Washington Housing Initiative and further coupling our balance sheet and FHA business. 

The FHA Multifamily Group is an emerging contributor to the strategic goals and objectives of the CRE Group and EagleBank. 

EagleBank financed a handful of key affordable housing projects in the Washington D.C market including:

  • More than $81 million in financing to support a key affordable housing project in Bethesda MD, which includes 401 multifamily housing units situated on five separate land parcels.
  • Phase I of Addison Row Apartments, Capital Heights, MD a planned community consisting of a 321 unit multifamily building. The project is currently in lease-up. The community caters to workforce housing needs and in addition to affordability, offers large unit sizes compared to new construction in Washington, D.C. Phase II will add 327 units. 
  • A construction loan used in conjunction with 4% LIHTC to rehabilitate a 60 unit LIHTC affordable community located in the Barry Farms neighborhood of Southeast Washington, DC. After completion, a HUD FHA Section 223(f) refinance application to exit the bank construction loan.
  • A $50 million construction loan for a to-be-built low income housing project above retail space located in the Capital Hill area of Washington, DC. The project will utilize 4% LIHTC and a long-term rental subsidy contract with the DCHFA.
  • EagleBank is currently working on a few notable affordable housing transactions, including the renovation and recapitalization of a project-based Section 8 property located in the Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast Washington DC utilizing 4% LIHTC.

HAND: Rich and Dara, if you weren’t working in this space, what might you be doing?
DK:  I have always been interested in architecture and design, focused on creating and transforming spaces to meet the needs of a building’s occupants and looking for solutions to present and future issues, such as climate change.  Incorporating sustainable and green building design in construction projects is increasingly important to reduce the carbon footprint and use our energy and water resources more efficiently.
RD: I have been consistent in responding to this question when asked over the past 30 years.  I would be dedicating 100% of my time working in programs that focus on disadvantaged youth, focusing on education and financial literacy.  To me, one of the biggest gaps we have racially and socio-economically is knowledge of and access to financial tools, products and services. 

COVID-19 and Health Equity: It’s Deeper than Preexisting Conditions

April 21, 2020
April 21, 2020

This blog post was originally posted by American Public Health Association.

Author: Tia Taylor Williams, Director of APHA’s Center for Public Health Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more attention to the field of public health. Every day, people are seeing and hearing from epidemiologists, clinicians, laboratory scientists, researchers and more. While the spotlight is on the field, we should seize this moment to bring national attention to our greatest imperative: reducing health disparities and advancing health equity

The public health field has an opportunity to shape the discourse about COVID-19 inequities to ensure that the root causes of the problem are acknowledged and addressed within, and well beyond, the pandemic.

As calls for race and ethnicity data in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality are heeded, we’re learning more about the communities and populations being disproportionately impacted. The prevalence of preexisting conditions — such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease — among people who are dying from COVID-19 is also being emphasized.

As public health professionals, we know these same chronic conditions plagued low-income and communities of color at alarmingly high rates for decades before the current pandemic. We also know that these health disparities are the result of years of intentional disinvestment in communities. Lack of access to basic services, living wage jobs and affordable quality housing, education and health care are all veiled by a system that assigns value and structures opportunity based on how a person looks, i.e., racism.

At the same time, we know that as a country we are reluctant to understand, acknowledge and address how America’s legacy of racism, discrimination and exploitation has created present-day conditions of racially segregated and under-resourced neighborhoods.

If history is a predictor, as the pandemic persists and more data are collected, our suspicions about who is being hit hardest will be further substantiated. We can also expect that there will be many different arguments used to downplay or detract from the real issues. 

As health equity champions, we have to be ready to redirect those diversions. By applying an equity lens, we can shift the narrative to focus on the root causes of COVID-19 disparities:

  • Racism, not race. Yes, it is important that disparities in COVID-19 testing, treatment and death rates are identified so that resources are funneled to where they are most needed. However, it is not being black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander that causes poorer health outcomes; it is how individuals and communities are treated because of their race or ethnicity. 
  • Social and economic factors, not genetics. There may be some genetic differences among those who are able to recover from COVID-19 and those who succumb to it. However, until the research is definitive, we should avoid overemphasizing the influence of genetics on COVID-19 outcomes and disparities.
    What we do know is that overall health status is heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors, including place of residence, educational attainment, income and wealth. While there’s not much we can do about genetics, we can change socioeconomic factors through policies and systems changes.
  • Environment and neighborhood conditions, not just behaviors. Health behaviors are important. They are also shaped by environment and access. Asking communities to eat healthily is futile if there are no affordable options — or healthy options at all — in their neighborhoods. This may seem like a no-brainer to those of us who live and breathe this work, but it’s important that this message is conveyed to broader audiences. 

At a time when family resources are dwindling and being spread even thinner, we must avoid finger-pointing and placing the blame on the behaviors of individuals in marginalized communities. We know racism is a driving force for the social, economic and environmental conditions, i.e., social determinants that influence health. For example, black and Hispanic communities have higher rates of exposure to air pollution, which has recently been associated with increased risk of COVID-19 death

We are public health. Social justice is in our roots. We look upstream to identify the causes of the causes. It is critical, during the pandemic and after, that we bring attention and action to addressing systemic and structural factors that shape who has power, where and how people live and, ultimately, what access and opportunities they have for good health.

For more on health equity and COVID-19, visit APHA’s COVID-19 and Equity page.

PODCAST: Grant Funding for Affordable Housing via the Federal Home Loan Bank

January 3, 2020
January 3, 2020

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Listen to this Areaprobe podcast which details financing affordable housing using grant funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

You can also listen to it in segments here:

About the Speaker
Megan Krider started working at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh in 2013 in the Community Investment Department and now serves as Manager, Affordable Housing and Community Development. In this position, Megan has the responsibility of managing the Affordable Housing Program which has supplied more than $263 million in efforts to support affordable housing development. Additionally, by managing the Bank’s Blueprint Communities® initiative, Megan has been able to support community development and the capacity building for communities. Megan received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from John Carroll University as well as a Master of Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Urban Institute features HAND’s Annual Meeting & Housing Expo

July 9, 2018
July 9, 2018

(left to right) Gustavo Velasquez of Urban Institute, Ernst Valery of SAA | EVI and Nicky Goren of Meyer Foundation discuss the causes and consequences of redlining at HAND’s Annual Meeting & Housing Expo.

On the heels of HAND’s Annual Meeting & Housing Expo, the team under the How Housing Matters Initiative at Urban Institute was inspired to author a piece reflecting on some of the policy changes that would be needed to address issues of housing discrimination and equity. An excerpt from the piece titled, “Rethink Housing and Community Development to Advance Racial Equity and Inclusion” is as follows:

In the US, descriptions of housing affordability challenges and differences in wealth, health, and education need to include a racial equity lens, or the picture is incomplete. Legally authorized and mandated housing discrimination through federal lending and investment policies laid the cornerstone of complex socio-spatial issues that historically segregated communities continue to face. Many of the inequities within and between neighborhoods, particularly in large metropolitan areas, trace their roots to redlining.

Such discriminatory lending practices have left a legacy of disinvestment predominately in black and brown communities. Although the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 sought to undo forced inequalities within neighborhoods by creating strong incentives for positive investment activity, the ramifications of housing segregation and economic exclusion will take additional policy attention to address…

…Meaningful and inclusive community revitalization can break down some of the barriers instituted through disinvestment and discrimination. This can be done through equitable development, but it requires intentional engagement and community input. Community development corporations (CDCs) and community land trusts (CLTs) have facilitated this engagement. While CDCs and CLTs usually have residents on their boards, CDC leadership often does not represent those they serve, which can leave residents feeling disengaged.

At the annual meeting of HAND, a membership organization for housing providers in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, Ernst Valery, founder and president of EVI Equity, addressed this challenge. He said, “We think so much about renovating the building, we need to also renovate the people.” EVI purchased Essex Village, an apartment complex in Henrico County, Virginia, that was far from providing its residents with a platform for success in life; according to Valery, it has been deemed the county’s worst apartment complex. EVI and the property manager CAPREIT quickly formed a tenants’ association to ensure that Essex Village residents were involved early in the planning process. Residents expressed excitement that the new owners wanted to hear their voices and to collaborate on creating lasting change in the housing development. When tenants are offered a seat at the table, they are eager to get involved, but developers need to provide the space to be heard.

You can read the article in full here.

Residential Construction Activity in the Washington Metro Area

February 6, 2017
February 6, 2017
Photo courtesy of Scott Lewis

Photo courtesy of Scott Lewis

By Lisa A. Sturtevant, PhD

In the aftermath of the recession and housing market downturn, residential construction activity has been increasingly fairly steadily. However, the pace of new housing construction remains below long-term levels and the types and prices/rents of new housing being produced does not sufficiently meet demand. As demand for home ownership increases, the population of younger renters grows more slowly, and the number of lower-wage workers expands in the region, there is a great need for lower-priced home ownership opportunities and apartments and other rental homes with lower rents.

Some key findings from the residential permit data released from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Residential construction activities to grow steadily but still remains below long term levels regionwide. Over January through November of last year, there were about 22,000 permits issued for the construction of new residential housing units. The 2016 residential permitting activity included 4,321 building permits in the District of Columbia, 5,806 building permits in Suburban Maryland, and 11,739 building permits in Northern Virginia. Residential permitting activity in the region has been increasing steadily since 2009, but remains below the 2000-2016 annual average (~25,000), suggesting that new home construction has not been sufficient to meet the demands associated with population growth.

[Figure 1]

february-chart-1

One-fifth of the residential construction activity in the region was in the District of Columbia in 2016. While residential construction activity has increased throughout the region, the District of Columbia still accounts for one-fifth of new permits. About a quarter of the permits were for housing in Suburban Maryland and a little over half were in Northern Virginia. By contrast, before the recession, only about five percent of permits for new residential units in the Washington DC region were in the District of Columbia. The District’s share of new permits has slipped slightly, to 20 percent in 2016 from 23 percent in 2015.

[Figure 2]

february-chart-2

Multi-family construction remains strong though new single-family construction is on the rise. In 2016, 44 percent of permits for new residential construction in the Washington DC region were for multi-family units, including nearly all (93 percent) of the permits in DC, 35 percent in Northern Virginia and 28 percent in Suburban Maryland. Historically, over the past 16 years, about 38 percent of permits in the region were for multi-family units so the current share remains higher than average. However, over the past two years, the share of multi-family units has declined somewhat, generally because of a slight decline in the share of permits issued in DC.

[Figure 3]

february-chart-3

Home prices and rents in the Washington DC region continue to climb. Recent data from MRIS have shown that home prices in the metropolitan area have now matched the record high set during the housing market boom. The median sales price in December 2016 was $410,100, slightly higher than the previous record high price of $408,000 in 2014. As typical, there is wide variation in home prices throughout the region that reflects location as well as home types. For example, in the District of Columbia, the median sales price was $550,000. In Fairfax County the median home price was $470,000 and in Prince George’s County was $265,000.

Rents have also been on the rise, and new multi-family construction has skewed substantially towards luxury, higher-rent apartments. Even as concessions at new apartment buildings have increased, rents in buildings, particularly in DC and in the closer-in suburbs, are often only affordable to very high-income renters. According the 2015 American Community Survey data, the median rent in DC was $1,417 in 2015; however, the median rent for units built in 2014 and 2015 was $2,334. A household would need an income of more than $93,000 in order to afford the median rent in a new apartment building in the city.

Homelessness remains an intractable problem in the District of Columbia. Even as new residential construction increases, there remains insufficient housing affordable to all residents in the region. A recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that Washington DC has the highest rate of homelessness among the nation’s 32 largest cities. The ability for the region to expand the housing supply will depend not only on land use and zoning changes that encourage more housing, but also policies that promote the development of housing for our region’s most vulnerable residents.

Outlook for Meeting Housing Needs in the National Capital Area in 2017: Action Items for Local Jurisdictions

January 3, 2017
January 3, 2017

By Lisa A. Sturtevant, PhD

Nearly 400,000 renter households in the Washington DC region—about half of all renters—are cost burdened, spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs. For many individuals and families paying high housing costs can mean there is too little for other essentials, such as food and health care. In the Washington DC area, more than 12,000 homeless individuals were identified in this year’s point-in-time homelessness count, though we know the number of people without stable housing is much higher. Despite the efforts of countless housing advocates, non-profits, and local governments, the housing affordability challenges in the DC region continue to grow. What can local jurisdictions do to stem the rising affordability challenges?

Housing is a growing concern in the region. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000, about 220,000 renter households in the Washington DC metropolitan area were cost burdened. In 2015, that number had grown to about 380,000, an increase of 160,000 households. In 2000, 33.2 percent of renters were cost burdened. In 2015, that share was 48.5 percent. The overall number of cost burdened renters has increased in jurisdictions throughout the region. For example, there were about 25,600 more cost burdened renters in DC in 2015 than there were in 2000. In Montgomery County, the number of cost burden renters grew by more than 31,000 over the 15-year period between 2000 and 2015. Fairfax County added 24,200 new cost burdened renter households over the same period.

january-figure-1

january-figure-2-final

These increases are not because local jurisdictions have ignored the problem. Just in the last few years, DC has dedicated $100 million to its Housing Production Trust Fund. Montgomery County has increased efforts to use public land for affordable housing. The City of Alexandria continues to look for opportunities to partner with developers to expand mixed-income housing. Fairfax County has made housing affordability a key component of its Strategic Plan to Facilitate Economic Success. Arlington County is working to adopt at Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process to more efficiently and effectively allocate local housing resources.

But, as the cost burden numbers show, it hasn’t been enough. And things probably are not going to get easer in 2017. Even without specific affordable housing proposals, the new Presidential administration could weaken key Federal programs that local jurisdictions have come to count on for the production and preservation of housing affordable to lower-income individuals and families.

Tax reform. No specific proposals have been discussed by the incoming Trump administration related to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. It seems very unlikely that the credit itself will be eliminated since there is generally broad bipartisan support for the program. However, there has been a lot of talk about the likelihood of tax reform under the new Trump administration. Some affordable housing finance experts have suggested that there could be “substantial” indirect effects of proposed tax reforms on the LIHTC, making the tax credit less valuable to investors. Reduced capacity of the LIHTC could mean a growing need for local resources to fill financing gaps and to make projects feasible.

Cuts in Nondefense Spending. President-elect Trump has indicated that he intends to cut nondefense spending, at one time saying he wanted cuts of one percent every year. This would mean cuts to key HUD programs that serve some of the lowest-income and most vulnerable individuals and families in our communities—programs like the Housing Choice Voucher Program and CDBG and HOME. Historically a target of cuts, these programs could be at significant risk under a President who has indicated little interest in supporting HUD programs. Even now, federal housing programs currently serve only about a quarter of eligible households. Reductions in federal funding would means that local jurisdictions will lose critical resources to support a wide range of housing and community development programs and the losses would disproportionately impact the lowest-income and potentially the most vulnerable households.

Rising housing challenges and declining federal resources are not new phenomena; local jurisdictions have been taking on increasingly active roles in housing policies and funding for decades. However, in 2017, the role for local action on housing will be even more critical in our region. What can local jurisdictions to do differently to move the needle?

Communication is key:

Make the case. Throughout our communities we need to continue to make the case for why housing is important. And there is not just one argument. Whether it’s because increasing housing supply is good for the local economy. Or that education and health outcomes are better for families with access to safe and affordable housing. Or that poor children who live in higher-opportunity neighborhoods go on to make more money—any pay more taxes—than those left behind.

Document the need. At the local level, it is important not only to quantify housing needs in the community, but also to relate those numbers to actual people. Combining hard data with descriptions of hypothetical—or real—individuals and families is important for demonstrating the need.

Explain how housing finance works. Make sure that the community understands why government is necessary when it comes to building housing affordable to lower-income households. Tools like the Urban Institute’s affordable housing simulator can help show in black and white that gap that often needs to be filled by public resources.

Communication can be hard but other important steps are even harder:

Prioritize housing. Public resources are limited and local jurisdictions have competing demands on those resources. In general, however, local communities have not been explicit about prioritizing housing, and then about prioritizing particular goals within housing programs and policies. Prioritization—linked to specified and dedicated funding sources—seems especially important to having an impact.

Innovate on the funding side. To meet housing needs when federal resources are on the decline, it is going to be necessary to identify new sources of funding. Local jurisdictions need to commit to looking for innovative funding sources and partners.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in a Trump Administration: Regional Leadership Needed More than Ever

December 4, 2016
December 4, 2016

By Lisa A. Sturtevant, PhD

Fair housing never emerged as an issue in the presidential election; however, the new President and his HUD secretary and Attorney General will have responsibility for overseeing the enforcement of new fair housing laws, including the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule and the disparate impact court decision. There is uncertainty about what a Trump Presidency will mean for housing nationally, but given his selection of Ben Carson as HUD Secretary, it seems more important than ever to re-commit to working regionally to support the goals of fair housing and access to opportunity here in the Washington, DC metro area.

It has been over a year since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that established a new housing needs assessment process (replacing the analysis of impediments) with the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH). The AFFH rule lays out a new procedure for local jurisdictions to assess areas of concentrated poverty, to identify disparities in access to good schools, transit and other amenities, and to evaluate unmet housing needs among certain subpopulations, including racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities. In addition, for the first time HUD is providing a trove of local data to help localities identify patterns of demographic change. The goal of the AFFH rule is to bring greater guidance to localities for “affirmatively furthering fair housing” as mandated in the Housing Act of 1968.

Despite some of the rhetoric, the new regulations reflect only an incremental change to HUD’s approach to enforcing fair housing and is designed to encourage a more intentional assessment of whether the goals of the Fair Housing Act are being met. However, the AFFH rule has been castigated as a vast overreach by the Federal government into local autonomy, and the change in leadership at the Federal level will likely give broader voice to those claims.

During the campaign, President-elect Trump said he wanted to dismantle the AFFH rule. Donald Trump’s company has been sued by the Justice Department for violating fair housing laws in New York. In the 1970s, Trump’s father was arrested in Prince George’s County while allowing an apartment complex he owned fall into disrepair and for subjecting African American tenants to deplorable housing conditions. It’s not likely that a President Trump will take the lead on promoting fair housing from the White House. Trump’s pick for HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, has given every indication that he will not be a champion for fair housing at the Federal level either. He has called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule a “mandated social-engineering scheme” and a policy indicative of a “communist” country.

The Region Should Be a Leader in Promoting its Own Fair Housing Goals

With likely backpedaling on AFFH at the Federal level, the Washington DC metropolitan area should remain committed to advancing fair housing in the region. Now, more than ever, local elected officials need to be leaders for promoting access and opportunity for all members of our community.

Regional discussions about AFFH are already underway. Last spring, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments partnered with Enterprise Community Partners and the National Housing Conference to host a full-day training and information sharing session around the AFFH rule. The primary objective of the convening was to discuss the data component of the assessment tool but the conversation shed light on the entire AFH process. At the meeting, we had representatives from HUD, as well as from the Baltimore area, which recently completed a regional housing plan.

This meeting led to further discussions among local Housing Directors at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), but momentum around AFFH slowed over the summer. Given the road ahead, now seems like a good time to re-energize regional partners around fair housing. The lack of Federal leadership is one important reason for mobilization. But there is increasing evidence that regions that are more racially and economically integrated have stronger, more resilient local economies.

There are several things we can do now which would not only help support housing options and integration throughout the region but could also allow us to act proactively—to do something!—in the wake of the unprecedented Presidential election:

Produce data on housing needs and opportunities more efficiently. We learned in our March AFFH meeting that HUD is providing a tremendous amount of data to localities, but jurisdictions are advised by the new rule to make use of locally-generated data. Rather than each jurisdiction analyzing its own data, MWCOG should facilitate a regional data analysis exercise that can help with local housing plans but also help jurisdictions connect regionally.

Consider a regional assessment of fair housing. HUD recommends, though does not really incentivize, a regional approach to assessing housing needs and developing strategies. While each local jurisdiction in the Washington DC area will still develop its own financial, land use and other tools to meet local housing needs, there may be some degree of regional assessment that could be undertaken. Local elected officials, along with housing and planning directors, should become better informed about what it would take to do a regional assessment of fair housing, and whether some type of regional approach is possible.

Share best practices. At the very least, local jurisdictions in the Washington DC region need to do a better job at sharing best practices for expanding housing options. In the last few years, many jurisdictions in the region have conducted housing studies that have led to the development of policy recommendations. The policies and plans should be shared across jurisdictions through MWCOG or another regional body so that jurisdictions can learn from each other and possibly help promote consistency in policies and regulations throughout the region.

Focus on community engagement. There is no silver bullet that we have yet to discover that will solve our region’s housing challenges. Jurisdictions in the Washington DC region are among the most innovative communities in the country in terms of affordable housing tools. We know what needs to be done. The major obstacle that remains is building political will and responding to community opposition to housing, particularly multi-family housing and housing affordable to low-income individuals and families. We should work together to solve the NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue by figuring out how to respond to concerns about density, schools, and parking; how to provide elected officials with education and information they can use at public meetings; and how to have conversations that promote inclusion and tolerance.

On that last point, I think there would be a lot of people in our region who would want to be part of that conversation right now.

The Power of the Living Wage: What Cost Burden Looks Like

November 1, 2016
November 1, 2016
Photo courtesy of Kate Gardiner

Photo courtesy of Kate Gardiner

By Lisa Sturtevant, PhD

According to recent American Community Survey (ACS) data, more than one in five households in the District of Columbia is severely cost burdened, including 27 percent of renters and 12 percent of home owners. When individuals and families pay a disproportionately high share of their income on housing—50 percent or more—they often face challenges paying for other necessities, including food, health care, child care and transportation. In DC, about 60,000 households face this challenge. However, the rates of severe cost burden vary substantially for different segments of the population. Demographic characteristics like age and immigration status matter, but household income is the primary determinant of whether a household is severely cost burdened. While not surprising, this suggests opportunities for the housing industry and workforce development organizations to work together to expand housing options by both increasing the housing supply and growing incomes of residents of DC and the rest of the region.

Some populations in the District are more likely than others to face affordability challenges. The rate of severely cost burdened households is higher among renters (27.4 percent) than for the overall population. While seniors age 65 or older are just about as likely as the overall population in DC to be severely cost burdened, the challenges are greater for the more vulnerable 85+ senior population (24.8 percent are severely cost burdened) and people with disabilities (33.6 percent are severely cost burdened). Single-parent families and immigrant households are also disproportionately cost burdened, with rates of severe cost burden of 32.2 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively.

But the single biggest factor that is associated with cost burden is income. Most low-income families and individuals find it difficult to find affordable housing in the District, including households with full-time workers. An individual working a full-time job at the city’s minimum wage (currently $11.50 per hour) would earn about $24,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of households with incomes at or below this full-time minimum wage worker salary are severely cost burdened, paying half or more of that income every month towards housing costs. This group of lower-income households includes non-working households, as well, but this particular statistic is emblematic of the struggles of low-wage working households in the city and, indeed, throughout the region.

Look what happens when you examine the rates of severe cost burden only for households with incomes above the city’s minimum wage. The rates of severe cost burden are significantly lower for all groups with a household income higher than what a full-time minimum wage worker would earn in a year. About nine percent of these higher-income older seniors (age 85+) and immigrants are severely cost burdened. Among single-parents and immigrants, about 11 percent are severely cost burdened if they earn income greater than the full-time city minimum wage. These shares are dramatically lower than for the same groups that earn lower incomes.

The District of Columbia is among a growing number of states and localities that has instituted a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum and has planned increases. By 2020, the minimum wage in DC is set to rise to $15 per hour. A full-time, year-round worker at this wage would earn $31,200 annually. In Maryland, the statewide minimum wage increased from $8.25 to $8.75 per hour in October but in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the local minimum wage is $10.75 per hour. In Virginia, the minimum wage remains at the Federal level of $7.25 per hour.

Advocating for a higher minimum wage—or a living wage—in the region’s jurisdictions would help put more money in the pockets of people in lower-skill, lower-wage jobs. With more money, it could be easier for these individuals and families to find housing they can afford. However, it is possible—though by no means conclusive—that an increase in a local minimum wage could actually lead to increases in rents at the lower level. A coordinated effort of increasing wages AND expanding housing supply is the best way to ensure wage gains translate into access to more affordable housing in the city and in the wider Washington DC region. To that end, the housing industry and workforce development community should have a shared goal of working together to help alleviate the challenge for the many households living with incomes that are too low and housing costs that are too high.

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The Housing Choices (and Constraints) for Millennials

September 27, 2016
September 27, 2016

By Lisa Sturtevant, PhD
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You can’t hide from media reporting on Millennials and home ownership. But the message tends to be oversimplified and often contradictory. Millennials are getting set to jump into home ownership. Millennials are walking away from home ownership. Some reports say student debt is the reason Millennials can’t buy a home. Others say it’s not.

The attention to Millennials housing choices is justifiable. The generation of Millennials—those roughly age 18 to 34—have surpassed the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest generation and are in prime household formation. Furthermore, surveys of Millennials uniformly find that the vast majority of this population wants to be home owners. For these reasons, Millennials will potentially have an enormous impact on the nation’s housing market.

As we know, however, housing markets are local. The Millennial population in the Washington DC region tends to be more highly educated and have higher incomes than Millennials in other parts of the country. But home prices are also substantially higher in the region than they are in other places. So what are the prospects for home ownership among 20- and 30-somethings in the DC region and how will their choices and the constraints they face impact their ability to accumulate wealth through home ownership?

There are about 1.5 million people between the ages of 18 and 34 figure1afigure1bin the Washington DC metropolitan area. The shares of Millennials tend to be higher in closer-in jurisdictions like the District of Columbia (35%) and Arlington County (34%), but Millennials make up substantial shares of the population in the region’s suburbs, for example in Loudoun County (20%) and Montgomery County (21%). The housing choices this group is making now and will make in the future depends on their economic situations and choices about marriage and family, as on the available housing opportunities in the region. These factors combined will determine the extent to which young adult households in the Washington DC region will be longer-term renters than past generations—or will move out of the region where they find more affordable home ownership opportunities.

There are two key decisions individuals make that are relevant to understanding home ownership potential among Millennials—whether or not to form an independent household (measured by headship rates) and whether to rent or buy (tenure choice).
Headship

Headship
Headship rates are defined as the percentage of people that are heads of households. The main way young people become the head of a household is when they move out of their parents’ home. Households are also formed—and therefore headship rates are higher—when roommates that are living together decide to live on their own. Headship rates decline when individuals living alone get married or move in together.

Headship rates for the 25-to-34 year old population were lower in 2014 than in 2005 or 2000. (The focus in this section is on the older Millennial population who are most likely to be looking at home ownership.) Therefore, young adults in the Washington DC region are not forming independent households at the same rate as they did at the height of the housing market or even back during a more “normal” housing market. The biggest decline in headship rates were in Prince William and Prince George’s counties. These are the jurisdictions that were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis and also tend to have lower household incomes that in other jurisdictions in the region.

Tenure

figure2Home ownership rates have fallen pretty substantially since the height of housing market and the declines have been biggest among young adult households. Perhaps, surprisingly, though, home ownership rates have rebounded more quickly in the District and Arlington—places with some of the highest housing costs—than in many other places in the region. For example, the home ownership rate among 25-to-34 year olds in the District was 18.9 percent, lower than the 2005 rate of 27.2 percent but not too much lower than the rate among this age group in 2000. In Arlington County, the home ownership rate was over 30 percent for 25-to-34 year olds in 2005. The 2014 rate of 21.1 percent, however, is in line with the rate in 2000. The biggest drops in home ownership have been in Montgomery and Loudoun counties. One conclusion from these trends may be that home ownership opportunities have rebounded for the highest income Millennials who are able to buy in the District and close-in locations but remain limited for young adults with more modest incomes.

Home Prices
Most young adult households do not earn above the area median income and the vast majority of homes on the market are unaffordable to them. In 2015, the median income for a household headed by someone age 25 to 44 was $92,326. (Data were not available specifically for the 25-to-34 year old population; however, the median household income for this younger cohort will be lower.) Under standard assumptions, a household with an income of about $92,000 could afford to purchase a home priced at about $370,000 (four times income). However, options are few in many parts of the region. In the District, the average sales price of a condo in August 2016 was nearly $520,000 and the average townhouse price in the city was over $740,000! In the broad Suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia regions—which includes Frederick, Charles and Calvert counties in Maryland and areas south to the Fredericksburg area figure3and west to Fauquier and Clarke counties in Virginia—prices were lower. The average condo in Northern Virginia was about $300,000 and it was about $230,000 in Suburban Maryland. The average townhouse sold for $406,000 in Northern Virginia and $293,000 in Suburban Maryland. But prices were much higher closer in and in areas well connected to jobs, transit, and amenities. For example, in the City of Alexandria, the average two-bedroom townhouse sold for $590,000 in August 2016. In Arlington, the average condo sold for $430,000.

Implications for Millennials—and the Region

    Will Millennials in the Washington DC region become home owners at the same rate as past generations? Probably not. Overall, they definitely won’t become home owners as easily or as young as Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers did. There are several implications of the delayed and abandoned home ownership among Millennials.

  • Many Millennials will rent for much longer than they anticipated. As a result, many young adult households will not be able to take advantage of historically low interest rates and will not be able to start accumulating wealth through home ownership. While some may choose to rent, others will rent long-term out of necessity and will be subject to rising rents each year. Furthermore, as Millennials marry and have children, they may find few rental options that are large enough or otherwise suitable for families.
  • Moderate-income Millennials who want to buy a home will move to further out neighborhoods. The desire for home ownership will supersede the desire for close-in walkable locations for at least some Millennials. Therefore, these households will “drive ‘til they qualify” to find a home they can afford. Increased demand for housing further from transit and jobs can have negative impacts on traffic congestion and environmental quality in the region, as well as on families that endure long commutes.
  • Some Millennials will leave the region. Some young adults in the Washington DC metro area, including some highly skilled, college-educated workers, will choose to leave the region and move somewhere with a lower cost of living and more options for home ownership. The local economy loses out when workers are forced leave to find more affordable housing.

There are no easy solutions to increasing home ownership opportunities for Millennials in our region since this particular housing issue is so closely tied to challenges related to student debt, access to credit and wage and employment growth. However, it is important to continue to support the construction of new housing that is affordable to more moderate-income homebuyers, which could mean changing zoning to allow smaller housing units or residential buildings that fill the “missing middle.” In addition, local governments, businesses and advocacy groups can work together to help identify resources for downpayment or other home purchase assistance for first-time homebuyers.

Housing as School Policy

September 22, 2016
September 22, 2016

By Lisa Sturtevant, PhD

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There is abundant research showing that stable and affordable housing is associated with improved educational outcomes among children in low-income families. Access to affordable housing can result in fewer moves and can reduce overcrowding and other housing-related stresses. Housing assistance can help families move to neighborhoods with higher quality schools and housing investments can be part of broader, holistic community development efforts that lead to better outcomes for children.

Housing is important to educational outcomes because the school that a child attends is usually determined by where she lives. (Charter schools and school choice in some communities can weaken this link between residence location and school location.) Higher-quality schools—whether measured by test scores, teacher tenure and quality, or availability of resources—tend be located in communities where housing costs and incomes are higher. As a result, when families are segregated by income, it also means their children are segregated by school quality.

Unfortunately, income segregation is on the rise for families with children. According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California, between 1990 and 2010, families with children became more likely to live in neighborhoods segregated by income. Over the same period, there was no change in income segregation among families without children. This means that all of the recent increase in income segregation in the U.S. has been among families with children. We know that place matters not just for education outcomes but also for economic mobility opportunities for children, so this recent trend in income segregation among families is particularly concerning.

It is not uncommon to hear that “housing policy is school policy.” Housing programs can help lower-income families access neighborhoods with better schools, and can help alleviate the concentration of poverty in neighborhood schools. But what housing policies have worked the best to help families access good neighborhoods and good schools?

Inclusionary zoning policies can be a key way to support positive educational outcomes. There are more than 500 local inclusionary zoning (IZ) programs across the country, and many of the jurisdictions in the Washington DC region have IZ or IZ-like affordable housing programs. Research has found that affordable units produced through an IZ program are more likely to be located in low-poverty school districts than housing opportunities created through either the Housing Choice Voucher or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit programs. IZ is not a silver bullet for connecting children to high-quality schools, however, and program design matters. A RAND study has shown that Montgomery County’s MPDU program has been singularly effective at locating housing in low-poverty neighborhoods, which has led to better academic outcomes for children in those homes.

Voucher mobility programs can be effective at connecting families to neighborhoods with high-quality schools, but intensive search assistance and other supports seem necessary. Research on the federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program has generally found that while the program helps families find housing they can afford, families receiving a voucher tend to live in neighborhoods with low-performing schools. Housing search assistance and pre- and post-move counseling can make a voucher program much more successful at getting families into housing in neighborhoods with good schools and ultimately lead to better educational outcomes for children. Furthermore, the most effective housing mobility programs operate at a regional scale, streamlining the porting and the administration process across jurisdictions.

The housing tax credit allocation process is another important mechanisms for expanding housing options in neighborhoods with high-quality schools. Tax credits are allocated to the states from the Federal government and a state entity (e.g. a state housing finance agency) awards credits on a competitive basis to projects that meet criteria and recommendations set out in the state’s Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). (Nine-percent credits are awarded competitively.) The QAP and the allocation process can have a big impact on the number and types of affordable projects that get built in neighborhoods with good schools. According to a recent report by Enterprise Community Partners, states can prioritize access to good schools in their allocation processes. Maryland, for example, has the option to increase the eligible basis of projects if they offer “reasonable access to jobs, quality schools and other economic and social benefits.” But the link between housing and good schools is not often an explicit part of a state’s QAP.

These policies can help families access housing they can afford in neighborhoods that have good schools. But it will never be possible to move everyone. Just like other approaches to connecting families to opportunity, developing joint housing-school policies should be a “both/and” proposition—both investing in housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods with good schools and investing in existing communities to improve neighborhoods and schools. And no matter the policy approach, it is an important first step to ensure that people who care about schools and people who care about housing—who all care about the quality of life of families and children—are talking and working together. Housing Virginia recently convened a group to explore and improve the connections between affordable housing and schools. As we head back to school, thinking about how to do more of that collaboration is essential for ensuring all students have a successful school year!