Back to School for Housing Advocates

September is back to school month, and that includes housing advocates as well.

There’s been a flurry of housing activity over the summer, and we have a lot of catching up to do. Since the announcement of HQ2 last November, housing as a regional priority has been rising, and we don’t see any sign of a let up. Elected officials, business leaders, anchor institutions and area philanthropic organizations have come together through a series of highly publicized events and forums to highlight the widening housing affordability gap, and the persistent racial and social inequities that accompany it.

In response, jurisdictions in NoVA have been busy reviewing their housing policies, programs and practices to determine if the systems in place are optimized to produce and preserve the maximum number of affordable homes. And November’s elections will provide another layer of complexity, adding new local and state elected officials who will need to be brought up to speed quickly to address unmet housing needs, challenges and solutions.

To keep advocates in the know, we’ve created a select list of housing resources.

Housing 101 Primer The Housing Toolkit is designed for advocates to assist policymakers—elected officials, planning commissioners, and members of housing advisory boards—in understanding the fundamental tools and programs that support affordable housing. Many newly-elected officials enter office with little or no housing knowledge. Having a broad and thorough understanding of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of affordable housing equips them with the resources for more effective policy and budgetary decision-making. Consult the Housing Glossary or the video series on Housing Finance to understand housing’s terminology and the complex set of factors that go into financing an affordable housing project. With the Policy Matrix, you can compare housing policies in multiple local jurisdictions. We hope this tool provides a broader regional perspective of housing programs and progress.

Advanced Reading Meeting the Washington Region’s Future Housing Needs A Framework for Regional Deliberations. Sponsored by the Greater Washington Partnership and JPMorgan Chase, this comprehensive research by the Urban Institute found that the region needs a net increase of 374,000 housing units to accommodate expected household growth by 2030. The report provides a menu of evidence-based tools and strategies that could make the biggest contribution toward meeting the region’s housing needs.

Required Reading Acknowledging Racism. Distorted housing markets that undermine the well-being of thousands of residents throughout the metro area must be seen through the lens of systemic and institutional racism. Two local events help us understand our country’s past and continued injustices toward people of color.

Interactive Workshop: The History of Racism in Housing in Arlington The League of Women Voters of Arlington (LWVA) is partnering with Challenging Racism, an Arlington nonprofit, and Virginia Humanities, to present an interactive program on the Federal Housing Administration’s mid-20th century use of redlining to prevent loans to people of color in selected areas. Using local maps and stories, Challenging Racism will show that by locking in segregated housing, these practices affect Arlington’s housing patterns to this day.

Breaking Bread, Breaking Walls A special series of interfaith dinners throughout the fall will focus on strengthening community. The dinners are hosted by Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church, Ventures in Community and multiple host communities. On Sunday, September 29, Rev. Dr. Kate Walker from the Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church will speak on the topic of “Racism and Perception Correction” at the Islamic Circle of North America.

Our takeaway from all of this?

We have a collective interest in getting this right. Our region needs more housing in all jurisdictions, and at all income levels. To address chronic traffic congestion, localities should promote development near mass transit. And our community conversations must examine outdated, exclusionary zoning policies and promote housing types that reflect multi-cultural, multi-generational communities. We must respect, preserve and invest in underserved, minority neighborhoods. These residents have a strong sense of community, and when redevelopment occurs, they want to remain in place to benefit from new opportunities.

Loudoun Chair Phyllis Randall, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, Arlington Chair Christian Dorsey, Prince William Chair Corey Stewart at a regional Chamber of Commerce summit in August. Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (not pictured) was also on the panel. Northern Virginia leaders said more political courage is needed to solve the region’s affordable housing crisis.