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NLIHC President Sheila Crowley Testifies on Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Proposal
WASHINGTON - March 17 - National Low Income Housing Coalition President Sheila Crowley testified before the House Financial Services Committee today on the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI), which is the Obama Administration's proposal for the next iteration of the controversial HOPE VI public housing program. As written, CNI is intended to transform neighborhoods with distressed housing, including federal public or assisted housing. However, it would ultimately provide little help to the millions of low and extremely low income people most in need across the country.
Ms. Crowley offered suggestions for improving the CNI proposal, but also renewed her call for the Administration to secure $1 billion in funding for the National Housing Trust Fund and 250,000 new housing vouchers. Each would have a positive impact on the lives of many more people with extremely low incomes, she said.
CNI is intended to transform neighborhoods with distressed housing, including federal public or assisted housing, into thriving communities. CNI is based on the HOPE VI program, which was developed in the early 1990s and of which NLIHC has been critical. While HOPE VI is credited by some with creating "restored" communities, the program came with a very high cost. In many HOPE VI projects, original residents were displaced, and the demolition of units helped to contribute to the shortage of rental homes that the lowest income people could afford.
Ms. Crowley testified that in addition to CNI being rooted in the HOPE VI program, the proposal has its own flaws. Ms. Crowley made several recommendations to increase the potential of the program. These include:
- CNI grantees should be required to develop and adhere to a long term Affordability Plan, which would include an initial assessment of housing affordable to extremely low and very low income households (both assisted and unassisted) in the neighborhood. It is critical that communities preserve and work to increase subsidized and private housing that is affordable to the lowest income people.
- The proposal's one-for-one replacement of each unit of housing provision needs to be made stronger and clearer. The new proposal does not make any changes to the original CNI draft provision on one-for-one replacement, which NLIHC fears could potentially result in the loss of units, or strengthen CNI's resident participation requirements, which NLIHC recommends.
- The funds provided for resident participation and services should be realistically based. The proposal would place restrictions on the use of CNI funds: no funds could be used to construct or rehabilitate a school; not more than 15% could be used for supportive services; and not more than 15% could be used for non-housing activities, such as parks, commercial facilities, and public transit.
Ms. Crowley concluded her testimony by stating that the affordable housing crisis has reached a critical tipping point. The Administration and Congress must act now if a real solution to help those in dire need of assistance is to become a reality.
"The Obama Administration and Congress should tackle the macro problem of the shortage of homes that are affordable to the neediest of our citizens. We urge that an agreement be reached soon on how to provide the initial capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund," said Ms. Crowley. "This should be followed quickly by agreement on long term revenue sources to allow the program to go the scale needed to actually change the supply side of the supply and demand equation for housing that the lowest income people can afford. Revenue sources need to be sufficient to reach the goal of 1.5 million new homes over ten years."
Other witnesses at the hearing include: Shaun Donovan, Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Orlando Cabrera, former Assistant Secretary for Public and Assisted Housing, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and CEO, National Community Renaissance; Sheila Crowley, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition; Edward Goetz, Director, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota; Nancy Rockett Eldridge, Executive Director, Cathedral Square Corporation; Jill Khadduri, Principal Associate, Abt Associates; Saul Ramirez, Executive Director, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; and Kristin Siglin, Vice President and Senior Policy Adviser, Enterprise Community Partners.
full testimony is available at: http://www.nlihc.org/detail/