Needed: An invigorated and fresh federal focus on affordable and workforce housing strategies.
The time is ripe for a White House Conference to set a new high-priority national agenda on an increasingly daunting issue that requires high-visibility advocacy from the new President and his Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Shaun Donovan.
As foreclosures increase and Americans lose their homes, the demand and need for truly affordable housing (owned and rented) exponentially expands. Just because home values are resulting in lower prices in most real estate markets does not mean those with limited or no credit can afford to move into, fix up and sustain, over the long-term, a new residence without federal, state and local governmental assistance.
As States such as Florida try to reduce the amount of monies available for workforce housing initiatives (The Florida Legislature seeks to cut $190 million from an already raided state housing trust fund to help balance the budget), and as workers face layoffs, lost savings and retirement funds, President Obama needs to infuse this issue to the top of the new American Agenda.
A conference comprised of affordable housing advocates, officials from all levels of government, academic leaders, bankers, finance guru’s, entrepreneurs, construction and home building representatives and people affected by the housing crisis should be called with all deliberate speed. Executive Branch and Congressional leaders should herald a “National Affordable Housing Month” to focus on the need to resuscitate the economy by promoting home ownership and rental infrastructure incentives that will allow people to secure the fabric of their communities by getting and keeping people in housing they can afford, while at the same time promoting policies that encourage affordable housing near transportation hubs to help reduce neighborhood carbon footprints.
A “National Housing Month” initiative would further the White House urban agenda to increase the supply of attainable housing in Metropolitan Regions and the formation of a federal Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
In keeping with the President’s new media strategies, the results of an intensified look at low to middle income housing strategies can be posted on-line on the HUD.gov website, including 24/7 citizen access to financial literacy tools to keep, maintain and purchase attainable housing. The Department of Education could urge local school boards to hold a one day focus in social studies and civics classes which alert young minds to the issue and raise the national consciousness through academics.
An articulate dialogue, starting from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is the way to kick-start this effort. For when people move into homes, the economy begins to receive the electric shocks that produce progress, and we have another way to recover from these difficult times.