Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Correction: Metro HUD Grant Application Helping Expand and Drive Equity Discussions.

Changed reference below on LIHTC paper, with FORWARD from GARY Orfield.(Not Myron).
On Tuesday afternoon Metro held a meeting to discuss applying for a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant, with about 40 people in attendance. My notes from the meeting along with a series of observations:
  1. Metro Now "Gets" Regional Equity and Demographic Change and Sees HUD Grant Application as Opportunity to Help Drive Policy: To their credit Metro now appears to "get" the need to address regional equity issues and the needs of the growing Metro minority population. However delayed this recognition, this is an important first step and kudos to Metro Exec Michael Jordan AND to Council Robert Liberty for getting Metro to this point. (As a long time former HUD manager, seeing that a HUD grant opportunity has helped drive this recognition brings a smile to my face and validates the vision of HUD Secretary Donovan and Deputy Secretary Sims in developing this program from scratch).
  2. As always the devil is in the details and there are some aspects of the current model that pose opportunities and problems.
  3. Performance Measurement-Keep it Simple and Focused: An earlier draft I had seen projected $500,000 for performance measurement for development and tracking of an expanded list of regional indicators.That is WAY excessive, and performance measures should be limited to those required by HUD for their rating form[HUD has a draft form (MS Word) for that, including data sources] AND those that Metro is likely willing to include in framework and functional plans AND to commit to track. [Metro has voluntary goals and counts of affordable housing supply in the Functional Plan that are still not tracked]. Having a laundry list of performance measures made be of academic interest but will end up diverting attention from a much smaller set of measures that drive formal adopted policies.(Many existing Metro level measures already exist; see my post on Brookings measures HERE for examples).
  4. Focus on Neighborhood vs Regional Outcomes, LEED-ND May Help: The observation was made that people experience their social environment at the local/neighborhood level, and NOT primarily at the level that regional indicators typically show. One way that the HUD grant will likely evaluate neighborhood impacts is the LEED-Neighborhood Development rating system. One benefit of the HUD grant application process can be an opportunity to explore integrating the LEED-ND system into the decision making of other funding processes. 
  5. Metro's One Off Transportation/Housing Affordability Index Needs to Switch to H+T Index.  HUD's rating form includes the use of the H+T Index, and an affordability level of 45% of income, NOT the 50% of Income that Metro has proposed.  Use of the H+T index will also allow comparisons between Portland performance and other Metro areas.
  6. Housing Affordability, Project Based Vouchers, Localized Payment Standards and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program Are Key Tools: Housing Authorities and the LIHTC are key housing affordability tools, and focusing those resources to improve neighborhood level change is essential. The use of Project based vouchers by the Housing Authority of Portland is one of the singular positive outcomes of prior Metro regional housing strategies and the expanded leveraging of this resource throughout the region should be a key element of any affordable housing strategy. HUD movement toward more localized fair market rents/payment standards and a desire to consolidate voucher administration at the regional level may also pose opportunities for housing authorities in the Metro area. Changes in the Qualified Allocation plan and LIHTC monitoring can also leverage other resources (See recent analysis of linkage between LIHTC and schools in California HERE [features forward by GARY Orfield). HUD also has a statutorily mandated LIHTC demographic database in development that may  yield useful information about demographics of LIHTC properties.
  7. Outreach Needs Better Organization/Web and Social Media Offers Opportunity: Metro is to be commended for including organizations previously not included in affordable housing discussions. However at the meeting there was an ad hoc feel to the ongoing efforts with some confusion about who to email with suggestions. I would suggest establishment of a single web page at Metro for outreach on the HUD Sustainable Communities Planing grant and that it use social media so that others can track and contribute to the refinement of ideas associated with this grant AND related Metro development of equity policies. (Such a HUB doesn't have to be at Metro, but wherever it is the highest need is for constant comprehensive information readily available to all---failure to keep it constantly up to date and accessible to all would quickly render it irrelevant).
  8. Schools and Public Health Officials Need to be a KEY Part of any Equity Strategy and On Going Monitoring: Audience members were not introduced and education and public health officials may have been present, but the location of free lunch children in the HUD rating form should serve as a reminder that schools can serve as an early warning system for the concentration of poverty as can the homeless counts conducted annually. Specific efforts need to be made to include schools in the ongoing development of policies and monitoring of progress. Similarly, HUD's rating form requires the inclusion of incidence of preventable diseases by minority status and the involvement of public health officials is critical, especially with changes to health care system now underway.(How about a Metro goal that tracks the incidence of health care coverage to the neighborhood level AND/OR for all HUD tenants assisted by housing authorities?).
  9. Focus Affordability on Extremely Low Income Populations that Are Disproportionately Minority: HUD's rating form has some capturing of information on the access of low income household to jobs and fresh food access. Because of the higher concentration of minorities at lower incomes it is essential that housing affordability track affordability and availability for the lowest income residents, those with incomes at 30% and below of regional median family income.(Years ago I did a analysis that showed that nearly 1 in 5 African American households in Multnomah County were receiving HUD rental assistance from the Housing Authority of Portland). Not incidentally HUD assisted units also have high percentages of households with disabilities.
INVITE: I invite those who attended meeting and had different or additional "takes" to add their comments below.

Originally created and posted on the Oregon Housing Blog

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