A diverse group of more than 60 housing advocates from across Tennessee joined the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition (TNAHC) in Nashville on February 22 for the Coalition’s “Housing Day on the Hill.” The Coalition, whose membership includes housing developers, homeless service providers, Habitat for Humanity chapters, and others, designed the event to help legislators better understand both the diversity of and the need for affordable housing in the state.
TNAHC Housing Day on the Hill began with a legislative training for advocates, covering both state and federal policy. Ann Carr, lobbyist for public housing authorities in the state, told advocates that few of the 1400 bills introduced in the Tennessee legislature since January were related to housing, but encouraged the audience to meet with legislators and tell them how affordable housing impacts their districts. Sarah Jemison, housing advocacy organizer at NLIHC, spoke to the group about a number of threats at the federal level that could affect the state, including those related to the federal budget continuing resolution, proposed cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, tax reform, and reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Ms. Jemison also spoke about opportunities in the current political climate, including the potential for affordable housing to be incorporated in infrastructure investments and increased funding for affordable housing through the United for Homes campaign’s call for mortgage interest deduction reform.
Following the training, advocates attended a lunch hosted by TNAHC with legislators from across the state and discussed with them the need for affordable housing and the challenges of developing homes affordable to those with the greatest needs. Coalition members found that many legislators were unaware of the obstacles low income Tennesseans face in accessing affordable homes and the insufficiency of federal and state housing financing agency resources to meet the need of extremely low income households. The advocates urged legislators at the lunch and subsequent office meetings to include funding for affordable housing and supportive services for homeless households in the state budget.
The event drew a wide range of legislators and providers and offered advocates opportunities to share stories of those in need and data about the insufficiency of current programs. Organizers encouraged advocates to continue building relationships with their state and local elected officials to build support for affordable homes across Tennessee.
“It was great to see advocates from across the state joining together in support of affordable housing,” said Melanie Cordell, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless, an NLIHC member. “It is time for affordable housing to be placed in the state’s budget, and I am encouraged by the interest of our legislators to invest in housing. Now it is the role of advocates to continue to push for affordable housing funding across the state.”
To learn more about the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition, visit: www.tnahc.org