In 1974, Cushing N. Dolbeare founded the Ad Hoc Low Income Housing Coalition in response to the Nixon administration’s moratorium on federal housing programs. While this group focused on federal advocacy, other members established the Low Income Housing Information Service (LIHIS) in 1975 to provide information on housing problems and federal housing programs, as well as technical assistance and support to state and local housing advocacy efforts. In 1978, the ad hoc coalition was incorporated as the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). The two organizations operated jointly, with LIHIS focusing on information, public education, and technical assistance, and NLIHC focusing on advocacy. LIHIS launched a major initiative in 1992 to strengthen partner housing coalitions at the state level in response to the devolution of many federal programs. The maturation of NLIHC and LIHIS led to a decision in 1996 to formally merge the two organizations into one 501(c)(3) membership organization, governed by one board of directors. NLIHC today continues the public education, research and policy analysis, organizing, and advocacy work of its predecessor organizations.
Since its inception, NLIHC has been a leader in the effort to address the housing needs of those with the lowest incomes. Ms. Dolbeare recognized that there was no shortage of constituents concerned about low-income housing, but rather that constituents needed to be informed about when and how to make their voices heard. To better educate constituents, Ms. Dolbeare authored or co-authored dozens of articles, books, and reports. Her writings focused on a wide range of issues, such as the economic underpinnings of the housing crisis; the impact of the crisis on various segments of the population such as women, Hispanics and farm workers; and the unique challenges faced in addressing the housing crisis in urban areas versus rural areas. Ms. Dolbeare also designed the methodology for and was the original author of Out of Reach, NLIHC’s widely-cited annual report on the gap between housing costs and the wages of low-income people.
While numerous organizations concentrate on federal housing policy, NLIHC is unique because of our sole focus on the needs of extremely low-income people, the only population experiencing an absolute shortage of affordable housing. Today NLIHC has hundreds of members across the country. Combined with incisive research and policy analysis, NLIHC is a respected voice in Washington, D.C. that has helped produce policies impacting the lives of millions.