The Delaware Housing Coalition (DHC), an NLIHC state partner, released their annual housing affordability report, “Who Can Afford to Live in Delaware?” at a June 24 stakeholder event on the state’s housing needs and DHC’s advocacy goals. Bringing together a diverse group of more than 60 advocates, direct service providers, developers, and representatives from government agencies, DHC presented the report along with an update on the national affordability crisis and the Coalition’s current legislative goals.
The “Who Can Afford to Live in Delaware?” report compiles data from NLIHC’s Out of Reach 2016 report, the Technical Assistance Collaborative’s (TAC) Priced Out: the Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities report, and information from the Delaware State Housing Authority to create a comprehensive picture of housing costs for low and moderate income homeowners and renters in the state. Customizing NLIHC data with additional information, DHC produced a far reaching analysis to engage the Coalition’s diverse membership. The report improves advocates’ understanding of the challenges facing low income Delawareans and educates policy makers on the need for more affordable housing resources and improved policies.
DHC Board President Jim Peffley opened the meeting and set the stage for discussions about housing affordability in Delaware and nationally and about priority budget issues. DHC Board Vice President Susan Starrett walked the audience through the 2016 report, highlighting the growing inability of Delaware’s poorest residents to afford housing, sharing Delaware’s “Housing Wage” from NLIHC’s Out of Reach 2016 report, and reviewing data on the state’s high cost of homeownership. While the audience was already aware of Delaware’s affordable housing problems, Ms. Starrett’s presentation provided details to illuminate the degree to which housing has become increasingly unaffordable in recent years.
NLIHC Housing Advocacy Organizer Sarah Jemison broadened the conversation to the national affordable housing landscape, discussing the national Housing Wage and the shortage of 7.2 million homes affordable and available for extremely low income renters nationwide (see The GAP 2016). She encouraged support for legislative solutions to housing poverty and homelessness, including the “Ending Homelessness Act of 2016” (H.R. 4888) and the “Pathways Out of Poverty Act of 2015” (H.R. 2721). Ms. Jemison also introduced advocates to the United for Homes campaign, which proposes increased funding for affordable housing programs like the national Housing Trust Fund and Housing Choice Vouchers program through sensible changes to the mortgage interest deduction (MID). Together Ms. Starrett and Ms. Jemison’s presentations provided a robust analysis of the need for expanded local, state and federal housing resources.
Debbie Hamilton, a government relations specialist engaged by DHC’s Nonprofit Housing Agenda, provided an update to the group on a range of state legislative issues, particularly the state budget and how advocates should engage on it. Despite opposition from DHC and other advocates, state lawmakers have moved funding for housing programs, including the Housing Development Fund (HDF) and the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), out of the General Fund and into the state Bond Bill using funds from the Bank of America Mortgage Settlement. Advocates are concerned this shift will establish a precedent for the absence of funding for housing programs in future budget resolutions. Ms. Hamilton urged the group to meet with legislators in their home districts and introduce them to constituents suffering from the lack of affordable housing, including the homeless, those who have lost their homes to foreclosure, and renters paying more than they can afford. She emphasized that such encounters are powerful for delivering the affordable housing message. DHC’s Executive Director Trish Kelleher added that advocates will need to be even more focused during the new legislative session. She urged them to use data from the “Who Can Afford to Live in Delaware?” report and to make their message very simple: a household paying 50% or more of their income on housing is unstably housed and in danger of becoming homeless.
Advocates left the event more aware of upcoming legislative threats and, thanks to the “Who Can Afford to Live in Delaware?” report, better equipped to advocate in support of increased funding for affordable housing. “The report is used by many Delaware agencies, whether nonprofit, government or for profit,” said Ms. Kelleher. “It is invaluable to the discussion on housing affordability and the widening wealth gap between rich and poor.”
For more information, contract Trish Kelleher at firstname.lastname@example.org