There are many national groups working to preserve and expand affordable housing, but the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) is the primary organization that focuses on making sure that Americans with the lowest incomes have access to decent housing.
Founded in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, NLIHC is made up of more than 1,100 individuals and organizations across the country, including Housing Action NH and the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC).
Greg Payne, a Development Officer at Avesta Housing, is the Director of MAHC. He is also the Chair of the Board of Directors of NLIHC.
“Fundamentally, NLIHC is a policy advocacy organization,” said Payne. “Their staff educates lawmakers about housing needs to help shape socially just public policy, and they mobilize members, like MAHC, to do the same.”
In addition, NLIHC has a research arm that studies trends and analyzes data to create a picture of the need for affordable housing. One important study is the annual Out of Reach report, which uses HUD data to document the gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing. According to Payne, when Maine policymakers call, Out of Reach is “one of the go-to” education tools.
Tax policy and budget bill
Along with groups like NNEHIF and the National Association of State and Local Equity Funds (NASLEF), NLIHC was deeply involved in the advocacy work around tax reform legislation. While NLIHC fought to protect the LIHTC program, they are also very concerned about the pressure on future budgets that will likely occur from the increased deficit as a result of the tax bill.
Housing advocates were worried that the two-year budget agreement that Congress recently passed would exacerbate the problem by making massive cuts to non-discretionary programs. The agreement did not contain those budget cuts, but Payne and NLIHC leadership keep the good news in perspective.
“We are relieved that these programs weren’t killed, but the status quo is still woefully inadequate to meet housing needs,” explained Payne. “The recent budget agreement combined with the new tax policy still puts us in a worse place than before the 2016 election – here in Maine, we can expect to see about a 10% decline in the number of affordable apartments that we’ll be able to build.”
In the coming year, the NLIHC will continue to put a focus on the level of unmet housing needs in the U.S. One policy item that they’ll be actively engaging with is housing finance reform and the opportunity to expand the National Housing Trust Fund.
NLIHC is also anticipating that the federal government will likely propose changes to housing programs, such as raising minimum rents for extremely low income people and proposing work requirements. The coalition will work to ensure that those kinds of policy debates are based in a factual understanding of who lives in assisted housing.
Another important issue is the need for housing for people affected by the devastating hurricanes in 2017. NLIHC has been bringing organizations and communities together to speak to what the housing needs are in recovery, both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland. The goal is to make sure that the federal response to disaster recovery is equitable – and keeps the need for housing front and center.