Do we need an X Prize to address affording housing in high-cost areas? Yes!

by Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

My father owned a small real estate business. He used to say that real estate was the best investment because you could live in it, borrow against it, or rent it out. I learned this lesson about asset building as a child. And still today, home ownership continues to be the largest investment that most people make. The asset of a home is one of the enduring symbols of having achieved the American dream. Those who own a home are rewarded through tax credits unavailable to non-home owners. The owned home is the source of funds that allows many people to send their children to college, and while all the votes aren’t in yet regarding the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, the home seems to be how some will support their retirement.

Yet far too many people are financially unable to purchase a home – this core to asset building. So, I am a bit surprised when those of us committed to social justice reform aren’t focused more on home ownership. I wanted to find out why. I talked with bankers, developers, and housing advocates. “The federal government used to subsidize the development of affordable houses,” one banker told me. “When they stopped, building these properties wasn’t practical.”  “What about condos?” I asked when a developer told me that land was just too expensive in our region. “We can’t depend on lower-income people being able to pay the condo fee,” was his response. No matter where I asked, roadblocks were the answer.

I refuse to believe that the American ingenuity that led to inventing the automobile, putting the first human on the moon, and building the internet can’t solve this problem. It just takes smart people focused on smart new solutions. What would happen if experts on land use joined with architects and builders, housing policy wonks, financiers, and community organizers to figure out how to produce affordable houses for low-income people in the Greater Washington region? What would it take to get people from various disciplines to actually come together? It has to be more than the basic principle of creating diverse housing stock to meet the housing needs of diverse income brackets. That reason hasn’t worked so far. What would catalyze such a conversation?

I think it would take an X Prize.

I believe that the simple act of enabling affordable home ownership in the Greater Washington region has to be seen as a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, and that a large sum of money has to be put on the table for an innovative team to solve it. We like to celebrate the number of people with advanced degrees who live in our region. We talk a lot about our knowledge economy. Nineteen institutions of higher learning are located here. And, I recently attended a meeting at which this region was touted as being more entrepreneurial than Silicon Valley based on the number of new ventures birthed here. We have the knowledge and we have the need. We can be a model for the country. Our problem is not unique.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this need rests within a larger sphere of need for affordable housing, including more affordable rental units. In fact, WRAG is already working to try to address it. But even housing advocates, were stunned to learn from an Urban Institute study last year that “not a single county in the United States has enough affordable housing for all of its extremely low-income renters.” Here in the Greater Washington region, where rental costs are soaring, we knew this reality. But certainly, we thought, someone, somewhere, had figured this out. No one has.

What a tremendous boost for the country it would be for the affordable housing challenge, both home ownership and the production and preservation of affordable rental units, to be solved right here in the nation’s capital.

Who will incentivize this work? Who can fund an X Prize? Philanthropy can.

New partnership brings support for small businesses in wards 7 and 8

DISTRICT/ECONOMY
As part of a new partnership between American University’s Center for Innovation in the Capital and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, an initiative called Project 500 will offer support to hundreds of small businesses focused in D.C.’s wards 7 and 8. (DCist, 5/4)

Project 500 […] will provide resources to 500 “disadvantaged small businesses,” helping them to “grow in revenue and size over the next three years,” according to a release. Targeted businesses in wards 7 and 8 will include home-based companies and start-up ventures. Help will come in the form of “hands-on training, capacity building, mentoring, and networking support.”

From data gathered between 2006-2010, the Urban Institute found that a vast majority of D.C.’s economically challenged neighborhoods are located in wards 7 and 8. And not much has changed, despite Mayor Bowser cutting the ribbons of a Thai restaurant in ward 7 and a juice bar in ward 8 last year.

– D.C. is often said to be gaining 1,000 new residents per month without much explanation behind the figures. Greater Greater Washington breaks down the data that is actually driving those numbers. (GGW, 5/4)

PHILANTHROPY 
– A growing number of funders are stepping up to get involved in the food waste movement, including Agua Fund and New Venture Fund. Inside Philanthropy ponders whether or not the movement will catch on further in the world of philanthropy. (Inside Philanthropy, 5/3)

– How philanthropy can address barriers to social mobility (Urban, 5/5)

GUN VIOLENCE | The Joyce Foundation, Urban Institute, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies have released a new research report on gun violence in America, along with a roadmap to building safer communities. You can review the report’s top findings here.

HEALTH/CHILDREN
– Judith Sandalow of The Children’s Law Center marks this year’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day by highlighting the progress that the District has made in addressing the needs of its youngest residents. (HuffPo, 5/5)

–  Autism Research’s Overlooked Racial Bias (Atlantic, 5/5)

TRANSIT/REGIONMetro To Announce Major Months-Long Rehab Effort Affecting Most Riders (WAMU, 5/5)

WORKFORCE | Have you ever thought about taking on a midlife internship opportunity? Maybe not, but a growing number of companies and social profit organizations are creating opportunities for adults who have taken career breaks to re-enter the workforce through “returnships.” (NYT, 5/5)


Thirty-three years ago, David Copperfield taught us all a big lesson about liberty.

– Ciara

Even a small amount of savings can make a difference for families

POVERTY
A new Urban Institute report explores the relationship between the economic health of cities and the financial health of its residents. While it’s no surprise that having wealthier families leads to wealthier cities, the study looks at how families experiencing hardships with even a small amount of savings can avoid spiraling into instability and creating greater costs for municipalities. (City Lab, 4/26):

Hardship outcomes matter to cities. Eviction is a leading cause of homelessness, especially for families with children. Eviction also leads some families to seek out substandard living conditions. Residential instability limits opportunities for children and youths. Missed utility payments, another form of hardship, is a cost for municipalities. So are public benefits.

[..]

Financial insecurity is a problem for families that can take the form of food insecurity, poor health outcomes, and homelessness. The Urban Institute’s research shows that a family’s financial insecurity is also a city’s problem. When families without savings suffer income disruptions (which are common), they may turn to public benefits. Or they may turn to more expensive forms of support. Or they may suffer. All of these outcomes at the family level detract from a city’s overall financial health.

– Ahead of WRAG’s upcoming Brightest Minds event featuring author and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University Eldar Shafir on May 18WRAG’s Philanthropy Fellow Hannah Davis explains the notion of the “scarcity trap,” and why having too little is a big deal. (Daily, 4/26)

– Opinion: Natalie Wexler, education blogger/editor of Greater Greater Education and DC Eduphile, and trustee of the Omega Foundation, explores why it’s so important for decision makers to stop viewing reading as the “broccoli” that low-income students must eat before getting to the “dessert”- art, history, music and more. (DC Eduphile, 4/18)

– The Growing College-Degree Wealth Gap (Atlantic, 4/25)

HEALTH
–  Heroin epidemic worsens in Virginia (WTOP, 4/25)

– Suicide rates are on the rise for every age group under 75, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 experiencing the highest percent increase. Economic stagnation, drug use, lack of health coverage, and even earlier puberty ages are counted as possible reasons for depression that leads to more suicides. (WAMU, 4/21)

– Do Local Governments Have a Role to Play in Mental Health? (City Lab, 4/19)

ARTS
– Americans for the Arts delivers their sixth and final publication of the National Arts Index, an annual report on the health and vitality of arts and culture in the U.S.

– With a number of recent transitions in the District’s dance scene, here’s a look at what’s on the horizon in the near future. (Dance Magazine, 4/15)

AudioIs Jazz Sustainable In Washington, D.C.? (WAMU, 4/21)


Have you read any of these remarkable book titles?

– Ciara

A long-term look at child poverty in America

POVERTY
With 40 years of data, a new analysis by the Urban Institute finds that two in five American children experience poverty at some point during childhood. The study also looks at how a child’s future adult success is affected by their parent’s circumstances. (Urban Institute, 9/9)

One in every five children currently lives in poverty, but nearly twice as many experience poverty sometime during childhood. Using 40 years of data, this analysis follows children from birth to age 17, then through their 20s, to examine how childhood poverty and family and neighborhood characteristics relate to achievement in young adulthood, such as completing high school by age 20, enrolling in postsecondary education by age 25, completing a four-year college degree by age 25, and being consistently employed from ages 25 to 30. Parents’ education achievement, residential stability, and neighborhood quality all relate to adult success.

COMMUNITY | Congratulations to Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, president and CEO of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, on being named one of Washington Business Journal‘s 2016 Women Who Mean Business. Read more about her receiving the honor here. (WBJ, 9/11)

PHILANTHROPY | Operating and being an employee of a family foundation can come with its own very unique set of challenges. Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation in Boston, shares how he manages to avoid pitfalls and maintain his family’s legacy. (NYT, 9/11)

EDUCATION/DISTRICTSchool choice complicates Promise Neighborhood’s efforts to help kids (WaPo, 9/12)

HOUSING
– Many conflicting studies exist on the topics of gentrification and displacement. While researchers look for a narrative within data they gather on neighborhoods experiencing major changes, it’s possible that no study has really gotten the story “right” yet. (WaPo, 9/14)

Opinion: Five myths about public housing (WaPo, 9/11)

FINANCIAL LITERACY |  Pitfalls for the Unwary Borrower Out on the Frontiers of Banking (NYT, 9/13)


The science behind waiting in lines.

– Ciara

New reports on the critical need for affordable housing in the Greater Washington Region

AFFORDABLE HOUSING/REGION
In response to alarming data surrounding housing affordability in the region, the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group (GWHLG) presents a new report by Nonprofit Quarterly columnist Rick Cohen. The report – supported by Enterprise Community Partners, Citi Foundation, and WRAG – highlights the need for collaboration to invest in solving the region’s affordable housing crisis. Click here to access the full report, Call the Question: Will the Greater Washington Region Collaborate and Invest to Solve its Affordable Housing Shortage? 

Since June 2014, the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group – a collection of more than a dozen public and private sector leaders concerned about housing affordability – has been meeting to examine: 1) the nature of the affordable housing shortage in the greater Washington area; 2) the relationship of housing affordability to economic growth; and 3) strategies to increase affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households in the region.

In July 2014, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region released new research, Housing Security in the Washington Region, prepared by the Urban Institute and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments based on 2011 data, the most recent available. A key finding of the study concludes that, currently, 250,000 households (including 147,000 renter households) making less than 80 percent of the area median income are paying more than half of their gross income on housing costs.

The full extent of the affordable housing shortage required an analysis of future economic growth and accompanying populations. Research from the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis (CRA) shows that future growth industries for our region will be in the retail, hospitality, healthcare, and construction sectors – jobs which pay lower wages. Thousands of critical jobs in today’s workforce also fall in the lowerto moderate-income range, including teachers, health care professionals, entry level office workers, and local government employees. In 2015, CRA developed affordable housing need projections based on their latest regional economic outlook projections showing a need for the region to provide 149,000 new low-income housing units between 2011 and 2023 to accommodate projected job growth in the region.

 

– Another newly-released report (mentioned above) by Jeannette Chapman of the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis – commissioned by Enterprise Community Partners, and supported by GWHLG – focuses on regional solutions for Greater Washington’s affordable housing needs by the year 2023. The report titled, The Greater Washington Region’s Future Housing Needs: 2023, can be found here.

– The Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) has released a public service announcement campaign to raise awareness about the great need for affordable housing using statistics about the average take-home pay for the professionals who are often very important in our daily lives. Have you seen this PSA around yet?

What’s ‘new’ in affordable housing? Not a lot — yet (Elevation DC, 6/19)

EDUCATION/DISTRICT | After a recent independent evaluation on the state of D.C. schools by the National Research Council, education leaders agree that although the system has come a long way, it still needs a lot of work to get to where it needs to be. (WaPo, 6/22)

POVERTY | A quarter of Americans are one emergency away from financial ruin (WaPo, 6/23)


How’s this for a real Metro map? What do you think?

– Ciara

Opinions vary greatly in survey of District residents

DISTRICT
Results from the Talking Transition DC survey, a grassroots initiative sponsored by Open Society Foundations, conducted by DC Vote, DC Working Families, National Institute for Civil Discourse, and the Urban Institute, with support by HR&A Advisors, were released this week. The project gathered opinions from thousands of District residents on a number of topics, and found some big differences in a few areas (DCist, 4/7):

Across all eight wards, most D.C. residents seem to agree: our city’s housing is unaffordable, access to healthcare is decent, and Internet access is pretty good.

But opinions about police-community relations, public safety, and job availability resulted in a stark divide – with Wards 7 and 8 responding far more negatively than other parts of the city, according to a newly released survey by the Talking Transition DC initiative.

HOMELESSNESS | D.C. Sheltered Homeless Families in Maryland Hotels As Winter Crisis Worsened (WCP, 4/7)

EVENTS | Is your nonprofit or business prepared for a hurricane, flood, fire, or other emergency? Join United Way of the National Capital Area and American Red Cross in the National Capital Region for a public community preparedness forum on Wednesday, April 22, at 7:30 AM at George Mason University – Arlington, VA campus. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness and collaboration among D.C., Maryland, and Virginia nonprofit and business stakeholders to prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters. Click here to learn more and to register for the training.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | At a recent meeting, democratic candidates for Arlington County Board weighed in on solutions for affordable housing in the area. Here’s a recap of some of the priorities each candidate presented. (ARLNow, 4/7)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: The business world’s urgent response to the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in Indiana may provide some important lessons for the world of philanthropy. (Chronicle, 4/7)


Not in the mood to brave the crowds to view the cherry blossoms this year? You can look at them on these 24-hour web cams instead.

– Ciara

 

Health care systems ramp up efforts to assist hardest-to-help patients

HEALTH/POVERTY
For many Americans, health issues are further complicated by the effects of addiction, homelessness, and poverty. For that reason, a number of health systems across the country – including Kaiser Permanentehave begun experiments in providing more comprehensive care for those in poverty, in an effort to curb the high costs of care. (NYT, 3/22)

What is [the health care system’s] role in tackling problems of poverty? And will addressing those problems save money?

“We had this forehead-smacking realization that poverty has all of these expensive consequences in health care,” said Ross Owen, a county health official who helps run the experiment here [in Hennepin County, Minnesota]. “We’d pay to amputate a diabetic’s foot, but not for a warm pair of winter boots.”

Now health systems around the nation are trying to buy the boots, metaphorically speaking. In Portland, Ore., health outreach workers help patients get driver’s licenses and give them essentials, such as bus tickets, blankets, calendars and adult diapers. In New York, medical teams are trained to handle eviction notices like medical emergencies. In Philadelphia, community health workers shop for groceries with diabetic patients

PHILANTHROPY
– Foundations of every size are “getting on the map!” Lori Jackson, executive manager at the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust, shares why they’re joining a growing list of funders in e-reporting their grants data to the Foundation Center. (Daily, 3/23)

What becomes of an initiative once funders have ended support and hand the program over to the community? Results may vary greatly, but there are ways to continue moving forward and increase the odds of sustainability. (SSIR, 3/13)

Urban Institute Gets $8.4 Million to Help Measure Pay-for-Success Programs (Chronicle, 3/18)

CSR | On April 1, 2014, the India Companies Act went into effect. The new law requires companies meeting certain criteria to spend 2 percent of rolling average net profits from the past three financial years on specific CSR activities. WRAG member and 2015 Institute for CSR class member, Anita Whitehead, from KPMG LLP gives a succinct overview of the new rule and how it affects companies working in the country. (TCB Blogs, 3/3)

VIRGINIAAttorney General appoints NOVA community outreach coordinator (Fairfax Times, 3/20)

DISTRICT | Ahead of Mayor Bowser’s first State of the District speech and budget proposal, this week will be dedicated to offering a preview of key themes that are expected to be discussed as part of the “Pathways to the Middle Class” agenda. (WaPo, 3/23)

ARTS | Brentwood Arts Exchange looks to move beyond walls in next five years (Gazette, 3/19)

FOOD | Both Parties Agree The Food Stamp Program Needs to Change. But How? (NPR, 3/20)


A beautiful, extraordinary, and priceless work of art…or just a generic print from Ikea?

– Ciara