My Summer Daydream

3 min read

Do my eyes and ears deceive me? Has affordable housing really been edging its way into popular culture and the mainstream media?

Just this morning I turned on NPR to learn that HUD Secretary Julian Castro would be the featured guest on the Diane Rehm Show. The subject of their conversation: HUD’s efforts to alleviate poverty through affordable housing policy. The previous week a major story was featured on the NPR Flagship news program All Things Considered highlighting the city of New Orleans’ efforts to implement a “Housing First” program and to end homelessness amongst veterans. Recently major stories have also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Washington Post exploring the implications of our nation’s fair housing policies.

I suspect many more people will have gotten their first exposure to the issues we grapple with as affordable housing professionals as a result of HBO’s new series Show Me A Hero, which premiered on August 16. The powerful new drama created by David Simon (creator of The Wire and Treme) adapts a book of the same name by Lisa Belkin and explores how the politics of fair housing, desegregation and affordable housing played out twenty years ago in Yonkers, New York. This could not be more timely and coincides with the group efforts I highlighted in last month’s column (“Make Room” and “J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families”).

I hope popular television will succeed in expanding audiences for these issues beyond anti-poverty, affordable housing and civil rights communities and help to inspire a renewed national dialogue on the importance of fair and affordable rental housing.

There will be many opportunities this fall for our nation’s leaders to demonstrate they are hearing the message and buck expectations. In the short-term, both Houses of Congress must still agree on appropriations and tax extender legislation. While both Houses passed housing appropriations bills, the gulf between them is wide, and when we started the summer break we seemed no closer to ending the sequester, let alone passing funding legislation that does not cut or, worse, gut many of the essential programs we leverage in our day-to- day business.

Perhaps I got too much sun having just returned from a summer vacation, but I hope it is not too much to ask our Congress to change its proverbial spots. I would like to see our Senators and Representatives return from their summer recess refreshed and rejuvenated for the challenges they face this fall and with a renewed sense of the importance of affordable housing issues. If so, maybe, they will go back to work with a greater sense of urgency to make permanent important tax provisions like fixing the 9% and 4% credit rate floors for the LIHTC and extending the New Markets Tax Credit as well as restore adequate funding to HOME and other critical housing programs.

So dear reader, I hope you too were able to get some R&R this summer and also found a little time to educate your elected officials on the importance of our work in affordable housing. If not, there is still time for both. As Colin Powell said “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

Let’s get to work!