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My View Archive
Why? Rising homelessness in Washington State | PDF
Homelessness in Washington state has been increasing since 2013. That fact has been getting plenty of press—along with attempts at explaining why the earlier successes to reduce the number of homeless people are seeing a reversal. For this issue of My View, I’ve pulled together both data and on-the-ground perspectives from affordable housing experts to explain the recent increase. I hope you find both the data and observations informative and useful.
Health Care and Housing: Strengthening the connections between our health care and affordable housing systems | PDF
Decent, stable, affordable housing is a necessary condition of good health. Across our state, people with vision are taking this knowledge and pushing it a giant step further. They’re asking: What are the most effective ways that affordable housing can be utilized as a platform for promoting better health?
Washington Youth and Families Fund: Public-private partnerships are driving innovations to make youth and family homelessness rare, brief and one-time | PDF
Eleven years ago, an extraordinary partnership of people and organizations came together to help families transition out of homelessness. The Washington Families Fund (WFF) was established by our state legislature in 2004 as a way to leverage funding from both public allocations and private philanthropy to fund the range of services needed to make this a reality. I wrote about WFF’s founding and early successes in My View’s August 2006 issue. Already a remarkable achievement then, this program continues to reinvent itself through continuous innovation. In 2014, WFF partners took on a new challenge and a new name: Washington Youth and Families Fund (WYFF). With this transition, the unique developmental needs of homeless youth and young adults are now a core part of the fund’s mandate. This issue looks at how WYFF has grown, what it is accomplishing, and its stakeholders’ ambitions for the future.
Washington State is breaking new ground to implement smart, sustainable practices in affordable housing | PDF
Who doesn’t embrace the pursuit of clean energy, wise resource use, and healthy housing? The challenge for all of us engaged in creating and preserving affordable housing is: How can we achieve these objectives affordably and predictably—while minimizing complexities? For this issue of My View, I sought noteworthy sustainable energy practices in affordable housing in Washington that are being implemented successfully, that are replicable and measurable, and that can deliver value over time by reducing operational costs, preserving resources, and safeguarding resident health. I’m excited to feature these efforts, as shared by community leaders, developers, project managers, and green consultants.
The State of Washington 2015 Housing Needs Assessment: A Clearer Picture | PDF
In January, the Affordable Housing Advisory Board (AHAB) published the 2015 Housing Needs Assessment of Washington State, the first comprehensive, statewide study of our current housing affordability challenges in a dozen years. This issue of My View offers the perspectives of people who are engaged in diverse housing-related efforts in our state, sharing what new information from the study seems most pertinent to their work, their most important takeaways and how the study might impact our future policies.
2004 – 2014
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Despite challenges, Washington state’s Native American Housing Authorities rise to the top
What does creating and preserving affordable housing on Native American lands look like in our state? With which major issues do tribal leaders and housing authorities struggle? How do they go about solving them? What resources are available to them?
Meeting the Needs of Low-Wage Renters: Seattle’s Growing Affordability Gap
Seattle’s population is growing briskly. Rents are rising at a near-giddy pace. The cranes we see all over the downtown area and elsewhere in Seattle are signals of economic prosperity. Yet those who work at lower-wage jobs in Seattle are faced with the increasingly difficult challenge of securing a rental home they can afford. In this issue of My View, I present diverse perspectives from people across the Seattle community who are deeply engaged in seeking solutions to this challenge.
Federal housing policy at the crossroads – what’s at stake?
This issue of My View will look at how much affordable housing developers depend on federally created and supported tax incentives and financing programs to help people obtain affordable housing. It is also a look to the future. No one knows what will ultimately emerge from current efforts to reform our housing finance system and revise our federal tax code. I believe these reform efforts present a tremendous opportunity for all of us to reaffirm the critical role the federal government has to play to ensure that affordable housing is accessible to all Americans.
Celebrating Partnerships: 30 years
Meeting the Needs of Washington State Communities: 10 Commission Partners Tell Their Stories
The Commission was created to work in partnership with both private and public entities across our state and we have always known we can only be successful through meaningful partnerships. This issue of My View is part of our 30-year anniversary celebration; it focuses on 10 organizations, and their leaders, who represent our many partners.
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance: How a handful of organizations and individuals grew into a powerful movement for affordable housing in our state
This issue tells the story of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (the Alliance), Washington State’s lead champion in advocating for affordable housing. The Alliance has a rich history reaching back more than 30 years. Its roots can be traced to the Washington Coalition for Rural Housing (WCRH), which was created in 1980 to advocate for more affordable housing in rural Washington.
Homebuyer Education Seminars: 150,000 well-informed homebuyers since 1991—and growing every week
This is the story of a Commission-supported program that has taken on a life of its own: our free Homebuyer Education Seminars. We built the infrastructure for the seminars, train the instructors, provide the course materials, and monitor the program’s progress. But the hard work and dedication truly comes from the volunteer instructors who give their time and expertise, month after month and week after week, to educate participating homebuyers. I’ve asked five long-time seminar instructors to give their perspectives on the value of homebuyer education, and share their experiences. Two current homeowners who attended seminars also tell their stories. In sum, this is the story of why homebuyer education is so important.
Owning vs. Renting: Where do we stand in Washington State?
What’s the future of homeownership in our state? How does renting currently stack up against owning a home for the people who live here? Are we seeing a sea change in attitudes and values? Most importantly, whatever choice an individual or family makes, is it within reach? It’s a subject on everyone’s mind. The timing seems right to get a perspective on what’s happening here in Washington—what can be known amid all the uncertainties in the current economy. To get perspectives, I spoke with people all over the state: Realtors, developers and managers of rental housing, developers of affordable homeownership housing, mortgage brokers, rental property owners and credit counselors.
Washington State’s Foreclosure Fairness Act: A second try at a fair, clearly defined and enforceable process for homeowners facing foreclosure
Governor Gregoire signed the Foreclosure Fairness Act (FFA)—Second Substitute House Bill 1362—into law on April 14th, 2011. Getting this Act into a final form that all parties could agree on required many meetings, hard negotiations, significant compromise and line-by-line lawmaking. Many people participated in the process including legislators, affordable housing advocates, financial institutions, homeowners, attorneys, housing counselors, and state officials. For this issue of My View, I’ve spoken with many of the people who were integral to the passage of this legislation. They’ll share their perspectives on what they were looking to achieve, and what they think the impact of the FFA will be. Now, we all have a huge task ahead of us: Getting the word out about the new provisions of the Act that take effect on July 22. Hopefully, working together, homeowners in crisis and their lenders will have more time and more opportunities to avoid foreclosure and achieve a fair resolution in a timely manner.
The Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program: Financing help for people who are putting food on Washington’s tables—and helping our agricultural economy continue to thrive
The Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program (the “Program”) provides low interest-rate financing that helps people in this industry get off to a financially healthy start. Officially launched in 2008, it is aimed at helping Washington State residents who want to acquire agricultural land for the first time, will work it themselves—and need a hand in overcoming the huge barriers that producers face in getting started. It’s a small program; thus far, we’ve helped pave the way for affordable loans to 20 farm families. But there’s room for the program to grow, thanks to the Washington State Legislature and our partners, most especially, Northwest Farm Credit Services, the financial institution that makes the actual loans.
Washington State Coalition for the Homeless: 25 years of Heroic Efforts
In May, at the close of their 20th annual conference, the leadership of the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless honored their 25th anniversary year by sponsoring a Celebration Panel of people who have a unique perspective on their history. Eloquent and thoughtful, these 10 panelists gave us an incredible oral recounting of the Coalition’s founding and the great strides its membership has made since that time. This newsletter can’t possibly include all the successes, or acknowledge all the people who have participated, but it’s an attempt to capture the historical legacy, as told on that Celebration Panel.
Getting it right: Meeting the coming surge in demand for senior housing in Washington State
Seniors—those aged 65 or older—are our fastest-growing demographic. In 2025, senior Washingtonians are anticipated to make up about 20% of our state’s population. That’s close to double the percentage of just a few years ago. This rapid growth is spurring policy makers, advocates for the aging, communities, housing developers and service providers to grapple with the huge challenge of addressing the entire fabric of needs of our older residents. In Washington State, we currently do a lot of things right. We have strong policy-making; we’ve created community-driven partnerships between caregivers and affordable housing providers; and we have built a high level of quality into so much of our senior housing and care giving. In this issue of My View, I’ll introduce you to several of our state’s exemplary affordable housing communities and discuss many of the challenges and strategies they’re experiencing to meet our senior’s housing and service needs.
Award-Winning Housing in Washington State
I am often asked by legislators, public officials, and members of the public if we are producing any affordable housing that is built green or built to sustainable standards? Others inquire if the affordable housing we are financing in Washington is well designed and well built? In this issue of My View I answer those questions by providing a view into the many award-winning affordable housing properties that have been completed in our state. Overall, we received 29 qualifying nominations for award-winning affordable housing properties developed with federal, state, or local funding assistance. While I feature six very different properties from around the state as highlighted examples, another 23 of these properties are recognized through shorter summaries. I wish I had the space to feature them all. I hope you are as proud of these examples of the high-quality, energy-efficient, affordable housing we develop in Washington as I am.
Foreclosures on homes in Washington State (part two)
When My View first took on this topic in the April 2008 issue, chief among the causes was sub-prime loans. At that time, Washington ranked 49th nationally in the number of foreclosures. Now we’re closer to the middle of the pack. My goal for this issue is to update readers on the foreclosure picture in Washington State. I’ve reconnected with four of the counselors engaged in HUD-certified foreclosure counseling whose perspectives I shared in April 2008. Five additional hard-working counselors from across the state also weigh in, along with several federal and state officials who are working to help Washington families.
Seattle Housing Levy: The City’s significant investment in affordable housing
The Seattle Housing Levy is a singular achievement. It is a legacy in affordable housing production, homelessness prevention, and low-income homebuyer assistance that those of us who live in this region are justly proud of. There’s simply nothing quite like it anywhere else in the country. Seattle voters again and again have endorsed a property tax that takes dollars out of their pockets to create better housing opportunities for the least advantaged members of their community.
Housing agendas for the 2009 legislature
What should we do in the next legislative session to help Washington State housing markets regain their equilibrium? And what can be done to create more affordable housing opportunities for people at the lower end of the income spectrum? To answer these questions, I’ve interviewed leaders from six housing industry groups and homeless and low-income housing coalitions in our state. Whether nonprofit or for-profit, their constituents’ interests are not as divergent as you might think. The ideas and agendas they are bringing to the 2009 legislative session are strongly focused on proposals to help keep housing affordable—and available—to all Washington State residents.
Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008: What it means to Washington State
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, H.R. 3221, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush on July 30, marked a stunning move forward for all of us involved in affordable housing. This issue of My View presents a series of conversations with both national affordable housing leaders and with advocates working on the ground here in Washington State. They’ve shared their perspectives on how many of the Act’s key provisions came into being, and offer a first take on what this new legislation will mean for our communities.
Habitat for Humanity in Washington: 36 local success stories
I have wanted to feature our Washington State Habitat for Humanity affiliates in My View for some time. They work mightily to implement a highly complex but very successful homeownership model that serves very low-income families. All told, they’ve helped to build more than 1,000 affordable homes. Each affiliate has their own story, and I’ll highlight four affiliates in this issue to demonstrate their innovative efforts to build affordable homes across the state. I’ve also interviewed Maureen Howard, the executive director of their statewide organization, Habitat for Humanity of Washington State (HFHWA), which provides resource development, technical assistance, training, and an advocacy voice for the local affiliates. It’s a good story, I hope you enjoy it!
Celebrating the achievements of our Puget Sound HOPE VI communities
This issue of My View is a history and a celebration of the six HOPE VI redevelopments in the Puget Sound region. To date, just one project, Seattle Housing Authority’s (SHA) Westwood Heights, has completed construction. But all six redevelopments are in the process of building thriving communities and positively transforming their surrounding neighborhoods. We’ll take an in-depth look at the groundbreaking history of SHA’s NewHolly. That story will be told from the perspective of several leaders, including Doris Koo, Doris Morgan, former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, and current SHA Executive Director Tom Tierney. Next, we’ll take a close look at Tacoma Housing Authority’s (THA) Salishan development and King County Housing Authority’s (KCHA) Greenbridge community. Finally, we’ll survey the remaining current projects and briefly look ahead to proposed new developments that are taking shape today.
Foreclosures on homes in Washington State: What the current landscape looks like—and what’s being done to educate and safeguard homeowners
In this issue, I review the work of the Governor’s Task Force on Homeowner Security and present the perspectives of two of my fellow Task Force members who are legal and finance experts, Fred Corbit and Scott Jarvis. I’ve also interviewed four homeownership counselors from across the state to hear what’s happening in their communities. You’ll hear their stories about real homeowners who have been caught up in our country’s unfolding financial crisis. And, as a result of action by the Governor and Legislature, you will learn about some very important new homeowner protections that are now the legal right of every Washington resident.
The Commitment Continues: Washington State’s Efforts to End Homelessness
This month, the National Alliance to End Homelessness is holding its annual conference here in Seattle. To honor their efforts, I am dedicating this issue of My View to our efforts to end homelessness by presenting a layered portrait of what we have accomplished thus far towards our 10-Year Goal to end homelessness in Washington State.
Coming to Consensus: The 2008 Joint Agenda on Housing and Homelessness
In this issue of My View I review the 2008 Joint Agenda on Housing and Homelessness through the eyes of three housing advocates and the Vice-Chair of the House Housing Committee. I wanted to review the agenda because the low and moderate income citizens of Washington still face several escalating challenges to secure a decent, affordable home, whether they want to buy or rent. These challenges - and a desire to change the paradigm in the Legislature around affordable housing - led advocates to develop the 2008 Joint Agenda. By presenting this discussion, I hope to promote a productive conversation in the upcoming legislative session.
Condo conversions in Seattle and commercial demands in Spokane
Permits allowing 2,300 rental units to be converted to condominiums (condos) were filed in Seattle in 2006, displacing many low-income renters. Stories hit the newspapers about elderly and low-income tenants being forced to find replacement housing on short notice after learning their apartments would become condos they could not afford. Across the state in Spokane, commercial redevelopment has pushed almost 200 low-income and special needs persons out of the downtown core, away from needed social services and the transportation hub. This surge of displacements on both sides of the state, and a legislative hearing to find out what needs to be fixed, made it worth a more in-depth look at displacement problems in this issue of My View.
Workforce Housing in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area
A tale of local leaders crossing political boundaries in two states and several counties to solve the region’s workforce housing challenges. In April, I participated in the Mid-Columbia Workforce Housing Summit, held in Hood River, Oregon. I was so impressed with what I observed at the Summit that I wanted to share the perspectives and efforts of some of the participants and organizers with readers of My View. Their workforce housing challenges seem to be a microcosm of the workforce housing challenges facing the larger Puget Sound region. Their regional approach to finding solutions is a lesson many larger regions might want to follow.
Preserving Our Manufactured Housing Communities
Manufactured housing communities—known by many as mobile home parks—are one of the largest sources of unsubsidized affordable housing in Washington State. Manufactured homes provide affordable housing for about 500,000 people, or approximately 8% of our residents, many of them elderly. But this great affordable housing choice has become a crisis in our state. Communities are closing at an alarming rate—particularly in areas where the squeeze is on in terms of available land for commercial development.
AHAB pursues affordable housing
As a leadership transition unfolds at the Affordable Housing Advisory Board (AHAB), I thought it would be a good idea to talk with the outgoing chair, Hugh Spitzer, to get an inside perspective on a variety of issues, including the Report of the Growth Management/Housing Task Force, which AHAB released at the end of last year. I last interviewed Hugh in December 2004, for the second issue of My View. At that time, we discussed AHAB’s just released Advisory Plan 2005-2010. Now, more than two years later, Heyward Watson has been appointed by the Governor to chair AHAB and I wanted to get Heyward’s perspective on AHAB’s future. I also spoke with several other AHAB board members to get their perspectives as well.
Washington Community Reinvestment Association—15 years of banks banding together for the greater good
In February 1992—fifteen years ago this month—the Washington Community Reinvestment Association (WCRA) opened its doors with 37 financial institution members, a $75 million loan pool, and a mission to finance affordable multifamily rental housing in our state. The story of WCRA’s inspiration, genesis, and accomplishments is a story of a great idea that garnered enough support along the way—from a community development think tank and the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco to forward-thinking bankers and government officials —to build a constituency of highly supportive partners who all “got it” and worked hard to see it through to fruition.
Housing Development Consortiums—Tremendous strides, forward thinkers
Housing development consortiums are basically local industry associations for affordable housing developers and their partners. Any organization or business committed to advancing the interests of affordable housing in the consortium’s region of interest can be a member. These often include nonprofit organizations, municipalities, lenders, for-profit housing developers, legal and accounting professionals, and other suppliers. There are several reasons why I chose to focus on housing development consortiums in this issue of My View.
The USDA’s rural self-help housing program—Unsung, under pressure—but highly effective
The USDA rural self-help housing program is one of affordable housing’s least-known success stories. Since the early 1970s, close to three thousand mutual self-help homes have been built in Washington State with the financial support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by families participating in self-help housing programs. Today, this seasoned forerunner to volunteer self-help programs like Habit for Humanity quietly continues to counsel homebuyers, subsidize loans, and consistently produce homes in rural Washington.
Washington Families Fund, Spawning partnerships that are helping homeless families
The Washington Families Fund (WFF) is an incredible success story. Established by the Washington State Legislature in 2004, WFF is a critical financial commitment by the state dedicated to helping homeless families get the services they need to break the cycle of homelessness. In just two short years we have seen funding that has grown from $2 to $9 million, creating a phenomenal partnership between the public sector and private philanthropic organizations. We have also seen the extremely successful launch of the Fund’s third-party grant-making, administration and technical assistance functions through the capable hands of AIDS Housing of Washington. To get WFF off the ground so quickly was extraordinary.
The struggle to end homelessness in Washington State
How do you go about ending homelessness? For the past two decades, countless individuals and organizations across the U.S. have been committed to this effort. Billions of dollars have been spent, and millions of homeless people have been helped to secure stable long-term housing. Yet despite all these efforts, homelessness is still with us. Every day, about three-quarters of a million people in the U.S.—and approximately 25,000 people in our state—are homeless. The good news is that right now a profound shift is taking place in Washington State as a result of the passage of the Homeless Housing and Assistance Act (HB 2163) during the 2005 legislative session.
Community land trusts come of age
The focus of this issue of My View is on Community Land Trusts (CLTs) because there are now 10 CLTs in the state of Washington, in cities, towns and rural communities. Not surprisingly, all of our CLTs are based in areas that have seen stupendous growth, both in terms of population and in the skyrocketing of median home prices. What are community land trusts? One frequent misconception is that they’re involved with preserving land from development. In fact, CLTs are affordable housing-focused organizations. They’re set up to help homebuyers secure affordable homes and achieve an equity return on their investment, while preserving affordability for the next homebuyer.
Is there a housing bubble? Nine experts analyze today's real estate market
As we begin 2006, the housing market appears to have cooled to some extent. But questions about the real estate bubble still linger. I’ve asked an array of experts—realtors, economists, mortgage bankers, real estate researchers, and institutional real estate investors—whether they think there’s a bubble in the first place and, if so, is it in danger of popping. The answers I’ve received help to address the question: For a potential homeowner here in the Northwest, right now, Is this the best time to buy a home? Or, for a current homeowner, Is this the best time to sell?
The Washington State Housing Trust Fund: It mattered then, it matters now
For this issue of My View, I wanted to write the “inside” history of the state’s Housing Trust Fund (HTF). I thought it would be both interesting and fun to remind everyone associated with the Trust Fund just how it came into being, how small it started and how a dedicated group of people can make a difference. The HTF has now reached two milestones: $100 million, a goal set about 12 years ago by the Low Income Housing Congress (now the Low Income Housing Alliance); and, its twentieth anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2006.
Spotlight on Community Action Agencies, The War on Poverty: Where do we stand today?
Opportunity Council, Bellingham: Find out how Kay Sardo got her Head Start in the 60s
El Centro de la Raza, Seattle: For 33 years, Roberto Maestas has led El Centro’s efforts
Blue Mountain, Walla Walla, Steven Moss and his staff reach across traditional boundaries
OIC of Washington, Yakima, Henry Beauchamp will do whatever it takes to keep programs operating
Focus on Changes to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
Spokane Housing Authority: Forced to cut programs, payments—and waitlisted families
Walla Walla Housing Authority: Housing uncertainty in rural Walla Walla
King County Housing Authority’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher cuts: Stephen Norman speaks out
“The hits are hard”: What the recent changes to Section 8 have meant to Laura MacKenzie and Fenesa Santos
John Meyers, HUD Regional Director Defends rationale for changes
Focus on Farmworker Housing
The Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing: 26 years, nearly 1,000 homes—and much more on the horizon
Mario Villanueva and the Diocese of Yakima Housing Services: Building homes, cultivating self-advocacy
The Growers League: Key participant in efforts to create housing for farmworkers
The New Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust: Brings together growers, farmworkers advocates
Rep Hans Dunshee: Will the Housing Trust Fund Be Increased to $100 Million this year?
Community Frameworks’ Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program Continues to Inspire Loyalty
Kurt Creager and the Vancouver Housing Authority: New, brave and forward-thinking directions
Bryan Wahl promotes a better Quality of Life through the Washington Association of Realtors
Good Partners Help Make Great Things Happen: Sam Anderson and Master Builders Association
The Legislature’s New Housing Committee: Seeking the next generation of solutions
For the Bremerton Housing Authority, Bigger is Better
Connecting the Dots: CHOC director wants to increase awareness of homebuyer resources
A Tip of the Hat to Pete Modaff: Affordable housing expert in Congressman Norm Dicks’ office
Governor Gary Locke Earns A Friend of Housing Award for commitment to farmworker housing
AHAB Puts Housing Issues in Focus: One of the great supporters of affordable housing Hugh Spitzer
Mike Lowry is Getting Homes Built in Ephrata: commitment to homeownership for agricultural workers
Open Window School Accomplishes the ‘Impossible’
Mark Flynn is Impact Capital’s New Executive Director: The right man for an important role
Working Together: CTED strategies for advancing health, safety, social well being
A New Model for Washington's Student Housing: Nonprofit foundations
Celebrating Success: Spokane bus tour highlights successful projects and important partners
Housing Washington: Development of one of the best state housing conferences in the nation