NEWBURGH — On Thursday, September 14, roughly 150 attendees at Pattern for Progress’ Annual Housing Forum had a chance to hear from some of the leading voices in the field of affordable housing and community development.
Jonathan Rose, the President of the Jonathan Rose Companies and author of “The Well-Tempered City,” kicked off the morning with a thought-provoking speech that traced the history of cities and urbanism from ancient Mesopotamia to modern efforts to create sustainable “green buildings” and recycle wastewater. Rose, a rare for-profit developer who champions the creation of green affordable housing with access to transportation, social services, education and health care, noted that, “We’re seeing an enormous amount of people who want to live in urban places that are surrounded by green spaces.”
Pattern’s Joe Czajka, the Director of the Center for Housing Solutions and Urban Initiatives, followed with an overview of the state of housing in the Hudson Valley and the affordability crisis that has led many people to have to pay more than half of their monthly income towards rent or mortgage costs. In Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester County, more than half of homeowners are severely cost burdened by their housing expenses. Emily Hamilton, the Center’s Deputy Director, spoke about Pattern’s major ongoing effort to assist Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs and business owners in 10 Hudson Valley communities in accessing capital and technical assistance.
A panel of experts from NeighborWorks America discussed strategies for accomplishing urban revitalization without gentrification and cited examples of successful efforts from the region and beyond. The presenters were Joan Straussman Brandon, Northeast Regional Vice President, Paul Singh, Director of Community Stabilization, and Lynn Peterson, Senior Relationship Manager. Singh addressed the importance of building a neighborhood “brand” in spurring revitalization while Peterson stressed the importance of proactively implementing zoning and other regulations ahead of time to avoid runaway gentrification.
Next up was Diane Yentel, the CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, who traveled from Washington, DC to share the national perspective on trends in low income housing. “The affordable housing crisis is pervasive,” she said. “Nationally, there is a shortage of 7.4 million homes.”
Yentel talked about the difficult funding environment confronting affordable housing activists. She also argued in favor of reducing the mortgage interest deduction, a popular tax break for upper middle class families but one which she argued disproportionally benefits the wealthiest individuals and starves other housing programs of funds.
Following Yentel’s talk and a break for lunch, Pattern’s Regional Housing Award for Excellence was presented to Kevin O’Connor, CEO of RUPCO, Inc., a Kingston-based nonprofit that advocates for quality, affordable housing and community development.
Tiffany Manuel, vice president of Enterprise Community Partners, brought the day to a rousing conclusion with a passionate presentation on how to ensure dollars invested in housing create better opportunities for residents in low-income neighborhoods. She offered a wealth of specific strategies for how advocates of affordable housing can better frame the conversation to skeptical elected officials and members of the public. Simply presenting the daunting statistics around housing affordability can actually trigger a “backfire” effect and make it more difficult to accomplish the goal of increasing affordable housing options.
For more details about the speakers and the topics covered in the forum, please see Pattern’s Conference Overview report at: http://www.pattern-for-progress.org/what-we-do/current-issues-research-agenda/housing/
Pattern thanks its investors: MJJ Builders, Community Preservation Corp., Jacobowitz & Gubits, Rand Realty, Kearney Group, PathStone, RUPCO and Wilder Balter Partners. Pattern also thanks its event sponsors: Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, New Hope Community, Orange & Rockland Utilities, Anheuser-Busch Companies, The Mohonk Preserve, NeighborWorks America, New York Metro Chapter-APA, and Westchester Medical Center. To join our investors or sponsors, call (845) 565-4900.