The Imperative of Home
America is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis—a crisis that has left nearly 14 million people severely rent burdened, foregoing basic needs in order to remain in their homes, or homeless. And yet today more than ever, evidence shows that a stable, affordable home is the foundation for wellbeing, for a child’s healthy development, for a life of social connection and opportunity.
The imperative of home is what inspired LISC into being 36 years ago, and continues to drive the heart of our work today. Since embarking on our very first projects in the South Bronx and Boston, in redlined neighborhoods where blight and crime had decimated community life, we have invested more than $13.5 billion to create and preserve affordable homes in cities and rural areas across the country. In 2015, LISC channeled a record $1 billion into the creation or preservation of 21,000 affordable homes and apartments. Our subsidiary, the National Equity Fund, broke its own record by investing in a total of 90 affordable housing developments.
But we know there is so much more to be done. As the reports from every single one of our local offices bear out (see map above), the cost burden of housing is one of the most urgent issues facing their communities. At the same time as the need for shelter for the lowest income families increases, tens of thousands of affordable units are lost annually to market forces and gentrification, deterioration and expiring federal contracts and affordability controls.
So we’ve looked harder at what works, and are constantly thinking about new ways to expand the pool of affordable units to counter that drain. As a result, LISC is supporting a broader range of housing solutions than ever before, tailored to communities, conditions and assets of local places, and inspired by neighborhood leaders and residents who know best what makes sense.
It’s local input that has prompted us to emphasize preserving existing affordable homes on the brink of demolition or gentrification, as with our work through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program in San Francisco that will keep 3,500 aging public housing units intact for low-income renters. In Boston, Washington D.C., San Diego and many other cities, our local staff are working overtime to insure that people have lasting access to good housing in the places they’ve long called home, regardless of how hot the market becomes.
LISC’s Housing Impact
- $13.5 billioninvested in housing projects
- 21,000affordable homes created in 2015
- 348,000affordable homes created since 1980
We also target the urgent needs of vulnerable populations, such as veterans, the elderly and formerly fostered youth, many of whom suffer homelessness. There are “Victory Place” in Phoenix and “The Six” in Los Angeles, both campuses of stylish apartments with wrap-around services for homeless and at risk vets. And San Diego Square, a refurbished high-rise for low-income seniors that will remain affordable for the next 65 years in a city where vacancy hovers around two and a half percent.
As each local story attests, our housing work is integral to the comprehensive approach we take to community development, investing on multiple fronts to improve education, health, safety and financial stability in communities. Take the Scholars House in Northern Kentucky, an apartment complex with a pre-school on site to accommodate single, college-enrolled parents with children. Or the many cities, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and Indianapolis, where we support development that puts low-income residents close to transportation to make it easier for them to access jobs as well as all the amenities they need and deserve.
Sustaining all these efforts through federal advocacy is the work of our policy team in Washington D.C. Last year, LISC helped secure legislation to increase the flow of investor capital through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. And by safeguarding other federal funding streams for local nonprofits, such as HUD’s HOME program, we helped insure that they can keep working to close the housing gap for low-income residents.
Ultimately, we know that our investments in affordable housing are extraordinarily good ones. Whatever the cost of construction or renovation, we know it’s worth it. Because the cost of not having adequate affordable housing is far greater. Housing instability exacts a stratospherically high price from individuals, who lose income, health, peace of mind and dignity as a result. And from neighborhoods and cities, which lose their social and economic vitality — in fact, their very heart — if residents live in deteriorated housing, if commerce shrivels, if people move away in search of something better.
In the short and long run, LISC’s enduring commitment to expanding access to quality, affordable housing, is a commitment to everyone: to individuals and families, to communities and to the health of our country.