The housing community is in the midst of the most significant changes in federal housing policies in decades. Unprecedented budget cuts aimed primarily at low income people, combined with a dramatic shift of responsibilities to state and local government, will present enormous challenges for communities across the United States.
To respond to this challenge, a broad coalition of housing and community development organizations joined together to form the New England Housing Network in early 1995, the first regional response in the country to changes in federal housing and community development programs.
The Scope of the Problem
More than one million low income people in New England — including the elderly, disabled, and families — live in federally assisted housing.
Most of these households have annual incomes of less than $8,000, and are at serious risk of displacement and homelessness.
Even larger numbers of households are struggling to survive in the private housing market and are paying more than 50% of their income for rent.
Why Form A Regional Network?
The New England region — due to its high housing costs and large stock of subsidized housing — will be one of the most heavily impacted regions in the country.
The New England housing market shares many communalities; many units of public and privately subsidized housing which is at great risk of being lost forever; older housing in need of repairs; extensive presence of lead paint; and the high costs of housing on the private market.
The local economies of the New England states are closely intertwined; future housing and economic development strategies must be planned jointly.
What Can We Accomplish By Working Together?
We can have a greater impact on public policy decisions affecting the quality of housing and communities in each of our states. The Network organizes an annual trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with people in Congress and the Administration who are actually writing new housing laws and regulations. We have developed relationships with key housing and community development officials, and are able to contact them at critical moments in the legislative process to advocate for changes that help our region. The New England Housing Network played a major role in defeating proposals to "voucher out" public and assisted housing and to reverse efforts to entirely repeal the Brooke Amendment. We have also worked on improving the financial modernization bill, mark to market reforms, and increasing the HUD budget.
We can educate ourselves about new policy developments and develop joint strategies for protecting affordable housing with fewer resources. The Network sponsors an annual conference, attended by several hundred people, to review changes in federal laws, discuss innovative approaches to the creation of affordable housing, and share plans for the future. We also share information by phone, fax, e-mail, and monthly conference calls.
We can strengthen advocacy efforts in each of our individual states. By working together to formulate joint strategy approaches to federal housing issues, we are also increasing advocacy power in each state. Our Network members have all developed closer relationships with their own senators and representatives. Each state has used Network strategies to involve housing and community development advocates in specific, targeted activities aimed at preserving and creating affordable housing.