The New England Housing Network held its annual conference in Needham, MA yesterday and the speakers and workshops provided a tremendous amount of information and insight into the current state of affairs in Washington, DC.
Four ideas that stood out for me:
1. It's bad - but it could get worse: The budget situation in Washington is terrible with significut cuts on the way in FY 2012 and further cuts likely in the coming years. The Super Committee's failure to reach a deal means automatic cuts of about nine percent in FY 2013, but those cuts might actually have been worse had the Committee reached a deal. Under the default plan, the military will aborb a much greater share of the cuts than under any other likely budget scenario. And long term budget pressure will likely force deeper cuts in housing and community development funding, absent a broad budget deal that includes both new revenue and reductions in spending on health care.
2. Revenue, revenue, revenue : All of the national housing advocates made it clear that housing programs, and more importantly the people those programs serve, will be hurt badly without an increase in revenue. Housing advocates will need to speak out on the need for more tax revenue issue and not simply lobby for our own programs.
3. Housing is a platform for "care" as well as "opportunity:" MIT Professor, Xavier Briggs, spoke at lunch about the emerging data that documents how the Moving to Opportunity program achieved dramatic outcomes for low income families in the areas of public safety, health, and mental health. These outcomes dramatically improve the quality of life for these families and reduce the need for public expenditure in other areas, in particular health care. Briggs emphasized that these results are important, even if families did not always see a dramatic increase in their income or economic security. Briggs encouraged housing advocates to more strongly and effectively articulate the value of housing as a platform for "care" as well as "opportunity." If we can better document how housing investments reduce the cost of health care, we may be able to win more support - and more dollars - for our agenda. Look to hear much more about this topic in the coming months.
4. Mortgage Finance Reform is happening: While advocates are forced to largely play defense on budget issues, and most legislation is stuck in gridlock, our national advcocates do believe that Mortgage Finance Reform will happen - probably in 2013 after the election. This could be the biggest and best opportunity in the near future to advance progressive housing policy (and block regressive policies) so advocates should be fully engaged in this debate now as the proposals advanced in 2012 will form the basis for legislation in 2013.
To learn more about these and other issues discussed at the conference, click here.