This Month in Photos: June – July 2019

This Month in Photos: June – July 2019

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Welcome to the latest edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!  June – July 2019 (PDF)

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation. 

We feature regional council meetings, board retreats, meetings with state or federal elected officials, the opening of new facilities, special programs, awards, and anything else you view as important or fun to share with your colleagues.

If you would like your region included in Regional Councils: This Month in Photos, please send your photos and a brief description to Neil Bomberg at neil@narc.org.

How Can Regional Councils Help Increase Affordable Housing?

A March 2018 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that the U.S. has a shortfall of more than 7.2 million affordable and available rental homes for low-income households. Despite government attempts bridge the gap, three out of four low income households in need of housing assistance are denied federal help with their housing, primarily due to chronic underfunding.

As housing affordability has developed into a national crisis, communities have been looking for more ways to become more actively engaged in increasing affordable housing options for low and moderate-income individuals and families. Many communities have already implemented solutions including rent control, inclusionary housing, tax incentives and trust funds, but more efforts are needed.

Housing is a regional issue and regional
coordination, information sharing, and funding generation can make a large
impact, particularly in metropolitan areas.

Here are a few examples of the
activities and programs that regional councils are carrying out across the US
to help tackle the impacts of the affordable housing crisis in their regions.

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
(MWCOG)

MWCOG plays a variety of roles in the
Washington D.C. region, working with local governments on plans for residential
growth. In September 2018, MWCOG identified a long-term goal of creating
100,000 additional homes in the region by 2045. Some of their recent activities
to further this goal include:

  • Partnering with Urban
    Institute to conduct a research study entitled Housing Security in the Washington Region. This study was influential for local government
    officials and the community by outlining critical gaps in the region’s affordable
    housing for a wide range of household incomes. It also outlines specific
    housing policies and programs which are funded by local governments and
    philanthropic support. Much of their research is also being shared to community
    members and government officials through forums and conferences.
  • MWCOG is
    targeting housing preservation alongside production. They have been working
    with the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington to create the Capital Area Foreclosure
    Network (CAFN), which was designed to combat the region’s foreclosure crisis.
    The network provides grants and technical assistance, while counseling and
    organizing stakeholders, non-profits, banks and state agencies as they work towards
    solutions.

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
(CMAP)

In CMAP’s GO
TO 2040
and ON
TO 2050
long-term regional plans, they have outlined
goals and steps to sustain and rebuild their region’s infrastructure. Their
priorities include affordable housing and inclusionary housing to create more
opportunities throughout every community. One of the specific goals of the GO
TO 2040 plan is to increase housing options by lowering prices, which is being
tackled by their Regional Housing Initiative (RHI). With RHI, CMAP has partnered
with various groups to increase collaboration between organizations such as the
Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Housing Development Authority
(IHDA), and ten housing authorities in the region. Their objective is to
support affordable and mixed-income housing developments in opportunity zone areas
that they have found to be the most in need.

Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC)

ARC has taken an innovative approach toward
finding solutions for affordable housing via social media. By joining
Enterprise Community Partner’s 100 Great Ideas Facebook Campaign as part of the host committee and one of the
event’s moderators, they were able to virtually unite residents within the
Atlanta Metro Region for five days of brainstorming and exchanging ideas that
could improve housing affordability. The forum was open to anyone in the region
to participate and generated over 3,400 posts, comments and reactions. ARC is
currently working with Enterprise Community Partners and the other local
agencies involved in the campaign to synthesize ideas into a final report that
can be presented to local officials for implementation.

Greater Portland Council of Governments
(GPCOG)

Being the fastest growing region in
their state, GPCOG provides a wide range of
planning services for affordable housing, including comprehensive planning,
neighborhood master planning, ordinance development, workshop facilitation and
advocacy. They act as a resource to other governing agencies as they help
communities assess their needs and develop a personalized plan for the future. A
recent example of this work includes the South Portland West End Neighborhood Master
Plan
, which looks at how South Portland’s
West End neighborhood can preserve housing affordability for current and future
residents as demand rises in the region.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC)

PVPC assists its region by
helping members identify and plan ways to meet their current and future housing
needs. Their team helps people create Housing Production Plans and Housing
Needs Assessments and Action Plans that are compliant with the Massachusetts Department
of Housing and Community Development guidelines. They are also the convener for
the Pioneer Valley Regional Housing Committee, bringing together regional
stakeholders on a quarterly basis to discuss housing successes and challenges
and work towards achieving the goals outlined in PVPC’s Pioneer Valley Regional Housing Plan.

The Cost of the Citizenship Question

As the debate over adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census rages on, concerns over the effects of an undercount remain. According to a study by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, including the citizenship question, which would specifically ask participants about their citizenship status and birthplace, would lead to an undercount of 6 million Hispanics, or about 12 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population.

The Washington Post worked with those who produced the Harvard study to estimate where the citizenship question would have the greatest impact. California and Texas would be the most impacted states, with undercounting of 1.84 million and 1.15 million Hispanics, respectively. Florida (601,803 undercounted) and New York (454,095 undercounted) would be close to follow. Undercounting the Hispanic population would have economic effects and impact congressional representation.

An undercount of six million Hispanics could dramatically change the makeup of congressional districts in several states. Under the estimated undercount scenario discussed above:

  • California would be projected to lose 2 congressional seats;
  • Arizona would lose its projected gain of one seat;
  • Montana could gain an additional seat; and
  • Alabama, Minnesota, and Ohio could avoid their projected loss of a seat.

The potential economic impacts of adding the citizenship question are substantial. Lower Hispanic response rates related to citizenship will drive up the cost of doing the census, as the U.S. Census Bureau will make multiple attempts at a series of follow-up contacts and in-person interviews to reach this population.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in census supported federal programs are also at risk of being misappropriated. Half of the nation’s largest federal programs are calculated using state or regional per-capita income to allocate funds. An undercount will not change the amount of funds, rather the distribution of funds will be allocated incorrectly. One particularly vulnerable program is Medicaid. In Texas, an undercount could cost the state an estimated $378 million in annual Medicaid funds, whereas Illinois would gain over $9 million in annual Medicaid funds. California would see significant reductions in WIC funds, estimated at $10.6 million annually.

Census data is arguably the most powerful tool for local, state, and regional governments to make accurate decisions affecting budgeting, disaster response, land-use and transportation planning, measuring environmental and economic impacts, and more. So, the question remains, can the United States withstand a decade of inaccurate population data?

Many state and local governments have voiced serious concern over the inclusion of a citizenship question and subsequent undercount. Regional councils are encouraged to reach out to their members of Congress and share how undercounting could impact their region for the next ten years. Regional councils are also encouraged to continue educating their constituents virtually and in person (though Complete Count Committee meetings and outreach, public service announcements, social media, etc.) on why it is important that they participate in the upcoming 2020 census.