After months of work with leaders in the business, non-profit and education communities, Mountain Voices Project and the Glenwood Community Housing Coalition made a significant step forward in pursuing an investment in local workforce housing.
At the urging of MVP, the Glenwood Springs City Council advanced a ballot proposition for a 2.5% increase in the lodging tax to invest in workforce housing with a 6-1 vote. 15 MVP leaders representing seven member institutions packed the city council chambers during deliberation.
This follows a civic academy at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church where residents and stakeholders learned about the potential impact of this initiative. If approved by voters, the Lodging Tax will increase from 2.5% to 5%, and generate new revenue dedicated for workforce housing strategies.
Leaders plan to educate voters about the ballot proposition in advance of the election.
Lodging Tax to Go to Voters in Glenwood Springs This Fall, Post Independent [pdf]
"When COVID-19 came to California, the California organizations of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s largest and longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations, immediately sprang into action. They began organizing virtual meetings at the local level — hundreds of community members gathering every week primarily to share how they were doing....
In the summer of 2021, the California IAF organized an action. Six hundred leaders from over 100 parishes and community-based institutions gathered together virtually to call on the state to extend its eviction moratorium and reform its housing relief program....
The organizing work of the California IAF around housing has revealed two truths that should be held in tension with one another. First, government must do more to address the housing crisis. Public policy and investment are necessary to make housing more affordable.
But, second, government can often be disconnected with how things are working in communities. Effective government depends on the local expertise contained by those who are seeking a decent home. Solving the housing crisis in California hinges on the involvement of our parishes continuously working to ensure that government intervention matches the local needs of our people."
[In Photo: Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of San Jose. Photo Credit: Tyler Osburn, CNS]
When going around to speak with neighbors in the downtown area recently, Pastor Paul Hansen started knocking on doors at a small, six-unit complex that usually rented for less than $1,000 a month.
As a member of Nevadans for the Common Good, a faith-based coalition that organizes around social justice issues including housing affordability, he was hoping to speak with renters about what’s happening in their neighborhood, which included collecting their thoughts about changes at nearby school John S. Park Elementary.
“We asked the first unit if the residence had any school-aged children,” he said. “They told us no they were just short term vacation renters – tourists.”
As it turned out, every unit in the building, as well as the six-unit building next door, was occupied by short-term renters visiting....
At a time where rents are rising to unaffordable rates and housing stock is scarce, Barbara Paulsen, who leads Nevadans for the Common Good, said the volume of short-term rentals is eating into the already limited supply of affordable housing.
“At least 10,000 homes on the market are short term vacation rentals or Airbnb, which might be good for tourists but not long term renters and buyers – our teachers, nurses and hospitality workers and many others,” she said.
Paulsen joined members of the faith coalition Wednesday to speak with Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones about regulating short-term rentals, building affordable housing and increasing protections for renters.
[Photo Credit: Michael Lyle, Nevada Current]
COPA Key Partner in Distribution of $6.75 Million in Rental Assistance to Low-Income Families in Monterey County
COPA (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action) has been a key community partner in distributing $2.75 million of Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds in 2021, and will help distribute an additional $4 million in 2022.
Hartnell College Foundation received the ERAP funds from Monterey County United Way in 2021, and partnered with the COPA and Mujeres in Accíon to reach those in greatest need. COPA worked with member congregations to identify families who, due to reduced income due to COVID-19, are struggling to cover rent or utilities. COPA leaders guide them through the application process for emergency rent and utility assistance.
[Photo: Tere Simancas and Luis Arreguín help people fill out housing assistance applications outside Our Lady of Refuge in Castroville, CA. Credit: Adriana Molina, Voices of Monterey Bay]
Coloradans for the Common Good Calls on City & County to Invest Recovery Funds in Housing Preservation & Affordability
Several organizations, including Coloradans for the Common Good, have met with Arvada and Jefferson County leaders for many years to discuss the need to address the affordable housing crisis in the region, they said.
“Our message is that they cannot just rely on the faith communities and nonprofits to solve this problem,” according to a press release from Coloradans for the Common Good. “Government agencies have a role to help ensure that everyone has a safe roof over their heads.”
City of Arvada and Jefferson County leaders recently received more than $120 million in stimulus payments from the federal government, and Coloradans for the Common Good and their allies are asking elected officials to put a substantial sum of the money toward preserving and expanding affordable housing, so that the trend does not continue in the community.
[Photo Credit: Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun]
At Urging of CTI, Travis County & City of Austin Invest $200+ Million into Homelessness Prevention & Support
After years of working to protect the dignity of people experiencing homelessness and preventing low-income families from displacement, Central Texas Interfaith leaders celebrated the investment of $220+ Million in federal funding into homelessness prevention and support.
Over 100 CTI leaders were joined by City of Austin Mayor and Travis County Judge Andy Brown who expressed appreciation for the organization's partnership and doggedness in addressing key regional challenges. Leaders relayed how this effort was connected to a multi-year effort that resulted in passage of an affordable housing bond in 2018, $40 Million in rental assistance during the first year of the pandemic, and now over $217 million in federal dollars into homelessness prevention and support.
Elected officials further committed to identifying sources for additional rental assistance as eviction moratoriums lift.
Homeless Housing Plans, Spectrum News [video]
Interfaith Group Calls for Immediate Action on Homelessness, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Press Conference Footage, Central Texas Interfaith
One LA Leaders Persuade City Planning Commission to Reject Demolition of Affordable Housing Near Temple
One LA leaders from Temple Beth Am played an important role in the Los Angeles Planning Commission's decision to reject a redevelopment project that would have eliminated 12 units of affordable housing in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, a desert for subsidized housing units. The proposed plan would have resulted in the demolition of 6 commercial properties and 12 units of rent stabilized housing to construct a 7-story hotel in their place.
Temple Beth Am leaders from One LA have been working with city officials to mitigate the loss of precious affordable housing. While not opposed to the redevelopment of the area, they expressed concerns about losing housing in a neighborhood where the local city council district office had confirmed that it did not have any housing units that could benefit from the city’s linkage fee program.
Nancy Goldstone, a leader with One LA and resident of Pico-Robertson said,
“This hotel project was going to eliminate affordable housing in an area where there is very little to none.
As a One LA leader it was important for me and our team to organize and have conversations with city officials to let them know that this project did not serve the interests or general good of the neighborhood.”
City Planning Commission Rejects Pico-Robertson Hotel Development, Urbanize Los Angeles
Arreola has received some help from Voices United for Life, a pro-life organization. And in December, she joined online house meetings organized by the Valley Interfaith Project, a onetime Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization that now advocates for people facing eviction during the pandemic.
Valley Interfaith [Project], she said, has "given me a voice."
Advocacy on eviction prevention has become an important part of this work as well. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is affiliated with The Metropolitan Organization, a CCHD-fund grassroots organization that has taken on eviction prevention work since March.
St. John the Baptist Parish in Alvin, Texas, a Metropolitan Organization member, has provided partial rental support for about 30 families in which the primary earner has lost work as industries like construction and landscaping have retrenched under the pandemic.
For months advocates in Dallas have pushed officials to distribute rental assistance funds and expand the Centers for Disease Control moratorium on evictions. Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly has worked with CCHD-funded Dallas Area Interfaith on the effort.
"It's very harmful," Bishop Kelly said of the restrictions on accessing the money. "There's no need for it either. The funds are there."
Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer of Dallas Area Interfaith, said work continues on empowering and educating people about eviction prevention in the hope their voices will influence policymakers to better respond to their needs.
[Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]
With Evictions Looming, Agencies Furiously Work to Keep Families Housed, Angelus Catholic News Services [pdf]
...during the early portion of an Aug. 11 meeting of Pitkin County commissioners... representatives of the Mountain Voices Project — a consortium of more than 25 nonprofits, faith-based organizations and other entities in the Roaring Fork Valley — sought financial support for a new “landlord-tenant recovery fund” designed to assist low-income families struggling to make ends meet amid the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lindsay Lofaro, executive director of The Buddy Program in Aspen, was one of several speakers advocating for Pitkin County’s support of the fund. She got involved in facilitating the discussion, she said, because her nonprofit mentoring organization is a member of Mountain Voices Project (also known as MVP) — and also because of her familiarity with Pitkin County officials and local fundraising sources.
According to information provided by MVP, the overall request is for $1 million to get the program started this year...
The general plan calls for families to receive three months of rental assistance. MVP will supply one-third of the payments to landlords. The families themselves will pay one-third. The balance would be foregone by the landlords themselves, should they agree to participate. The Uncle Bob Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Garfield County Housing Authority, will serve as fiscal agent for the fund.
[Photo Credit: Andre Salvail, Aspen Daily News]
“When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on,” said Adriana Godines, a volunteer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a community group made up of religious congregations, schools and other nonprofits. “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”
And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.
“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.’”
Godines has seen homes with 12 people living together as people who self-evict move in with loved ones.
“It’s people of all ages. Kids, adults, sometimes senior citizens,” she said.
Godines has worked with families searching for rental assistance, and she said that funds are running low among nonprofit organizations that are allowed to serve undocumented immigrants.
“We want to do more, but we don’t have more resources,” Godines said. “But the little that we have in this community, we give it.”
Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas explained that many priests and churchgoers have pooled together resources to pay for rent and food for undocumented migrants. But he, too, worries how long such resources will last.
“I don’t think we know yet how serious this is or how long it will last. When the city assistance program opened, the help available was overwhelmed in the first couple of hours,” Kelly said. “It could be a very lengthy situation. There’s so much uncertainty.”
[Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang, The Texas Tribune]
DAI Raises Alarm That Undocumented Immigrants are Self-Evicting, Texas Tribune [pdf]