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  • Featured post

    MRBF: Housing Through a Social Justice Lens

    Our Emerson Hunger Fellow, Laurie Tran, wrote this piece for the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation's blog:

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    When I learned about the Southern Convening, I BEGGED Mary Brooks from the Center for Community Change (CCC)’s Housing Trust Fund Project to let me go. I wanted to hear how others in the South are working through their challenges to promote affordable housing. I knew that as a 23-year-old temporary Housing Mississippi staffer (I’ll explain later), it probably was not the best idea to let me attend. I prepared all these arguments as to why I should go, so it was to my surprise that Mary said yes right away! (Fine, it wasn’t “begging.”)

    As William McFarland of Georgia ACT wrote in a previous guest blog post on the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation website, the Southern Convening is an annual conference of housing advocates in six Southern states, hosted by the Housing Trust Fund Project. Although Mississippi was the only state represented not to have a state housing trust fund, we were excited to be looking internally to figure out how to support future endeavors, including building our capacity and preparing materials to apply for funding. We heard about new grant opportunities and other tools we could employ in our state.

    Let me back up and share some background about myself before I go further: I’m originally from Seattle and am a recent graduate of the University of Washington. On campus, I was an organizer focusing on social justice through health equity and housing issues, specifically the rise of homelessness in Seattle. I am now a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, part of a yearlong fellowship conducted by the Congressional Hunger Center to develop leaders to combat hunger and poverty through the eradication of systemic oppression. For my field placement, I was sent to Jackson to work with the Housing Mississippi coalition and the Mississippi Center for Justice.

    Working in the South is the complete opposite of what work was like in the Northwest. Despite having worked on housing issues in Seattle (where prices are rising because of the masses of people moving in to work with Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, etc.), my experience was nothing compared to housing issues in the South (where there is a massive white and upper-income flight from major cities and a lack of industries to support the economy).

    In Mississippi, I’ve been tasked with establishing our coalition’s goals for the next year. Last year, Housing Mississippi successfully advocated for the establishment of the Jackson Housing Trust Fund, the first in the state. The plan is to build from that momentum to create more municipal funds or even a state fund. I led our board in reflecting on what is possible for Housing Mississippi and how the coalition can make it happen. The Southern Convening built directly on this theme—perfect timing. It was rewarding and powerful to have trusted and experienced folks from CCC reinforcing what Housing Mississippi can accomplish.

    As one of the few women of color and the youngest person at the Southern Convening, CCC’s commitment to equity was a breath of fresh air. I knew the convening would delve deeply into housing issues, but my favorite part was when we talked about viewing housing justice through a social justice lens. (“Housing is a human right.”) Our program opened with Senior Organizer Katy Heins leading an “equity quiz” and Charlotte NAACP President Corine Mack sharing her story about taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina. It built up to discussions on power and the need for more diversity in our organizing. Everyone was very receptive to the idea of engaging people we were not thinking of reaching out to and widening the issue lens in our campaigns. Participants were starting to think of new ways to bring more community members into the room as the convening ended. It was inspiring to see everyone learning and collaborating with each other.

    I’m excited to see what these six states can achieve this year, and I have a feeling these Southern states are going to teach progressive places like Seattle something extraordinarily valuable. 

    - See it on the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation blog at: http://mrbf.org/blog/housing-through-social-justice-lens
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  • Featured post

    Gateway Housing Project

    Gateway.jpegMayor Tony T. Yarber on Monday, Dec. 21, announced the “Gateway Housing Initiative,” a new multi-phase initiative to restore neighborhoods in West Jackson.

    The Mayor -- who was joined by representatives from the Mississippi Housing Partnership, the Green Healthy Homes Initiative, State Rep. Alyce Clarke and City Councilman Charles Tillman -- announced details of Phase I of the project. Phase I represents an initial investment of approximately $1.1 million toward the estimated $4.1 million revitalization project, which includes properties to be conveyed by the state to the city and made ready for development.

    In collaboration with the Mississippi Housing Partnership and other partners, the City will utilize federal HOME grant funds to comprehensively rehabilitate qualified homes, the beginning of what is expected to be the transformation of West Jackson. The target area in Phase I includes Claiborne St., Ellis Ave., Holland St., Houston St., Jayne St., Macy St., and Moss St. The pilot project will have a focus on infrastructure, housing and economic development – benefits promised by the Administration.


    “We’re excited to launch this pilot project as it will allow us to ascertain the approaches that will best suit our city when it comes to bringing back a complete community for residents,” the Mayor said. “This project addresses the needs of existing homeowners, the acquisition and demolition of blighted properties, infrastructure improvements, public safety concerns and commercial and business development.”

    Timothy Collins, Executive Director of the Mississippi Housing Partnership and Housing Mississippi Board Member, said the work has already begun to engage and qualify homeowners who want homes rehabilitated through this program.

    “Whenever a revitalization project is conceived, the first step is to solidify and strengthen what is already there. What is there is a strong contingent of homeowners and other residents who have made a long-term commitment to West Jackson,” said Collins.

    Phase I of the project will begin the first quarter of 2016 and will emphasize the rehab of homes in the area. The city will pursue infill development opportunities with city-owned lots and those conveyed to the city by the state. The city will launch a Green Infrastructure Challenge, allowing firms to compete for the design of practices that improve stormwater management and reduce sanitary sewer overflows. A Developers’ Challenge will be launched for Phase II by spring 2016.

    Republished from City of Jackson News blog: http://www.jacksonms.gov/civicalerts.aspx?AID=504

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  • Featured post

    Housing MS endorses United for Homes Campaign

    The Housing Mississippi Board of Directors voted this morning to endorse the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)'s United for Homes campaign which aims to fund the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) using revenue raised from changes to the mortgage interest deduction (MID).

    See below for the Proposal from NLIHC:

    The United for Homes Proposal

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    The Problem: THE SHORTAGE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
    We all need a decent, affordable home. Yet today, in communities across America, millions are without this basic necessity. For every 100 extremely low income renters, there are only 30 affordable and available rental homes. The shortage grows worse every year; it's w

    hy people are homeless in our country.

    The Solution: THE NATIONAL HOUSING TRUST FUND

    The Nation

    al Housing Trust Fund will expand, preserve, rehabilitate, and maintain the supply of rental housing affordable to America’s poorest families. The National Housing Trust Fund was authorized by Congress in 2008  and with FHFA having lifted the suspension on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the NHTF will have at least some resources to begin expanding the housing supply for the lowest income and most vulnerable people in our country, providing a boost to efforts to end homelessness and housing poverty in the United States. With the lifting of the suspension the first funds are expected to be allocated in early 2016.

    How We Can Achieve This: CHANGES TO THE MID

    The United for Homes campaign proposes to fund the National Housing Trust Fund through smart changes to the mortgage interest deduction. The changes are simple: Reduce the size of a mortgage eligible for a tax break to $500,000, and convert the deduction to a 15% non-refundable tax credit. Our campaign proposal would create over $230 billion in revenue over ten years that could be used to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.

    Now is the time to solve our housing problems.

     

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  • Featured post

    $13.67 - hourly wage needed for avg Mississippian to rent two-bedroom-apartment

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    According to research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Mississippi at the Fair Market Rent price (affordable = no more than 30% of income), Mississippians would have to make $13.67 an hour or work 75 hours a week at minimum wage (or have 1.9 full time jobs). Here at Housing Mississippi, we think that it is unacceptable that Mississippians will have to spent majority of their paycheck on rent or be put out on the streets for not being able to afford rent.

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    To see more details, please take a look at the National Low Income Housing Coalitions' Out of Reach Report on Mississippi: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/files/reports/state/OOR_2015_MS.pdf

    You can also learn about other states here: http://nlihc.org/oor

     

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