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U.S. Senators, Experts, and Advocates Convene on Capitol Hill to Discuss Bipartisan Solutions to the Housing Crisis
The campaign hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill on January 14 to discuss two major bipartisan housing bills recently introduced in the Senate – the “Eviction Crisis Act” and the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act,” both key policy priorities of the campaign. The briefing was attended by approximately 100 Capitol Hill staffers and advocates. The briefing focused on the importance of the legislation and encouraged elected officials to cosponsor and support the bills in the House and Senate.
The “Eviction Crisis Act,” introduced by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Todd Young (R-IN), would create new tools to tackle the nation’s ongoing eviction epidemic, including the creation a new Emergency Assistance Fund to provide direct financial assistance to help families remain stably housed during an unforeseen economic shock, such as a broken-down car or sudden medical bill. The “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act,” introduced by Senators Todd Young and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), would create 500,000 new housing vouchers specifically designed to help families with young children access neighborhoods of opportunity with high-performing schools, strong job prospects, and other crucial resources.
Briefing speakers included:

  • Senators Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen, and Michael Bennet
  • Dr. Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
  • Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition 
  • Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
  • Sarah Oppenheimer, associate director of policy and research at Opportunity Insights
  • Jeffrey Williams, tenant advocate in Richmond, Virginia
The introduction of the “Eviction Crisis Act” and the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act” are significant milestones for the campaign in getting its policy ideas introduced into legislation. The solutions contained in these bills have been priorities of the campaign from its inception. Together with its multi-sector partners, the campaign will continue to champion these bills until they are enacted into law. The fact that these bills are bipartisan – especially in the current political climate – speaks volumes about the growing recognition that housing is inextricably linked to nearly every measure of having a quality life. 
“I think we’re seeing a growing awareness among colleagues in both parties of how important housing is – that everything begins and ends in housing,” said Senator Brown.  “If people aren’t housed adequately in safe, affordable, clean surroundings, so much else goes badly in their lives.”
“The focus of the legislation that Senator Young and I have introduced [the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act] is families with kids because we know that moving to opportunity makes a huge difference in helping families transition out of poverty,” said Senator Van Hollen.  “The fact that Senator Young and I were able to team up on this is an important sign that there is bipartisan support. We need your help in expanding the list of cosponsors.”
“When I was superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, I realized the profound effect that housing was having on the quality of the education that kids were getting,” said Senator Bennet. “The Eviction Crisis Act is now a bipartisan piece of legislation in the Senate, and I really think there is a real chance that we’re going to be able to get this bill passed. We will do absolutely everything we can do to make sure we get it across the finish line.”
A full recording of the Capitol Hill briefing is available through the Opportunity Starts at Home podcast series.  The press release is available here.
Read Press Release 
Listen to Podcast Recording of Event 
Urge your elected officials to support these bipartisan bills by sending the letters below:
Take Action on the Eviction Crisis Act 
Take Action on the Family Stability & Opportunity Vouchers Act


Campaign Hosts Panel Discussion at The National Press Club
The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club on January 16 to discuss the need to prioritize housing affordability in the national agenda. Panelists included senior leaders from the National League of Cities, Catholic Charities USA, Children’s HealthWatch, National Women’s Law Center, and National Low Income Housing Coalition. The event, “Broadening the Movement: Housing as a National Priority in 2020,” showcased powerful new constituencies that are mobilizing to build a movement for affordable homes. These organizations and many others have joined forces through the campaign, which is bringing together leaders from different sectors to advocate for more robust and equitable federal affordable housing policies. 
Speakers included:

  • Diane Yentel, president and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • Irma Esparza Diggs, senior executive and director of federal advocacy, National League of Cities
  • Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO, National Women’s Law Center
  • Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO, Catholic Charities USA
  • Dr. Megan Sandel, MD MPH, principal investigator with Children’s HealthWatch and co-director of the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center
  • Mike Koprowski, national director, Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign
Opportunity Starts at Home is an unprecedented multi-sector campaign with leaders from many fields working toward increased investments to house the lowest income people,” said Ms. Yentel. “We’re here because 2020 is such a consequential year for our work.”
“Mayors and city councilmembers are on the front-line everyday dealing with the housing issue,” said Ms. Diggs. “They feel it is their responsibility to address the housing crisis, and their residents are looking to them to address it.”
“When you think about the work of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, it is deeply connected to all of the other work that the National Women’s Law Center does,” said Ms. Goss Graves. “We are thrilled to be a part of this campaign. Housing is so central to women’s lives.”
“As a faith-based organization, assisting vulnerable people claim a life of dignity is not just another part of our work – it is a moral imperative,” said Sister Donna Markham. “Our long-standing Catholic social teaching says that we are obligated to make a preferential option for those who are poor and vulnerable. And we’ve got a [housing] crisis on our hands.”
“The United States will spend $111 billion over the next ten years in avoidable healthcare costs because of housing instability,” said Dr. Sandel. “When people say we don’t have the money to tackle the housing crisis, I say that we’re spending it now and getting bad outcomes. Why don’t we spend it better and get better outcomes?”
“Housing isn’t a blue state issue or a red state issue – it’s a purple issue,” said Mr. Koprowski.  “There is a growing recognition that housing is inextricably linked to nearly every measure of having a quality life.”
Watch Full Recording of the Press Club Event
Read Press Release


National Women’s Law Center Joins Steering Committee of Opportunity Starts at Home
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) announced on January 7 that it is joining the campaign’s Steering Committee.  NWLC is the latest addition to the campaign’s Steering Committee, comprised of 18 national organizations from the housing, education, health, civil rights, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, criminal justice, child welfare, municipal governance, and faith-based sectors.
NWLC is an organization of advocates, experts, and lawyers who fight for gender justice in the courts, public policy, and society.  It focuses on a range of issues with a mission to change culture and drive solutions for vulnerable populations, especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination, such as women of color and low-income women and families.  NWLC joined the campaign because gender equity demands access to safe, decent, and affordable housing in which women can thrive.

“Affordable housing is the linchpin for attaining the health, dignity, and safety of women and their families,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of NWLC. “This is why housing is a gender justice issue. When women face housing discrimination or are steered to low-opportunity areas or high-cost loans, it jeopardizes their families’ financial future and ability to build wealth. Without affordable housing, other basic needs-like access to good jobs and schools, high quality and affordable childcare, and the availability of healthy foods-are beyond reach.”
Read NWLC Press Release

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Publishes Papers on Housing and Health
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) published on January 17 two papers that explore the connections between housing and health. The first paper, “Medicaid Can Partner with Housing Providers and Others to Address Enrollees’ Social Needs,” discusses how housing providers utilize the Medicaid program to coordinate health care and social services and to pay for health-related services such as tenancy-related services, which support an individual to be a successful tenant and therefore better able to sustain tenancy. The second paper, “Housing and Health Partners Can Work Together to Close the Housing Affordability Gap,” explores how housing and health partners can collaborate to close the housing affordability gap. In addition, a companion blog post in Health Affairs summarizes key points in the two papers along with some important recommendations. CBPP is a founding partner and Steering Committee member of the campaign.
“Access to safe, affordable housing supports people’s physical and mental health, research shows,” writes Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy at CBPP. “The health care system has an important role in connecting patients to housing, but housing programs themselves need substantial additional resources to make a meaningful dent in the number of households that struggle to afford housing. Because health care stakeholders see face-to-face the difference affordable, quality, stable housing can make in health outcomes and have data that underscore the broader implications of a lack of affordable housing, they have an essential role to play in the housing policy debate.”

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