Author Archives: merceralliance

HUD Secretary Ben Carson to be sued for suspending Obama-era fair-housing rule

by Tracy Jan
The Washington Post

Fair-housing advocates planned to file a lawsuit early Tuesday against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and HUD Secretary Ben Carson for suspending an Obama-era rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration.

The 2015 rule required more than 1,200 communities receiving billions of federal housing dollars to draft plans to desegregate their communities — or risk losing federal funds.

[Complaint filed against HUD Secretary Ben Carson]

After nearly 50 years of inaction, the rule was seen as a belated effort by HUD to enforce the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which compelled communities to use federal dollars to end segregation in residential neighborhoods.

The 2015 rule, developed over a six-year period, required every community receiving HUD funding to assess local segregation patterns, diagnose the barriers to fair housing and develop a plan to correct them. Most communities were supposed to submit their plans to HUD every five years, beginning in 2016. Communities without HUD-approved plans would no longer receive federal housing dollars.

Carson, who has long criticized federal efforts to desegregate American neighborhoods as “failed socialist experiments,” suspended the rule in January, allowing local and state governments to continue receiving HUD grants without compliance with the full requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit alleges Carson unlawfully suspended the 2015 rule by not providing advanced public notice or opportunity for comment, according to a draft obtained by The Washington Post.

The agency said local jurisdictions must continue to promote fair housing but granted communities until at least 2024 in most cases to do so, according to a three-page notice published in the Federal Register.

HUD said it based its decision on the fact that more than a third of the 49 plans initially submitted to the agency were rejected as incomplete or inconsistent with fair-housing and civil rights requirements.

Fair-housing advocates who helped develop the rule under the Obama administration said that is precisely why the rule is necessary and that nearly all of the rejected plans were soon accepted after HUD officials stepped in to help.

[Carson to propose raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies]

The agency, in its January announcement, said that the process is too burdensome for communities and that too many HUD resources were being devoted to helping them revise their plans. As a result, HUD said, it would discontinue its review of plans and directed communities in the process of revising their plans not to submit them.

The agency said it would use the additional time to streamline the process and provide more technical assistance so that communities stand a better chance of having their plans approved on the first try.

In the meantime, HUD said communities should revert to what they were supposed to have been doing before the 2015 rule and certify that they have conducted an analysis of impediments to fair housing and taken actions to overcome them.

Housing advocates said the retreat would perpetuate housing segregation, given earlier assessments that the previous provisions were essentially toothless.

“HUD has continued to grant federal dollars to municipalities even when they know the municipalities are engaging in discrimination,” said Lisa Rice, president and chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance, one of three housing advocacy groups that joined the lawsuit. “They are rewarding cities for bad behavior.”

In 2008, the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, led by former HUD secretaries Jack Kemp, a Republican, and Henry Cisneros, a Democrat, reported that “HUD requires no evidence that anything is actually being done as a condition of funding.”

In 2009, HUD found that many communities could not produce documentation of their efforts to assess and address fair-housing concerns.

A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office revealed that nearly a third of jurisdictions had not completed an analysis within five years. Of the ones that had, the GAO found that most were limited to aspirational statements of vague goals without defined time frames.

“HUD required jurisdictions only to certify that, every few years, they analyzed barriers to fair housing in their communities, made gestures in the direction of solving them, and memorialized this analysis in their own files (never reviewed by HUD),” the lawsuit said, according to the draft. “As both HUD and the Government Accountability Office found, putting local jurisdictions on the honor system was ineffective.”

[Carson’s mission statement for HUD may no longer include anti-discrimination language]

Rice met with Carson last week to ask him to reinstate the rule and enforce it. The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and Texas Appleseed, two nonprofit organizations that had previously sued HUD over other fair-housing issues, also joined the lawsuit.

A HUD spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, pointing to a statement in January when the agency suspended the rule. “The Assessment of Fair Housing tool for local governments wasn’t working well,” the HUD statement said. “HUD stands by the Fair Housing Act’s requirement to affirmatively furthering fair housing, but we must make certain that the tools we provide to our grantees work in the real world.”

The lawsuit also accuses HUD of violating its statutory duty to ensure that federal funds are used to promote fair housing and seeks a court order requiring the agency to immediately restart the rule.

“Decades of experience have shown that, left to their own devices, local jurisdictions will simply pocket federal funds and do little to further fair housing objectives,” the lawsuit said. “Judicial intervention is necessary to vindicate the rule of law and to bring fair housing to communities that have been deprived of it for too long.”

In 2009, a district court found Westchester County in New York could produce no evidence that it had ever evaluated the extent of racial segregation or committed to a plan to redress it.

The county had for years certified it was complying with the Fair Housing Act, even as it deliberately concentrated affordable housing in a small number of predominantly black and Latino communities while distributing millions in HUD grants to overwhelmingly white suburbs that refused to allow affordable housing, according to the complaint against HUD.

After the 2009 court decision, HUD began asking municipalities to submit their analyses of housing patterns. More than a third could not produce one. Of those that did, half were deemed unacceptable. And only a fifth of the jurisdictions that submitted their analyses committed to doing anything within a particular time frame.

The exercise eventually resulted in the 2015 rule requiring communities take meaningful action to overcome long-standing patterns of segregation and analyze housing patterns, concentrated poverty and disparities in access to transportation, jobs and good schools.

Since the rule, housing advocates say, many communities have made great strides. Officials in Paramount, Calif., have set deadlines to amend its zoning ordinance to make housing more inclusive. New Orleans has promised to create 140 affordable rental units in wealthier communities by 2021 and increase homeownership among families receiving housing subsidies by 10 percent each year.

[What Ben Carson gets wrong about segregation in the United States]

Chester County, Pa., promised to make it easier for low-income families receiving housing vouchers to move to wealthier neighborhoods with better schools and more job opportunities. El Paso County, Colo., has committed to developing 100 subsidized affordable housing units in communities with better opportunities. Philadelphia committed to addressing the problem of widespread evictions in minority neighborhoods.

But many communities continue to struggle to address the impediments to fair housing, advocates say. In Hidalgo County, Tex., which has historically ignored the needs of the predominantly Latino population in “colonias” that often lack basic infrastructure such as water, sewage, electricity and paved roads, officials have no incentive to improve their plan now that HUD no longer requires it.

And advocates worry that Corpus Christi, Tex., will not direct hundreds of millions of dollars in federal disaster relief money after Hurricane Harvey toward fair housing.

“My fear is that HUD’s rescission of the rule tells communities, ‘You’re off the hook,’ ” said Madison Sloan, director of Texas Appleseed’s Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing project. “ ‘We’re going to keep giving you money even while you keep perpetuating segregation.’ ”

Carson, during his January 2017 confirmation hearing, criticized the 2015 rule for compelling communities receiving HUD funding to look around for “anything that looks like discrimination.”

“They’re not responding to people saying there’s a problem,” Carson said. “They’re saying go and look for a problem and then give us a solution. And what I believe to be the case is we have people sitting around their desks in Washington, D.C., deciding on how things should be done, you know, telling mayors and commissioners that you need to build this place right here and you need to put these kinds of people at it.”

Great news from the Governor’s Transition Teams on Housing!

The Mercer Alliance is supportive of the priority recommendations contained in the report. Of particular note is the recommendation to adopt Housing First­ as State policy. A policy that the Mercer Alliance and its partners have been forerunners in successfully developing and implementing in our community; and had made a key component of recommendations of the New Jersey Interagency Council on Homelessness in 2014. Included in the Housing First recommendations were suggestions to redirect Emergency Assistance policies, eliminating “compliance review” determination of individuals “causing their own homelessness, and allowing lifetime benefits. Additionally, collaboration across systems and funding streams, and prevention are recommended as priorities.

These are certainly key victories for advocates and providers, and are essential to the establishment of effective and sustainable Housing First systems.

We are reminded, however, that the Transition Team’s reports are “purely advisory”. Nonetheless, they constitute a promising approach to addressing homelessness and housing needs under Governor Murphy’s administration.

View the full ​report

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness approves Daniel R. Ryan to Board of Directors

Trenton, New Jersey —- The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness unanimously approved the nomination of Daniel R. Ryan, to its Board of Directors at their meeting on November 14, 2017.  Mr. Ryan has a Masters of Arts in Theology from Duquesne University and a Master of Education in Adult Education/Human Resource Management from Iowa State University, and a BA in Philosophy/Psychology from Duquesne University. Mr. Ryan currently works as a Senior Vice-President, North Buffalo Advisors, LLC in Hamilton New Jersey.

“Mr. Ryan brings a unique perspective to providing youth related services and counseling. Additionally, he brings valuable private sector experience and insight in the areas of organizational planning and function, both of which are important to our collaborative systems building efforts to address homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer community”, said Frank A. Cirillo, Executive Director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.

Founded in 2004, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a public-private partnership of the county’s business, government and the non-profit sectors. Its mission is to develop and implement strategies and systems to end homelessness in Mercer County through permanent housing.  We can. We must. We will End Homelessness.

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness approves Pastor Rupert A. Hall Jr. to Board of Directors

Trenton, New Jersey —- The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness unanimously approved the nomination of Pastor Rupert A. Hall, Jr. to its Board of Directors at their meeting on November 14, 2017.  Pastor Hall has a Juris Doctorate degree from Rutgers School of Law and a BS degree in Economics-Finance and Accounting from University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. Pastor Hall current serves the leader of the Turning United Methodist Church in Trenton New Jersey.

“Pastor Hall provides the Mercer Alliance Board with a spirit of community activism from his pastoral leadership at Turning Point United Methodist Church, and his valuable experience in the legal and business fields. He has demonstrated an avid interest in addressing issues of poverty and homelessness and a desire to work to lift the prospects of the most challenged citizens of our community”, said Frank A. Cirillo, Executive Director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.

Founded in 2004, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a public-private partnership of the county’s business, government and the non-profit sectors. Its mission is to develop and implement strategies and systems to end homelessness in Mercer County through permanent housing.  We can. We must. We will End Homelessness.

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness Receives Community Foundation Grant

Trenton, New Jersey —- Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness received a $25,000.00 grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the community foundation serving Mercer County and central New Jersey.   Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, which was one of 15 organizations to receive a Community Impact Grant from the Community Foundation, will use the grant in support of ending chronic homelessness in Trenton and Mercer County.   Grants totaling more than $590,000.00 were awarded to local nonprofits for program and operating support.

“The Mercer Alliance is honored to have been awarded a generous $25,000 grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation. This will allow us to continue to build upon our ground-breaking work to end homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer Community”, said Frank Cirillo, Executive Director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.

“This year the Alliance will use the funding to focus on unstably housed and homeless youth between the ages of 18-25, particularly those known to the child welfare and juvenile justice system. In addition, we will work to expand housing resources for seniors 55 years and older,” said Cirillo.

Founded in 2004, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a public-private partnership of the county’s business, government and the nonprofit sectors. Its mission is to develop and implement strategies and systems to end homelessness in Mercer County through permanent housing. 

Utilizing Housing First policy, the Mercer Alliance has developed systems that have become State and national models for ending homelessness for families, singles, and veterans; particularly those experiencing chronic homelessness. As a result of these initiatives singles homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer area has been reduced by 63% compared to the State average of 43% and the national average of 31%, and ended veterans’ homelessness in 2015. Family homelessness has been reduced by 74% compared to the state average of 58% and the national average of 18%.

 As impressive as these accomplishments are, there is still a great deal of work to do to prevent and end homelessness, and to ensure that individuals and families experiencing homelessness are rapidly rehoused and can access the necessary resources and services to succeed. Building effective systems that identify and maximize community resources, promote collaborative efforts, and creative solutions are essential to meeting these challenges.

The Mercer Alliance is extremely grateful to the Princeton Area Community Foundation for continuing to recognize the unique and impactful role the Mercer Alliance plays in combating and ending homelessness, and the value of supporting its collaborative system building initiatives through the generosity of their grant funding.

The Princeton Area Community Foundation promotes philanthropy to advance the well-being of our communities forever. The Community Foundation provides charitable giving expertise to individuals, nonprofits and corporations, and each year invests millions of dollars into the community through grants and scholarships. For more information on the Community Foundation please contact them at 609-219-1800 or online at www.pacf.org

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness approves Anita D. Wemple to Board of Directors

The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness unanimously approved the nomination of Anita D. Wemple, to its Board of Directors at their meeting on September 12, 2017.  Ms. Wemple has a Masters of Social Work from Rutgers University, and a BS in Human Resource Management from Rider University. She brings significant experience in non-profit and program development. During her tenure at Rutgers she worked to develop programs for at-risk youth, including homeless youth. Ms. Wemple also worked as a program coordinator and manager for The Center for Nonprofit Management and Governance at Rutgers, and AmeriCorps. Additionally, she was a training coordinator for the New Jersey Welfare Training Partnership that facilitated best practices training for State of NJ social workers. Ms. Wemple currently works as a manager of youth services at Isles.

“Ms. Wemple brings an important perspective to providing services to homeless and at risk youth that is both welcomed and needed as the Alliance and its government and community partners continue to develop and implement strategies and programs to end youth homelessness in 2017-18, in addition she will provide valuable insight and support to our on-going efforts to end homelessness for families and individuals”, said Frank A. Cirillo, Executive Director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.

Founded in 2004, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a public-private partnership of the county’s business, government and the non-profit sectors. Its mission is to develop and implement strategies and systems to end homelessness in Mercer County through permanent housing.  We can. We must. We will End Homelessness.

Rushed Senate Consideration of GOP ACA Repeal Bill Designed to Hide Severe Flaws

Congressional Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through their latest plan, from Senators Cassidy and Graham, and reportedly are close to securing the votes of 50 senators needed to push the bill through the Senate before September 30th.

Such a strategy would violate the principals of “regular order” even more egregiously than the non-transparent, partisan process of the previous repeal bills.

It would amount to passing a poorly understood bill through the Senate within two weeks without hearings, floor debate, input from constituents, and without a comprehensive Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the bill’s impact.

Senators Cassidy and Graham and their counterparts appear set to take the exact approach they criticized, precisely in order to hide the bill’s damaging impact on coverage, consumer costs, and consumer protections.

This bill is in many ways as bad as – or worse than – previous repeal bills that have failed to pass Congress this year.

cassidy-graham

Read the Report

Download the PDF (4pp)

US Senate bill would increase investment in affordable homes + More of Today’s News

Senate bill would increase investment in affordable housing
Philadelphia Inquirer

Due to success stories like these and so many others, competition for LIHTCs is intense. Two out of every three proposals are rejected each year, largely because of the limited resources available. But a bipartisan bill has a chance to further the program’s impact. Introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 would double the amount of credits made available each year.

Read More

Will Affordable-Housing Decision Be Derailed by Judge’s Ties to Developer
NJ Spotlight

New Jersey’s only municipality to receive its affordable-housing obligation from a judge’s order is continuing to appeal that number, even as construction is underway on the first new developments since the Supreme Court got back in the middle of the Mount Laurel housing controversy. The township is claiming the Superior Court judge was compromised by a relationship with the developer.

Read More

Christie Signs Code Blue Standards into Law

We are thrilled to announce that this afternoon, Governor Christie signed a bill that requires county emergency management coordinators to establish a Code Blue Program to shelter the homeless during severe weather events. Congratulations to everyone who called and e-mailed, making this possible. On the new law, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Network Staci Berger issued the following statement:

“We are happy the governor has signed this bill that provides individuals out on the street with a warm place to rest during severe weather events. Homelessness is an emergency every day but when temperatures drop below freezing, it’s life or death.

“The level of services available throughout the state has varied widely, which is dangerous and unacceptable.  Statewide standards have been desperately needed to ensure the safety and well-being of our neighbors who need shelter, especially in extreme weather. We thank the co-sponsors of this bill, Assemblymen Land and Andrzejczak and Senator Van Drew, and the homelessness prevention advocates who fought to prevent anyone from being left out in the cold.”

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness Receives Social Outreach Grant

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness received a $1,500 Social Outreach grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton for the purchase of Out of State birth Certificates for individuals in Trenton/Mercer County with a history of homelessness.

Frank A. Cirillo, executive director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, said the funds would be used to support programming to ending homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer community. “The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is honored and excited to have been awarded a $1,500 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton to help fund this much needed service.

The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness developed the concept of an ID project as part of its planning for the Coordinated Entry and Assessment System (CEASe). This was done with its system partners; the County of Mercer Department of Human Services, the City of Trenton, Department of Health and Human Services and the Mercer County Board of Social Services. The CEASe system was developed to provide a systemic approach to serving the needs of the single homeless population in the Trenton/Mercer community. The goal of the system is to move individuals to housing as quickly as possible; thus ending their homelessness.

The ID project is based on the knowledge that many individuals have lost their identification while they have been homeless. These include birth certificates and social security cards. These documents are essential for any housing search whether the individual pursues housing on their own or is assisted by case managers. All applications for housing vouchers, whether Federal or State, require ID. All subsidized housing, Senior Housing and Housing Authority applications require ID.

The Mercer Alliance developed the process for obtaining local, State and Out of State ID’s. The Alliance used consultants (formerly homeless individuals) to implement this process.

Founded in 2004, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a public-private partnership of the county’s business, government and the non-profit sectors. Its mission is to develop and implement strategies and systems to end homelessness in Mercer County through permanent housing. 

Utilizing Housing First policy, the Mercer Alliance has developed systems that have become State and national models for ending homelessness for families, singles, and veterans; particularly those experiencing chronic homelessness. As a result of these initiatives singles homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer area has been reduced by 62% compared to the State average of 43% and the national average of 31%, and ended veterans’ homelessness in 2015. Family homelessness has been reduced by 79% compared to the state average of 58% and the national average of 18%.

As impressive as these accomplishments are, there is still a great deal of work to do to prevent homelessness, and to ensure that individuals and families experiencing homelessness are rapidly rehoused and can access the necessary resources and services to succeed.  Our census data indicates there were still 201 homeless families and 1443 homeless individuals in the Trenton/Mercer area in 2016.

The Mercer Alliance is extremely grateful that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton has recognized the value of supporting its ID initiative through the generosity of their grant funding.