Bart Harvey's Remarks


Bart Harvey's Remarks
Chairman and CEO, Enterprise Community Partners
Community Summit to End Homelessness
April 7, 2006

Thank you, Cathy Hudgins, for your introduction. It is a wonderful honor to be asked to speak at such an important occasion. My thanks to Eugene McQuade, Ralph Boyd, Maxine Boyd, Dean Klein, and Freddie Mac for sponsoring this conference, and to Gerry Connolly and all of the officials and citizens from Fairfax County for taking this issue on in such a productive way by formulating a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Fairfax County.

Bart HarveyLet me start and end by asking three questions: Is this a serious goal or is it a platitude? Can it be done? And what about the people opposing you; what are their arguments?

To test the first question: What would you do if you were serious about the issue of homelessness in Fairfax County? Well, first you would get good data on the problem and you have: not only the 2,077 people identified at a single point in time, but those who spend or might spend some time in a homeless shelter, those who are doubled up or a pay check away from a shelter. As far as getting data, you’ve done that and can do even more.

Next, you would explore the methods and models that others have used—get educated on what works. You would need to widely educate yourself and others on the issues of homelessness, the barriers in cultural views toward it, and the challenges you will face in implementing solutions. You have been and are doing this.

Then, you need to convince and involve all of those interested in being part of a solution and forge a common vision. I believe today is part of that.

And then, most important, you need to set a path—a blueprint—with full accountability and transparency for specific goals and corrections along the way. You need to set up a process for achieving those goals. You need to hold each other accountable to the steps you are willing to take, the goals you set, and the results inherent in them. That is a real 10-year plan! That is where you are headed.

Enterprise’s founder, Jim Rouse, thought the way you do today. As he said about the numerous endeavors he undertook including creating the City of Columbia from scratch, “When you face a problem, don’t fight it—look beyond it. What would it be like if this problem didn’t exist? Find a solution, and then figure out how to get there. In all kinds of situations, even in human relationships, one can look at the best that could be and then figure out how to get there, rather than wallow in the distress and frustration of the situation trying to fight one’s way out.” (James W. Rouse, June 2, 1984)

So at least I think you are thinking straight or we are both crazy. But can you do this when few if anyone have? Does it make sense to do it? Can it be done? Is it feasible?

Let’s Test for Feasibility
If you start with what you know, 2077 people who were homeless at one point in time and look carefully at your demographics you have a starting point. There were 333 homeless families with 734 children. Unfortunately, you might add a factor for increases as well. Finding a way to use surplus county land, or church land, or donated buildings through for profit and non-profit developers to provide 50 family units a year (a small number) for 10 year, you might solve the problem for these families and some other families as well – and use the strength of the real estate market, tax credits, HUD resources, and other means to finance them.

If family homelessness is half the problem, for the other half, if you set in place 50 SRO’s a year for your dramatically increasing homeless single population, with special attention to the chronic homeless population, you should have a very strong basis for achieving your goal. Involving many different partners, business, civic, non-profit, working with sympathetic public servants and driving toward this goal, will activate resources, people and partners you cannot here envision.

Yet, homelessness is not a defined group but rather a dynamic force – affected by economic, real estate, housing and other forces. Your plan, to be a real plan, might focus even more forcefully on preservation of existing affordable housing, preventing people falling into the pool, employing services to keep people in their homes, and experimentation on what works best for the chronic homeless – seeing if Housing First coupled with Supportive Housing, can make the difference.

Let me say a little bit more about what Enterprise has learned. And let me start humbly, particularly around time frames. Jim Rouse set us up to see “that all low-income people in America had the opportunity for a decent, affordable home and a path out of poverty, within a generation.” Well, even though we’ve raised $7 billion and helped provide nonprofit groups over 190,000 homes for low-income people, as we neared our 20th anniversary, we had to drop that “within a generation”. We clearly, however, believe in the organizing power of a specific deadline. As Goethe said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it;” and it does. You need a bold plan. You need to work toward 10 years. Yet, let me make some further observations to help you with your plan:

Regarding Preservation
The truth is we are losing our affordable rental housing at an alarming rate, net over 200,000 units a year, putting pressure on every other affordable housing unit. In Washington, DC, where we were trying, 10 years ago, to get investment in inner city areas, the minute we see a Starbucks in the works, we change all our strategies to preservation. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of Starbucks in Fairfax County over the years. It is a sign of dramatic pressures on your affordable housing.

In any case, to help preserve affordable housing, we set up a $25 million low interest rate preservation loan fund for property acquisition and predevelopment expenses for the entire greater Washington, DC area, including Fairfax County. We urge you to do the same, specifically for Fairfax County and perhaps we can help. David Bowers runs this out of Washington, DC, and we would be delighted to help. Enterprise also created a joint venture with the National Housing Trust (NHT)/Enterprise Preservation Corporation to help any apartment owner or tenant group preserve their units, working through nonprofits and counties. Michael Bodaken runs that endeavor and would be happy to help.

On New Production
Enterprise has worked at a policy level on inclusionary zoning, real estate transfer taxes, general revenue bonds, and other ways of producing more housing and housing revenue, and our primary business is to help nonprofits and mission oriented for profits produce new affordable housing of all types and configurations. Given your land costs, you need effective strategies to lower costs of production, and greater densities and local variances to do so.

Enterprise also recognizes the critical need for more supportive housing of all kinds across the country. We have launched an expanded Supportive Housing initiative to invest nearly $600 million by 2009 to produce over 9,000 homes linked to services for people with special needs. We are providing tax credit equity, low interest rate loans, grants and consulting services for developers working with people struggling with physical, psychological or developmental disabilities; homeless or youth out of foster homes, the formerly incarcerated, and homeless families with children. Our partners include the Corporation for Supportive Housing (we jointly launched the Supportive Housing Investment Partnership), National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Alliance for Mentally Ill, The National AIDS Housing Coalition and other partners that are working with the SELHA (Services to End Long Term Homelessness Act).

Just as a note, Freddie Mac was one of the lead sponsors of our first $100 million tax credit fund to serve people with special needs and so far we have gone on to invest nearly $l billion in affordable housing with intensive services. My point is there are now many places you can go to get help, and I’m sure Freddie Mac and Enterprise would be delighted to help.

Finally, as you put together your plan around preservation, prevention, new permanent affordable housing, transitional and supportive housing, I’d like to mention something else which Enterprise with Freddie Mac’s help is piloting that is very exciting and would be most helpful: The Resident Services Initiative.

We believe that modest but effective resident services in affordable housing is another strategy to prevent homelessness. Three years ago, with the philanthropic support of Freddie Mac, Enterprise established a demonstration project, the Family Advocates Program, an effort to improve and promote resident services for low-income families living in assisted, rental housing. These families, which number more than four million, do not qualify for intensive social services funding through HUD and other sources available for the homeless or those in transitional housing.

Enterprise’s outcomes-based demonstration program started with two housing organizations in New York and one in Washington D.C. and trained staff to provide services to and help families, living in publicly assisted housing, navigate the complex array of social services available in their communities. They also provided key services on site. We help people increase their personal and financial assets through more education, better jobs, better money management, better access to health care and services.

These resident services require only modest funding ($450 to $650 per unit per year) but have had significant impact on the families and resulted in improved financial performance of properties as well. We hope to model that these services can largely pay for themselves through better property performance by increasing occupancy, rent collections, and reducing property management costs such as maintenance, legal fees, and bad debts.

In fact, there is strong interest by state governments across the U.S. to look at how they can improve their policies to encourage property-based resident services for families. And Enterprise has led a National Resident Services Collaborative that is working to conduct policy research and standardize outcomes measurement so that funders and investors will be able to evaluate these programs.

Based on our demonstration, Enterprise is beginning to share best practices through the development and delivery of high impact guides, innovative workshops and comprehensive trainings at several national conferences and researching and writing a practitioner’s manual and other research and policy papers. Four best practices and research resources are now available at www.enterprisecommunity.org/resources:

  • More than Roof and Walls, Why Resident Services for Families Are an Indispensable Part of Affordable Housing by Tony Proscio;
  • Creating Opportunities for Families with Resident Services; A Practitioner’s Manual authored by Enterprise program staff, also to be available in Spanish;
  • Program Costs and Staffing Benchmarks for Planning Resident Services for Families by Gore Flynn;
  • Building Opportunities for Families into Affordable Housing: How States are Using the Housing Credit to Encourage Resident Services by Jim Tassos; plus
  • www.residentservices.org Web site of the National Resident Services Collaborative developed and managed by Enterprise.

We look forward to further collaboration with Freddie Mac in disseminating best practices and replicating the resident services model for families across the U.S.

So I hope I’ve made clear that you certainly have a rational plan which can be executed, if you have the will to carry it out, and find the resources to do so. You are serious about your plan, and how to execute it. Here is where your critics came forth. And they will be many and well organized? Are they justified?

Let’s start first with the tenants of NIMBYism. The Campaign for Affordable Housing has put out a very good piece on busting the five myths of affordable housing and you might start there.

Their five myths are (l) Affordable housing is ugly; (2) Affordable housing produces more traffic. (3) Affordable housing increases crime; (4) Affordable housing overburdens schools and infrastructure and (5) Affordable housing lowers property values.

One by one it takes you through studies which reflect a very different light on those issues.

But say critics, this program is simply too expensive? And it will be expensive. But expensive compared to what? That cost of not doing anything is prohibitive on your medical, health, shelter, foster care and other systems, let along the human cost. As the National Alliance to End Homelessness states, “Additionally, inadequate housing is a major contributing factor to the placement and retention of children in foster care. Nationally, the average cost of placing the children of a homeless family in foster care is $47,608, while the average annual cost for a permanent housing subsidy and supportive services for a family of equal size is about $9,000.”

I think you get the economic point. It can be repeated over and over again through medical costs, shelter costs, incarceration costs, etc. Nan Roman and Gerry Connelly spoke about these costs this morning. Yet, cleverer arguments will come forth – if we do nothing for homeless people, and have nothing, those people will have to go elsewhere. Pass the burden somewhere else. And yet Fairfax County is one of the richest counties in the country. Who should you transfer the problem to?

Here I’m reminded of the story of the parish priest in a poor Irish community. The roof of his church leaked, and since it rained on many Sundays, he was losing attendance. He called his strongest lay people together and gave a wonderful seminar on the moral imperative to raise the money to fix the roof of the church. All unanimously agreed. One by one, “Ay father, I would if I could, but I am a poor man with many mouths to feed and can't spare more than I’m giving.” And it was true. Finally, he came to Mrs. O’Malley who owned the county and everything in it. And the father said, surely this is a moral imperative for you, Mrs. O’Malley. She answered, “Father, what do you know about moral imperatives? My sister married a bad man who left her with seven children and she was left in poverty asking my charity. Now that is a moral imperative! And my son changed his profession as a lawyer to find a cure for cancer and is sending me his bills. Now that is a moral imperative. And my husband is in a very expensive nursing home with all its bills! Now that’s a moral imperative. If I can say no to all of them, I certainly can say no to you.

We have become so segregated between wealth and poverty, I’m not sure a moral imperative by itself will work. Yet, I believe, as do you, that whether by religion, belief, experience, empathy, or deep seated conscience, we know we are connect one to the other, and action takes backing, political will and leadership that reasserts our fundamental interdependence, one to each other. Evoking the best sense of citizens around your plan, will be your number one issue.

I believe the work you are doing is important, to each of us doing it, and to our society as a whole. It will ultimately define the coherence of our society, its principles, its values, its priorities.

The sense of taking on our responsibilities as people and a society were eloquently outlined by Robert F. Kennedy in 1967. It says everything about this day, about the importance of your venture and the will to make it real:

“We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, or national achievement by the gross national product. For the gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them. The gross national product includes the destruction of the redwoods, and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads…It includes Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence and sell goods to our children. And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the integrity of public officials… the gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America — except whether we are proud to be Americans.” --Robert F. Kennedy, 1967


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