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PRRAC Update February 17, 2011

Welcome to the PRRAC Update! Every other Thursday, PRRAC sends out a brief digest of news, recent publications, and other points of interest related to our work in housing, education, and health. We welcome feedback and encourage you to forward to others. To join the PRRAC email list, click here.

Race, Poverty, and the Secondary Mortgage Market

The Obama Administration's recent Report to Congress on "Reforming America's Housing Finance Market" has generated criticism in the civil rights community for floating several options that could withdraw the federal government from much of the secondary mortgage market for most home mortgages and suggesting increases in eligibility standards for some federally-guaranteed mortgages. PRRAC joined several other civil rights and housing organizations in issuing a joint statement encouraging Congress to reject efforts to privatize much of the home mortgage market (see civil rights coalition press release).

There are also some positive signs in the section of the report that address the affordable rental needs of low and very low income families, and that reflect recommendations of civil rights groups and the National Low Income Housing Coalition submitted to the administration last year. Specifically, the Report to Congress recognizes the huge rental affordability gap for the poorest American families, and calls for a "renewed commitment to affordable rental housing" - including a commitment to a dedicated financing mechanism to "support the development and preservation of more affordable rental housing for the lowest-income families to address serious supply shortages, similar to the Housing Trust Fund that the President has proposed to be capitalized." Just as importantly, the HUD/Treasury Report recognizes the important fair housing aspects of such a renewed commitment to affordable rental housing:

"Promoting a housing finance market that provides liquidity and capital to support affordable rental options can alleviate the high rental burdens that many low-income households face. It can also expand rental options for low-income households in urban, suburban, and rural communities of opportunity, with good jobs for parents and quality schools for children."

This 31-page report leaves the details to be worked out later, and the serious civil rights concerns over access to home mortgages need to be addressed. But the emphasis on supporting new affordable rental housing development in high opportunity communities is a step in a positive direction.

Linking housing and school integration

We were pleased to host a conversation earlier this month between housing and education experts and HUD and Department of Education staff on how to better coordinate cross-agency activities in support of racial and economic integration. Several prominent researchers presented their work on the intersection of housing and school integration efforts, including Myron Orfield, Roslyn Mickelson, Ingrid Ellen, Stefanie Deluca, and others. The agenda and powerpoint presentation from the roundtable are available here - and a report with detailed policy recommendations will be out later this spring. We are looking forward to following up with both agencies on the ideas discussed at the roundtable.

Investing in Innovation Comments

PRRAC was joined by several civil rights organizations and scholars in comments on the Department of Education's Investing in Innovation Fund. The Department failed to include "promoting diversity" as one of the Fund's competitive preference priorities. These priorities give a significant advantage to organizations and programs that qualify for the nearly $650 million

available for innovative strategies to decrease achievement gaps and encourage high school completion. A link to the comments is here.

In other news....

HUD budget cuts? The House of Representatives, in H.R. 1, is seeking to cut existing funds in the 2011 HUD Budget by almost $6 billion! If you are interested in getting involved in your community please check out these campaigns organized by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Association of HUD Tenants. In the meantime, the proposed HUD 2012 budget has been released - which also includes significant (but smaller) funding reductions which we are in the process of reviewing for their civil rights impacts.

Families USA Health Advocacy Conference: PRRAC was pleased to be one of many co-sponsors of Families USA's annual conference, "Health Action 2011." The conference included a plenary session and workshops on minority health issues, particularly policy and grassroots efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. The conference highlight was President Barack Obama's inspirational speech to a room full of enthusiastic health care advocates. Check out Health Action 2011 Conference Central for the "advocates of the year" video, photos, webcasts, workshop handouts, and more.

House Education Committee Questions Federal Role in Education: The GOP-controlled House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) held its first major hearing on February 10, 2011 aimed at assessing the results of the federal government's involvement in public education at the local level (link here). Witnesses included Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction; Lisa Graham Keegan of Education Breakthrough Network; Andrew Coulson of the CATO Institute; and Ted Mitchell, CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund. The Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson argued that the federal investment in education has done little to increase student achievement (with the exception of the DC Voucher program).

Florence Roisman, PRRAC's former (and a founding) Board member, now a Law Professor at the Indiana University School of Law (Indianapolis), will receive the Cushing N. Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award on March 29, at the National Low Income Housing Coalition's annual conference. If you would like to attend the March 29 reception, visit the NLIHC website. Congratulations, Florence!

Philip Tegeler

Saba Bireda

Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Washington, DC

(to review past PRRAC updates, click here)

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