HUD Commits $500,000 for Housing Mobility Demonstration Project

Building One Pennsylvania celebrated November 29th an announcement by U.S. HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones of the commitment of $500,000 for a demonstration project in southeast Pennsylvania to reform practices within the Housing Choice Voucher program that reinforce the concentration of poverty and limit opportunities for families.

Deputy Secretary Jones made the announcement at an awards ceremony held by the First Suburbs Project and Building One Pennsylvania. The development of a regional housing mobility program is part of the organizations’ policy agenda to promote inclusive, stable and economically prosperous communities.

“One of the most reliable ways of closing the achievement gap for low-income children is to give them the opportunity to attend a low-poverty school,” said John McKelligott, chair of Building One Pennsylvania and a former school board director and president for the William Penn School District. “This effort begins to recognize the critical role of housing policy in educational outcomes.”

Research shows that 89% of housing choice vouchers allocated in the southeastern Pennsylvania suburbs are used in only a handful of communities – all of them fiscally challenged.

“This program will provide dollars to open up new opportunities for people seeking good places to live and work,” said Marlon Millner, a Norristown councilmember and board member of the First Suburbs Project. “At the same time, Norristown and the Norristown Area School District, which serve almost half of the county’s entire housing choice voucher population, can focus on stabilizing our community and creating more opportunity in the future.”

Building One Pennsylvania and theĀ  First Suburbs Project worked closely with the Poverty and Race Research Action Council to develop the housing mobility program, the goals of which are:

  • To recruit new landlords and open up rental housing in higher opportunity towns to very low-income families who are effectively excluded by HUD’s current rent ceilings for housing vouchers (data on school achievement and local employment availability is used to define “high”, “medium” and “low” opportunity towns);
  • To give families the information and assistance they need to make better housing choices;
  • To stabilize fiscally challenged towns with declining job markets and struggling schools in which very low-income families are increasingly concentrated by HUD’s current housing choice voucher practices.

Approximately 200 local leaders attended the award ceremony to honor several leaders who were instrumental in advancing the housing mobility program, including U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.; Rev. Marlon Millner, Norristown Municipal Council and McKinley Memorial Baptist Church; Isaac Dotson, Yeadon Economic Development Corporation; and Tom Gemmill, St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster. Additionally, U.S. Congressman Patrick Meehan was recognized for his leadership on the recently enacted federal transportation bill, which he supported as a means of repairing our infrastructure, creating jobs and making our regions more desirable to private investment.

“This is a promising beginning for our effort to coordinate housing, schools, transportation and infrastructure investments in a manner that supports diverse, inclusive and stable middle-class communities,” said McKelligott.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project and Building One Pennsylvania are comprised of local elected, faith and civic leaders who have joined together to stabilize and revitalize their communities, reinvigorate local economies and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.