Ideally, identifying the need involves two steps:
1. Develop a brief clear statement of your community’s housing needs to demonstrate quickly and concretely that the case can be made for additional resources. You should be able to get all of the information on one or two pages … even less is better.
This is not difficult information to obtain because, ideally, you will simply summarize existing data compiled by others. This is an excellent project for a student, an intern or a volunteer. It involves online research, making phone calls, visiting agencies to get their reports and information, and reviewing news clippings and other studies. Then the information needs to be compiled into a few short key points. Some potential resources include:
- The Consolidated Plan submitted to the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) by local and state governments to receive federal funds.
- Other studies conducted by independent social service agencies or other organizations.
- The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual publication “Out of Reach”
- National Housing Conference’s web-based report “Paycheck to Paycheck”
- Census information for your area, which is available here.
- Figures about how many people tried to obtain housing when a new opportunity opened, such as a new apartment complex.
- The number of people on waiting lists for assisted housing.
- Information on the number of homeless people requesting shelter assistance.
2. Establish a clear picture of who is investing in affordable housing and how many units they are producing or preserving. Explaining what others are doing is necessary so you can define the particular needs that the housing trust fund can address—needs that are not being adequately addressed elsewhere. This is another research task that can be done by anyone who enjoys hunting down and compiling information. If there is an association of community housing organizations or nonprofit development organizations, it may be able to quickly pull this together. Some of the information may be available in the Consolidated Plan, which summarizes housing activities underway in the community.
You can get this information from:
- Public agencies that are involved in housing, e.g., Department of Housing and Community Development, Housing Authority, State Housing Finance Agency, etc. Get copies of any annual reports or other reports prepared by these agencies.
- Annual performance reports for how federal funds were spent, including HOME, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Emergency Shelter, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, federal low income housing tax credits and others.
- Nonprofit organizations that develop affordable housing in your locality or state. Many of them belong to a central coalition or consortium that often tracks and analyzes affordable housing need and production.
- Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) statements from banks working within your community.