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Attending Habitat on the Hill 2023: Advocacy for Impact was an incredible opportunity for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas & West Pasco Counties’ Vice President of Government Relations, Sean King, to advocate for critical housing policies and funding for local projects. With approximately 400 attendees representing 44 states and Puerto Rico, the conference was the largest ever, bringing together home affordability advocates from across the country to discuss challenges and solutions for advancing affordable homeownership in Washington DC.

Attendees learned about the implications of a changing political environment on housing policy and discussed challenges and solutions for advancing affordable homeownership with national and local housing experts. Additionally, they had the chance to meet with congressional offices, celebrate a year of policy successes at all levels of government, and left with the tools necessary to increase their advocacy impact locally — all while connecting with peers in our nation’s capital.

The conference highlights were fantastic. Attendees had the opportunity to gain insight from an esteemed keynote speaker, Charlie Cook, founder of the Cook Political Report. There were also multiple networking opportunities with peers from across the country, and engaged in discussions on policy solutions at all levels of government to improve equity in housing. There were vast learning opportunities in the fields of state and local policy change, advocacy tactics, and federal policy. They also had the chance to contribute to Habitat’s collective Cost of Home goal to improve home affordability for 10 million people.

Sean met with the offices of Representative Bilirakis, Castor, and Luna, as well as Senators Scott and Rubio. Our main focus during these meetings was advocating Habitat for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), and the Section 502 Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program (Section 502 Direct). SHOP is the only HUD grant program that exclusively provides funding for homeownership projects serving low-income families, while HOME and Section 502 Direct are crucial for building affordable housing and providing financing for affordable homeownership in underserved rural communities. Habitat believes that increasing funding for these programs will expand access to homeownership for qualified buyers, support local housing markets and contribute to a stronger economy. In addition, we urged support for the Neighborhood Home Investment Act (NHIA), which is similar to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) but is specifically targeted to support homeownership. NHIA is a bipartisan piece of legislation aimed at revitalizing distressed neighborhoods and increasing the supply of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income homeowners. This legislation proposes using federal tax credits to mobilize private investments to build and substantially rehabilitate homes. By utilizing this funding, NHIA aims to create an opportunity for homeownership among those who would otherwise be unable to afford it and help rebuild economically struggling communities.

These meetings were a crucial opportunity for us to advocate for key housing policies and funding for local projects.

The Habitat on the Hill conference was a resounding success for home affordability advocates across the country, and Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas & West Pasco Counties was thrilled to participate in this important event. The conference provided invaluable opportunities to learn about the implications of a changing political environment on housing policy, engage in discussions on policy solutions, and advocate for crucial housing policies with congressional offices. We remain committed to our mission of making affordable housing a reality for everyone and will continue to work tirelessly to support programs and legislation that promote affordable homeownership and strong, resilient communities.

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