California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights Provides Solutions

Political leaders at the state and local levels in California have delivered not one but two aggressive efforts to address the home mortgage foreclosure crisis. One effort, the Homeowner Bill of Rights, is likely to be a powerful stick which will help borrowers negotiating a loan modification from nearly all banks and mortgage servicers. The other effort, an attempt by San Bernardino County and nearby municipalities to use eminent domain powers to modify mortgages, has run into opposition from several quarters and may prove unfeasible.

The recently signed Homeowner Bill of Rights law does a few things that even the national mortgage settlement agreement between 49 states and the nation’s five largest loan servicers does not. First, the law applies to all banks (with a few exceptions for very small ones) not just the big five. Second, the law provides a private right of action for borrowers against banks who demonstrate “significant, material violations of the law.” Hopefully, this will eliminate any vestiges of the “dual track” practice where servicers continued a foreclosure process even while at the same time negotiating a loan modification with the borrower. Coincidently, this dual-track practice already is illegal under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), but it continues nonetheless.

The proposal concerning eminent domain is an effort to render some further assistance to underwater borrowers. Legal scholars are now dissecting the reasoning behind this proposal. Questions surrounding issues of public purpose and just compensation valuation are only the most obvious matters for attention. The partnership with Mortgage Resolution Partners (MSP) needs explanation since this firm will ultimately receive the mortgages in some as-yet-unknown transfer process. Finally, the necessity of protecting investors in mortgage backed securities, while unpopular with many, is nonetheless an underlying principal of contracts which cannot be ignored even to help underwater borrowers.

One only needs some awareness of politics as opposed to law in order to understand why the eminent domain proposal is facing so much opposition from banks, real estate agents, title companies and chambers of commerce. Following the rightly-decided U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs New London, which upheld an eminent domain action by a local government, various states tightened the laws under which local governments could exercise eminent domain authority. The victory handed to localities by the Court was very quickly curtailed by many state governments because of the perceived lack of public purpose evidenced in the Kelo case.

The desire on the part of local officials in San Bernardino County to help homeowners has led them down a path which while creative in the near-term may run counter to the longer-term interests of local government autonomy. In short, by taking a broad reading of eminent domain powers there is some risk to local governments in California and elsewhere. The possible consequence is mobilization of opposition to such a viewpoint within state legislatures and in Congress resulting in action to eviscerate local eminent domain authority across the board.

Development, Housing Affordability, and Gentrification: Knowing Your City (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second in a three–part series that explores gentrification as an ‘unintended consequence’ of the (re)development of a place, and identifies innovative tools and strategies that cities are using to address the overlapping issues of mobility and affordability.

In the first blog post of this series, I outlined my concern with the effects of place-based economic development on long-time residents in a neighborhood. With a growing interest in creating transit-oriented developments, vibrant corridors, and walkable communities- generally environmentally and economically intelligent choices for cities- it is increasingly critical that we understand the implications of such efforts for all members of a community.  In this post I explore strategies used by cities to ensure that all residents, newcomers and long-timers alike, benefit from these developments, while the final post will describe specific tools available to cities to preserve an affordable housing stock.

I assert that the first and most critical step to avoiding displacement is a re-examination of the intention behind planning for such developments. While the resulting increase in the tax base that comes from a ‘successful’ redevelopment effort is often necessary for cities to remain economically competitive, a broader set of factors including social, cultural, demographic, and economic diversity is equally necessary to create healthy and sustainable cities. In her presentation at NLC’s 2011 Congress of Cities,’ Emily Talen, a professor at Arizona State University, similarly illustrates the importance of various types of diversity to create vibrant, resilient cities.

Given that gentrification is often regarded as an ‘unintended’ consequence, or an unfortunate after-effect of an otherwise successful redevelopment effort, perhaps the most effective intervention is one of intentionality during the earliest stages of the process. Rather than waiting to see how redevelopment efforts may or may not result in the gentrification of a neighborhood, I suggest embedding inclusive planning practices from the start to actively integrate and understand the needs and visions of current and future residents of the community.

I outline here three basic principles that, albeit straightforward, radically alter the ways in which we understand, prioritize, and plan redevelopment efforts. While these principles represent only the first steps in moving towards the creation of economically diverse, ‘sustainable’ neighborhoods, they are important to set us on a path of altering where and how redevelopment occurs:

Know What Matters.  The vision shapes the product.  Gentrification ends up being an ‘unintended consequence’ of development primarily because nothing in the vision of a development project states otherwise.  It’s simple—a vision for a project that explicitly prioritizes the preservation of affordable housing (as an example), in addition to economic vitality, is the first step towards ensuring that affordable housing becomes a reality.  Purposefully crafting a vision statement, for a neighborhood or corridor redevelopment, establishes which priorities will guide the project.

For their long-term strategic plan, the City of Portland explicitly stated that “advancing equity” was the foundation of the plan.  Read what that means to them, and how they engaged the community to advance their equity goals.

Know All Sides. A story changes depends on who tells it. It’s a simple concept, but one that has great implications for the planning of neighborhoods. It is often challenging or time-consuming to make sure that all critical stakeholders in a community—local businesses, residents, and potential developers—are at the table.  However, these small businesses and residents who have lived in the neighborhood for a long time have unique local knowledge that would help to inform future development. Additionally, if it is a priority to retain current residents and businesses, then future development has to respond to their needs and visions for the community as well. A heavy outreach effort including the use of social media as well as community meetings that foster inclusiveness and embrace diverse opinions and stories, are critical to gain community support and ensure that plans incorporate their valuable local knowledge.

Check out this case study of a redevelopment process in the City of Albuquerque as an example of how to effectively build community consensus around a project.  Additionally, this report highlights twenty innovative city programs aimed specifically at integrating immigrant communities.

Know What You’re Working With.  Many cities have mastered the art of economic analyses and economic projections (NLC, in partnership with Northeastern University, offers assistance on this front). However, we still have a ways to go with using equity measures to understand the current conditions of our neighborhoods and the implications of future development.For example, if a priority goal is to maintain housing affordability, then we need to better situate ‘affordability’ based on specific neighborhood conditions.  Luckily, emerging technologies —including an array of mapping tools —have made it much easier to get a sense of current conditions and understand some of the ‘equity effects’ of our development decisions.

In a webinar hosted by NLC last month, Stefanie Shull of the Center for Neighborhood Technology presented on their Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, a comprehensive way to measure true housing affordability by incorporating transportation costs and neighborhood characteristics.  Check out their interactive map here. 

The next and final blog post for this series will focus on specific tools – such as community benefits agreements, inclusionary zoning, and design strategies – that communities have successfully used to ensure housing affordability in the midst of redevelopment efforts. Stay tuned and email vasudevan@nlc.org if you have a great example!

The Latest in Economic Development

This week’s blog explores strategic alignment of workforce and economic development, the intertwined fate of colleges and their host communities, and downtown redevelopment.  Comment below or send to mcfarland@nlc.org.

Get the last edition of “The Latest in Economic Development” here.

No matter where you come down on the skills mismatch debate (and another commentary here from The Atlantic), many cities see aligning workforce and economic development critical to addressing the talent challenges facing their local businesses and citizens.  Regional economic development authorities in Sioux City, IA and Bullhead City, AZ are working with their workforce systems, local employers and in some cases community colleges,  to better understand the existing labor force and talent needs of current and future businesses.  Licking County, OH is putting its data to use on a new website, Workeconomics.com, which “provides existing and potential employers with an overview of the community and its labor force, as well as links to economic development, workforce and education resources.”

In other workforce news, some are turning to non-profits as a way to overcome inefficient bureaucracies and apply more expertise to the serious business of workforce development. Detroit’s Mayor Bing is transitioning workforce programs to a new non-profit since “state officials routinely found mismanagement, inefficient services, poor performance and high overhead costs.”   The Manatee-Sarasota region, facing 13% unemployment, is working with Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to create a privately funded workforce-development agency called CareerEdge. “The idea was to see if a privately funded agency, unencumbered by state or federal bureaucracies, could have an impact on both the supply and demand sides of the labor market,” according to Florida Trend. So far, the results are promising.

And just when they’re needed most, many colleges are in decline, and taking their college towns with them, reports the Wall Street Journal. “The effects [of declining financial health of colleges and universities] have rippled across the local economy. Housing prices declined and housing starts fell to a 20-year low, in part because laid-off workers moved away. Students spent less and the city’s sales-tax revenue fell by 15%. In response, the city this year slashed its budget by 6%.”  Although dependence on colleges can spell disaster for some communities, Forbes says universities and their local economies would be well-served by strengthening the link between industry and university research and making it easier for business to engage with academia.  The city of Chicago is actively working with the Illinois Institute of Technology to do just that with the creation of a new Innovation Center.  “It will help unlock the potential of thousands of students while providing Chicago businesses with a pipeline of new products, processes and talented graduates to hire,” said Mayor Emanuel . Students will work directly with businesses and industry and test new concepts in an array of labs, flex spaces and workshops. The new 100,000 sq. ft. building will also house IIT’s Interprofessional Projects Program to offer students collaborative, multidisciplinary projects to ready them for careers technology jobs.

Interlude: Economic development tid-bits. Kauffman Foundation releases videos profiling importance of immigrant entrepreneurs to U.S. economy;  how we define small business matters;  two views on the promise of online education from Fast Company and NY Times; and more commentary on whether “coolness-will-save-us.”

Cities are pursuing various paths to downtown redevelopment, but the jury’s still out on how quickly they can be implemented and how effective they will.  In Cleveland, the county of Cuyahoga is seeking a new downtown location for its headquarters, a move many say will help stabilize the real estate market and spur much needed economic activity.  Culver City, CA hopes to “maintain its small-community character while trying to build itself into an attractive destination for shopping and recreation.” The loss of redevelopment funds, however, is threatening to stall several real estate developments in the pipeline.  Milwaukee, through the use of a Community Benefits Agreement in its Park East Corridor, is leveraging a 64-acre redevelopment project in the heart of downtown to strengthen surrounding neighborhoods and local businesses.  Seattle city council recently approved a series of land-use changes, including easing parking requirements for new development and raising the threshold for environmental review, which it says will streamline regulations and encourage construction downtown.

A Way Forward for Local Infrastructure Investment

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is raising the bar on implementing solutions to his city’s infrastructure needs.  During a wide-ranging discussion in Washington, D.C. today, Mayor Emanuel ticked off the challenges he and other local leaders face in cities and towns across America – congested highways, obsolete water and sewer systems, low capacity telecommunications networks and overextended public transit.

There is abundant evidence that points to the need for significant infrastructure investments if the City of Chicago is to compete as a world class city.  By way of example, a March 2012 report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) cited the city’s strengths in the areas of higher education, arts and culture, global accessibility (O’Hare and Midway), public transit, city parks, high-end job growth and overall quality of life.  However, the same report articulates elements of weaknesses including road congestion and a generalized underinvestment in the extensive public transit system.

The local infrastructure trust that Mayor Emanuel has put forward is an aggressive attempt to implement strategic infrastructure improvements using more private sector financing.  The initiative is the latest manifestation of local government leaders taking infrastructure financing into their own hands in the absence of major support from Congress and from state capitals.

During his Washington briefing, Mayor Emanuel indicated that he expects to see the trust garner capital from a variety of sources including union pension funds, private investors and philanthropies.  His priorities in Chicago include replacing old public transit tracks, rolling stock and stations, complete upgrades to water and sewer pipes, and street improvements that will coincide with laying of fiber optic telecommunications cables.

“The infrastructure trust is for transformative investments,” said Mayor Emanuel, “not for basic upkeep and maintenance.”

New Report Highlights Challenges for Veterans

Last week, Paycheck to Paycheck was released by the National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy. The report looked at the cost of housing in more than 200 metropolitan areas and the incomes earned for 74 jobs, including five jobs “targeted by training programs sponsored by the Department of Labor in partnership with the military and other organizations: carpenters, dental assistants, electricians, firefighters and truck drivers.”

The report found that housing costs remain a challenge for many veterans even with employment. With an unemployment rate of 30.2% among post-9/11 veterans ages 18 to 24, these findings are even more troublesome.

Where are younger veterans living? Data from the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics show the top 5 counties with the largest population of veterans younger than 44 are the counties around San Diego, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Phoenix, AZ; San Antonio, TX; and Chicago, IL.

For Los Angeles and San Diego, the report shows that none of the jobs targeted by training programs provide incomes that would make renting a two-bedroom apartment affordable. In Phoenix and Chicago, dental assistants don’t earn enough but other occupations fair better. Other occupations such as retail sales people and security guards also don’t pay enough.

The findings underscore a key point for elected officials and municipal leaders – skills learned during military service do not automatically translate into civilian jobs that pay a livable wage. There are many explanations for this, but instead of looking at those, city leaders can bring focus and leadership to solutions.

Connecting veterans to their education benefits and opportunities in the community is an important step. Coordination between local community colleges, vocational training programs and universities with reserve and National Guard units, as well as any nearby military installations can help ensure veterans know what programs are available. Understanding and preparing veterans for the local job market is also important. The Department of Labor’s “One Stop Career Centers” can be helpful, but partnerships with community leaders are critical.

Since March 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been promoting their Hiring Our Heroes campaign to help veterans and military spouses find employment. Working with their network of 1,600 state and local chambers, Hiring Our Heroes has hosted more than 210 hiring fairs in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with more than 10,000 veterans receiving jobs. This year, local and state chambers are hosting hiring fairs in 400 communities.

By bringing together the local chamber, veterans service organizations, educational institutions, government and military leaders, communities can ensure that services are not duplicated, information is shared and connections are made. No one organization can do this alone. Collective, coordinated and concerted action is required.

Let us know how your community is helping veterans find work in the comments below and join NLC members in our ongoing work to better serve veterans by contacting me at harig-blaine@nlc.org.

The Latest in Economic Development

This week’s The Latest in Economic Development explores worker skills mismatch, a new H-1B visa report, a variety of activities in city economic development, and some upcoming economic development events. Have things to add, contact me at mcconnell@nlc.org.

Get the last edition of “The Latest in Economic Development” here.

Lately there’s been a lot of chatter about the paradox of lots of vacant jobs and also lots of unemployed people, causing some to point to a “skills mismatch”.  But recent research by The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found limited evidence of such a mismatch. If one does exist, according to the Chicago Fed, it’s for middle skill workers.  “…Occupations that require a moderate amount of skill have not experienced the employment gains, despite the fact that the data from online ads suggest that their skills are in the greatest demand.” Further, Chicago Magazine’s commentary on this research discusses “jobless recoveries” which suffer from the loss of middle skilled jobs that never return.  And Inc. adds another couple of reasons to the mix, including risk averse companies and picky employers and workers.

Highlighting the U.S.’s thirst for high-skilled talent, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released a new report on H-1B visas, which “allows employers to hire foreigners to work in specialty occupations on a temporary basis.”  The report states that almost two-thirds of the requests for H-1B visas are for occupations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with requests for H-1B visas coming from various sectors depending on the metropolitan region. “Demand in corporate metro areas (such as Columbus, IN and Seattle, WA) comes predominately from private employers…while in research metros (such as Durham, NC and Ann Arbor, MI) the demand is driven by universities and other research institutions.” Brookings calls on the federal government to “adjust the cap for H-1B visa applicants based on local employer skills needs and regional economic indicators.” And to “channel H-1B visa fees to skills training in areas that are currently being filled by H-1B workers at the metropolitan level.”

In other economic development news….. the mayors of San Diego and Phoenix, both areas with large defense industries, express their concerns about looming federal budget cuts (Christian Science Monitor via Governing). The mayor of Denver is working to increase small businesses’ access to capital and simplify regulations and permitting by bringing them online (Denver Business Journal). Kansas City’s microlending programs grows to almost 1.5 million (Kansas City Star). And the city of Saint Paul gets props for supporting small business (Star Tribune).

Last but not least, there are a couple of upcoming economic development opportunities. On July 26th, NLC (shameless plug) will host a webinar on the innovative and ambitious Evergreen Cooperatives, which have been getting a lot of positive buzz lately (see recent Atlantic Cities article). Register here.

The folks at ICIC and CEOs for Cities have put out a call for case studies on “what’s working” in cities in the areas of sector-led workforce development, city and anchor economic development collaborations, and efforts to create jobs and build businesses in food clusters. Selected case studies will have the chance to present at their 2012 Inner City Economic Summit. More information here.

The Latest in Economic Development

This week’s blog explores creating an innovation culture, closing the talent gap, “ideation” and Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Challenge. Comment below or send to mcfarland@nlc.org.

Get the last edition of “The Latest in Economic Development” here.

Creating a culture of innovation can sometimes look a lot like “old” economic development. The city of Grove, OK is targeting entrepreneurs using typical “large catch” recruitment tools, such as giving away space in its industrial park (BusinessWeek).  And just this week, D.C. city council approved a $32.5 million tax credit to keep “daily deal purveyor LivingSocial headquarters in the city” (Washington Post).  The impetus: the threat of LivingSocial moving across the border to lower-tax Virginia and disrupting the burgeoning tech scene.

But what do innovative industries really want? In D.C., the tech community responded to the incentives deal with a letter outlining several ways economic developers should support them: sublease commercial office space to young tech firms at below-market rate; use city-owned land to create a “tech hub”; and use business development programs to encourage major industries to invest in information technology (Washington Post).  In Seattle, the major players of the tech industry are pushing for a greater supply of homegrown talent in high-tech disciplines.  In an interesting twist, Boston’s Northeastern University is stepping in to help fill talent gap by opening a Seattle campus offering specialized degree programs (Xconomy via Seattle’s Daily Digest).

Closing this talent gap has become a priority of cities and regions across the country, with many new strategies popping up to overcome an outdated workforce system. The New York Times recently profiled an effort, Year Up, which “makes it possible for poor high school graduates to land good jobs. It does so, in part, by imparting important soft skills that the upper-middle-class takes for granted, like how to interact with colleagues in an office setting. A second aspect of the program involves teaching marketable skills in such areas as computer support, say, or back-office work at financial firms.” Efforts such as Year Up are clearly a step in the right direction, but unfortunately are only a drop in the bucket.

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is working to connect and leverage programs like Year Up with other regional resources, industry, funders, educators and the workforce system to build stronger and more sustainable regional funding collaboratives. “At the heart of this is really making sure that the partnerships support the work and the needs of the local community,” said Damian Thorman, national program director at the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation and chair of the Investor Committee for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta).

What does “ideation” mean to you? Yes, that’s a real word, at least according to the Bloomberg Foundation. With an Innovation Delivery Team grant from Bloomberg, the city of Memphis is boosting businesses in struggling, but transitional neighborhoods.  Governing profiles the city’s ideation process to engagestakeholders, peers, experts and others for ideas and data about an issue and use that information to rigorously examine those ideas before choosing a direction.” For example, Memphis convened local employers to discuss the challenges they face, goals for the future and specific policies they would like to see implemented. As a result, the city is developing strategies, such as “pop-up retail,” to allow start-ups to test the waters in vacant and underused locations.  The city is also undergoing a major overhaul of its business development agency to provide improved market data and customized assistance.

Also from Bloomberg, if your city has a bold idea to make government work better, solve a serious problem or improve city life, apply for the Mayor’s Challenge. RSVP due July 19!

Development, Housing Affordability, and Gentrification: Exploring the Issues (Part 1 of 3)

This is the first in a three –part series that explores gentrification as an ‘unintended consequence’ of the (re)development of a place, and identifies innovative tools that cities are using to address the overlapping issues of mobility and affordability.

A few weeks ago, a blog post announcing the 50 “fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods in the United States” went viral. With Washington D.C. holding 3 of the top 25 slots, and my zipcode placing 10th overall, I was flooded with the hyperlink to the original post and several follow- up commentaries from family and friends who know that this issue – and my neighborhood – are close to my heart.

Shaw neighborhood in Washington, DC

Having lived in the Shaw neighborhood of northwest D.C. for several years now, I admit to being one of the earlier ‘gentrifiers’ of the neighborhood – one of those mid-twenties professionals who moved in because of cheap rent, proximity to work, and access to transit. Over time, I’ve witnessed the rapid transformation of the U Street corridor into a thriving commercial center and weekend destination spot for all ages. Anecdotally, I know the author’s claim about my neighborhood to be true – the construction of condominiums, the disappearance of vacant houses, and the popping up of small businesses, restaurants and bars are difficult to ignore.  Successful economic development strategies, especially after the construction of the metro line and the convention center devastated many existing small businesses, has meant a very sudden change in the neighborhood’s demographics. And so, while some may argue with the methodology used to produce this list of 50 zipcodes, the article certainly raises several critical implications about the intersections of development and affordability.

Interestingly, a recent Urban Land Institute forum, “Moving Out: How Future Demand Will Impact Housing Opportunity,” discussed a related phenomenon.  Researchers are trying to better understand what particular housing amenities my generation of roughly 85 million ‘unpredictable’ Gen Y-ers (about 4 million more people to account for than the preceding baby boomer generation) will seek in the coming years.  Will it be access to transit, smaller housing units, proximity to work, availability of rental housing, location of retail, or something else that is the driver for location decisions?

The only clear answer is that there isn’t one, and more than likely some combination of all of the above (and more) will affect where and how folks in my generation, specifically those who can afford to be mobile, choose to live.  However, a more pressing issue is to understand the present and future tradeoffs of this fluctuation in housing demand on populations that are typically less mobile—populations that often are inevitably forced to move out of homes they can no longer afford as their neighborhood or surrounding areas become the focus of a city’s redevelopment efforts.  In other words, as neighborhoods are ‘gentrfying’ in cities, or as new businesses create vibrant corridors (such as U Street) and nearby residences become hot commodities, what is the true burden placed on those who can no longer afford to live in their homes? What are the housing costs for long-time residents who either choose to stay in these neighborhoods or are pushed out to the suburbs or to other neighborhoods in the city?  And what can city planners and elected officials do to ensure that both new and long-time residents are able to reap the benefits of a city’s (re)development and subsequent economic growth?

In the next few weeks, stay tuned to hear about tools, strategies, and programs that several cities around the country are utilizing in order to preserve affordable and workforce housing in neighborhoods that are economically benefiting from development strategies such as main streets initiatives and transit- oriented development.  The next post in this series will further examine the challenges in preserving a mix of housing types in rapidly developing neighborhoods and identify tools and mechanisms to address this issue, followed by a final post providing successful city-supported examples of such redevelopment efforts.

Has your city faced similar challenges and/or identified effective strategies to encourage redevelopment while preserving affordability and equity in neighborhoods? If so, please email vasudevan@nlc.org to share.  Also, follow us on Twitter @SustCitiesInst to hear when we post the next blog!

Bringing Veterans Back into the Fabric of Our Communities

This year’s 4th of July is a unique opportunity to reflect on our nation’s veterans. As our military begins to wind down involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, our nation also marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812 and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War. What came out of these two wars were vastly different public responses.

As the War of 1812 came to a close, Francis Scott Key wrote the words that would one day become our national anthem, a song that evokes pride and patriotism whenever it is sung. In February 1815, when the war concluded, the nation basked in the victory of a “2nd war for independence” that cast aside any doubt that our nation was truly an independent republic.

But, when men and women returned from Vietnam, they were castigated and criticized for their service even though many had been drafted. Rather than being welcomed home, Vietnam veterans faced judgment, scorn and outright hostility in some instances. President Obama recently characterized our nation’s response as a “national shame” and “disgrace” that “should have never happen.”

In an effort to help reintegrate Vietnam veterans into communities, city leaders worked with the National League of Cities in the early 1970’s to encourage veterans to take advantage of their G.I. bill benefits in nearly one dozen cities. No two city efforts were the same, but an independent evaluation in December 1973 that was prepared by the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) of the programs concluded that the most successful efforts at boosting G.I. utilization rates were those that had strong ties with local government agencies providing a variety of services.

With men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan changed by their experiences, cities can once again take a leading role to ensure our veterans are fully integrated back into our communities. Elected officials and municipal staff leaders can help channel the patriotism and pride we feel on Independence Day into meaningful and lasting benefits for both our veterans and our communities.

A practical first step to ensuring veterans are comprehensively reintegrated is making sure they have a safe, stable, accessible and affordable place to call home. It means making sure that home meets their needs if they have a disability. By making sure all of our veterans have a place to call home, we ensure they have a base from which they can find work and bring their unique skills and strengths into our communities.

On occasions like the 4th of July, the pride we have as a country becomes even more evident. But our nation’s pride and gratitude for our veterans exists every day. The challenge for city leaders is to find tangible ways to direct those emotions in ways that best serve our veterans. There are cities already taking action. Learn from them by visiting www.nlc.org/veteranshousing.

Happy 4th of July!