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Event Summary

Housing policy is often characterized by debate over the relative merits of vouchers versus subsidized production programs in creating affordable housing, stated John C. Weicher, author of “Housing Policy at a Crossroads: The Why, How, and Who of Assistance Programs” (AEI Press, December 2012), at an AEI event on Thursday.  After briefly describing the history of housing programs, Weicher emphasized that voucher recipients are generally more satisfied with their housing, and that vouchers cost half as much as subsidized production programs.

Rudolph Penner of the Urban Institute expanded on the incentive structure of housing vouchers, concluding that in comparison to other federal benefit programs, vouchers provide a relatively mild work disencentive.  Nevertheless, Penner indicated that austere budgets will not be favorable to Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 programs because growing entitlement costs will limit discretionary spending.

Sheila Crowley of the National Low Income Housing Coalition then discussed how competing rationales for providing housing to the poor have produced a complex web of programs that are nearly impossible for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement.  She stressed that housing programs primarily serve the housing industry rather than the intended beneficiaries.

Finally, Ethan Handelman of the National Housing Conference proposed committing more resources at the local level to encourage the creation of affordable rental housing.  He noted that the cost of rent is outside the control of the federal government and emphasized that production programs should continue to play a key role in increasing housing supply and keeping rents low.
–Sean Woods

Event Description

Elevated unemployment rates and increasing budgetary concerns are placing competing pressures on low-income housing programs. At the same time, the public is often disappointed with the outcomes and effectiveness of various federal housing programs. In this environment, policymakers, officials, and advocates are called on to address tough questions:  Which federal programs have most effectively served those in need of housing assistance? Which programs deliver the most benefit per dollar spent to the recipient? What reforms should smart policymakers pursue?

Join John C. Weicher, former assistant secretary for housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and author of “Housing Policy at a Crossroads” (AEI Press, January 2013), and a panel of experts for an engaging discussion of these pertinent questions. Books will be available for purchase.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


11:45 AM
Registration and Luncheon

12:00 PM
Opening Remarks:
Alex J. Pollock, AEI

12:10 PM
John C. Weicher, Hudson Institute

12:30 PM
Sheila Crowley, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference
Rudolph Penner, Urban Institute

Alex J. Pollock, AEI

1:00 PM
Question and Answer Session

1:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Brad Wassink at [email protected], 202.862.7197.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Sheila Crowley is the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Crowley joined the staff of the coalition in December 1998. She is frequently called to testify before congressional committees on the full range of federal policy issues. She is a member of the board of directors of the National Housing Trust, Enterprise Community Partners, the Technical Assistance Collaborative, the National Housing Conference, and the Coalition on Human Needs. She is also an adjunct faculty member for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work and for the George Mason University Department of Social Work, where she teaches social policy, social justice, policy advocacy, and community and organizational practice. She was the 1996–97 Social Work Congressional Fellow, where she served on the Democratic staff of the Housing Subcommittee of the US Senate Banking Committee. She was the founding director in 1979 of the YWCA Women’s Advocacy Program in Richmond, VA, which is a shelter and service program for battered women and their children. She is a founding member of the Virginians Against Domestic Violence, the Greater Richmond Coalition for the Homeless, and the Richmond Better Housing Coalition.

Ethan Handelman is the vice president for policy and advocacy at the National Housing Conference (NHC). Handelman directs NHC’s policy and advocacy agenda focused on advancing federal housing policy to assist low- and moderate-income people, strengthening the US housing finance system; restoring neighborhoods; advocating for housing policy during tax and budgetary reforms; and improving the coordination of housing, transportation and energy policy. He has testified before the US Congress and speaks and writes regularly on housing issues. Handelman joined NHC in March 2011 after leading the advisory practice at Recap Real Estate Advisors, assisting public- and private-sector clients to understand and shape the affordable housing financial and policy environment.

Rudolph Penner is an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute and holds the Arjay and Frances Miller Chair in Public Policy. Previously, he was a managing director of the Barents Group, a KPMG Company. He was also director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1983 to 1987, and, from 1977 to 1983, he was a resident scholar at the AEI. Previous posts in government include assistant director for economic policy at the Office of Management and Budget, deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and senior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors. Pre–1975, Penner was a professor of economics at the University of Rochester. He is past president of the National Economists Club and, in 1989, he was elected to the board of directors of National Association for Business Economics. In 2003, he received the Jesse Burkhead Award for the best article published in Public Budgeting and Finance in 2002.

Alex J. Pollock joined AEI in 2004 after 35 years in banking. He was president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago from 1991 to 2004. He is the author of numerous articles on financial systems and the organizer of the “Deflating Bubble” series of AEI conferences. In 2007, he developed a one-page mortgage form to help borrowers understand their mortgage obligations. At AEI, he focuses on financial policy issues, including housing finance, government-sponsored enterprises, retirement finance, corporate governance, accounting standards, and the banking system. He is the lead director of CME Group, a director of Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and the International Union for Housing Finance, and chairman of the board of the Great Books Foundation.

John C. Weicher is director of the Center for Housing and Financial Markets at the Hudson Institute. From 2001 to 2005, he served as assistant secretary for housing and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) commissioner at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He previously served as assistant secretary for policy development and research at HUD from 1989 to 1993, during which time he was primarily responsible for developing the 1990 FHA reform legislation that re-established FHA on a sound financial basis. Earlier, he served as chief economist at both HUD and the Office of Management and Budget. During 2007–08, Weicher chaired the Committee to Evaluate the Research Plan of HUD at the National Research Council. He has also been a member of the Millennium Housing Commission, the Census Advisory Committee on Population Statistics, and the Committee on Urban Policy of the National Research Council. Weicher was the president of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association in 1982 and received its George Bloom Award for Career Achievement in 1993. From 1983 to 1987, he was the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Scholar in Public Policy at the AEI. Weicher is the author or editor of 14 books and the author of numerous popular and scholarly articles on housing and urban economics, housing finance, and the distribution of income and wealth. He has testified before congressional committees on more than 40 occasions.

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