The FWD: Giving Thanks

The FWD #134

481 Words

10 things we’re thankful for in 2020

Thanksgiving usually provides a moment of national reflection about the things we are thankful for in our lives. 2020 makes that uniquely challenging. It’s been a year that will certainly be one of the most tumultuous in generations.

We have over a quarter of a million Americans dead from the COVID pandemic. We have numerous, grim reminders of the systemic racism that still pervades the nation. And we have a divisive election that won’t seem to end.

Most of us will be happy to ring in 2021 and leave this year to the historians. Despite all of this, there are some things we can be thankful for, and which give us hope. Here’s our list:

  1. The pandemic has laid bare the housing instability faced by millions. But it offers us the chance to adopt new policies to address these gaps, by further emphasizing the connection between housing and health.
  2. The impact of systemic racism on housing has its highest visibility in decades and, like the pandemic, also gives us a window for change. The state housing study (HB854) now underway will use both of these lenses in its work.
  3. Governor Northam directed an additional $25 million to the FY2021 Housing Trust Fund, bringing the total to $55 million. This puts Virginia in the top tier of state housing trust funds.
  4. DHCD and Virginia Housing stood up a $50 million Rent and Mortgage Relief Program in record time. Now we need to make sure that every tenant and homeowner in need is helped.
  5. The 2020 Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference succeeded in bringing all of us together again, if only virtually. It’s an annual way we learn and celebrate together that the pandemic couldn’t stop. Kudos to DHCD.
  6. Despite all the fatigue we have from it, Zoom and other platforms have enabled us to stay in touch and SEE each other, even if only in two dimensions. With so many events now being virtual, it’s also given us the chance to participate in conversations we would never have traveled for before COVID.
  7. Our affordable housing providers and homeless services organizations have stepped up to the challenges of the pandemic in ways that we could not have imagined. Long hours, sacrifices, and creativity have kept residents safe.
  8. The 2020 session of the General Assembly (the first one!) now seems like years ago, but it brought us “source of income” protection, an improved inclusionary housing framework, a possible state housing tax credit, a new state housing assessment, and the prospect of long term substantial support for the Housing Trust Fund.
  9. President-elect Biden’s housing plan is ambitious and expansive, including universal access to housing vouchers for eligible households. Next year could signal profound changes to our federal housing efforts.
  10. The pandemic has made us appreciate the safety and security of our homes more than ever and has reminded us that many don’t have this. The work continues!

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