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Video: Local Leaders Taking Action

A conversation with Justin Bibb, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, at the 2022 AARP Livable Communities Housing Workshop

Mayors and local leaders are taking action to make historic investments in housing using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

  • Justin Bibb is the mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. His vision is for Cleveland to become a national model for city management, police reform and neighborhood revitalization.   

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The presentation transcript was created by an automated transcription tool. Anyone looking to quote or use information from the event is advised to compare the text to the video recording. 

Rodney Harrell, AARP: That was really inspiring to see. On one side of the country we're really working to keep people to be able to be stable in their communities, on the other side we're creating more options for people to find housing stability. So I really loved those videos with an equity focus.

But now, let's turn to our closing panel for the workshop which is about local leaders taking action. And before we do that, I have one more question for you. So on your screen in a second, you'll see another Slido question. This next panel conversation will focus on the investments that local leaders are making to improve their housing stock. And they'll have an emphasis on leveraging funds from the American Rescue Plan, which as you heard, is this landmark law that included hundreds of billions of dollars for local governments to use to aide in pandemic response and recovery. So our question is: What percentage of local dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, what percentage of those dollars are communities committing to housing issues? Is it 3 percent, is it 6 percent, it is 9 percent, or is it 10 percent? This could be my toughest question of the whole workshop, so Mike, I'm curious. What are people saying out there?

Mike Watson, AARP: Well, Rodney, your question's so tough. We're getting a pretty, a pretty wide range of responses here. About 4 in 10 folks are saying 6 percent of the ARPA funding is going to support housing. About 1 in 4 are saying 10 percent, and then further about 30 percent combined are saying either 3 percent or 9 percent. So somewhere in that 6 to 10 percent range seems to be the sweet spot. What is the actual answer there, Rodney?

Rodney Harrell: Well, it gives me some satisfaction that this was the toughest one and the right answer was the least popular one. The correct answer is about 9 percent. So I got you. And further information was compiled by Brookings Metro, the National League of Cities, and the National League of Counties. And what they did is, is they looked at large cities and counties with populations of at least 250,000, and found that they're investing about 8.6 percent of those funds towards housing. So it's a great deal of money, but more could really be done.

Mike Watson: And Rodney, I think that was a great question, and as you said, you finally got the audience, and I think that sets us up well on the topic of the Rescue Plan for our final panel discussion of the event. So now we're going to turn to our closing panel for this workshop. A fireside chat with a local leader who is taking action and spending some of that Rescue dollars on housing, and in this next conversation we'll focus on how mayors and local leaders are making historic investments in housing, using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, and other sources. As before, there's going to be opportunities to ask questions and respond to polls through Slido, so please be sure to share your thoughts.

So, without further ado, let me introduce our moderator and guests. First, moderating today's discussion is Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer at AARP. Nancy has responsibility for driving AARP's social mission on behalf of Americans 50+ and their families. She leads the Government Affairs and Legislative Campaigns Teams at AARP which is widely seen as one of the most powerful advocacy organizations. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy LeaMond: Hey, Mike.

Mike Watson: Thanks for being here. And we also have Mayor Justin Bibb, the 58th Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. His vision is for Cleveland to become a national model for city management, police reform, and neighborhood revitalization. On January 3rd, 2022, he took the oath of office as the city's first millennial mayor. Welcome, Mayor Bibb.

Mayor Bibb: Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Watson: Thank you so much for being here. Now, Nancy, I'd like to turn it over to you to kick off the panel conversation.

Nancy LeaMond: Well, thanks, Mike, and thanks to Mayor Bibb for joining us today. Cities and local leaders are increasingly on the front lines of addressing issues that matter most to people with housing often near the top of the list. We've heard about some incredible panelists and speakers over the last two days, and I'm delighted to be here for this closing session with a local leader who's been championing these issues in his community. So welcome, Mayor Bibb, and let's begin.

Mayor Bibb: Thanks.

Nancy LeaMond: Mayor, you've made housing a priority to the city of Cleveland with the goal of increasing the stock of affordable housing and investments that drive wealth creation. This has resulted in your city building more than ever, and changing rapidly. What have you found particularly effective in your approach to housing people of all ages in Cleveland, and what lessons might you offer to other local leaders and advocates facing the same affordability crisis that I'm sure they're taking notes.

Mayor Bibb: Well the things I'm really focused on as mayor in terms of my governing philosophy, is really making sure that everything we do from housing to economic development to public safety, is really rooted in the lived experiences of people, particularly working class people in the city of Cleveland. And housing is a major issue for my respective city, and thank God we had a president in D.C. in President Biden who believes that we have to change America one city at a time. And the American Rescue Plan investments have truly been that lifeline to really boost our economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So we've done a couple things. Number one, to really address the major pain point of many of our seniors having a hard time of aging in place, we put a cap to our tax abatement policy in Cleveland to make sure we have more broad-based inclusive housing in the city of Cleveland. We're also looking at leveraging the American Rescue Plan investments to really ensure that our seniors can have access to home repair grants to upgrade their home. In many cases, our seniors don't make enough money to get access to bank financing. But they make too much money to get access to some government programs. So we want to do a better job of plugging that missing middle so our seniors can age in place and truly live a life with dignity. So it all goes back to rooting these policies in the lived experiences of our residents, and that's our North Star right here in Cleveland, Ohio.

Nancy LeaMond: Well, thank you for that, Mayor. You referenced the American Rescue Plan, and we want to turn the focus of this conversation to that. I should note that it's also known as ARPA. The American Rescue Plan Act is $1.9 trillion that includes $139 billion in direct flexible age counties and cities. We view this law as a once in a generation funding opportunity to respond to pressing needs and address many of the housing issues that have been discussed throughout this workshop, and majorities of local leaders feel the same way. The 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors found that nearly 4 in 5 mayors believe that ARPA resources will allow them to accomplish tremendous transformative aims while homelessness, including homelessness and housing among the issues most often cited as funding priorities.

On that topic, I'd like to invite all of you to participate in a poll question using Slido. Everyone should see the instructions on their screen now. And the question is: What is your top priority for addressing local housing needs using your community's share of the $139 billion in direct ARPA aid to local government? Response options you can see are, rent, mortgage, or utility assistance, eviction prevention services, affordable housing development and preservation, helping people experiencing homelessness, or other. So we'll take a couple of minutes and let people vote, although it's pretty lopsided right now. Let's turn to Mike. Mike, why don't you let us know what you think coming out.

Mike Watson: Yeah, Nancy, I was kind of prepared to have a little bit of dialog around a horse race here, but as you said, it's pretty lopsided. About 70 percent of folks are saying that affordable housing development and preservation is their top priority. Next up though is about 18 percent where folks are kind of asking for rent, mortgage, and utility assistance as their top priority, and around 16 percent on addressing homelessness and a further 10 percent on eviction prevention and services. And that 70 percent hasn't seemed to budge too much, so pretty resounding top priority here. Affordable housing development and preservation.

Nancy LeaMond: Wow, pretty decisive. Mayor, did you have any reactions, and is this consistent with what you're hearing from your constituency?

Mayor Bibb: It sounds about right. You know, unfortunately, you're seeing inflation going up, so harder for our residents to buy groceries, harder for our residents to afford transportation, harder for our residents to afford to put money away to make sure that their child can go to college. We're living in a hard time right now, and while we made a tremendous amount of progress in the economy coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, wages have not gone up while prices keep going up. And so we must do a better job particularly working with our federal and state partners at the local level to explore innovative financing strategies and tools to make sure we can increase the supply of affordable housing in our respective communities, and making sure we encourage and incentivize the private sector to be a good partner through public/private partnerships is also a key ingredient to solving this issue at the local level.

Nancy LeaMond: Well thank you again for that. By the end of 2021, nearly 570 state, local, and tribal governments have committed $11.7 billion to meet housing needs, including preventing evictions and foreclosures, helping individuals experiencing homelessness become more stably housed, and expanding the supply, as you just discussed, of affordable housing to address the root cause of housing insecurity. Let's talk even more about what this commitment looks like in Cleveland, and specifically, how your city is leveraging these federal funds to address housing issues. And also, if you might add to that, how are you engaging residents, including older adults, in making these funding determinations?

Mayor Bibb: Well one, received the 8th largest allocation from President Biden through the American Rescue Plan, over $512 million. Of that $512 million, we have allocated $195 million around housing for all and inclusive economic recovery. So that comes in the forms of more funding to support home repair, particularly for our seniors, more funding to support down payment assistance to help families and young people buy a home in Cleveland, and also really supporting them on gap financing. To really close that missing middle so we can build a strong pathway to wealth creation via homeownership. And I would say the listening never stops when you're a mayor, and I've been in a lot of churches, a lot of barbershops, a lot of grocery stores talking to my residents, particularly our seniors, about what they need in this moment right now to live a life of dignity in Cleveland. And this is personal for me, Nancy. My mom has been a social worker for seniors over the last two decades, and so I hear directly from her on how I'm doing in Cleveland to support Cleveland seniors, and so I use her feedback as a good testing ground in how we can be one of the best cities in America to support our seniors.

Nancy LeaMond: Well, thank you for that, and it's always good to hear about a mother's influence as someone who's a mother. Now before we open things up to the audience, I have one final question. Throughout this workshop we've shared tools, resources, strategies with participants to create positive change in the communities that they serve. With that in mind, what should we each be ready to do differently as a result of this panel? What advice can you give us of the most important thing for us to do?

Mayor Bibb: Say, we would be asking harder questions of every leader in government, particularly in our federal government as we think about what's needed to really support a better housing policy. I can't do it alone as mayor. We need more incentives like the Litech Grant to incentivize more affordable housing in cities like Cleveland. We need more commitments from the private sector to really put their money where their mouth is in terms of their commitment to racial equity and inclusion and supporting communities of color that have been forgotten for far too long. So holding our private sector leaders accountable, holding us as elected officials accountable, and also recognizing that through this pain we've all experienced over the last two years, and the pain that we're seeing right now in our country, there's promise on the other side of that pain if we dig deeper and all find a way to give back in organizations like the AARP can go a long way to making that promise a reality.

Nancy LeaMond: Well thank you for that, and in the spirit of what you just said, asking tough questions, we're going to turn back to Mike and he's going to turn to the audience.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Nancy, and thank you, Mayor Bibb. We do have quite a lot of great questions coming in. As a reminder, if you do want to ask a question and you haven't yet, the instructions to ask it are appearing on the screen now. So please join us in Slido, and you can either login to your browser and type in and enter the event code, livable housing, again, that's all one word, or scan the QR code that's up on your screen, and that'll take you to the page.

So first up, Mayor Bibb, one of the questions that we're seeing pretty frequently in kind of different variations of this is you're a mayor, you're a local leader, you've talked about talking with your other local leaders. What are the things that your peers, and what are the messages that you might want to share with your peers on local housing? What are the biggest kind of barriers that your peers are sharing with you and that you're experiencing, and what are some ways that you've been able to overcome some of those barriers and any advice you've heard from your fellow mayors, or you'd like to share with them.

Mayor Bibb: Being a mayor is kind of a special club where we're always talking about what's working and what's not working, and we're all stealing each other's respective ideas. And on the housing front, I think there are a couple of things that we're seeing across the country. Number one, really making sure we use the capital we got from the federal government through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and putting that capital to work as quickly as possible. And one of the barriers we have in that is finding the right local intermediary to deploy that funding in an effective way. And so we're trying to be innovative and look at innovative ways to do that here in Cleveland, and that's an issue. I would also say making sure that we beef up the rights and protections that our renters have in their respective homes. You know, we just passed legislation in Cleveland that's called Pay to Stay, that gives renters in Cleveland more protections in courtrooms to fight against evictions that are unjust and unequal. That's critical. And thirdly, you know to the point I made earlier in the panel, making sure our banks are really intentional about giving us access to capital and that's patient and compassionate capital. You know, many banks have major investments around community reinvestment acts, and sometimes that money is not really put to work in the right way. So we, as mayors, must bring our banking partners to the table to ensure we can leverage this money in a substantial way to uplift all of our respective cities across the country.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Mayor Bibb, very well said, and I think you echoed a lot of great things that we've heard throughout this workshop about a multisector approach that's needed. Secretary Fudge underscored this as kicking off our first day of the workshop yesterday, and now here you are, making that same point, wrapping it up.

Mayor Bibb: Secretary Fudge, a Cleveland native by the way.

Mike Watson: Northeast Ohio's getting some great fanfare here.

Mayor Bibb: Absolutely.

Mike Watson: So on that point, one of the things you just mentioned, kind of private developers and private funding, we've seen lots of questions today, and I want to ask this of you, how are you working with private developers to either incentivize them or what are some other solutions that you were seeing from across the country that are involving private developers in the creation and kind of more creation of affordable housing throughout the community?

Mayor Bibb: Well, you know, one of the things that I've done and have been very intentional about as mayor is really asking our private developers, you know, what's working and what's not working. And how do we have the right targeted incentives to make the financing work in a way that only benefits Cleveland, but also incentivizes them to do good projects in the city. And our tax abatement policy in Cleveland, essentially what that does is it's a 15-year property tax abatement that allows folks to invest and build and rehab new homes in our respective city at a discounted rate.

Now historically, we had a blanket rate, and it was not really localized based on the unique needs and conditions of our respective neighborhoods, so after taking office in January, we revamped that abatement process to make sure it was targeted based on the unique conditions of our neighborhoods at the census track level and we've gotten great feedback from our developers in how they're going to target investments in a more equitable way in the future.

I would also say we also need to beefen up our community benefits agreements, and this is about supporting women and minority owned developers to be a part of the conversation when it comes to housing in our respective cities, and making sure we build it with the people in mind. You know, the word that gets overused in almost every city in the country right now is gentrification. You talk to five people they'll come up with five different definitions of what gentrification means. And you know, I think good, economic development is about building for the people that live there and people who may want to live there in the future based on the inherent assets and strengths of their respective city. So we must do a better job of building with intention in every city across this country.

Mike Watson: I love that, building with intention, and starting with your residents and engaging them and asking them and listening to them, really, really fantastic advice. On that point, I think you know, one of your kind of, when we look across community and what we're talking about today is housing for all ages and particularly older adults. When we look at, and one of the drivers when we think about housing is going to be comprehensive planning and zoning. Now you, as a mayor, how can we kind of more broadly for the folks who are listening today, think about integrating age-friendly housing, and housing for older adults into our comprehensive planning approaches. What are the things that local leaders should be thinking about, and what are the things that folks who are tuning in today might be housing advocates or working on age-friendly initiatives, what are the things that they can do to kind of ensure that that is part of the conversation in comprehensive planning.

Mayor Bibb: Well, this is personal for me. I just last month, I lost my grandmother who was 93 years old. She went away to heaven on her birthday. And she wanted to stay in her house until her last breath. And one of the things that I always loved about my grandmother was she didn't have a car, she would take a bus to the grocery store, take a bus downtown and pay her bills, she would walk to church or walk to a park or a local community garden, and as she aged in place, our neighborhood deteriorated. And it wasn't really a 15-minute city neighborhood. One of the best things we can do as local leaders — and as mayors across the country — is to really advocate and plan around truly becoming 15-minute cities, where regardless of where you live, you have access to a grocery store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables, access to highly reliable and affordable public transit, and access to a park that's well lit, well-programmed for our seniors and our families and our grandchildren to play in and have a great time. That's what good urban planning looks like and that's our mandate right here in Cleveland.

Mike Watson: Great, great response to that question, Mayor Bibb. We actually had a question coming up for you on that, but you went ahead and answered it so well. One of the other themes that we're seeing, earlier we were sharing, if we had a local official or a state official on, a lot of questions that are coming in are, how can we influence you? So we're seeing a lot of questions here about what are the 1 or 2 things we, as residents in the community, folks who are working on aging policy, folks who are working on housing policy, what are the things that we should do to fundamentally change housing in the community? What are the 1 or 2 first steps we should do to kind of get in front of folks like yourself and your staff and folks like yourself from across the country?

Mayor Bibb: Know our city halls, come meet with us as mayors directly in our communities, come to our city council chambers, really start to advocate in real estate development community about the need for a greater housing support in this sector to support our seniors, and let's hold our banking partners accountable and bringing them along to the table as well too. Every sector has a role to play in this movements, and I know that we, in Cleveland, will stand proudly with the AARP to make sure we advocate for more age-friendly cities all across this country.

Mike Watson: Love that, and appreciate that, and I'm sure our friends from AARP Ohio were there with kind of very excited hearing that from you just now.

Mayor Bibb: And my good friend, Doug Taec who's a proud supporter and worker at AARP as well too.

Mike Watson: Wonderful, we love Doug and really appreciate that, appreciate that shoutout. One of the things you just mentioned, you mentioned age-friendly housing, and we know at AARP we represent people over the age of 50, but we also know that age-friend means for all ages. And one of the things that we're seeing here in the conversation in the Chat and in the Q&A is around young adults and seniors. And what are the things that you, as a local leader, are seeing? What are the types of housing solutions that are really benefitting folks of all ages from that kind of from the young adult all the way up to folks who are aging in place in their community, and how do you think about that as a local official?

Mayor Bibb: You know one of the things we're seeing a lot of in Cleveland is a proliferation of duplexes where maybe a senior citizen has owned the home for a long time, and a young family starts and moves in, in that duplex, and they're truly building a two family household. That's really prevalent in our city, and I just think that it's important that we continue to have that kind of diversity of our housing stock to give both young adults and our seniors those high quality options.

Mike Watson: Very well said, and I think kind of underscores a lot of what we've heard today, Mayor Bibb, really, really fantastic. The next question we're hearing I think builds on some of the conversation that we had in our previous panel which is around keeping home prices affordable while neighborhoods are growing. So the question is: How is the mayor, or how are you seeing across the country balancing keeping home prices affordable and neighborhoods that are growing, while also addressing the need to develop safe and affordable housing in some really challenged neighborhoods.

Mayor Bibb: This is, this is a major problem in our city and many cities across the country. You know, as I was campaigning for mayor last year, one of the biggest things I heard from our residents, particularly our seniors was the fact that they didn't want to move, but their property values kept going up because of all the development in the neighborhood. And you know one thing we're looking at is legislation that's called Loop Long-time Homeowner Property, a tax relief legislation, modeled after what we've seen in Pennsylvania, particularly in Philly where we capped property taxes for those residents and seniors who've been fighting to get a fight for a long time, and can't really afford higher property taxes as their property increases in value. And we wanted to see if we could get that done here in Ohio.

When it comes to safety, as any mayor would tell you, running a large city right now, safety is my number one priority. That our seniors feel safe and secure in their homes, and they can walk our streets without fear is important to me. So we’re deploying more officers in our targeted hotspots, we're making sure we invest in preventative measures like midnight basketball for young people, summer youth employment program to keep our kids off the street, during the summer months to make sure that our streets are safe throughout the city of Cleveland. So it must be an all hands on deck approach to make our safe and secure, where everyone can live a life of dignity and achieve their potential.

Mike Watson: Thank you for that, Mayor Bibb. It's a very important, very important point you just made. I want to also kind of pick up on an important point you made earlier which we've seen a lot of positive dialog around in the Chat which is, you made a comment about the importance of lived experience in your community. Do you mind taking a moment and just kind of sharing with us how you think about that when you think about the future of your community. And this can address housing, but also more broadly. How do you think about the value of lived experience for older adults and as you look to the future of Cleveland?

Mayor Bibb: Well, given everything we're seeing right now in Washington DC, the lack of real bipartisanship, the crises abroad we're seeing in Ukraine and also in Asia as well. It's hard to feel like there's opportunities for hope and progress and prosperity, and that the word that keeps coming up to me to me over the last several months has been freedom. How do we build a city where people are safe to walk the streets freely? How do we build a city where people have their freedom and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to grow a business, to achieve long-term wealth creation, and how do we build a city where our children have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and no lead paint in their homes. That's real freedom, and I think if we had more policies focused on freedom to support middle class Americans to give them a leg up, not a handout, but also to build pathways for true wealth creation in this country, that's the best thing we can do to make the promise of our nation real, then we want to make Cleveland a model for America to do just that.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Mayor Bibb, and I think that kind of, the freedom and economic mobility you just mentioned, we notice in a lot of places starts in the home that we live in, so really kind of on the spot comments right there.

One of the things you mentioned there was around health, right, and the importance of that, and health freedom. So one of the questions that we're seeing here, we're seeing a few around the integration between health services and housing. You also are mayor of a city with the Cleveland Clinic and a really, really kind of topnotch medical facility. Outside of the Cleveland Clinic and other kind of foundational medical facilities, can you talk a little bit about how you, as mayor in Cleveland, and also what you're seeing across the country in the integration of health services and housing, and kind of the positive impacts that has on the community.

Mayor Bibb: Well, as you said, it's all interconnected. And you know, we prioritized in my first budget as mayor, is the deployment of mobile health units in our hardest hit parts in our city to give our residents access to preventative health interventions in their neighborhoods bringing services to the people. That's one thing we must do a better job of as local elected leaders. The other thing we're trying to address in our city is lead paint. One activist told me, Ivanka Hall, that the lead paint crisis that is public enemy number one in Cleveland. When our children are eating lead at the ages of 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, it impacts their ability to stay engaged in school. It impacts their ability to build relationships and feel like they have a shot at life. So we put $17 from the American Rescue Plan and work with the Cleveland Clinic to raise an additional 50, to raise over $67 million to fully fund our lead-safe housing endowment to ensure that no child in Cleveland is every poisoned by lead paint again.

So healthy homes create healthy people, create healthy communities, which creates a healthy city, and so we are working around the clock to ensure we have that integrated approach.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Mayor Bib, that was, again, very well said, and I think underscored the importance of that topic. On that notion of healthy homes and healthy communities for a lifetime, we're seeing several questions in here, and you mentioned this earlier but if you want to elaborate a little bit more and provide folks a little bit more information, what are the types of home repair programs that are available both in Cleveland, but also that you're seeing across the country to help folks remain in their homes as they age, ensure that their homes are safe and accessible, and also avoiding things like code violations and fees and other issues like that. Do you want to share a little bit about that, Mayor Bibb?

Mayor Bibb: Yeah, so a couple programs to highlight. One, we have an amazing paint program that gives our seniors the ability to get their homes repainted and the labor and supply of that paint is free of charge, and you work directly with our community development corporations to support our seniors in that sense. We also work directly with our community development corporations to offer repair grants, working directly with our community development corporations to ensure that our seniors have access to that gap financing, they otherwise couldn't afford from a bank or another organization to ensure they can put a new deck up, or fix that bathroom, and all those things are things we're focused on to make sure our seniors have what they need to age in place, live a life of dignity, and have a home that they can be proud of.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Mayor Bibb. Yet again, very well said. So we want to thank you so much for being with us today. We have time for one final question which is focused on the kind of topic of outreach and engagement. Can you share a little bit about, you mentioned kind of your mom is your finger on the pulse of what older adults are thinking in your community. Can you talk a little bit though about your work in housing, and some of the changes you've brought about and also from across the country, whatever else you're seeing. How did you approach engagement with older adults? What were the types of things that you would recommend to your fellow mayors, or you would recommend to folks tuning in today that they should do to engage older adults, and make sure their voices are heard, acknowledge, of course, not everybody has a mother who is a social worker working with older adults, and you have a very unique perspective there which we really appreciate.

Mayor Bibb: Well, every year in Cleveland, we have an event called Senior Day. We just had it last week where thousands of seniors come down to City Hall, and we each honor a senior from our respective parts of the city as the Senior Citizen of the Year. And there's tons of resources and programming during that senior fair. We also have Senior Walks, coordinated through our Department of Aging where I walk at least a mile with our seniors, getting their feedback on what’s working, what’s not working in the city and what they need. And then, you know, as Mayor, you can’t escape the public, and so I’m always in churches, I’m always at the grocery store talking to seniors and every day I get a poll on what’s needed in Cleveland, so the listening and the engagement for me is happening all the time.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Mayor Bibb. That was a fantastic way for us to close out this conversation. A real inspiring sendoff for everybody.

Mayor Bibb: Thank you.

Mike Watson: I want to thank you, Nancy, for joining us today and moderating this conversation. And thank you, Mayor Bibb, again so much for taking the time to be here. We hope to see you both again soon.

Mayor Bibb: Take care.

Nancy LeaMond: Thanks, Mike.

Mike Watson: Thank you. Well this has been a really wonderful and insightful discussion, and really, frankly, empowering for me and I hope for all of you. I want to thank, again, thank everybody again for lending their time and voice to this topic from our previous panels. With that, it’s now time for us to wrap up this workshop. It has been a really incredible two days, and I want to thank all of you for joining us and engaging so much. I’ve been so impressed with what we’ve seen in the Q&A and the Chat. But before we close, we want to hear from you one more time in Slido, so please open up that polling tab and tell us what was one idea or solution from the workshop that you’ll carry forward from this conversation? Again, let us know one idea or solution that you heard about in the workshop that you’ll carry forward with you.

Some of the things that really stood out to me in this event were first, the power of engagement and making your voice heard in every platform available to you. We’re seeing some really great ideas popping up on the screen, so keep those coming. Rodney and I are also going to continue to share some of the things that we heard throughout this workshop. The second thing is the importance of seizing the moment and the opportunity. Secretary Fudge understood the historic resources being dedicated to address housing, and state and local governments are positioned to take action as Mayor Bibb just shared with us.

Third, there is greater power in saying yes. We need more housing of different types in every community, and as several of our panelists underscored the power of yes can do a lot. And fourth, local is where it’s at. There are resources and commitment from federal and state officials at all levels, but partnerships at the local level are making it happen. Those are a few things that stood out to me, and I’m seeing some really great things shared in Slido as well. Rodney, what stood out to you?

Rodney Harrell: Yeah, all those same things really stood out to me, Mike. I think that’s a great list, but there’s a few other things as well. First, I think running throughout the two days was the idea of short and long-term solutions that we must take actions to address the crises, whether they’re COVID or something more individual a fall or lack of affordability or whatnot for ourselves. But we must think about those short-term, but also the long-term issues in making sure that we have housing that meets our needs.

I saw on that Slido that zoning was there in a big, bold way. And so tackling changes to zoning and other policies. You know, just because it has been that way in the past doesn’t mean that that’s the best way or the way that it needs to be into the future.

Another thing that I heard a lot about was the intersection between the issues that we discussed, and I saw these come in themes. The idea that we need a variety of solutions to address the challenges that we’re facing, but also that the challenges themselves, they overlap. So we need to think about zoning at the same time as we think about affordability, at the same time as we think about equity. We can find the solutions that really bring those things together. And when we face these large challenges, we know that there are some solutions, and we heard about some of them over these two days. We must keep in mind all of the various needs in our communities, all the different groups in those communities as well, the differences for renters and homeowners, for people in urban and rural neighborhoods, and people of all racial and other groups. We really need to think about all those pieces together.

And finally, to a point that Mike raised, we do need all hands on deck. we need not only policymakers and leaders, we need private organizations, and each of us as individuals also have a role that we can play. And one of the things I’m really excited that we’re doing as AARP, is we’re working with Lowe’s on their Lowe’s Livable Home Initiative to really help provide information to help individuals do that as well. So there’s lots that really could be done here, Mike.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Rodney, I really agree with everything you just said. That was a fantastic encapsulation of some of the important themes we heard today, and kind of inspiring for us moving forward. So on the point of moving forward, I want to encourage you to continue to engage with us and do that by visiting to see some of the resources that were referenced during the discussion. We saw a lot of questions in the Chat asking for links. So go ahead. Visit that website and you’ll see some. Please also take a moment while you’re there to sign up for our free weekly Livable Communities e-Newsletter by texting LIVABLE to 50757. That will ensure that you’re receiving the latest news from AARP on resources, strategies, and solutions to help create more livable communities and address housing for all ages. This e-Newsletter is also where you can receive news about the posting of these workshop recordings to our website, and if you’d like to revisit any of the content from this conversation after the program.

I also want to take a moment to do a quick shoutout to all of our wonderful speakers, as well as to the planning committee and staff who make this event possible. On that note, I really want to give special recognition to our incredible team here in the AARP Studio; Nicolas Gouffray, Karen Ryan, Steve Bartlett, Any Portnoy, Valerie Murray, Julio Gonzalez, Bobby Lloyd, George Kolotov, Mary Manby, Eshaan Joshi, and Bill Western. Cannot have a production like this without the incredible support from our Studios Team, so thank you so much. On the content side, I especially want to thank Rebecca Delphia and Jack Montrose on the AARP Livable Communities Team who developed the program for our two days here and made everything possible.

And like everything, it takes a village, and under Rebecca and Jack’s leadership, there are several others on the Livable Communities Team I want to thank for leading various aspects of this week’s programming including Mandla Moyo, Sarah Dale, Evey Owen, Caitlin Hillyard, Melissa Stanton, Alexandra Barnes, Dalan Hwang, Lisa VanBuskirk, and Bill Armbruster. Rodney, I also want to thank you for your partnership on all things, but especially today. It’s been a real joy to be here in the studio with you and go through these two days of awesome programming.

Rodney Harrell: Well it’s been a joy for me too, Mike, and honestly, on behalf of everyone, I want to thank you for your leadership in really pulling this together and getting this done. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, and really thanks to all of you for tuning in to join us.

Now, although we’re done with this part of the program, we’re not quite done yet. So for those of you who are interested, you can join us for those optional discussion salons starting in just moments. Again, these are those small group open and dynamic conversations where workshop participants and expert practitioners lead them on critical housing topics. They’ll go deep on some of those most important issues facing communities today, so please stick around and join us for those.

Again, thank you so much for being a part of the 2022 AARP Livable Communities Workshop on Housing for People of All Ages. We hope that you learned a lot from these two days, that you got some ideas to take back to your community, and that you have a greater sense of ways that we can work together to better meeting the housing needs of a changing America. Thank you so much.

Mike Watson: Yes, thank you, and we look forward to seeing you again, soon.



Page published October 2022

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