Innovator: Adrian Garcia, LHOP
Lancaster is a beloved home to many, but it’s the affordability and accessibility of home itself that has Adrian Garcia, the Director of the Housing Equality & Equity Institute at the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership, most concerned.
Garcia, who came to know LHOP through a friend who utilized the organization’s first-time home buyers program — which helps with closing costs and other associated fees that often stand in the way of otherwise qualified buyers — says he felt “compelled” to apply to work there when the position opened up.
Immediately, Garcia began to work on programmatic advocacy initiatives, which included the rebranding and relaunching of the Community Rental Equity Fund or CREF (formerly the Landlord Risk Reduction Fund).
The program “assists individuals with barriers to obtain affordable, safe, healthy housing through a collaborative effort between, service providers, LHOP, Landlords, and the tenant,” Garcia explains. “We are using what we have learned from this program to develop a new Renter Education Course that will mirror LHOP's very successful First-time Home Buyer program. Again this program will help individuals learn all aspects of the renter responsibility for which they will obtain a certificate, and thus what we hope will be improved opportunities to obtain safe, healthy and affordable rental housing.”
Garcia also helped the organization partner with the PA Housing Equality Center to redesign the Know Your Rights Landlord & Tenant Guide, has ensured that LHOP can serve many different language needs, and has stayed active throughout the country in an effort to collaborate with other social services.
Despite all he’s accomplished, Garcia says there’s still a lot of challenges to be faced, specifically citing “the lack of inventory, the quality of housing, and the lack of consistency in the adoption of a property maintenance code” as problems for residents.
“Affordable housing does not mean slum housing and the people that live in affordable housing are hard-working, responsible, families doing the best they can with the limited resources available to them,” Garcia explains.
“Affordable housing helps the economy, it's workforce Housing and the more of it we have, the more businesses will be attracted to the area, to tap into that workforce. The more businesses come into the area, the more tax base the community has to draw from thereby lessening the burden on local property taxes. According to Our Homes, Our Voices.org, just building 100 affordable rental homes can generate up to 11.7 million dollars to the local economy, 2.2 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 161 jobs in the first year alone.”
Garcia says he and the organization will continue to engage Landlords and municipal officials to improve housing conditions, in an effort to make housing fairer, affordable, and accessible for everyone, no matter what.