Monday, December 20, 2010

Homeowners Counseled Through NFMC Almost Twice as Likely to Avoid Foreclosure


Today NeighborWorks America, the Congressionally appointed administrator of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program, announced that, based on a new report that analyzed the NFMC program through December 2009, the odds of curing a foreclosure, and potentially avoiding losing a home, is 1.7 times larger for a homeowner who works with an NFMC counselor than for a homeowner who doesn’t receive such counseling.

Homeowners who obtain a mortgage modification through the NFMC program counseling save an average of $555 per month through lower payments, compared to savings of just $288 per month for homeowners who don’t work with an NFMC program counselor.

The re-default rate for homeowners counseled through the NFMC program was better than that for homeowners who didn’t receive NFMC program counseling. The NFMC report estimates that, for a group of typical NFMC clients, 64 percent of counseled homeowners who received a default-curing mortgage modification remained out of serious delinquency or foreclosure after eight months. In contrast, only 51 percent of these loan modifications would have avoided becoming seriously delinquent or entering foreclosure without NFMC program counseling services.

These results are part of the latest program analysis produced by the Urban Institute for NeighborWorks America. The report covers NFMC program years 2008 and 2009.

“The NFMC program results clearly demonstrate the value of counseling,” said NeighborWorks America CEO Ken Wade. “The findings announced today illustrate the real household and economic benefit foreclosure counseling can have for families facing foreclosure.”

As a result of NFMC program funding, families who sought and received foreclosure counseling were provided much needed information, assistance and guidance to address their risk of foreclosure, which helped them find a solution to foreclosure. These foreclosure solutions sustain family and neighborhood stability and generally help the national housing market.

The report also found that the likelihood of curing a foreclosure was better when an NFMC program counselor was involved, even if the homeowner had been in foreclosure for many months. According to the report, for a group of typical NFMC program clients whose loans enter foreclosure, an estimated 55 percent of these foreclosures would cure within 12 months of when the foreclosure started with the help of an NFMC program counselor, compared to only 38 percent otherwise.

The NFMC program was created by Congress to address the nationwide foreclosurecrisis by dramatically increasing the availability of housing counseling for families at risk of foreclosure. Congress has appropriated $475 million to the NFMC program. Upwards of 1,700 counseling agencies operate under the program.

The report is available at: http://tinyurl.com/nfmcdecember. For additional information about the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program, visit www.nw.org/nfmc. Media inquiries should be directed to Douglas Robinson, 202-220-2360.

Homeowners who would like to receive foreclosure counseling from an NFMC program -funded counseling agency in their community can visit www.findaforeclosurecounselor.org.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NeighborWorks Symposium Delved Into the ‘Mind of the Homebuyer’ – How Consumers Decide and Act

How do potential buyers determine if homeownership is the right financial decision for them? What influences their decisions to seek help with homeownership education and counseling, budgeting, credit management and foreclosure intervention assistance? What factors shape decisions on type of loan, home size and neighborhood?

Housing counselors and other nonprofit staff grappled with these questions at a NeighborWorks symposium, held December 8, in Washington, D.C., one of the main events at a week-long training institute that drew more than 1,700 affordable housing practitioners.

One of the lessons of the subprime mortgage meltdown was that advice from family and friends wasn’t always well informed and at times pointed to a business person who wasn’t trustworthy, according to symposium speaker Vada Hill, a principal at Kelton Research and former chief marketing officer at Fannie Mae. Word of mouth about “trusted advisors” didn’t typically connect the buyer to a credible source of information and people were taken advantage of.

And yet, Hill pointed out that family and friends’ connections should be a critical component of marketing strategies, particularly in Hispanic and African-American communities. “If you don’t reach them [first-time homebuyers] the bad guys will,” he said. He suggested specifically tapping into church and other community networks in conveying information about home purchase or foreclosure help, so that these friends and family have the right information to pass along.

Further, he said that in African-American and Hispanic communities it is important to reach the woman of the house when trying to influence major financial decisions such as home purchase. She is most likely to be managing the monthly expenditures, he said, advising to make sure to keep the male head of household in the loop.

Sendhil Mullainathan, professor of economics at Harvard, underscored the importance of considering “where the consumer’s mind is” when making decisions. Emotional factors weigh in as much as rational ones and those factors need to be considered in any marketing outreach, he said. On the list of Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 thinkers in the world this year, Mullainathan and his longtime collaborator Richard Thaler, the University of Chicago economist, “have argued for more sensible policies toward struggling borrowers and defaulters: reshaping the mortgage code to avoid opaque language, restructuring existing mortgages, and staying in touch with panicked borrowers,” reports the magazine in this month’s issue.

Sandra Braunstein, director of the consumer division of the Federal Reserve System, also stressed using simple language when communicating to consumers about mortgages and other loans. For example, instead of using the term “finance charge” stating “fees and interest.” Braunstein explained some of the new regulations designed to protect consumers, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. She said clear disclosures are no substitute for the kind of hands-on assistance consumers need when making major financial decisions, such as the kind offered by many NeighborWorks organizations.

Jane Katz, from the New York Federal Reserve, said that a challenge for nonprofit educators is getting across the message that planning for the future is important. “The future doesn’t always take care of itself,” she said.

Kathy Crosby, senior vice president at the Ad Council, and David Almacy, a senior VP at Edeleman, both emphasized the importance of using surveys and social media to better understand and relate to the selected consumer audiences. “We went to foreclosure counselors to better understand the situations of people in financial trouble,” she said of the Ad Council’s campaign to help people facing foreclosure. Digital media such as online videos are a great tool for messages to public about personal decisions, said Almacy.

Some of the service provider panelists, such as Lewis Dancy from the Self Help Credit Union and Bridgette Russell from New Haven Neighborhood Housing Services, provided a neighborhood outreach view, offering tips for marketing materials and effective outreach campaigns.

Resources from the symposium will be available at www.nw.org/homeownershipsymposium.

Friday, December 10, 2010

NeighborWorks Salutes Eight Resident Leaders for Contributions to Their Communities


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Also enjoy these videos of the award winners

Last night, NeighborWorks America recognized eight resident leaders who have made significant contributions in communities across the country. Each of these volunteers has made a difference in the lives of many through their activism, community building and service to their neighbors. NeighborWorks America thanks these individuals for their steadfast commitment to strengthening their neighborhoods.

The 2010 Winners of the Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award are:

  • Victor Aguilar, who organized youth graffiti offenders in his hometown of Oxnard, California, to clean up the neighborhood and paint murals
  • Linda Allen Miller, who is a tireless advocate for her community, serving on a dozen local boards and committees to spur investment and development in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Jesse Clayton, who led a team of volunteers to reclaim a park that had turned into a drug hangout, and convert it to a skate park.
  • Tammy Hoth, who refused to let the trailer park where she lives in Great Falls, Montana to be sold. She mobilized her neighbors to organize into a resident association, applied for grant funds to purchase the property, and today the former trailer park is about to be turned into Mountain Springs Villa, a beautiful subdivision, with Tammy as its president.
  • Paul Lopez, who brought investment and business opportunities to the community where he grew up in Chicago, Illinois, including a multi-million dollar banking facility that also houses the first bilingual NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center.
  • Marron, McCleod, who has managed the Cornhill Community Garden for more than 20 years, bringing increased opportunities in education, innovation, restoration, feeding the hungry, green lifestyle and youth engagement to his community of Utica, NY.
  • Emily MacRae, the quintessential consensus builder whose leadership on the board of directors of Twin Cities CDC in Fitchburg, MA helped forge partnerships among elected officials, business leaders and community residents.
  • Dave Pottinger, who has devoted untold time and talent to revitalizing Goshen, IN, focusing not only on bricks and mortar, but on the people who live and work in his buildings.

This year’s honorees exemplify the commitment to community service and to helping others that is championed by NeighborWorks America and its national network. Congratulations to each of them for winning the 2010 Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NeighborWorks Reaches Out to Hispanic Homeowners Affected by Foreclosure and Loan Modification Scammers

The New England District of NeighborWorks America recently joined with MassHousing and the Rhode Island Loan Modification Scam Campaign to sponsor a live foreclosure and Loan Modification Scam Alert news program and hotline with WUNI Univision Television and WUTF Telefutura in Needham, Massachusetts. Univision News Anchor Sara Suarez posed some challenging questions to NeighborWorks America’s Fiona O’Connor, manager, Internal and Network Communications, about the proliferation of loan scam companies targeting Hispanic homeowners facing mortgage default or foreclosure.

The program aired live in three regional Univision television markets airing in four states – Southern New Hampshire; Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island. Eight foreclosure counselors from four NeighborWorks organizations: NOAH, Lawrence Community Works, Oak Hill CDC and its affiliate NeighborWorks Homeownership Center of Worcester (MA) and NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley answered nearly 70 calls in two hours from the six open lines at Univision Television. Hispanic families reported paying between $700 and $10,000 to loan scam companies for mortgage modifications which for some families led to foreclosure and eviction.

NeighborWorks America and partners launched the Loan Modification Scam Alert Campaign one year ago to empower homeowners to protect themselves against loan modification scams, find trusted help and report illegal activity to authorities. So far, over 59 million people have been exposed to the signs of a loan modification scam and over 6,000 courageous people have reported scams to authorities.

As the holiday season nears, the campaign has made a holiday e-card available to help homeowners protect one of their most precious treasures - their home. The card is available in English (http://www.loanscamalert.org/holiday-ecard.aspx) and Spanish (http://www.alertafraudedehipoteca.org/holiday-ecard.aspx).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Small Business Gets Boost from NeighborWorks Micro-Loan and Small Business Programs

Entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to start or incrementally expand their business should look to selected NeighborWorks local community development nonprofit organizations for a variety of financial and consulting assistance as these organizations plan to strategically support economic development by offering micro and small commercial business loans in 2011.

While not available throughout the NeighborWorks network, organizations from Long Island, NY to Austin, Texas and Lexington, KY and many others are honing their plans and tapping into new resources so that budding entrepreneurs and small businesses can create jobs in their communities.

"NeighborWorks organizations have housing at their core, but as a network we recognize that without a strong and diverse community economic base, sustainable housing solutions for families are extremely difficult,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of NeighborWorks America.

One organization that is making a difference both in housing and business lending is Community Ventures Corp (CVC), a Lexington-based member of the NeighborWorks network for ten years. CVC recently received $605,000 in grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture out of a competitive process so that it could provide financial and technical assistance and training to rural micro-entrepreneurs.

In fact, CVC is the largest micro-enterprise business lender in the Small Business Administration system, making business loans as small as $500. Kevin Smith, president and CEO of CVC said, “Small businesses are having a tough time right now securing the capital they need to grow and create jobs. We’re excited by the opportunity to partner with small business and help these businesses and the communities they’re in become stronger.”

Another NeighborWorks organization that successfully mixes homeownership efforts with business development is BCL of Texas, an Austin-based nonprofit. BCL’s name literally means Business & Community Lenders and it has been helping small businesses grow for 20 years.

By offering a menu of free services to budding and existing business owners such as free business financial analysis, free business loan underwriting and no-cost loan structuring, BCL is a cost-conscious entrepreneur’s go-to resource. Also active in SBA lending, BCL has facilitated more than $200 million in SBA and other lending. Recently BCL was named administrator of the Balch Springs Micro Loan Fund, a $100,000 business development fund, and it also received a $605,000 grant from the USDA to provide financial and technical assistance to rural-based small businesses.

“Microloans make an important difference for a range of businesses,” said AR Ruiz, Director of Lending at BCL. “Small businesses traditionally account for the bulk of new jobs and we’re enthusiastic about doing our part and keeping our fingers on the pulse of the economy in our community.”

Back east, NeighborWorks network member Community Development Corporation of Long Island (CDCLI) sets a high, but accessible standard with its small business and microloan programs.

CDCLI also is a SBA lender and one of the more active in the region. Qualified borrowers can obtain loans as small as $1,000. Perhaps most interesting about the CDCLI effort is its childcare loan program, helping to finance daycare centers and qualifying in-home care facilities.

“The economics of today are clear – more households are two-wage earner families and to make that happen families need safe and affordable daycare,” said CDCLI President and CEO Marianne Garvin. “By helping to finance quality daycare, we simultaneously support small business and hard working families.”

For more information, contact Doug Robinson, 202-220-2360, drobinson@nw.org .

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Home and Family Energy-Saving Tips for Consumers

As the days grow colder and consumers gear up for another winter, many are looking for ways to beat the season’s high monthly energy costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. household spends about $1,900 per year on home utility bills. With so much of a consumer’s monthly income spent on energy this winter, NeighborWorks America urges consumers to reduce their utility costs by weatherizing their homes this winter.

“There are several measures that homeowners and renters can take to control, or lower, their monthly utility bills. Adding insulation, purchasing new appliances, and even making small changes in your family’s energy consumption can add up to big monthly savings this winter, and every season,” said Michelle Winters, senior manager of Green Strategies at NeighborWorks America.

As part of NeighborWorks’ commitment to go green, we are offering families these tips to reduce energy costs and increase energy efficiency.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Loan Scam Alert Campaign Reaches Millions of New York Residents With DMV Partnership

New Yorkers visiting their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office will now be alerted to the dangers of loan modification scams through a poster campaign at DMV offices in each of New York's 62 counties. The poster, developed by the national Loan Scam Alert public awareness campaign and distributed in partnership with the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, the NYS Consumer Protection Board and NeighborWorks America, warns homeowners of the three top signs of loan scams and directs them to loanscamalert.org and 888.995.4673 for information and assistance.

Approximately 10 million customers visit DMV offices every year, providing an unprecedented opportunity to help protect New Yorkers from falling victim to scams. Although the state’s foreclosure rate has consistently been in the middle range nationally, New York State ranks second in the number of homeowners who report being victimized by scammers.

“I am pleased that the DMV is able to assist the Consumer Protection Board in making the public more aware of potential loan modification scams,” said DMV Commissioner David J. Swarts. “It is our hope that increasing public awareness about the warning signs that a loan modification proposal may be a scam will result in fewer New Yorkers putting their homes in jeopardy.”

The NYS Consumer Protection Board, under the leadership of Chairperson and Executive Director Mindy Bockstein, has actively promoted the Loan Scam Alert campaign since it was launched a year ago, helping to bring its key messages to homeowners through a series of events, press conferences and media interviews. The Consumer Protection Board’s logo appears on each of the posters.

“The current economic climate has provided fertile ground for con artists who seek to take advantage of desperate and distressed homeowners,” said Bockstein. “That’s why we’re partnering on this campaign and eliciting help from key organizations like the Department of Motor Vehicles to alert New Yorkers to the dangers of loan modification scams. If you’re having difficulty meeting your mortgage obligations and are facing foreclosure, be mindful of the red flags and aggressive tactics that may indicate suspicious activities. We urge you to access free foreclosure counseling services instead of going to a for-pay company which may actually accelerate foreclosure by making big promises but doing little or no work, redirecting mortgage payments or taking title to your home.”

The top three signs of a loan modification scam are:

  • A company or individual asking for a fee in advance
  • A company or individual who guarantees they can modify a loan
  • A company or individual who asks that you stop paying your mortgage and pay them instead

Scammers typically charge several thousand dollars, and then do little or no work, leaving homeowners even further behind. Homeowners believe their case is being resolved and only learn from their mortgage company that no contact has been made on their behalf. By then the scammers have long disappeared.

“Knowledge is the best defense against loan modification scams,” said Deborah Boatright, northeast district director, NeighborWorks America. ”With the help of our partners at the NYS Consumer Protection Board and the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, New Yorkers throughout the state are more aware of the dangers of scams and know where to go for free, trustworthy assistance.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Video: Youth 'Hungry' for Change

Perhaps the youth of the community are better informed than adults as demonstrated by this YouTube video “Hungry for Change.”

The video shows local teens involved with Chicago-based Umoja Student Development Corporation - a partner of NeighborWorks affiliate Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Chicago - questioning ways of changing the community’s image, and reality, as a Food Desert.

In the North Lawndale neighborhood, NHS of Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden established a partnership which resulted in the development of the Green Youth Farm (GYF). The GYF employs students from Manly High and North Lawndale College Prep who raise vegetables and other produce organically, which is then sold in a farmer’s market at the NHS office. Because of the market’s success produce has to be brought to the market from other Chicago Botanic Garden sites to meet the demand from neighborhood residents.

Be sure to check out this powerful "green" story from the youth of Chicago.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scaling Up the Greening of Affordable Housing

by Michelle Winters,
Senior Manager, Green Strategies,
NeighborWorks America

We know how to build and retrofit homes to be more efficient and healthy and to have minimal impact on the environment, and NeighborWorks organizations in New York State and across the country are moving into this space rapidly as more people become aware of the benefits of green building. The affordable housing industry has both an opportunity and a responsibility to be leaders in the development and rehabilitation of green housing to secure these benefits for the families and communities that we serve.

Last week, leaders from across New York State gathered at the Syracuse Center of Excellence to develop an action agenda for scaling up the greening of affordable housing in the state. NeighborWorks America convened the event to bring together NeighborWorks network organizations, state and local policymakers, and representatives from the financial, research and consulting communities to discuss progress, opportunities, and challenges in scaling up green rehabilitation focusing on program design, finance, and workforce development. [View photos from the event.]

The Center of Excellence was a fitting host for such an event with its LEED Platinum “living laboratory” providing inspiration and an environment of creativity. Beyond the impressive elements in the building itself, the COE is notable for its vision of an Innovation Ecosystem, which supports collaborative projects focusing on clean and renewable energy, indoor environmental quality, and water resources.

Three leaders in green building from the NeighborWorks Network kicked off the event: Home HeadQuarters, Asian Americans for Equality and the Community Development Corporation of Long Island. The three organizations demonstrate the complexity of the challenge – each one representing a very different market environment. But despite the geographic and economic differences, they all share the same vision: to expand the industry’s ability to transform affordable housing from inefficient and unsustainable to green, healthy, and resilient homes for low-income and working families.

According to the EPA, the average household in the U.S. spends at least $2,000 a year on energy bills, over half of which goes to heating and cooling. For a low- or moderate-income family those bills can represent a sizeable – and increasing – component of annual income. In New York State, with a relatively old housing stock and cold climate, low-income families can pay 15 percent or more of their income on utility costs, according to NY State Division of Housing and Community Development. In one neighborhood that is the focus of a collaborative effort between Home Headquarters, Syracuse University, and the Center of Excellence, some residents were paying up to 50-75 percent of their incomes for utilities during the winter.

The New York State Weatherization Assistance Program is the one of the largest of such programs in the country, with approximately almost $70 million in grants this year to advance energy efficiency for low-income residents of both single-family and multifamily homes. And the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is known for its innovative and effective programs aimed at reducing energy consumption, promoting renewable energy, and protecting the environment through its support for financing, research, and workforce development efforts throughout the state. NeighborWorks organizations in New York partner with these agencies and others to create more affordable, healthy, and efficient homes in their communities.

Some of the other new and innovative efforts that were discussed at the Roundtable include:

New York State is taking steps to address some of the challenges faced by the industry as we attempt to take greening efforts to scale. Without better data on the performance of green buildings and retrofits, lenders are hesitant to leverage utility savings to help pay capital costs of greening. More attention needs to be paid to the management and residents’ knowledge of green operating practices to ensure that the benefits of physical improvements are achieved. And, building up a workforce with new green auditing, retrofit, and installation skills won’t help us green more housing unless the consumers of housing – homeowners and rental property owners – have the resources and motivation to drive demand for green homes. NeighborWorks America is looking forward to working with the NeighborWorks network and our industry partners on solutions to these challenges to move toward greener, healthier and more efficient homes and communities.

For more information on the opportunities and challenges, look for the full report on this Roundtable to be published in the next few weeks.

Please join us at our upcoming symposium in Los Angeles on March 2, 2011 for an in-depth discussion of the benefits of greening for families and communities.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NeighborWorks Marks First Anniversary of the Loan Scam Alert Campaign

As NeighborWorks America marks the first anniversary of the launch of the Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign, this Halloween season NeighborWorks would also like to remind homeowners to beware of the “tricks” that loan modification scam artists are using to fleece homeowners in danger of foreclosure out of cash, equity, and even the deeds to their homes.

The Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign was launched October 26, 2009 at the City Hall in Los Angeles, the area with the largest number of foreclosures in America. Since then several organizations have mobilized people around the country to educate homeowners about loan scams and how to report them. So far, over 59 million people have been exposed to the signs of a loan modification scam and over 6,000 courageous people have reported scams to authorities. Now, close to 30 national and local organizations have received grants to educate homeowners in communities that have been hardest hit with foreclosures and scams.

What can you do right now to help?

Remember to share this information with your co-workers, friends and family. They may desperately need the information but they may be too embarrassed to ask you. Visit http://www.LoanScamAlert.org to learn more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three Visionary Leaders in Community Development Honored


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NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, HUD Newark Field Office Director Diane J. Johnson and NYS Banking Department Director of Consumer Protection Jane Azia were honored as “Visionary Leaders in Community Development” at the Fifth Annual NeighborWorks America Northeast District Reception, hosted by Bank of America at their state-of-the-art tower on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

District Director Deborah Boatright emceed, and reflected on the five years since the Northeast District was established: “We are so proud of the partnerships we have developed throughout the region. Together, we are striving to stabilize communities, preserve wealth, sustain homeownership, promote professional excellence, pioneer new models to create and preserve affordable housing, and integrate new technologies for a greener future.“

NeighborWorks COO Eileen Fitzgerald presented the award to Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, who as head of the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs has made free financial counseling available to residents citywide. His office is a strong supporter of the Loan Scam Alert Campaign, even dispatching volunteers on bicycles to distribute information and report scam signs.

“Commissioner Mintz has pioneered cutting-edge initiatives that protect the financial well-being of NYC residents and neighborhoods, and he is leveraging unprecedented public and private partnerships to do so,” remarked Fitzgerald. “The Commissioner founded and now co-chairs Cities for Financial Empowerment, where he works with leaders from cities across the country to advance innovative financial initiatives to help low income residents get ahead.”

NeighborWorks CEO Ken Wade presented awards to Diane Johnson and Jane Azia. Diane Johnson, the director of the HUD’s Newark Field Office, oversees federal housing and community development programs throughout New Jersey, which are supported by an annual allocation of 1.7 billion dollars.

“Diane has been a go-to person at HUD for over 30 years. She mentors emerging leadership and helps organizations make the connections needed for success,” remarked Wade. “Diane is most proud of her contribution to improving urban landscapes and empowering moderate low and moderate income residents in the extensive state of New Jersey. We are too.” Johnson asserted her New Jersey pride with a rousing speech that clearly outlined the Garden State’s many achievements in community development.

Jane Azia, Director of Consumer Protection at the NYS Banking Department, was honored for her efforts to combat foreclosure. Azia helped shape legislation and then developed regulations for two major NYS laws establishing the most comprehensive rules in the country governing mortgage servicers. She has made it a priority to be available to housing counselors, providing information, escalating cases and consulting with practitioners to devise the most effective solutions to help homeowners.

“Jane is, without a doubt, a hero to homeowners and housing counselors, though she would be the first to tell you, it is the housing counselors who are the true heroes,” stated Wade, “And though we agree, is it just this type of selflessness and dedication that makes Jane truly one of a kind.”

Azia spoke for all in attendance when she commented that “The theme of the evening - a community united - perfectly captures what is so wonderful about NeighborWorks, why it is such a success and why I feel so fortunate to be one of your partners.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Study Shows Public Investment in Prevention Far Outweighs Costs of Foreclosure

A research study conducted by the Public Policy Research Center (PPRC) at the University of Missouri -- St. Louis found that 84 percent of homeowners who received counseling were successful in avoiding foreclosure. The study was commissioned by the Metro St. Louis Foreclosure Intervention Task Force, and the findings show that the costs of providing foreclosure counseling paid off dramatically.

PPRC studied 1,460 homeowners who were counseled by Beyond Housing, a St. Louis NeighborWorks organization. “This study proves what we had suspected all along; that even a modest investment in counseling pays enormous benefits by allowing homeowners to become current and keep their homes,” said Chris Krehmeyer, CEO of Beyond Housing.

View study at
http://bit.ly/9ow3di

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NeighborWorks America and Direct Lending Family Launch New Online Mortgage Origination System

NeighborWorks America and Direct Lending Family, a technology company committed to simplifying the mortgage origination process for nonprofit organizations, have teamed up to create NeighborWorks Mortgage Source, an online mortgage origination and pricing platform.

Direct Lending Family and NeighborWorks see this alliance as a national alternative to traditional local or regional lender options of most nonprofit mortgage originators. The national system reaches more than 100 lenders and state housing finance agency mortgage options giving consumers working with a nonprofit originator the greatest opportunity to obtain the best mortgage for their needs, no matter where they live.

“This is a fantastic development for nonprofit mortgage lending,” said Marietta Rodriguez, national director of homeownership and lending at NeighborWorks America. “By enabling NeighborWorks organizations to access the most diverse mortgage choices available around the country, we are able to help more homebuyers get the right mortgage for the long-term, at the best cost possible.”

While on the surface the Direct Lending platform appears similar to other multiple-lender internet services, Tammy Butler, CEO of Direct Lending Family says that conclusion is incorrect.

“The only similarity between NeighborWorks Mortgage Source and other online multiple-lender platforms is the fact that they are both online. Mortgage Source does not sell personal information to multiple lenders, does not let predatory mortgage products get into the system and provides the client with a complete and unbiased underwriting of their personal financial situation at a lower cost to the consumer than the national average.” said Butler.

Butler noted that NeighborWorks Mortgage Source is designed specifically to take into account during the underwriting process the possibility of multiple sources of cash to close, a typical situation when dealing with nonprofit mortgage originations which may see a homebuyer come to the table with funds from their own accounts and grants from as many as half a dozen other sources.

Importantly, homebuyers coming to NeighborWorks for mortgages go through its homeownership advisory services first, which in the past have shown to be very effective at lowering relative delinquency and foreclosure rates because of the NeighborWorks emphasis on obtaining the right loan at the right time and within the present budget.

“The homebuyers with whom NeighborWorks does business often are not traditional borrowers, but want traditional pricing,” said Rodriguez. “The flexibility of Direct Lending’s platform recognizes this and delivers for the many homebuyers that traditional underwriting overlook and who NeighborWorks helps achieve sustainable homeownership every day.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Making Green Work for Our Communities

NeighborWorks Community Building and Organizing Gulf Coast Partners and Residents Unite to Talk 'Green'

More than 70 Gulf Coast resident leaders, activists, volunteers and community leaders from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana convened in Biloxi, Mississippi recently to talk green.

The purpose of the two-day workshop, led by NeighborWorks' Community Building and Organizing Programs (CB&O), was to connect community members with one another and share information on how to tap economic development opportunities from an emerging green economy.

“After the BP oil spill, communities along the Gulf Coast have been hungry for knowledge sharing and coalition-building to explore alternative livelihoods in the green industry," said CB&O Director Susan Naimark. "We learned that the various groups most impacted by the oil spill – particularly the Vietnamese, Native American and African-American communities – were not connecting with each other. We were thrilled and honored that NeighborWorks America could play a convening role to fill this void,” Naimark added.

CB&O Senior Program Associate Bernadette Orr, who organized the workshop, emphasized that community building and organizing is a critical component not only in building communities, but for maximizing on opportunities in a green economy.

“Community building relies on empowering residents to define what green is for their communities, and helps galvanize their energy, talents and abilities to create workable solutions,” said Orr. “Community-building and organizing helps change the hearts and minds of people by empowering them to become involved in not only defining the problem, but creating the solutions.”

Continue reading to learn how residents were inspired, energized and determined to take action.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Challenges Facing Nonprofit Developers

In a recent interview with Multi Housing News, Thomas Deyo, deputy director of NeighborWorks America's National Real Estate Programs, discussed the high cost of capital and other challenges facing nonprofit community development organizations. View video below. If you are having trouble with the player, view it here: http://bit.ly/97oZlU.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

NeighborWorks Passes One Million Volunteer Hours Mark

NeighborWorks organizations around the country helped generate more than one million volunteer hours in the last five years, building stronger, vibrant, and more connected communities. Combined through the five years, ending with September 30, 2010, volunteers partnering with NeighborWorks organizations put in more than 1.14 million hours, including more than 322,000 hours this year, the largest number reported by member organizations of the Community Building and Organizing Program (CB&O) at NeighborWorks America.

Learn more and view examples that illustrate the success of community building and organizing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NeighborWorks Homeownership Efforts Get a Boost from $15 Million in CDFI Funds

Efforts to increase sustainable homeownership got a boost recently when 25 members of the NeighborWorks network received nearly $15 million as part of grants made by the U.S. Treasury department’s Community Development Financial Institution program.

Combined with grants from NeighborWorks America, local governments, foundations and the private sector, these NeighborWorks organizations and others affiliates in the network plan to continue making sustainable, affordable homeownership available in communities across the U.S.

Roy Nash, president and CEO of NeighborWorks Waco said, “CDFI funds are a major tool in our work to safely increase homeownership in our market. Being able to help homeowners secure a low-cost, fixed-rate mortgage and a home that is right for their needs is part of what these grants do and do very successfully.”

In addition to the twenty five grant recipients in this latest round of financing, there are 47 additional NeighborWorks organizations with certified CDFI operations. NeighborWorks organizations use these recent CDFI grants and prior grants to foster sustainable housing in a variety of ways, including:

  • providing down payment assistance to qualified first-time homebuyers who have successfully completed homeownership education classes
  • underwriting the cost of homeownership education classes
  • providing capital to support the construction and project management of affordable homes for sale.

Learn more, including the names and location of the award recipients.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's Next for Financing Affordable Rental Housing?

By Thomas P. Deyo, director, Real Estate Programs, NeighborWorks America and Frances Ferguson, senior manager, Real Estate Programs, NeighborWorks America

The development of affordable rental housing has always been difficult, but the past few years have been especially challenging for developers as the tools—mainly the Low Income Housing Tax Credit—that they’ve relied on the past 25 years or more have begun to show their age and not kept up with market realities.

What’s needed is a new way of thinking for additional financing of affordable rental housing that mirrors the private sector development market; one that creates stronger nonprofit developers, while not abandoning the mission focused reason that nonprofit developers exist: to create and sustain affordable rental housing for those most in need.

The LIHTC, the “golden ticket” for financing most of the affordable rental housing stock in the U.S. over the past few decades, has become less valuable and available as the biggest investors in the credit have largely pulled out of the market.

While a few market areas are seeing a resurgence of tax credit investors, the problems that started in 2008 with less demand and lower LIHTC prices are expected to continue in 2011 in many markets.

This situation forces developers to scramble to fill their project financing gaps either by reducing development fees (which weaken already thinly capitalized developers) and pursuing increasingly complicated, time consuming, and inefficient and more expensive multilayered financing packages or by simply not developing the affordable rental housing that their communities need.

The latter is of grave concern as affordable housing remains a present need as economies weaken and more people need housing within their means.

Continue reading this article, What's Next for Financing Affordable Rental Housing?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tight Credit May Hamper Efforts to Stabilize Communities Post-Foreclosure

Nonprofit community development corporations working to stabilize communities in the wake of the national foreclosure crisis share a deepening apprehension that tight mortgage credit standards will hamper their ability to sell newly rehabilitated, formerly foreclosed properties, according to a snapshot survey conducted at a recent meeting during the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Philadelphia.

Twenty-four nonprofits accounting for as much as $740 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds attended the one-day seminar and many said that without more rational mortgage underwriting standards from the nation’s lenders, homes that could be put back into productive, long-term ownership status may sit vacant.

“The concern is real and it is across the board,” said Thomas P. Deyo, deputy director of National Initiatives and Applied Research at NeighborWorks America. “A handful of nonprofits have forged effective relationships with local and regional first mortgage lenders, but the majority of nonprofit real estate businesses that are in these communities never anticipated that the credit market would be so tough for their homebuyers.”

Many of the nonprofits attending the seminar also have homeownership education programs and have worked with homebuyers to ensure that they understand the mortgage process and the responsibilities of homeownership. Based on a review of the homeowners who have fallen into foreclosure the past few years and are receiving foreclosure prevention counseling, only a small minority ever had homeownership education or counseling.

“The fact is that homebuyers who go through these programs are excellent mortgage risks,” said Patrick Morrissy, executive director, Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc., in Orange, N.J. “We want these homes sold to a buyer who can keep the home for the long-term, but mortgage financing – while not impossible -- has become increasingly difficult for low- and moderate-income homebuyers to obtain.”

Deyo noted that mortgage rates are at an all-time low and home prices around the country have largely stabilized, creating an excellent environment to foster long-term, sustainable homeownership.

“Lenders are right to be prudent with credit to avoid the kind of crisis from which the housing market now is emerging,” said Deyo. “But the pendulum has swung a bit too far, and to make revitalized neighborhoods a reality, it has to swing a little bit back the other way.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NeighborWorks Expansion Grants Help Asian Americans for Equality to Open New Brooklyn Office

NeighborWorks CEO Eileen Fitzgerald helped to mark the opening of Asian American's for Equality's new site in Brooklyn, made possible by a $300,000 expansion grant from NeighborWorks America. With the new office, AAFE now has a physical presence in each of New York City's three major Asian American hubs.

“Although we serve any client who visits us, AAFE’s goal has always been to respond to the needs of the Asian community in New York,” said Christopher Kui, executive director of AAFE. “This goal pushed us to expand beyond Chinatown to Flushing, Queens almost ten years ago, and now again to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.”

“NeighborWorks America is pleased to support AAFE’s expansion into Sunset Park so the organization can better serve Brooklyn and Brooklyn’s Asian communities. We are confident that AAFE’s programs at the new Sunset Park location will empower families and build strong communities for future generations, and we look forward to AAFE’s continued success,” said Fitzgerald.

“As a national funder, NeighborWorks recognizes AAFE’s excellence. AAFE continues to effectively combine comprehensive services to individuals and families with strong advocacy on behalf of the Asian American community. Their new office in Brooklyn brings new resources in difficult economic times to a vibrant, emerging neighborhood.” said Deborah Boatright, northeast district director of NeighborWorks America.

AAFE Brooklyn will offer services in English, Chinese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish from its well established lines of business including homeownership promotion, preservation and lending; foreclosure prevention services; small business lending and economic development; and citizenship and immigration services.

Over 100 guests were on hand at the September 17th ribbon cutting, including NYC Comptroller John Liu, the first citywide Asian American elected official, and Commissioner Fatima Shama from the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant Affairs as well as many other local elected officials and community organizations.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Community Stabilization Efforts Get a Needed Boost

By Sarah Greenberg
Senior Manager, Community Stabilization
NeighborWorks America

The foreclosure crisis has created a glut of vacant and abandoned properties that are piling up in some communities, dragging down property values and inviting vandalism and crime.

That’s why I’m so pleased to see community stabilization efforts receiving a substantial boost from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), with an additional $1 billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding and the announcement of the historic “First Look” program partnership with the National Community Stabilization Trust.

As with the first two rounds of NSP funding, the third round will enable state and local governments and their nonprofit partners to purchase foreclosed properties and rehabilitate or redevelop them for rental or resale to low- to middle-income households.

It has been frustrating to see these efforts thwarted by speculators and investors, who in many cases are just looking for a quick investment opportunity. They may purchase the property and perform minimal cosmetic improvements, but they won’t necessarily bring it up to appropriate health and safety codes or to the standard of other properties in the neighborhood. Some are simply letting the properties sit vacant, waiting for the market to eventually come back so they can flip them for a profit.

Local governments and nonprofit organizations with NSP funds have been outbid by these private investors, but the First Look partnership that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced on September 1st will help local communities get a leg up.

The First Look program gives localities first dibs on foreclosed properties, helping to ensure that communities can acquire those properties that are strategically important to their neighborhood stabilization efforts. Major banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America have signed onto this partnership, which gives neighborhood groups up to 48 hours to evaluate properties and decide whether they are interested in acquiring them, before they are listed for sale and offered to the private market.

First Look is not so much about leveling the playing field as it is about strengthening local responses in communities hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis. When NSP grantees purchase foreclosed properties, they take a more holistic approach to rehabilitation, with long-term sustainability as the goal. They ensure the housing units are energy efficient and affordable. They offer subsidies to lower income families to help them afford higher quality housing options. They provide homeownership counseling and responsible mortgage products to help prevent future foreclosures.

Learn more about NSP3 funding and the First Look program. At NeighborWorks America, we are supporting the federal government’s efforts by providing resources, training, and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and their public and private partners working with Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding. Learn more about our efforts at http://www.stablecommunities.org/.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Habitat for Humanity and NeighborWorks America Partner to Revitalize Communities


Habitat for Humanity International and NeighborWorks America announce a new partnership that will help revitalize communities and advance the cause of healthy, sustainable and affordable housing.

As part of the partnership, Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat affiliates will have increased access to NeighborWorks America’s training courses and materials. NeighborWorks’ training will strengthen Habitat’s ability to expand the range of housing and revitalization services offered to low-income households and communities.

Habitat for Humanity International and NeighborWorks America also will work together to access funds from the USDA Rural Development 502 Direct Loan Program. The loan program enables eligible low- and moderate-income rural residents to acquire modestly priced housing, and can be used toward the purchase and repair of existing houses.

“We are delighted to join with NeighborWorks America to create community development opportunities across the U.S.,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “Together we can help specific neighborhoods address their challenges, and we can help residents revitalize neglected communities that can once again become thriving and inviting places in which to live.”

“The national partnership between NeighborWorks America and Habitat for Humanity will advance both organizations’ efforts to create affordable housing and strengthen communities across the country,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America. “We look forward to working more closely with Habitat for Humanity to create communities that are safe and healthy places all are proud to call home.”

In addition, Habitat for Humanity International will utilize NeighborWorks America’s Success Measures evaluation system to assess the outcomes of its neighborhood revitalization activities. Success Measures helps community-based organizations evaluate the impact of their work and use data for program design, improved management, planning and advocacy.

“It is crucial that we are able to assess the impact that Habitat for Humanity is making in communities where we are seeking to build networks to address specific neighborhood concerns,” said Reckford. “The Success Measures evaluation system will be a tremendous help in tracking the long-term benefits that result from our neighborhood revitalization efforts.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

HUD's 'First Look' Program Announced at NeighborWorks America

This morning, NeighborWorks America hosted a press conference at which HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan, announced an historic new partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development, financial institutions and members of the National Community Stabilization Trust — the National First Look Program.

National First Look brings together government, leading financial institutions and nonprofit members of the National Community Stabilization Trust (NST) to tackle the foreclosure crisis. The new program is designed to enhance the ability of nonprofit organizations to acquire foreclosed properties from private lenders who participate in the program, using Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds administered by HUD.

NeighborWorks is a founding member of the Stabilization Trust, and participation in this innovative program is an important part of our broader Sustainable Communities Initiative.

For more information on the program and partners, View HUD's press release and this Associated Press story.

Friday, August 27, 2010

NeighborWorks America Continues Commitment to Gulf Coast Region

On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NeighborWorks America underscored its commitment to the Gulf Coast region, announcing that it will invest $3 million in the region by the end of 2010. Since 2006, NeighborWorks America has invested $15 million in resources in the Gulf to support an array of rebuilding efforts.

Here's some of the major areas where NeighborWorks is having impact:
  • The construction or rehabilitation of 3,718 for-sale and multifamily affordable housing units, 250 of which incorporate green building techniques
  • Financial and homeownership education for 26,030 Gulf Coast residents
  • Support, technical assistance, and training for local nonprofit affordable housing and community development organizations throughout the region.

    “NeighborWorks remains committed to rebuilding the communities of the Gulf Coast, and will continue to work effectively with our local and regional partners to rehabilitate and develop affordable housing, deliver financial education and homeownership counseling, and provide technical assistance and support for the nonprofit community. With the help of our partners, we will continue to empower affected families and help to build a better future for generations to come,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

    This year alone, NeighborWorks America is investing an additional $3 million in the region, including $225,000 in grants to four Gulf area organizations who are providing assistance to constituents impacted by the BP oil spill.

    James Ross, Gulf Rebuilding manager at NeighborWorks, works closely with Gulf partners has seen first-hand the impact of this latest crisis. “Folks here are blindsided by this disaster – they don’t know how to support their families or pay their mortgages now that their businesses have been shuttered and their way of life has been threatened. Funding from NeighborWorks gives partners much-needed flexibility to address issues resulting from the oil spill.” View news release.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Don’t Let Rising Credit Card Rates Lead to a Financial Fall

By Milt Sharp, Jr.
National Homeownership Programs
NeighborWorks America


Interest rates on mortgages are at record low levels, but the interest rate on another staple of consumer credit – credit cards – have not come down alongside. That’s the news from The Wall Street Journal recently, which reported that credit card interest rates are at the highest relative level in more than 20 years.

The average consumer who carries a balance on a credit card is paying nearly 15 percent interest, more than three times the cost today of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan.

But while credit cards are necessary for many consumer transactions today – reserving a hotel, rental car or for shopping online -- the wise use of credit cards will save money.

Here’s some advice that NeighborWorks organizations that offer financial literacy and capability training are telling their customers:

  1. One of the best ways to avoid running up expensive credit card balances is start and maintain a savings plan. Unexpected costs that might force a consumer to reach for a credit card can be mitigated if savings have been built for emergencies.
  2. If a credit card has to be used for an unforeseen expense, consumers should immediately begin adjusting their other expenses to pay off the credit debt as quickly as possible.
  3. Use the right credit card. Not all credit cards are created equal. Some have high annual fees just for having the card, while others charge much higher interest rates than the recent national average of 14.7 percent. Seek out the advice of an unbiased financial counselor or advisor when choosing a credit card. Select NeighborWorks organizations and other nonprofits can help.
  4. Don’t carry the credit card in your wallet or purse. Remember, the best use of credit is for emergencies, not every day purchases. Leave the plastic at home and you’ll be less inclined to use it – and to stay within a spending plan and budget.
  5. Plan large purchases without relying on credit. According to an article in the Independent Retailer, nearly three-quarters of consumers have rediscovered the benefits of buying an item on layaway.

Buying items that exceed your weekly or monthly budget on layaway, or paying a little bit of the purchase cost over time, cuts down on the use of credit cards and their high interest cost. Inquire at your favorite retailer to see if they have a layaway option.

The bottom line is that even though credit card interest rates are climbing, consumers don’t have to risk a financial fall by using them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On NPR, NeighborWorks' Marietta Rodriguez Discusses Unemployment's Impact on Foreclosures

Realty Trac reported today that foreclosure filings in July were up nearly 4 percent from the previous month. But when compared to this time last year, foreclosure activity has actually dipped 10 percent.

While the drop in default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions over the last year is a good sign, Marietta Rodriguez, NeighborWorks America’s director of homeownership and lending, cautions against "breathing a sigh of relief."

In an interview with NPR this morning, Rodriguez said that lack of employment is a major problem driving many homeowners over the edge to foreclosure.

“On the ground, our counselors are telling us they're seeing more and more consumers, more and more borrowers seeking help — that their numbers are not decreasing," Rodriguez said in the NPR interview.

Indeed today, NeighborWorks America announced that more than one million homeowners facing foreclosure have been counseled through the Congressionally-funded National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NMFC) program. And 58 percent of those being counseled report that job loss is the reason they are facing foreclosure.

NFMC has found that foreclosure counseling works. Homeowners served through the program are finding a solution to foreclosure and receiving indispensable information and guidance. A recent independent NFMC report found that the program’s clients were 60 percent more likely to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure than those who went without counseling. In addition, NFMC clients were more likely to receive a loan modification, and on average, saved $454 more on their monthly mortgage payments per month, than homeowners who received modifications but did not work with a counselor.

More Than One Million Homeowners Counseled by National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program


Today NeighborWorks America announced that more than 1,000,000 homeowners facing foreclosure have received much-needed counseling thanks to the Congressionally-funded National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program.

At a time when foreclosures continue to significantly affect the housing market and the national unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, foreclosure intervention counseling provided by NFMC Program-funded nonprofit housing counseling organizations is helping homeowners across the country find a solution to foreclosure and receive indispensable information and guidance.

“While more than 1,000,000 homeowners have received foreclosure intervention counseling thanks to the foresight of Congress (especially the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations subcommittees) and the hard work of more than 1,700 NFMC-funded counseling organizations, an additional 4 million homeowners are expected to face foreclosure in 2010. We continue to reach out to all homeowners who may face foreclosure to make them aware that foreclosure intervention counseling is available and offered for free at NFMC-funded counseling organizations across the country,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

Much more on this important announcement can be found in the NeighborWorks newsroom.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont Awarded $4.5 Million from DOE to Improve Energy Efficiency

Energy-efficient homes, although more common in recent years, remain rare. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 99 percent of US homes remain damp, drafty and expensive to heat and cool. US Department of Energy data show that buildings, including residential properties, account for nearly 50 percent of US energy consumption, while transportation accounts for about 30 percent.

That is why the Department of Energy is awarding more $3.2 billion to assist US cities, counties, states, territories, and Indian tribes in developing, promoting, implementing, and managing energy efficiency and conservation projects and programs.

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont was recently awarded $4.5 million through this Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to implement local energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that will reduce energy use by homes, vehicles and businesses. Via NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, Rutland County will be one of two communities in New England to be served through the block grant program.

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont will use the funds to enhance an incentive program offered through Efficiency Vermont and will also work with Central Vermont Public Service, Green Mountain College and several local banks. They will offer efficiency audits, which look at what improvements can be made to a home, and then manage the construction while those improvements are made. They will fund improvements with a combination of cash rebates and loans and they hope to structure the loans so the payments from homeowners are less than the projected savings from the improvements.

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont hopes Rutland County will lead the state in energy efficiency, according to the executive director, Ludy Biddle. She said helping homeowners make such improvements has been a goal for the organization since an “energy summit” that they organized in September 2009.

Monday, August 9, 2010

NW.ORG Gets a Facelift

Have you seen it yet? Nw.org has a fresh look!

This “makeover” creates a simpler, cleaner front page for nw.org and provides easy-to-navigate gateways for nonprofit housing practitioners, our private-sector partners and consumers seeking information on their homes and communities. This information for consumers also is available in four languages — Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese — allowing us to serve the needs of more people in our communities.

Please note that this “facelift” is not a redesign of the entire website. The homepage as well as the new sections for partners and consumers have been redesigned to better meet the needs of those audiences. But at this stage, the majority of the site remains as it has been. In the remaining months of 2010 and throughout 2011, we will bring additional pages into the new look.

Check out the nw.org facelift. We think it’s a great start and an awesome new look! Let us know your thoughts.

Friday, August 6, 2010

NeighborWorks Network Helps Residents Start and Develop Community Gardens

Today NeighborWorks America announced its support for the 2010 National Farmers Market Directory recently released by the United States Department of Agriculture. The 2010 National Farmers Market Directory lists 6,132 operational farmers markets in the United States, which is a 16 percent increase since 2009. NeighborWorks America and its affiliates are taking part in this trend of transforming vacant and abandoned lots into community gardens and farmers markets.

Studies and surveys have shown that the use of community gardens and farmers markets help improve personal well being and enhance social relationships among residents while providing the community with an increased supply of fresh food. Gardens and markets generate community support through the involvement of local governments, youth, faith based organizations, businesses, banks and residents. The collaboration between these kinds of organizations and residents is a key part of the work done by NeighborWorks organizations with active community building operations.


The United States Department of Agriculture reported 1,755 farmers markets operating in the United States in 1994. From 1994 to 2010, there has been a 44 percent increase in markets nationwide from 1,755 to 6,132. In an effort to go green and provide neighborhoods with an abundant amount of locally grown food, NeighborWorks organizations in Sacramento, C.A., Rochester, N.Y., Rapid City, S.D., Utica, N.Y. and Orange, N.J. are taking part in this growing trend.

Among the recent efforts is a resident launched program with Dakota Home Resources, a NeighborWorks organization in South Dakota. At first Dakota Home Resources purchased a foreclosed house with the intent to rebuild it and place a homeowner in the house. However, the house needed to be demolished because it was too dilapidated to rebuild and in keeping with Dakota’s history of community engagement it sought resident input on next steps. The residents suggested that the lot should be used for a community garden with the hope that a garden would create broader benefits. Everything except the lot itself was donated by residents and other members of the surrounding community- the tools, mulch, water, compost piles, piping and manual labor. The garden opened on June 1, 2010 with 20 plots, all of them filled.

“The community garden has really brought the residents together on a united front,” said Jolee Wolf from NeighborWorks Dakota Home Resources. “The garden has not only decreased crime in the area; but has strengthened the bond between the police force and residents of the community.”

While Dakota Home Resources used the community garden model, NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center-Sacramento Region developed and organized a farmers market in an area labeled a ‘food desert.’

Oak Park is considered a food desert because the overwhelming number of fast food restaurants in comparison with the number of grocery stores with fresh produce. Just as with the Dakota Home Resources, residents were the catalyst for this NeighborWorks organization project.

Oak Park residents went to NeighborWorks Sacramento and tapped the nonprofit’s organizational and financial capacity to develop a farmers market. Months of planning went into creating this market that’s now open five months of the year. At this weekly market, partners, vendors and NeighborWorks Sacramento have tables where they talk to residents about nutrition education and other programs the members of the community offer.

“We’ve gained a lot of support and attention from the residents and community,” said Sharon Eghigian from NeighborWorks Sacramento. “People love having the opportunity to buy local food. The Oak Park Farmers Market has a fun and exciting atmosphere with informational booths, activities for kids and a variety of vendors and farmers.”

The trend toward healthier and greener communities housing is a solid part of the services offered by many NeighborWorks organizations. For more information on how to participate in the trend go to http://www.nw.org/ to look-up the nearest NeighborWorks organization.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

NeighborWorks America Joins Forces with HUD, Treasury and Atlanta Area Congressmen in an Effort to Prevent Home Foreclosures

NeighborWorks America CEO Ken Wade joined HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Atlanta Congressmen John Lewis, David Scott and Hank Johnson at a recent “Help for Homeowners” event. The two-day event, which kicked-off on Friday, July 30, at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, was hosted by HUD, the US Department of Treasury, the Hope Now Alliance and NeighborWorks America. More than 2,300 homeowners attended and had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their mortgage lenders or HUD-approved counseling agencies to find out if they qualify for various modification options, including the Making Home Affordable Program.

Maryanne Tavarez of Union City, a suburb of Atlanta, was glad to meet with her lender. Tavarez was forced to stop working due to a work disability. Then, her husband lost his job, and abandoned both her and the house. “My husband just got frustrated and moved out of the house and left no money. I applied for a modification as a single person and my brother said he would buy my house,” said Tavarez. “But, on July 6 they foreclosed on my house. I was scared every day and did not know when the Sherriff would show me out. Citi Mortgage sent me an invitation to attend this event. I thought maybe if I go it will all work out.”

Tavarez got her wish. She met with representatives from Citi Mortgage who reviewed her case and modified her loan to affordable monthly payments. “Citi went above and beyond the call of duty. They listened, looked and checked and said that I will no longer be in foreclosure,” said a beaming Tavarez.

In recent years, the number of failed mortgages more than doubled in Metropolitan Atlanta. The rate of foreclosures in the area is currently 3.18 percent, which is slightly higher than the national average of 3.15 percent.

Larry Gilmore, acting director of HOPE Now and CEO of HOPE LoanPort and Phyllis Caldwell, chief of Treasury’s Homeownership Preservation office were also in attendance at the event. They were joined by NeighborWorks representatives Marietta Rodriguez, national director of Homeownership and Lending and Hillary Wiley, communications and public affairs management consultant. Wiley was on point for media relations and co-hosted the loan modification scam alert table with Rodriguez.

NeighborWorks Southern District Director Don Phoenix had the opportunity to mingle with the congressmen and interact with several homeowners in crisis. “There are a lot of people in need, and this event provides an option for getting some assistance,” said Phoenix. “It was a very well done event.”

Help for Homeowners was covered by FOX News and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Friday, July 23, 2010

NeighborWorks America Helps Nonprofits Navigate NSP with Do's and Don'ts Accounting Webinar

With more than $7 billion of federal money flowing into communities through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), and nonprofit organizations playing a key role in using the funds to strengthen neighborhoods affected by foreclosure, NeighborWorks America, in partnership with the Lydon, Fetterolf, Corydon, P.A., recently offered tips on navigating the processes of cost allocation and reimbursement for nonprofit NSP grantees. In all, 38 organizations discussed how to accurately manage the NSP process under the rules established by the Office of Management and Budget in Circular A-122.

"The rules for NSP and other similar federal programs can be a challenge for nonprofit organizations who are not accustomed to managing federal funds, and the consequence of missteps can be delayed reimbursement or in the worst case, having to return grant funds to HUD,” said Sarah Greenberg, senior manager, Community Stabilization, at NeighborWorks America.

There are 109 organizations in the NeighborWorks network managing over $146 million of NSP Round 1 funds, and an additional 19 NeighborWorks network organizations are direct recipients of competitive NSP Round 2 funds. NeighborWorks America believes that it’s important for all participating nonprofits to have the best guidance on running a cost-effective program.

The webinar is part of NeighborWorks America's overall effort to make information readily available to nonprofits working to restore communities devastated by the foreclosure crisis. To this end, NeighborWorks will also be hosting a peer convening for nonprofit NSP2 grantees in Philadelphia on August 16, 2010, as part of the NeighborWorks Training Institute.

Other information on best practices, case studies, and the latest news and research are available at www.StableCommunities.org.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Community HousingWorks VISTAs Selected as Finalists in AmeriCorps Video Contest

Three VISTA volunteers serving at Community HousingWorks, a NeighborWorks organization in San Diego, CA, have submitted a video for the 2010 AmeriCorps Video Contest. Their entry, "What Does 'A' Mean to You?" was selected as one of the five finalists! Voting to determine the winning video takes place July 20-July 30, 2010. Check it out below or go here to view it and the other finalists.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Training In the Gulf Shows NeighborWorks Impact

The oil spill has provided new challenges for community development activities in the Gulf.

NeighborWorks America has taken steps to assist our local Gulf partners in their efforts to respond to the oil spill and its long term impacts with grants and technical assistance.

We also sponsored specialized training for Vietnamese American fishers and their families in Biloxi, Mississippi, which focused on media and messaging. In an interview with CNN, these Vietnamese American fishers were able to take true advantage of NeighborWorks' training and make their voices heard. View the interview.

Additional NeighborWorks-sponsored workshops in July and August will share skills in community assessment and program development so that community leaders can increase their effectiveness in responding to emerging needs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NeighborWorks Organization Serving the Navajo Nation Recognized for Accomplishments Despite Great Obstacles

NeighborWorks member organization Navajo Partnership for Housing was recently featured in American Banker magazine and National Mortgage News. The New Mexico-based organization was recognized for accomplishments in providing homebuyer education and in working hard against great obstacles to bring mortgage financing to an underserved population.

Over the past 15 years, the organization has provided grants and loans to families to help them buy, build and rehabilitate homes in an area where very little mortgage infrastructure exists.

The article says, "The scrappy nonprofit, which will mark its 15th year of doing the practically impossible next year, has bucked the housing depression to continue to bring mortgage finance to members of the Navajo Nation on or near their giant reservation, which sprawls across New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.”

Congratulations to Executive Director Lanalle Smith and all her staff for this well deserved recognition.

Read “They May Not Be Miracle Workers but They’re Close.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

NeighborWorks America Awards $35 Million for Green Housing Rehab

NeighborWorks America is awarding $35 million to 117 local NeighborWorks organizations and two NeighborWorks-affiliated capital corporations — Community Housing Capital and NeighborWorks Capital — to rehabilitate or finance the rehabilitation of affordable housing nationwide, including smaller and rural communities with affordable housing needs.

The Capital Funding for the Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing (CFRAH) grants will enable local NeighborWorks organizations to develop or continue to fund:

  • Revolving loan funds for rehabilitation lending for owner-occupied property;

  • Rehab of residential rental housing currently owned by local NeighborWorks organizations;
  • Rehab of residential rental housing that is newly acquired or will be acquired by local NeighborWorks organizations;

  • Rehab of single family homes that will be acquired or have been recently acquired by local NeighborWorks organizations and will be sold to homeowners.

“We thank Congress for their ongoing support of affordable housing needs in our nation’s communities. Because of the grants announced today, thousands of rental and owner-occupied units will be rehabilitated, the majority through the use of state of the art green strategies, which will not only recreate a healthier home for families, but also support healthier communities,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

In addition to enabling organizations to acquire and rehab properties, the $35 million in grant funding will also jump start local economies, creating more than 1,100 local jobs.

More information is available in the NeighborWorks Newsroom. More details, including a full listing of organizations receiving grants, is available at www.nw.org/cfrah.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Community Gardens, Food Co-ops, and Farmers Markets Provide an Oasis in ‘Food Deserts’

by Erica Hall, MA, Community Economic Development, Assistant Corporate Secretary/Senior Paralegal, NeighborWorks America

As part of her Let’s Move initiative to end childhood obesity, Michelle Obama said we must eliminate “food deserts” in this country. I couldn’t agree more.

Food deserts are low-income areas where full-service grocery stores are scarce and fast food chains are often plentiful. Access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages is limited, resulting in higher rates of obesity and diet-related diseases in residents.

As a community economic development (CED) practitioner, I am particularly passionate about the role community gardens, community supported agriculture, produce co-operatives, and farmers markets can play, not only in promoting a healthy lifestyle, and lifting community spirit and pride, but also creating opportunities for community economic development. Community food growing is also a source of satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement and allows for interaction with nature and the productive use of land.

I also understand that while supermarkets are anchors which bring economic development, supermarket development can take years. In the meantime, alternatives must be created to traditional supermarket development. I believe that if you can grow your own food while owning a stake in the business of food, it provides opportunities to promote entrepreneurship, ownership and microenterprise development.

In the NeighborWorks network, we see community gardens and farmers markets sprouting up all over the country. Take for example the Brooklyn Centre Community Orchard being planned in Cleveland, Ohio. This summer, residents hope to turn their Brooklyn Centre neighborhood, labeled a food desert, into a food oasis. A vacant expanse of land, which had fallen into disrepair and a magnet for crime and drugs, will be the site of the neighborhood’s first large-scale, resident-run community orchard.

Darren Hamm, sustainable housing specialist with Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland is leading this effort. Hamm, who is also president of the Brooklyn Centre Community Association, said that a course on neighborhood stabilization he took at the NeighborWorks Training Institute was his inspiration to develop the orchard.

In California, the NeighborWorks Homeownership Center of Sacramento was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente to help create a farmer’s market in the Oak Park neighborhood they serve. The new Oak Park Farmer’s Market, which opened on May 15, improves access to affordable, high-quality fruits and vegetables in an area where just one supermarket exists. It is also a source of income for a diverse group of farmers, including smaller, local and immigrant farmers from the Sacramento area. The homeownership center worked in partnership with community residents, community garden advocates, backyard growers, and fresh produce sellers to launch the farmer’s market, and the group intends to make Oak Park the sustainable food center of the Sacramento Region.

Youth get excited about growing their own food too. In Worcester, Massachusetts, Oak Hill Community Development Corporation’s Charlie Buffone Community Garden is run entirely by neighborhood youth. The vegetable and fruit garden is cultivated with all organic materials and toxic chemicals are strictly prohibited. They give away the produce to neighborhood residents, including making fruit and vegetable baskets for senior citizen homes. Check out the website, which is also maintained entirely by the young volunteers. If you’re on Facebook, see photos of their garden.

I recently had the opportunity to complete my graduate work which involved obesity prevention among African Americans, while increasing access to fresh foods, green spaces and safe places for low income communities in Washington, D.C . I became involved in a novel approach to increase access to fresh produce and other healthy foods to two of the district’s poorest areas: Wards 7 and 8. Wards 7 and 8 (east of the Anacostia River) have the District's highest poverty and obesity rates and are home to large food deserts.

The project, called the DC Healthy Corner Store Program, sought to increase access to fresh produce and other healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods, and to increase small grocers’ capacity to sell healthy foods successfully. It is led by D.C. Hunger Solutions, with support and funding from the D.C. Department of Health, and in partnership with KAGRO (Korean American Grocers Association), community-based organizations, and small retailers in the city.

Please go to nw.org to learn more about this wonderful program, as well as the funding opportunities available for similar efforts through the Obama administration's $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

For more information about farmer’s markets, including funding, how to start one and where to locate them in your state, visit the USDA’s website.

More information about community gardens, including funding, locations, best practices and tips can be found at the American Community Garden Association’s website.