Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NeighborWorks Spotlights Seven High-Impact Social Media Trends for Neighborhoods and Local Nonprofits

With all the talk about Facebook, Twitter and online social networks lately, it’s easy to lose sight of the impact of social media on neighborhoods and nonprofit community development efforts.

Here are seven trends worth noting.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NeighborWorks Discusses Foreclosure in Black Communities at Congressional Black Caucus Conference

On September 24, National Initiatives and Applied Research Director Nelson Merced was part of a Congressional Black Caucus panel discussion on the current economic recession that has destabilized rates of black homeownership and the economic fates of many African Americans. The panel examined the current scope of the housing and foreclosure crisis in the black community and implications for homeowners and renters, as well as policy solutions critical to fostering housing and economic security among African Americans. View talking points.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NeighborWorks COO Tells Congressional Committee That Working with Servicers Continues to be a Challenge for Counselors

NeighborWorks America COO Eileen Fitzgerald recently told the Congressional Committee overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that while a number of improvements are being made to the Making Home Affordable Program, counselors continue to face difficulty working with servicers.

In testimony before the committee on September 24, Fitzgerald described several factors that continue to limit the success of the program, including difficult and inefficient communications between servicers and counselors, servicers’ disregard for the guidelines of the program, and frustrations with the system as a whole.

Fitzgerald said, for example, that it can take as long as two hours to reach a mortgage servicer. Some homeowners send in documentation, but are asked to do so again. And at times, Fitzgerald said, mortgage servicers are reluctant to disclose the full terms of the new loan. Read AP coverage. View testimony.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nearly 1.5 Million Take Advantage of the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

With the help of NeighborWorks Green Bay, Lori Guns was one of nearly one-and-a-half million first-time home buyers nationwide who have taken advantage of the $8,000 federal tax credit. It took the Wisconsin resident nearly two years to achieve her dream of homeownership, but on September 22 she was handed the keys to her first home, according to local ABC news affiliate WBAY. The IRS estimates that the first-time homebuyer tax credit program, set to expire in November, has helped nearly 1.5 million people like Guns purchase their first home, and some are calling on Congress to extend the program. Read about and view video of Guns’ success story.

Monday, September 21, 2009

2009’s Most and Least Affordable Housing Markets

Throughout the housing boom and subsequent crash America’s most and least affordable housing markets have remained largely unchanged, according to a recent BusinessWeek report.

In 2009, America’s most affordable housing market was Kokomo, Indiana, and homes in other Midwestern cities remained on top of the affordable housing list. Likewise, most homes sold in pricey East and West Coast metros remain unaffordable for average earners.

But 2009 offers some hope for homeowners, whether they are modest or high-income earners. According to BusinessWeek, buying a home this year hasn’t been this affordable in a generation. Across the board, home prices have plunged, interest rates are at near historic lows and the government is kicking in as much as $8,000 to encourage first-time buyers to purchase a home.

Read more about where to find the nation’s most affordable housing and view these interesting photos of the ranked cities.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

National Collaboration Turns Foreclosures Into Opportunities

In an unprecedented move, leaders from the nonprofit sector, philanthropic community, financial industry and government have joined forces in creating a highly innovative and effective approach to reclaim neighborhoods devastated by high concentrations of foreclosed and abandoned property.

The National Community Stabilization Trust (“Stabilization Trust”), a new nonprofit organization, will help re-knit the fabric of neighborhoods torn apart by the high levels of foreclosed and abandoned property, property disinvestment, plummeting housing prices, and low resident confidence.

This is being accomplished by providing local government and local housing providers with two critical services that are currently missing to effectively stabilize neighborhoods – easy access to foreclosed properties and access to flexible financing to renovate these properties.

The Stabilization Trust will facilitate the transfer of foreclosed property from the many financial institutions that own or manage these properties to locally designated community housing providers who will renovate the housing for new homeowners and renters. This effort will help speed use of $6 billion in new federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program resources that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is making available to localities and public-private partnerships.

Under the Stabilization Trust’s popular First Look program, cities and counties can get access to foreclosed homes before they are made available to the general market, resulting in a more predictable and cost effective neighborhood revitalization strategy.

“Communities need a straight-forward and streamlined way to acquire foreclosed and abandoned homes,” said Craig Nickerson, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust. “The Stabilization Trust’s First Look program puts the local housing providers in the driver’s seat, able to strategically decide which properties are most important to their neighborhood revitalization plans.”

More than 100 hard hit communities in 35 states across the country have already signed up for this free service from the Stabilization Trust, which is now making its services available to localities nationwide and putting thousands of properties in the hands of local housing providers.

Six leading nonprofit organizations – Enterprise Community Partners, Housing Partnership Network, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza, and NeighborWorks America – serve as the founding sponsors of the Stabilization Trust. They came together last year to form the new organization in the wake of the current housing crisis.

Funding from these organizations and from philanthropic leaders, including the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute and Heron Foundation have helped capitalize the nationwide operation. Many of the nation’s major financial institutions are working with the Stabilization Trust to convey foreclosed property, including Bank of America, Citi, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, GMAC, JP Morgan Chase, Nationstar, Saxon, Wells Fargo and others.


Massachusetts Teens Honored for Their Work in Foreclosure Prevention

Denise Peterson, a 19-year-old from Worcester, Mass., thought she would work in a secretarial role when she took a summer youth position with NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center of Worcester. Instead, she was trained in personal finance and budgeting, sustainable homeownership and foreclosure prevention. She then used that newfound knowledge to help homeowners struggling to meet their mortgage payments to avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes.

Peterson was one of three teenagers who served as summer youth workers at the center, through a collaboration of the center, the Oak Hill Community Development Corp., the Worcester Community Action Council and Worcester Credit Union. The three were honored for their service on September 8, during a visit by U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern. "Some come here because they’re afraid of losing their homes," McGovern said. "This organization is a model to the nation in how to involve young people in community service. Their work here has resulted in families keeping their homes." Read more about it in the

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Webinars on Neighborhood Stabilization Help Practitioners Optimize Their Programs

Across the country neighborhood stabilization efforts are already underway using the first round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds. Practitioners involved should not miss Making it Work—Practical Information on How to Implement a Stabilization Plan, a webinar series that will cover new strategies and best practices to further enhance their programs.

The series will run four Tuesdays in a row — September 15, 22, 29 and October 6 — from 2-3p.m. EDT. Directly following each webinar, from 3-4p.m. EDT, presenters will be available to answer questions.

Topics include Program Design for Maximum Impact, Acquisition Strategies, Disposition Strategies and Performance Measurement. Learn more and register today!

The series is a collaboration between Enterprise Community Partners, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Housing Conference, the National Community Stabilization Trust and NeighborWorks America.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

NeighborWorks America Represented at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering & Service

If you have difficulty viewing the video below, view it on our YouTube Channel:

New Study Shatters Myths About Green Consumers

Conventional wisdom has been that the environment is the top concern of green consumers, but according to a new national study, it’s actually the economy. The study, conducted by a Knoxville, Tennessee firm Shelton Group, polled 1,007 U.S. consumers who at least occasionally buy green products. The group says the results shatters six stereotypes commonly held about what motivates consumers to buy green.

One myth debunked by the study: Green consumers’ top concern is the environment. However, 59 percent of those polled identified the economy as their number one concern, with the environment trailing far behind at 8 percent. In addition, more than 73 percent chose to reduce their energy consumption to lower their bills rather than "save the planet."

In the affordable housing industry, this confirms the importance of building green homes in the current economic environment. The study also has implications for how those green homes are marketed to buyers. While a home’s LEED certification or use of earth friendly building materials are very important, touting the cost savings of owning a green home might be a stronger hook for some homebuyers.

This does not mean that efforts to educate the public on the environment should be abandoned. In fact the study found that individuals who were knowledgeable about environmental issues do tend to participate in a significantly higher average number of green activities.

However, among those 25-34 years old, this knowledge did not always lead to eco-conscious behavior, such as conserving electricity or buying energy efficient products for the home. This suggests that perhaps better targeted messages might lead to more people buying and living green.

Read more about the Six Myths of Green Consumers in EcoHome Magazine.