Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kudos to a Grassroots Effort to Stem Impact of Foreclosures in Detroit

As residents move out of a Detroit neighborhood hard hit by foreclosures, Bill Swanson spends his days trying to persuade businesses to move into vacant commercial spaces. "Shop by shop and block by block, the head of the local business alliance is waging a grassroots fight against crime, blight and neglect." CNN Money

We can't help but applaud this kind of effort.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NeighborWorks America Reaffirms Its Commitment to 'Go Green'

As the nation celebrates Earth Day 2010, NeighborWorks America reaffirms its commitment to help low- and moderate-income communities across the nation go “green” and become healthy, sustainable places for people to live and work.

The commitment begins at home with NeighborWorks America’s pledge to reduce its own carbon footprint by 10 percent by 2012, and to offer training and education on green practices to the nonprofit community development field at large.

The commitment continues throughout the NeighborWorks network, which is working hard to promote green practices in communities through green home design and construction, rehabilitation, weatherization, energy efficient rental properties, and green jobs training. NeighborWorks America and the NeighborWorks network are fully committed to work together to create or rebuild healthy, sustainable communities across the country.

“This is an exciting time for the nonprofit community development field and its efforts to create healthy, sustainable and affordable housing,” said Thomas P. Deyo, deputy director of National Initiatives and Applied Research at NeighborWorks America. “NeighborWorks America is committed to being a leader in employing and promoting green and sustainable practices for the long-term benefit of the environment and our nation’s communities, so that all people can live, work, and play in healthy, ecologically friendly and affordable places.”

The NeighborWorks newsroom has more information, including highlights of just a few of the local NeighborWorks organizations’ green initiatives currently underway.

Learn about NeighborWorks Green Agenda at, and about Green training opportunities at

NeighborWorks Works with Realtors to Develop New 'Green The MLS' Toolkit for Marketing Green Homes

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) released in time for Earth Day a new “green” tool kit to help Realtors® add a green initiative to their local multiple listing service (MLS). The toolkit will make it easier to market and identify green homes for homebuyers and sellers. Its development was a collaborative effort by a team of individuals, associations and organizations, including NeighborWorks America®.

“NAR research has consistently shown that there is a considerable and growing market for green buildings. ...Earth Day on April 22 only underscores the fact that many of today’s consumers want homes and communities that are sensitive to the larger environment. The Green MLS Tool Kit allows Realtors® to support this growing market,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder.

“By identifying which homes contain energy efficient and environmentally friendly characteristics, the Greening MLS Tool Kit will help all home buyers – especially first-time and low- and moderate income home buyers – make more informed choices about the cost of their housing and where upfront payment may lead to long-term saving,” said Ken Wade, NeighborWorks America CEO.

Other organizations participating in the collaborative effort include the Appraisal Institute; Council of Multiple Listing Services; EcoBroker International; Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; Metropolitan Regional Information; Multi-Regional Multiple Listing Service System; National Association of Home Builders; Traverse Area Association of Realtors®; and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Learn more about the Green MLS Toolkit at More information is also available in NAR's press release.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Make Your Volunteer Events More ‘Social’ Via Online Networks

by Tom Austin, web content development manager, NeighborWorks America

If you’re not already integrating social media into your volunteer events, now might be a good time to start. After all, it's National Volunteer Week (April 18-25), which draws attention to the huge contributions made by volunteers in communities.

Whether your neighborhood project is a fix-up, paint-up, plant-up or even a fundraising event like a 5k race – online social networks are where people are hanging out in growing numbers, and not just tech-savvy teens and 20- or 30-somethings, but older folks too.

These websites not only include popular channels like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, but also websites that match volunteers to opportunities.

What I find most promising for NeighborWorks and other local community development nonprofits is the potential to attract more people, particularly those starting their careers, to local activities that are transforming communities, and that includes engaging volunteers on service projects through social networks.

Here are a few ideas for using social media before, during, and after your volunteer events. If you’ve had some good luck using the tools mentioned below, or other social tools, please share your comments below.

Before Your Volunteer Event:

  • Even if you don’t have that many Facebook followers yet, put your “Wall” to work by promoting your events, and in an inviting way that encourages comments and “thumbs-ups” from your followers.

  • Some local nonprofits are beginning to create their own customized social networks on Ning that can easily be used to rally volunteers, but it does take some time to set up and engage a community in this kind of multifaceted website.

  • Create a short video about your organization and event for upload to YouTube, then include the video on your website, Facebook page, or blog.

  • Promote your volunteer events on a few of the many social network websites that match volunteers with volunteer opportunities. AllforGood is the result of a major collaboration between nonprofits and tech companies like Google and Craig’s List and integrates well with other websites and social media. MeetUp is another popular site to gather a group of people quickly, around affinity interests, including volunteering. Some of the other reputable websites that match volunteers with the organizations that orchestrate volunteer events are;;; (volunteers category);;

  • Post your event photos on websites created by your local television station. Also, be on the lookout for other online social networks that post volunteer events, such as those sponsored by civic associations, libraries, and local government community affairs offices.

During Your Volunteer Event

  • Capture your event with video for posting to YouTube or photos for posting to Flickr. You can link to these from your website. Once you have the images posted, your volunteers may share them on their own social networks, attracting even more volunteers to your events.

  • Encourage use of Twitter during your event. Twitter also has ways to share photos, which work well with snapping shots of volunteers from Smart Phones. You may want to even take your Twitter tweets and make a scrapbook out of them to promote future events.

  • Does your organization have a blog? Consider a live blog of your volunteer event. Better yet, have one of the volunteers do a “guest blog” on their volunteer experience.

  • When your volunteers register, give them the opportunity for them to share their email, so you can follow up with them by sending them links to photos, video, blog posting, or other content relevant to your event.

After Your Volunteer Event

  • Show your online followers and fans who did not volunteer what they missed by posting photos and video, etc.

  • Use your social network to thank those who participated in the event by sharing photos, videos, etc.

There are obviously lots of possibilities for nonprofit project managers willing to experiment. Which of the tools do you see working best for your organization?

Also, if you’re looking for more on trends in volunteerism, check out the upcoming symposium, hosted by NeighborWorks America in Phoenix in May at

Monday, April 19, 2010

$59.5 Million Awarded Through National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program

On April 16, NeighborWorks America announced that $59.5 million in National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program funding has been awarded to 35 state housing finance agencies, 15 HUD-approved housing counseling intermediaries, and 81 community-based NeighborWorks organizations to provide counseling to families and individuals facing the threat of foreclosure. A list of grantees is posted on More than 937,500 families in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam have received foreclosure counseling since the NFMC Program began in January 2008. It is estimated that an additional 155,000 families facing the threat of foreclosure will be directly assisted with this fourth round of funding.

The need for these funds is critical at a time when foreclosures continue to rise and the challenges of increasing unemployment rates and falling home values are not abating. Demand for these funds far exceeded the amount of funds available; eligible applicants requested over $195 million in grant funds. A cap was placed on the amount of funds any one applicant could request; without this cap, the requested amount would have been much higher.

In total, more than 1,300 nonprofit counseling agencies and local NeighborWorks organizations across the country are expected to be engaged in the NFMC Program as a result of these awards. These organizations provide invaluable, free assistance to families at risk of losing their homes, screen clients for eligibility for the Making Home Affordable programs, help clients understand the complex foreclosure process and identify possible courses of action so they can make informed decisions and take action.

More details on this announcement can be found in the NeighborWorks Newsroom.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Educating Youth on Money Matters

by Milt Sharp, Senior Homeownership Specialist, NeighborWorks America

When I was younger, my grandfather would often tell me, “Son, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Educating youth as early as possible about the importance of finances will better prepare them to navigate complex financial decisions later in life. As today’s market has shown, making poor financial decisions can have a tremendous impact on individuals and the communities in which they reside.

To this end financial literacy programs across the country are reaching out to youth in a variety of creative ways to promote economic achievement. These programs use approaches that understand and appreciate youth involvement, youth popular culture, and positive peer influence. Role playing of real life situations — such as someone making the choice to use a check cashing facility as opposed to a bank; or a scenario where an individual needs to choose between saving or purchasing from a rent-to-own outlet — brings the issue home in a way that makes a lasting impression. Inner city youth are faced daily with predatory financial services and need knowledge beforehand to avoid being caught in “money traps.”

Good programs should, of course, cover the standard core content of savings, investing, credit, taxes, insurance and personal money management. But they should also include the influence of advertising. With today’s consumer culture of immediate gratification, it is important to emphasize advertising’s influence on youths’ buying habits and even their self image. Financial literacy can no longer focus just on increasing financial knowledge and skills but should also look at adjusting financial attitudes and behaviors.

Community Development Corporations and banks are natural financial literacy partners to schools in teaching youth on money matters. Many schools offer after-school programs and therefore provide excellent opportunities for financial literacy to be taught at the school by financial service providers and nonprofit organizations. Many banks offer youth savings accounts and savings clubs and also participate in supporting Youth Individual Development Accounts, programs providing a dollar match for a youth’s savings earmarked for post secondary education, small business development, and in some cases purchasing an automobile. Teaching youth about money management while offering savings incentives, can be a powerful combination for getting youth on a sustainable financial path.


Friday, April 9, 2010

NeighborWorks America Observes Financial Literacy Month by Offering Tips to Get Your Financial House in Order

With slow economic growth, persistently high unemployment, and the foreclosure crisis continuing to make headlines in 2010, NeighborWorks America is observing Financial Literacy Month (April) by offering tips to help consumers strengthen their financial know-how: create a realistic budget, save, cut expenses, and tackle debt.

“Many families are struggling to make ends meet in these challenging economic times,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America. “Financial education provides consumers with the information and practices they need to take control over their finances, create and manage a monthly budget, pay down debt, and build a financial cushion. Educated consumers also are better able to protect themselves from loan scam artists who are preying on homeowners in today’s tough economy.”

NeighborWorks America’s Financial Fitness Tips include:

  • Create a budget. Examine your most recent bank statement. Create a budget spreadsheet armed with information about your wage(s) and how much you spend each month. Categorize your spending. Expense categories can include: Rent or Mortgage, Gas, Groceries, Utilities, Insurance, Car Payment, Credit Card Payment, and more. After you see how much you are making, how much you are spending and where your money is going, you will be better able to create a budget that works for you.

  • Cut expenses. Daily expenses like going out for lunch or dinner and frequent trips to the coffee shop add up. After creating a budget and examining your spending over the last month, you will likely see expenses that can be cut, which may add up to monthly savings in your bank account. Instead of buying a daily cup of coffee, make a cup at home. Bring your lunch instead of buying it everyday. And, cook dinner at home with your family or friends instead of meeting up a few times a week. The combination of making coffee at home and a bringing a bag lunch a couple of days a week has the potential to save more than $50 each month.

  • Tackle debt. Once you cut unnecessary expenses, you may find a little extra money that can be used to tackle any debt you may have. To be truly financially fit, work on paying down and eventually eliminating your debt by paying more than the monthly minimum payment. Paying the minimum each month could take more than a dozen years to pay off the debt. By paying even a little more than the minimum each month, you are working your way toward financial fitness.

  • Build an emergency fund. With each paycheck, make an effort to contribute to a savings account separate from your checking account. Each contribution, no matter the amount, builds a cushion for emergencies down the road.

  • Enroll in a financial fitness course at a nonprofit NeighborWorks organization in your community. Financial fitness courses can teach you money management skills that can help put you on the path to decreasing debt and increasing resources. Financial literacy can also help you become more aware of common financial pitfalls – including loan modification scams and predatory lending schemes – and how to avoid them. To find a NeighborWorks organization near you that offers financial fitness courses, visit

  • Avoid being scammed. If you are facing foreclosure and aren’t sure where to turn for guidance, seek help from a nonprofit HUD-approved housing counseling organization. Avoid companies or people that promise to stop foreclosure or get your loan modified. Avoid companies or people that as for fees in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance, or reinstate your mortgage. And avoid companies or people that advise you to stop paying your mortgage company and pay them instead. Nonprofit organizations have your best interest at heart and will work with you one-on-one to remedy your situation. The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” does not apply with reputable nonprofits. To find a NeighborWorks organization or other nonprofit HUD-approved housing counseling organization near you, visit To learn more about loan modification scams and how to avoid them, visit

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Campaign Empowers Rhode Island Homeowners to Combat Loan Modification Scams in 2010

For the growing number of Rhode Island homeowners who face the possibility of foreclosure, a new public education campaign is providing vital information to guard against loan modification scams, find trusted help and report illegal activity to authorities.

The national foreclosure rate has reached an all-time high of 8.85 percent, and millions more foreclosures are expected in coming years. In the first quarter of 2010, there were more than 6,413 Rhode Island homes in foreclosure and another 11,728 threatened by foreclosure, an 8.5 percent rate according to analysis of Mortgage Bankers Association Data.

“It’s unfortunate that people who are already struggling financially are being targeted again by fast talkers looking to cash in on their troubles,” said Richard Godfrey, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. “Scammers know that people who are in danger of losing their home are vulnerable and looking for ways to get out. It is important for homeowners to know how to find an agency that is truly acting in their best interest and how to protect themselves from those who are looking to exploit them.”

Funded by Congress during the summer of 2009, NeighborWorks America was charged with coordinating a “Loan Modification Scam Alert” campaign nationwide through its 235 community-based affiliates and other local, state and national partner organizations, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Our campaign is designed to inform borrowers so that they have the information to fend off scammers who are trying to rob them of precious resources and educate others who may be in the position to give advice to those in financial distress,” said Marietta Rodriguez, director of Homeownership Programs at NeighborWorks America.

“An educated consumer is often the best defense. Knowing the warning signs is important for avoiding loan modification scams because the bad guys aren’t always easy to spot. They don’t lurk in dark shadows or operate out of a back alley. In fact, many times, these brazen scammers openly advertise their services and appear to be legitimate business people,” said FDIC Board Member and NeighborWorks America Chairman of the Board Thomas J. Curry.

Information, resources and reporting capabilities are now available around the clock at and by calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

The NeighborWorks newsroom as more information about the campaign launch in Rhode Island.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

NeighborWorks America Salutes Top Producers With 2010 CEO Award

NeighborWorks America today announced the 2010 honorees for the NeighborWorks America CEO award for outstanding performance in homebuilding, rental housing development, residential rehabilitation, housing counseling, homeownership promotion, volunteering and resident participation.

“These organizations exemplify the high caliber work that all of the more than 235 organizations in the NeighborWorks network do each day to create strong, vibrant and sustainable communities,” said NeighborWorks America CEO Ken Wade. “We are proud of their accomplishments and thankful for their exemplary contributions to NeighborWorks America’s mission to create opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities.”

Nine NeighborWorks organizations received the CEO Award. Learn more about them in the NeighborWorks Newsroom.

Monday, April 5, 2010

HUD Expands Abandoned and Foreclosed Definitions Under NSP

HUD has announced changes to its Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which helps communities acquire, rehabilitate and re-sell foreclosed and abandoned properties more quickly and help prevent further decline in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Effective immediately, HUD will classify a property as “foreclosed” if the owner is at least 60 days behind on the mortgage or is 90 days or more delinquent on tax payments. HUD is also expanding the definition of an “abandoned” property to include homes where no mortgage or tax payments have been made for at least 90 days. A property is also abandoned if a code enforcement inspection has determined that the property is uninhabitable and the owner has not taken corrective action within 90 days.

HUD says these expanded definitions will increase the reach of NSP by allowing more properties to qualify, remove existing barriers caused by market conditions, and help state and local grantees to meet a Congressional requirement that they obligate all of their NSP1 funding by September of this year.

More information is available on HUD’s Web site.