Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Neighborhood Stabilization at 3

Sarah Greenberg
Senior Manager, Community Stabilization
NeighborWorks America
Sitting in a roomful of community development practitioners brought together by the Center for Community Progress, the Greater Ohio Policy Center, and Enterprise Community Partners to create a new toolkit for neighborhood change, I was struck by how a new subset of community development has grown up over the past three years.  Venerable names in community development mixed with young leaders in the field like those on my staff, providing an interesting study on both continuity and change in the field.

We should not underestimate the stimulus effects of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  The program, a response to the foreclosure crisis, has stimulated new thinking and new leadership in the field.  National intermediaries like NeighborWorks, Enterprise, LISC, and the Housing Partnership Network began as early as 2007 to redeploy existing staff and add new staff to focus on community stabilization and foreclosure response.  I have been privileged to lead these efforts at NeighborWorks America.  These programs grew rapidly, both catalyzing and documenting key trends in the field, including:

  • A new national intermediary designed to facilitate the efficient transfer of foreclosed properties to local stabilization efforts through the National First Look Program.
  • The growth of a regional or sometimes local intermediary function that can provide the leadership needed to coordinate stabilization efforts - providing real estate development capacity; creating real property data systems; land banking properties for future disposition; branding and marketing distressed communities as places of opportunity; and generating or supplementing end buyer financing products through the creation of new loan pools. 
  • Attempts to intervene earlier in the cycle of distress through purchasing delinquent mortgage notes, short sales, and fast-track foreclosure processes for vacant units.
  • A return to a more comprehensive, place-based approach to community development that mobilizes residents and stakeholders towards a common goal.

And the field has risen to the challenge.  NeighborWorks alone has trained thousands of practitioners through a new community stabilization curriculum offered through the NeighborWorks Training Institute and online; HUD has trained thousands more in NSP-specific areas with the help of a small army of technical assistance providers, many of whom have been in the field for several decades.

Sunbelt communities that have never dealt with stabilization issues learned from Rust Belt communities that pioneered neighborhood revitalization initiatives.  Communities devastated by the foreclosure crisis learned from the response to other recent crises like Hurricane Katrina and the EF5 tornado that leveled Greensburg, KS.  Old programs were reexamined and lessons gleaned from their execution, such as the Resolution Trust Company, HUD’s Asset Control Area program, and the 203(k) loan program.

More than 9,500 units have already been returned to productive use through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, with programmatic projections in the hundreds of thousands of units.  In the NeighborWorks Network at least 130 local organizations have taken advantage of NSP funding to support their stabilization efforts, many adding staff and capacity in the process.  For all of these reasons I believe that even with all of its challenges, as a field we will ultimately consider NSP a success as a stimulus program.

How will this work continue when NSP funds are gone, especially given recent cuts to essential long-term programs like CDBG and HUD Housing Counseling?  This is but the latest in a series of challenges in community development, and sitting in that room yesterday reflecting on the community of stabilization practitioners that has grown over the past three years, I have faith that we will again join together as an industry to craft creative responses.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011: Underscoring NeighborWorks America’s Green Commitment

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

On this Earth Day 2011, it’s time to step back and look at how far we have come in our green practices. Over the past year, NeighborWorks America has moved forward with a variety of initiatives to support the environmental efforts of the NeighborWorks network and nonprofit housing and community development since Earth Day 2010. Among these is the recent national symposium – Green Choices, Green Value: For the Communities and Families We Serve – where green issues ranging from the health implications of green building, sustainable community planning and organizing efforts, and the benefits of green jobs were discussed and debated. In addition, NeighborWorks America has expanded its offering of green courses – offered both on-line and at the NeighborWorks Training Institutes – providing nonprofit developers and community leaders with up-to-date information on environmentally friendly practices.

Our network organizations are leaders in green building, but their commitment to greening stretches beyond the bricks and mortar to all of their programs and the families that they serve. NeighborWorks America supports incorporating green strategies into all business lines and in the day-to-day operations of the organizations because of the financial, social, and environmental benefits that greening can bring. We believe that green housing and education can help residents thrive in their homes and communities, and that comprehensive green strategies are the best way to deliver these benefits. For more see news release.

Within our organization, we are working hard to reduce our carbon footprint, and in honor of Earth Day our staff have also stepped up and pledged ways they can individually make a difference toward a greener work and home environment. These include everyday things that can have a large impact when taken as a whole, like using reusable mugs and water bottles, recycling, and using public transportation more often. Some are going further with things like composting, bicycling to work, installing rain barrels, and volunteering at local recycling facilities.

A year from now, we anticipate more successes to share with you in the green arena, the kind of changes that reduce our impact in the environment while creating more green jobs and sustainable communities.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Manna, Inc., Holds Groundbreaking for New Affordable Housing in Washington, D.C.

by Erin Angell Collins, Deputy Media Relations Manager, NeighborWorks America

Front Row (L to R): George Rothman,

Oramenta Newsome (Washington DC LISC),

Mayor Vincent Gray, Diana Meyer (Citibank),
Lawanda Prather (future Bexhill homeowner)

Back row (L to R): Jack Gilbert (Community Housing Capital),

District Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5-D), Chris Helmers,

Rev. Jim Dickerson (Manna Founder), Robert Trent (DHCD),

Jacqueline Manning (Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner);

Today Manna, Inc., a member of the NeighborWorks network and Washington, D.C.'s leading developer and builder of for-sale housing for low-income individuals, celebrated the groundbreaking of the Bexhill Townhome Condominiums, part of the District of Columbia's Ivy City Initiative. Upon completion, the Bexhill will feature 20 new townhouse condos, ranging from 2-4 bedrooms and one-and two-levels.

The groundbreaking featured several speakers including The Honorable Vincent Gray, mayor of the District of Columbia; George Rothman, Manna, Inc.; Rev. Jim Dickerson, Manna, Inc., Robert Trent, Department of Housing and Community Development (D.C.); Jack Gilbert, Community Housing Capital, Diana Meyer and Courtney Ward, Citibank/Citi Foundation; Stephen Briggs, Wells Fargo; and Tim Adams, NeighborWorks America, among others.

The Ivy City demonstration project is a redevelopment initiative designed to increase the number of quality affordable housing opportunities for families in Ward 5 of the District of Columbia. As with any Manna project, the Bexhill Condominiums would not have been possible without the support of others. Manna has been fortunate to receive substantial support from financial institutions, including Citi Foundation's Partners in Progress award and Wells Fargo Housing Foundation's Leading the Way Home Priority Markets award. Financing for the Bexhill is being provided by Community Housing Capital, a direct lender to the NeighborWorks network.