Wednesday, August 31, 2011

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Hails Property Owned by Hawaii NeighborWorks Affiliate as Model for the Nation

(l-r): HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan; Hawaii Governor
Neil Abercrombie; Hawaii Mutual Housing Association
Executive Director Dave Nakamura; Mutual Housing
Board President Dee Dee Letts; Palolo Homes Resident
Services Manager Dahlia Asuega 
During a recent visit to the state of Hawaii, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan hailed Palolo Valley Homes, owned by NeighborWorks Affiliate Mutual Housing Association of Hawaii, as a national model for the successful privatization of public housing. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie accompanied the secretary on a tour of the 300-unit property that houses low-income families. [View photos]

With a $1.7 million grant from HUD and additional funding from public and private sector partners, Palolo Valley Homes was renovated with new services and amenities such as a state-of-the-art learning center, children’s play area and a health examination room. With federal funds in short supply, partnerships like the one put to use in Palolo are being looked at for housing across the nation.

“We have a comprehensive housing policy in Hawaii that includes repairing and building public housing units where people feel safe in their community and proud of their home,” Governor Abercrombie said.

“I will go back to Washington D.C. inspired by your example,” Secretary Donovan said during his visit to Palolo Valley Homes. “We want innovative techniques in bringing nonprofit and private partners to the table to make a community truly a home to its residents.”

The governor and housing secretary also visited Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s Mayor Wright housing, where partnerships are being looked at to make much-needed renovations.
Learn more about the Secretary’s visit.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mortgage Refinancing Challenges Banks and Consumers

Today’s story in the Wall Street Journal — “Mortgage Refinancing Wave Poses Challenge for Banks” — highlights another obstacle for consumers who want to take advantage of record low mortgage interest rates.

Al Yoon writes:

“The capacity of banks to handle refinancings is a key issue for investors in mortgage-backed securities, whose returns are now among the most sensitive-ever to refinancings. The higher the hurdles for consumers, the better for investors who want to avoid the early repayment of principal at face value that produces a loss to bonds priced well-above that level.”

Just last week NeighborWorks America pointed out three additional obstacles that consumers who are interested in refinancing their mortgages are currently facing: a much higher credit score is needed to qualify, lost home equity in the foreclosure crisis, and cash needed for closing costs.

If you are interested in refinancing and would like to find out whether you could qualify, visit any of the more than 100 NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers located across the country.

Friday, August 19, 2011

NeighborWorks’ Focus on Innovations in Affordable Rental Housing

In today’s turbulent economy, working families need consistent access to affordable housing more than ever. Changing family work situations, the unabated foreclosure crisis and more stringent mortgage loan requirements mean that for millions of families, renting an apartment or house is the only option. This has resulted in a sharp increase in the demand for affordable rentals, a critical need that NeighborWorks organizations are meeting in neighborhoods and communities across the country.

eighborWorks America has focused on asset management since we began providing national services to our network’s providers of rentals. As a result, over 175 NeighborWorks organizations successfully provide affordable homes that 80,000 families and seniors are proud to call home. These apartments and rental houses are safe, great looking, energy-efficient and well managed. Many of our affiliates also offer highly effective services — to more than 100,000 residents — to help them succeed. Children succeed in school and parents succeed in saving, improving credit scores, and managing their budgets.
Written by Frances Ferguson, Senior Manager
National Real Estate Programs
NeighborWorks America

NeighborWorks America continues to look at the best ways of supporting our network and other nonprofit providers of rental housing, particularly as federal, state and local budget cuts of program services put strains on the affordable housing industry. 

At the next symposium on December 14 in Washington, DC, NeighborWorks will explore how nonprofits of various sizes and market areas are adjusting and innovating to sustain and grow the numbers of people they can serve through affordable rental housing. This symposium, Building on Strength: Invigorating Business Models for Affordable Rental Housing in the New Era, will focus on practical solutions to the capital gaps in affordable rental housing development by highlighting examples of organizations developing new partnerships, new types of real estate transactions, and new business models.

Between 2004 and 2010, the number of renters in the U.S. grew by nearly 4 million. Success at delivering much-needed affordable rental housing in the future may mean that nonprofit housing providers will have to look at new business strategies for long-term sustainability. To join the discussion about this very timely and important issue, register for the symposium at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NeighborWorks America Sees Obstacles to Significant Refinance Activity

Record low mortgage interest rates should be a boost to the economy as homeowners reduce their monthly housing costs and recycle the monthly savings back into the economy. But Marietta Rodriguez, National Director of Homeownership and Lending at NeighborWorks America, points out three realities of today’s mortgage market that suggest a refinance wave may not happen for many homeowners.
  1. It is more difficult to qualify for a mortgage these days than ever before. Prior to the housing bust, a credit score of 650 made a homeowner easily eligible for the lowest rate available. Today, a homeowner needs a much higher credit score — often above 700 — to obtain the lowest rate possible, and make refinancing a net positive.

    "With today's risk-based pricing for mortgages, it's not unusual for a homeowner who wants to refinance to hear about the record low rates in the market, and is surprised to learn that he doesn't qualify for that rate. The risk-based rate could be a percentage point or higher, sometimes making a refinance not worth it at all," said Robert Tourigny, executive director of NeighborWorks Greater Manchester, and the local NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center.

  2. Once a homeowner has decided that she wants to pursue a refinance, the reality of just how much home equity was lost in the housing crisis becomes plain. Without 20 percent equity, the best mortgage rates are out of reach. Ten percent gets a seat at the refi table, but 28 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are “underwater,” or owe more than their homes are worth, according to research firm Zillow.

    “Even those homeowners who have a sufficient credit score — millions of them — are just unable to participate because they don’t the home equity to qualify for a refinance mortgage,” said Rodriguez.

  3. A homeowner who can't bring closing costs to the table— typically at least one percent of the refi loan amount— also can't refinance into a lower mortgage payment, and strengthen their household budgets. Household income is still not robust, and while savings rates have increased since the recession began, not many homeowners have the thousands of dollars in cash required to pay for closing costs.

    “The bottom line is that although mortgage rates haven't seen levels like this in decades, forces beyond the interest rate will likely hold back any significant refinance activity — the kind that we would expect to see when mortgage rates dropped to these levels,” said Rodriguez.

Homeowners who are considering taking the first step to refinance their mortgage are encouraged to see a homeownership advisor from one of the more than 100 NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers located around the country.

A local NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center can be found at

Monday, August 15, 2011

Senior Housing Issues, Successful Programs Take Center Stage at Atlanta Training Institute

An August 10 symposium on senior housing was the centerpiece of a week-long NeighborWorks Training Institute that attracted 2,100 community development practitioners to Atlanta. Sponsored by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the symposium brought together innovators from the affordable housing field with experts in aging to explore ideas and share strategies for creating healthy, vital communities that include seniors as a growing and important segment.

"As a result of the aging of the oldest baby boomers (born 1946 to 1955), this decade (2011-2020) will witness a huge increase in the number of age 65-74 persons below the poverty level,” predicted opening speaker Stephen M. Golant, a professor at the University of Florida and an expert in the field of aging. “This will produce a large latent demand for public programs that offer these younger seniors affordable rental accommodations and assistance in maintaining their own homes."

Other speakers and panelists underscored how the current foreclosure crisis and economic recession have created even more pressing challenges for lower-income seniors.

Our Twitter Wrapup captured some of the more pointed comments from the symposium from the perspective of some of the participants.

Our photos from the symposium contest take you right into the neighborhoods and homes of seniors who personify what aging gracefully in community is all about.

You can also download resources from the symposium on topics such as:
  • Successful programs that make homes for seniors safer, more affordable and an asset to the community
  • Effectively engaging senior residents on boards of directors, and in neighborhood associations, community projects and other volunteer efforts
  • Available resources for effective rehabilitation, retrofitting and weatherization
  • Housing counseling services for seniors, including the benefits and risks of home equity conversion mortgages (HECMs)/reverse mortgages, and how to offer these products and/or counseling to your clients
  • Partnering with health and social service providers to ensure your seniors are receiving the care they need to be productive members of your community
  • The design and benefits of multi-generational housing
  • Identifying and accessing available resources for your senior programs
  • Successful models of affordable housing for seniors
Thanks to the Advisory Committee that helped make this an engaging symposium, representing AARP, AARP Foundation, Avesta Housing, HHS, Enterprise Community Partners, Leading Age, National Council on Aging, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center and United Way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Homeowners Who May Be Forced to Leave Their Community Are Fighting Back

Homeowners in Niagara, NY are learning the hard way that foreclosure isn’t the only way to lose your home these days. More than 135 owners of mobile homes in Sabre Park have begun working with NeighborWorks organization, Pathstone to find a way to halt the sale of the land their homes are on. Unique to hundreds of mobile park communities around the U.S., homeowners living in mobile home communities own the house they live in, but rent the land that the home sits on. This leaves the homeowners vulnerable to owners of the mobile park land choosing to sell the land right out from under them – effectively evicting them from their communities.

However, Pathstone and other NeighborWorks network members are working to organize mobile home residents and establish a financial process that allows owners to buy the land. NeighborWorks partners with ROC USA, a corporation created to help resident led corporations to buy their manufactured home communities from private company owners. NeighborWorks America CFO, Michael Forster is on the ROC USA Board of Directors.

NeighborWorks America recently recognized Montana resident, Tammy Hoth, with a Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership for her work in organizing her neighbors and successfully purchasing their mobile home community, establishing long-term affordability.

Monday, August 8, 2011

NeighborWorks Organization Seeks to Help Seniors in Contest from Tom’s of Maine

In what is increasingly becoming commonplace for community-based nonprofits, Neighborhood Housing Services of Boise, a member of the NeighborWorks network, is competing for a “favorite” grant from a socially responsible for-profit company – Tom’s of Maine.

The NHS of Boise is competing for part of $150,000 from the environmentally conscious company, which is an independent but wholly-owned part of the global Colgate family of companies. NHS is hoping to use the grant that it could receive from Tom’s 50 States for Good competition to finance its Rake Up Boise campaign, an initiative that involves coordinating more than 6,000 volunteers to rake and winterize the yards of more than six hundred senior citizens and/or disabled people.

Tom’s of Maine is just one of a number of for-profit companies and their foundations that are combining “favorite” voting and grant making. For example, The Home Depot Foundation is currently engaged in an “Aprons in Action” campaign where consumers are asked to vote for their favorite Team Depot Project. A search around the Internet turned up “favorite” fund raising programs from Pepsi, Subaru Discovery Channel’s Planet Green and more.

With financial and in-kind support for community-based nonprofits not expected to grow this year or next, fund raising approaches that engage an organization’s friends and its friend’s friends, is one way nonprofits are working to attract new volunteers and financial resources.

Meanwhile, if you care about helping seniors take care of their homes cast a vote for NHS of Boise. Voting ends September 13.

NeighborWorks America Kicks Off NeighborWorks Training Institute in Atlanta

Pictured above: An attendee at a past
NeighborWorks Training Institute
 captivates the audience with her
thought-provoking question. 

Today, NeighborWorks America kicked off what is expected to be the second largest NeighborWorks Training Institute (NTI) in the NeighborWorks history! More than 2,000 community development practitioners are expected to attend this week’s Training Institute in Atlanta, August 8-12, 2011.

During the Atlanta NTI, attendees will participate in over 100 training and certification sessions offered – from foreclosure intervention counseling and Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) counseling to an introduction to Factory Built Housing and Green Building Science. 

In addition to the training courses offered, the NTI will feature a day-long symposium on August 10 focused on “Ensuring Safe, Healthy Homes and Communities for Seniors.” It will bring together thought leaders and industry experts to introduce and explore real-world strategies for creating healthy, vital communities that include seniors as a growing and important segment of our population.  The Symposium is made possible with generous support from The Atlantic Philanthropies.
As people get older and live longer, affordable housing providers need to consider what services they should provide — including transportation, healthcare, safety precautions, home maintenance and social and financial services — that will better serve the seniors in their communities.

Topics that will be covered during the Symposium include:

• Successful programs that make homes for seniors safer, more affordable and an asset to the surrounding community
• Partnering with health and social service providers to ensure seniors are receiving the care they need to continue to be active, productive members of your community
• Design and benefits of multi-generational communities
• Resources for effective home rehabilitation, retrofitting and weatherization

To follow the Symposium discussion on Twitter, search for the Twitter hashtag #seniorhousing to view panelist and attendee comments throughout the day. 

For more information about the Atlanta NTI, please visit, or contact Erin Angell Collins, 202-220-6317,

The next NeighborWorks Training Institute will be held December 12-16, 2011, in Washington, D.C. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

NeighborWorks Lending Efforts Get a Boost from Over $16 Million in CDFI Funds

Efforts to increase access to affordable lending products got a boost recently when 19 members of the NeighborWorks network received over $16.9 million as part of grants made by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution program. Combined with grants from NeighborWorks America, local governments, foundations and the private sector, these small- and medium-sized nonprofit businesses continue to lend in their local communities, and provide access to affordable loan products and services to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

“CDFI funds play a critical role in the NeighborWorks network’s efforts to create strong communities and sustainable affordable housing,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, CEO of NeighborWorks America. “They offer appropriate lending products to low and moderate income homebuyers and local businesses at a time when other financial institutions have limited products available.”

The CDFI funding awarded this year will enable nonprofits like Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation of Detroit Lakes, Minn., to add capital to its first- and second-affordable mortgage loan pool, which will help low-income households purchase affordable single-family homes. CDFI funds will also enable the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund in Dover, Del., to increase lending in five distressed counties in its service area. And finally, CDFI funding will enable the Honolulu HomeOwnership Center to make down payment assistance loans and capitalize a loan loss guarantee fund.

In addition to the 19 grant recipients in this latest round of financing, there are 73 other NeighborWorks organizations with certified CDFI operations. NeighborWorks organizations use these recent CDFI grants and prior grants to increase access to credit in a variety of ways, including:

  • Provide down payment assistance to qualified first-time homebuyers who have successfully completed homeownership education classes
  • Provide capital to support the construction and project management of affordable homes for sale
  • Provide capital to support business loan products

For more information about NeighborWorks organizations with certified CDFI operations, please visit or contact Erin Angell Collins, 202-220-6317,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

NeighborWorks Awards $34.9M in Affordable Housing Grants

NeighborWorks America announced that it awarded $34.9 million in grants to 115 local NeighborWorks organizations to finance the rehabilitation of affordable housing nationwide, including smaller and rural communities with affordable housing needs, and create more than 1,000 jobs.

The Capital Funding for the Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing (CFRAH) grants enable local small- and medium-size nonprofit businesses 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.

In addition to enabling nonprofit small businesses to acquire and rehab properties, the $35 million in grant funding will also jump start local economies through the creation of more than 1,000 jobs, and produce in excess of $300 million in economic activity.

"We thank Congress for their ongoing support of nonprofit small businesses that address affordable housing needs and create jobs in our nation's communities. Through the grants announced today, thousands of rental and owner-occupied homes will be rehabilitated - many using energy efficient and green construction - which will create healthier homes for families and strengthen communities," said Eileen Fitzgerald, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

For more information about the CFRAH grants, visit or the NeighborWorks newsroom.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hard Fought for Green Affordable Home Project Underway in Woodstock, New York

Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO), a NeighborWorks affiliate, recently broke ground in Woodstock, New York, on one of the first LEED certified affordable housing projects in Upstate New York. The $16-million new development will feature nature trails available to both residents and visitors and is the first known geothermal design for affordable housing in the state, outside of New York City, according to RUPCO.

The geothermal design means that Woodstock Commons will be completely independent of fossil fuels for its heating, cooling and domestic hot water production, according to RUPCO officials. The organization is also working with New York Energy Star for Homes on a variety of Energy Star and related energy efficient products and services. RUPCO reports that the design will produce long-term maintenance and operating savings for the organization and utility cost savings for the seniors, working families and artists who will live in the 53-unit complex.

RUPCO Executive Director Kevin O'Connor said he and his team were happy that the a "grueling" eight-year development and approval process is over and that they will be able to start the site work. "Right now we just want to turn the page and move forward," said O'Connor. "This project has been so long delayed that once we had all permits in place, we wanted to get started and not lose a single day in the construction season."

Woodstock Commons will include eight two-story, walk-up buildings with 32 townhouse-style family apartments, three additional buildings with 20 senior units and a community building with a two-bedroom superintendent's apartment. Twelve units also have been set aside for artists at the site.

"We really look forward to building something that all of Woodstock can be proud of," said RUPCO Community Development Director Guy Kempe. "Four or five years from now, we expect the homes and the people living there will be an integral and welcomed part of the fabric of Woodstock."

According to RUPCO officials, as many as 60 jobs will be created during the construction and as many as 25 permanent jobs will be created locally to maintain the property and serve the residents who live there. The residential homes will be affordable to households earning up to 30 percent, 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) and will include a mix of one, two and three bedroom units.

Learn more:

RUPCO's press release
Woodstock Commons project