Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Proposed Jobs Bill Includes $15 Billion for Project Rebuild, “Next Generation” of NSP

by Sarah Greenberg,
Senior Manager for Community Stabilization
NeighborWorks America

This post originally appeared in Stabilize, the blog of NeighborWorks America's Stable Communities Initiative.

President Obama has proposed the American Jobs Act, containing a variety of incentives and programs aimed at getting more Americans back to work.

One of the components of the bill is Project Rebuild, described as the “next generation” of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). The bill proposes a $15 billion budget (more than double the total allocations of NSP Rounds 1, 2 and 3 combined) — two-thirds of which would be allocated directly to participating jurisdictions (as in NSP Rounds 1 and 3), and the other third would be allocated through a competitive process (as in NSP Round 2).

The overall American Jobs Act and Project Rebuild are drawing criticism, and their likelihood of passage is uncertain. Project Rebuild is intended to connect Americans looking for work, with the work needed to repair and repurpose residential and commercial properties. Like NSP, Project Rebuild would be focused on acquiring, rehabilitating and re-occupying foreclosed residential property, but there are several modifications:

  • It broadens eligible uses to allow commercial projects and other job creating activities, capped at 30 percent.
    Many regions with concentrated home foreclosures also have concentrations of vacant commercial structures that weigh on property values and make it less likely that new businesses will come into the community and invest new capital. Project Rebuild will tackle this problem directly by allowing grantees to rebuild and repurpose distressed commercial real estate.
  • Up to 10 percent of formula grants may be used for establishing and operating a jobs program to maintain eligible properties in target neighborhoods.
    Project Rebuild will enable grantees to use funds to establish property maintenance programs to create jobs and mitigate “visible scars” left by vacant/abandoned properties.
  • Each state will receive a minimum of $20 million of the $10 billion in formula funds.
  • Beyond this baseline, funds will be targeted to areas with home foreclosures, homes in default or delinquency, and other factors determined by HUD, such as unemployment, commercial foreclosures, and other economic conditions.
Project Rebuild also seeks to scale up successful land bank models, providing infusions of capital to leverage private sector investment, and to empower and expand collaborations with for-profit developers where appropriate.

Other features of Project Rebuild include:
  • Project Rebuild will provide funding to purchase, rehabilitate, and/or redevelop foreclosed, abandoned, demolished, or vacant properties. Funding can also establish and operate land banks or demolish blighted structures.
  • Project Rebuild will support an estimated 191,000 jobs and treat at least 150,000 properties across all 50 states.
  • HUD will allocate formula funds within 30 days of Congressional enactment of Project Rebuild, complete the competition, and obligate all funds within 150 days of enactment. Grantees will have three years to spend 100 percent of funding. HUD will establish further benchmarks for expenditures at one year and two years.
  • Formula funding will go directly to states and entitlement communities across the country. Competitive funds will be available to states, local governments, for-profit entities, non-profit entities and consortia of these entities.
  • Strict standards of oversight will ensure good stewardship of these funds. HUD will strengthen existing accountability procedures by requiring that grantees have an internal auditor to continually monitor grantee performance to prevent fraud or abuse. Grantees will be required to provide quarterly progress reports and HUD will recapture funds from underperforming or mismanaged grantees to reallocate those funds to areas with greatest need.
The Project Rebuild proposal is an acknowledgement of the importance of neighborhoods to Americans’ quality of life and to the economy, and of the effective work of nonprofits, government and their private sector partners in stabilizing communities.

Project Rebuild would leverage the significant investment in capacity building of grantees and their partners in foreclosed property acquisition, rehab and repurposing. By adding much-needed capital to this capacity, Project Rebuild has the potential to not only create jobs, but to enable communities to scale up their impact and achieve the momentum necessary to tip more neighborhoods back to a trend of improvement.

Here are a Fact Sheet and FAQ on Project Rebuild.

Friday, September 23, 2011

NeighborWorks America Announces $3.65 Million in Expansion Grants for NeighborWorks Organizations

Today NeighborWorks America announced $3.65 million in grant funding to nonprofit organizations that will enable them to expand their service areas and reach deeper within underserved communities.

“The expansion grants announced today are a truly efficient use of funding for the nonprofit industry.  Instead of starting from scratch, the expansion grants enable NeighborWorks organizations to broaden their reach and bring their already established services and best practices into underserved communities,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, CEO of NeighborWorks America. 

The grants help organizations like Neighborhood Development Services in Ravenna, Ohio, to further expand their reach into 17 counties in southeast Ohio. Through their expansion, Neighborhood Development Services will develop affordable multifamily and owner-occupied homes for low- and moderate-income residents, work to develop the local economies in this region, and bring much-needed services to the residents, such as: financial education, homebuyer education, foreclosure intervention counseling, and other resident services.

The expansion grants will also assist Tierra del Sol, of Anthony, N.M., in its efforts to develop affordable rental housing for agricultural workers, low-income senior citizens, and persons with disabilities, rehabilitate owner-occupied homes, and provide financial and homebuyer education to residents in of five western Texas counties: El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis and Presidio.

The $3.65 million in grant funding is being provided to 25 organizations nationwide. See who they are.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why is Affordable Housing So Important? The Health and Development of Children Depend on It

Children playing at an after school program, sponsored by
Chelsea Neighborhood Developers in Massachusetts. 
by Leila Edmonds, Director
National Initiatives and Applied Research
NeighborWorks America

When there is housing instability, the most vulnerable in our society suffer. We recently shed a light on this issue at our symposium on senior housing in Atlanta, and now a recent study has again confirmed what we’ve always known: unstable housing has a significant, negative impact on the health and development of young children.

The study was published by the American Journal of Public Health, and it found that when children are moved multiple times a year or live in households where there is overcrowding, they have a greater risk for poor health (18 percent) than children living in secure households (11 percent). In addition, 22 percent of caregivers in households reporting multiple moves within a single year reported developmental problems in their children, whereas only 14 percent of caregivers in secure households reported similar risks.

These problems are compounded when families are poor and there’s not always food on the table. We’ve all seen the headlines on the growth in poverty in America. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, 25.3 percent of children under the age of six lived in poverty in the U.S. When housing insecurity is combined with food insecurity, the risk for poor health, developmental delays and hospitalization are even greater.

This is why the work we do at NeighborWorks America and across the network of 235 organizations is so very important: the health and development of our children depend on it. In 2007 NeighborWorks America released about a report on the benefits of homeownership. We found that children of homeowners are 25 percent more likely to graduate high school, 116 percent more likely to attend college and teenage pregnancy is 20 percent less likely.

Consistent housing also produces higher reading and math scores and lower rates of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.

NeighborWorks encourages families and individuals searching for safe, affordable and stable housing to find a local housing counseling agency in their area. Providing affordable housing is the first step towards fighting the rise in poverty and homelessness in children. http://www.nw.org/network/nwdata/homeownershipcenter.asp.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More than 1.1 Million Homeowners Counseled for Foreclosure

NeighborWorks America, the administrator of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program, announced that more than 1.1 million homeowners across the nation have received foreclosure counseling through the NFMC Program, according to the Program’s sixth Congressional report.

As of June 30, 2011, more than 1,168,062 homeowners in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories have received foreclosure counseling as a result of NFMC Program funding.

In December 2010, an independent analysis of the NFMC Program showed that NFMC Program clients in foreclosure were 1.7 times more likely to cure a foreclosure and potentially avoid losing a home, than homeowners who did not receive foreclosure counseling. In addition, NFMC clients who received loan modifications reduced their monthly mortgage payments on average by $267 more per month than they would have without NFMC counseling. This represents an annual savings of over $3,200 per homeowner.

The sixth Congressional Report also found that the largest share of foreclosure mitigation counseling provided by the NFMC Program has gone to assist struggling homeowners in the states hardest hit by delinquencies and foreclosures, such as California and Florida. Minority and low-income homeowners and neighborhoods, which have been disproportionately impacted by the foreclosure crisis, are well-served by the NFMC Program: 31 percent of NFMC Program clients were identified as racial minority homeowners, 20 percent were of Hispanic origin, and 66 percent were classified as low- income.

Homeowners who would like to receive foreclosure counseling can visit http://www.findaforeclosurecounselor.org/ to find a NFMC Program-funded counseling organization in their community.For more information about the NFMC Program, visit www.nw.org/nfmc.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance

[Can't see the video above? View it on YouTube: http://bit.ly/qpn6np]

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. It is a day forever embedded in the heart of this nation, not only because of the senseless loss of life, but also because of the spirit of unity and compassion that swept our nation that day and the months that followed.

More than 1 million people are expected to participate in the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, an effort originally launched in 2002 by family members who lost loved ones in the attacks and support groups, led by the nonprofit organization MyGoodDeed. In 2009, Congress designated September 11 as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with supporting this effort across the country.

At NeighborWorks America we firmly believe in the value and impact of volunteer engagement. In 2010, our Community Building and Organizing Programs generated 322,000 volunteer hours, building stronger, vibrant and more connected communities. We know the difference ordinary people working together can make in the lives of individuals and entire communities. That is why we are encouraging you to participate in this year’s National Day of Service and Remembrance.

There are so many ways to get involved, ranging from performing a simple act of kindness to helping with home repairs, neighborhood cleanups and disaster relief activities. Visit serve.gov to learn how you can help, or check your local NeighborWorks organization to see if any volunteer events are planned.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How a VISTA Kicked Off an After-School Program, and Took it Up a Notch with Volunteers from Boston U. and Support from TDBank

“So often we measure impact in numbers, but when I saw these pictures I thought they really conveyed the impact one VISTA volunteer can have on the lives of many children… No surprise that this is a really successful program.”
- Ann Houston, executive director
Chelsea Neighborhood Developers

While talking with the residents of Spencer Green, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, AmeriCorps Vista volunteer Josh Strazanac made a discovery: there wasn't enough for the Spencer Green kids to do to keep busy.

Working with Chelsea Neighborhood Developers' (CND) Community Engagement Team, Strazanac created a three-day a week program for kids ages three to 12 so they would have a positive place to spend a few hours after school. Volunteers from Boston University's Community Service Center worked with kids for an hour on their homework and for the second hour, the kids had time for some fun. They play board games, socialize with friends and make arts and crafts.

"The after school program was a way for the community room to be used in a healthy, constructive way," Strazanac said.

After a few successful months CND partnered with TDBank to start a financial literacy program for the kids in the after school program. Also Chelsea Public Schools offered their gym and equipment for the children to use when it was cold out and the BNY Mellon Charitable Giving Program provided free passes for the Boston Children's Museum and New England Aquarium.

This program, which started with just 12 children in February when it launched, now has 24 students registered. Many of the nine volunteers from Boston University have been with the program since its launch. The model has been so successful that it is being used to start a program at Spencer Row, another CND affordable housing community.

"Pursuing a healthy environment with long term stability in neighbor relationships is the goal," Strazanac explains.

The time Strazanac put into the after school program has had a lasting impact on all the families who rely on after school care. Spencer Green has seen dramatically reduced damage to property, and the residents are happy with its result.

The Community Engagement Team encourages working with other organizations to improve communities. By forming the relationship between CND, Boston University, TD Bank and Chelsea Public Schools, it has strengthened the Chelsea community.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NeighborWorks Affiliate Receives International Recognition for Innovative Housing Solutions

NeighborWorks America is very excited to share that San Francisco affiliate Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation’s (TNDC) 990 Polk Street project has been selected as the U.S. Finalist for the 2011 World Habitat Award. This is an international award established in 1985 by the Building and Social Housing Foundation as part of its contribution to the United Nations International Year of Shelter for the Homeless.

The eight finalists and two winners were selected from more than 250 entries from 82 countries around the world. TNDC’s 990 Polk Street development was the only United States finalist and one of only two selected from all of North America.

990 Polk was selected for its innovative approach to housing a diverse mix of low-income and formerly homeless seniors, both in its social services model and its innovative and green design. The World Habitat Award rewards practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems. 

“Being selected as an award finalist is exciting for TNDC because it highlights our innovative housing solutions in a global context,” said TNDC Executive Director Donald Falk. We are particularly proud of this accomplishment because it was truly an ‘all hands on deck’ effort…to meet every standard for World Habitat Award’s strenuous three-stage entry process.”