Monday, January 23, 2012

A Recipe for Success: Creating Community Leaders from Scratch

By Sara Varela 
Community Building and Organizing communications specialist, NeighborWorks America

My blog on Leaders for Communities focuses on projects within the national Community Building and Organizing network. This post, on resident leadership development, highlights the activities of CB&O members offering training to promote and build community leaders across the country.

This Wednesday, January 25, Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida will be hosting a WebEX on how they put together their local Community Leadership Institute (CLI). A great article in the Miami Herald highlighted the CLI graduation ceremony recently. By developing resident leaders organizations like NHS of South Florida contribute to the overall stability of the communities they serve.

NHS of South Florida Community Leadership Institute
graduates celebrate.
Benji Power, NHS of South Florida’s director of Community Building and Organizing, said "Our overall goal is to help those residents make their neighborhood a place that they not only want to choose to stay in and live in, but hopefully other people will as well."

Finding the time to volunteer and be involved can be overwhelming. Resident leadership development programs help break down the enormous task of getting involved. I applaud the graduates of this leadership program and appreciate the efforts of NHS of South Florida for promoting resident leadership development.

NeighborWorks Lincoln, in Nebraska, also hosted a Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) using the “Building Leaders, Building Communities” curriculum created by NeighborWorks America. Residents in this program attend classes once a month for six months. NeighborWorks Lincoln provides a generous $2,500 to each team to complete their project.

And finally, Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley, in San Jose, California, held a Neighborhood Development Training conference (NDTC) that attracted 200 participants last fall. The NDTC featured free workshops taught by instructors who have experience improving local communities.

NHS of South Florida will be giving instruction how to build community leaders during this Wednesday’s WebEx  at 3 p.m. Participants will be encouraged to share experiences with resident leadership. Are you thinking of hosting or creating a leadership development program for residents in your community? Join NHS of South Florida this week and find out where to start.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NeighborWorks Invested More than $1.3 Billion in Rental Housing in FY 2011

The NeighborWorks network invested more than $1.3 billion into rental housing in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2011. In addition, the number of rental homes owned or managed by the NeighborWorks network exceed 90,000 at Sept. 30.

“In one of the toughest markets for securing capital for quality, affordable rental housing, the NeighborWorks network pushed ahead and found the partners they needed to create great housing for families,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

The total investment represents more than 2,800 new apartments built by NeighborWorks, and more than 5,100 homes purchased or significantly rehabbed.

“The investment by the network in these homes created jobs all around the country and helped to secure the long-term availability of great places to live for working families,” added Fitzgerald.

The overall expectations are that the network’s total portfolio will reach 100,000 rental homes in 2013, through a combination of new member affiliation, purchase and new construction.

Despite the forecast for total NeighborWorks portfolio growth over the next few years, the outlook for the broader affordable rental housing is uncertain.

“Government housing budgets at all levels are under stress and the competition for capital priced at rates that make housing accessible for working families, while improved from a year ago, is still a factor in creating quality affordable rental homes for families with modest incomes. In short, the cost to construct, purchase and refinance homes to ensure tenant affordability remains a challenge,” said Fitzgerald.

Faced with these twin realities – reduced resources from government and higher borrowing costs and tight underwriting standards – NeighborWorks America is increasing its efforts to attract social investor capital to the rental housing market.

Fitzgerald noted that the two capital corporations associated with NeighborWorks builders and owners – Community Housing Capital, Decatur, GA, and NeighborWorks Capital, Silver Spring, MD – are essential to the overall effort to bring more social investor capital to the affordable rental housing sector.

Social investors such as the Calvert Foundation and the S.H Cowell Foundation are just two of the investors who have already recognized the triple-bottom line value of investing in quality, affordable rental homes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homeport Plans ‘Extreme Makeover’ of Columbus Communities

By Ascala Sisk
Senior Manager, Neighborhood Stabilization

NeighborWorks America

As I watched the ABC program “Extreme Makeover” during the holidays, I saw in the faces of an entire community why neighborhood revitalization is so important.

Through the efforts of NeighborWorks member Homeport in Columbus, Ohio, the ABC hit show came to American Addition, a neighborhood Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman said was “the most egregiously neglected urban neighborhood I have ever seen.”

It was heartwarming to see national visibility brought to the work Homeport is doing to invest in this distressed neighborhood, and to see the true impact rebuilding a community has on families. Neighborhood stabilization is more than rehabbing abandoned and foreclosed homes and buildings, putting them up for sale or rent and protecting property values.

Extreme Makeover reveals the Rhodes family's new home.
Homeport helped the family submit its application to the show.
View full episode and house tour.
It is also about the people. It is about putting families back in homes, providing safe and secure communities, and bringing back important community connections and infrastructure, such as parks, playgrounds and community spaces.

This is the long-term vision Homeport has for American Addition. The organization used Extreme Makeover as a launching pad for its efforts to rebuild 100 new homes over the next 10 years using Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants, city funds and private investments. In October 2011, Homeport broke ground on the first six lots with homes to be completed by February 2012. All of the houses will be built to green standards. [See Homeport’s story behind Extreme Makeover and American Addition].

If you’d like to see how else Homeport and other NSP grantees are successfully using program funds to reinvest in declining neighborhoods, view these videos. The videos were produced by HUD in collaboration with NeighborWorks America and Enterprise Community Partners.