Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Neighborhood Housing Services of Richland County, Inc.: 30 Years of Serving Wisconsin

NeighborWorks America is celebrating its 35 anniversary this year. This blog is part of our 35th Anniversary Celebration series, highlighting NeighborWorks affiliates which are celebrating milestone years marking either their membership in the network or their incorporation as an organization. This month, NHSRC is celebrating 30 years since incorporation. 

By Brittany Hutson, NeighborWorks
America Public Relations fellow

Neighborhood Housing Services of Richland County, Inc. (NHSRC) is the first and oldest operating rural program in the NeighborWorks network. For 30 years, NHSRC has been a resource for home preservation, new home construction, homeownership programs and foreclosure prevention in Richland County, Wisconsin.

Executive Director Terry Testolin says new home construction is one of NHSRC’s most successful lines of business. According to Testolin, the housing stock in NHSRC’s targeted communities is “very old with a high dilapidation rate.” Since 1995, the organization has built 52 new homes, a majority of which are energy star certified.  Due to the recession, output has slowed, but NHSRC continues to build new homes. This year, NHSRC will complete construction of two homes and Testolin plans to build two more homes in 2014. “It was amazing to us when we built our 50th house,” says Testolin. “When you think of all the people you’ve helped and the economic development that comes out of that, not too many people are trying that.”

Home before repairs
Before NHSRC repairs

NHSRC also receives rehabilitation requests that are generally for roofing repairs and window replacements. In one case, nearly two years ago, NHSRC discovered that a single family home had a number of lead hazards, in addition to general repairs. NHSRC pooled funds from NeighborWorks America, HUD's HOME Investment Partnership Program, and the City of Richland Center’s Community Development Block Grant to cover project costs. Today the project is nearly complete with minor interior work remaining . The family, which includes four children — three of whom are under the age of six — is relieved that their children can sleep and play in a safe and healthy home. They also appreciate the improved energy efficiencies the rehab provided.

Home as repairs near completion (snow, sunny)
As repairs near completion

By leveraging partnerships locally and nationally, NHSRC has extended their reach and services while gaining valuable support from their collaborators. As a NeighborWorks member, Testolin says, “We view our partnership with NeighborWorks as one of the strongest partnerships that there is.” From this partnership, NHSRC had the opportunity in July of 2012 to join with all five of the other NeighborWorks organizations in their state to create the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin. The mission of the alliance is to improve housing opportunities and build strong communities for all Wisconsin residents.

In addition, Testolin is a 2007 graduate of NeighborWorks’ Achieving Excellence program, an organizational investment program for executive directors in community development. Due to that experience, NHSRC was able to collaborate with the Ho-Chunk Housing and Community Development Agency, and in 2010, the organizations won the Partnership Fair Housing Award from the Wisconsin Fair Housing Network for addressing the housing needs of Native Americans.