Monday, March 30, 2015

People and Places Conference Part III: Health and Housing

This is Part III of a series by Staff Blogger Amy Schaftlein, Director of Development + Communications at United Housing.

Last week I wrote about how Memphis can learn from D.C.'s Housing Production Trust Fund Baseline Funding Act to mitigate population loss and blight in our city. Blight, poor housing stock and vacant properties also pose health threats for many families, and relying on local government funding cannot alleviate all issues associated with unhealthy living situations. This post delves into how Community Development Corporations (CDCs) can partner with the health sector to have a bigger impact in our neighborhoods.

For too many communities and families, zip codes determine health. The People and Places Conference session entitled, "Engaging the Health Sector," asked the question: How can the community development field work with the health sector in a more collaborative way to alleviate ills associated with poor housing, unsafe neighborhood conditions and other neighborhood-based issues that plague American communities? The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco convened a HealthyCommunities Conference and invited other banks to invest in CDCs working with the health sector to decrease health issues faced by low-income communities and give the banks CRA credit at the same time. 

Shelterforce Panel (photo courtesy of Shelterforce)

Last week, United Housing visited Jackson, Tenn. to join in discussions with the state of Tennessee's Medicaid program, TennCare. TennCare's Money Follows the Person program is a Rebalancing Demonstration Program that focuses on transitioning long-term care systems and institutionalized elderly and disabled into homes in the community. Tennessee saves $41,000 per person they move to care in a community setting and out of a institutional care. TennCare called a Stakeholder Meeting in Jackson to get feedback and input on how Tennessee should spend the saved dollars in the Rebalancing Fund. 

Affordable Housing, potentially development and rehabilitation grants to assist in the purchase and accessible rehab of a home, were among the opportunities proposed. Nonprofit Housing developers will be the targeted agencies to receive this type of funding. Another, a cheaper and quicker solution is a proposed voucher program that will give priority to elderly and disabled folks without the support system to use vouchers to transition into the community - temporarily - for 2-5 years. The group wanted to make sure that the housing developments were coordinated with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency's monitoring capacity. While none of the proposed rebalancing funds are confirmed nor fully defined, it is one step toward a model for healthcare and housing to work together on a larger scale for a healthier future for Tennessee. The amount of funds available are not yet being shared.

United Housing is looking to continue partnerships with other service agencies locally, like Meritan, Inc. and Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS) to ensure quality, accessible home renovations for their customers transitioning into home care and community-based solutions. As a growing part of our housing development, partnerships with health insurance providers and healthcare agencies will be critical for the future of our housing development work.

Open House at United Housing's Wolf River Bluffs home for SRVS' customer.

Other examples of CDCs working with the health sector from the conference include:
·         Partner with Health Insurance Providers - how we can decrease costs by practicing mold abatement, for example.
o   Add housing needs as part of intake in health clinics
·         Healthy Foods financing with grocers in communities
·         Consult Health Facilities on tax credit opportunities (Do insurance companies have a tax burden that could warrant a Community Investment Tax Credit type incentive program?)
·         Coordination of affordable housing units with health clinics and services. For example, including a mental health liaison in permanent supportive housing units.
·         Look at nonprofit hospitals’ target areas and see where those areas overlap with CDCs' – then create something like ArizonaHealthy Communities
·         Partner with university hospitals
o   For example, APM in Philadelphia partnered with Temple University to inform Sustainable Communities initiative
·         Set up training workshops like Pennsylvania Associationof CDCs did with Jefferson University Hospital and Department of Health and Human Services

It will continue to be important to show how the impact of our work, as CDCs, affects health outcomes in our communities. By showing how our work addresses health disparities, we can more effectively influence policy and attract partners in hospitals and health clinics. It is an exciting time in community development and with the new community benefits obligations many hospitals have due to the Affordable Care Act, it could have as big of an impact on the community development sector as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) had in the 1970s.

Friday, March 20, 2015

United Housing Offering FHA Mortgage Refinance Opportunity

United Housing is offering refinances on all 30-year Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loans obtained after April 18, 2011. In early January, The White House announced the reduction of annual FHA mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5%, from 1.35% to 0.85%.

“The FHA’s streamlined refinance should allow for a smooth and quick transition to lower our customers’ mortgage insurance premiums,” said Priscilla Reed, Special Projects Coordinator at United Housing. “The little work required up front will in turn save borrowers approximately $80 per month, or about $900 per year, depending on where you live.”

For a borrower to obtain the FHA refinance through United Housing, they must have the following:
  • A credit score of 580 or greater.
  • An FHA mortgage for at least six months between April 18, 2011 and December 31, 2014.

A borrower does not need to have an appraisal or income documentation, as there are no income limits, and all fees will be added back into the loan amount. Additionally, the borrower must provide the following:
  • Copy of Note
  • Copy of the most recent mortgage statement
  • Copy of the payoff or demand statement
  • Note: Additional documents may be required.

Once United Housing obtains the borrower’s information, the organization will send it to its lender partner and fellow NeighborWorks America organization, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE). A team at CNE will pull credit, providing the borrower pays the credit check fees, and then the loan will be processed. The borrower will then close with a local attorney to complete the process, which should take about 10 days.

According to the White House report, in addition to saving people an average of $900 annually, the FHA is projecting that more than 800,000 borrowers will take advantage of these lower rates in the first year alone. The lowered premiums will create opportunities for 250,000 new homeowners to purchase a home over the next three years. New home buying activity will spur more residential construction and new jobs in the housing sector, further strengthening the market. Learn more in The White House release here.

Visit the links below for more information on the FHA refinance opportunity.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

People and Places Conference, Part II - How Memphis can learn from Washington's Housing Trust Fund

This is Part II of a series by Staff Blogger Amy Schaftlein, Director of Development + Communications at United Housing.

Hi everyone, if you've had a chance to look at last week's post, I talked about attending the People and Places conference in D.C. in early March. I am following up with you this week on the work that is being done across the country to fund housing development in tough neighborhoods. One thing I found striking is the amount of money the city of D.C. has invested in their housing production. 

The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development is a member association that leads nonprofit CDCs in ensuring that low-income residents have housing opportunities in the District of Columbia. The Coalition advocated for the creation of the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), and since 2002, the HPTF has produced or preserved over 8,000 affordable homes.

In 2011, the Coalition started a Housing for All campaign to create solid streams of revenue for the HPTF.  The Coalition trained residents to speak out for affordable housing, mobilized supporters and challenged government officials to take action. Over the last two budget sessions, the Coalition won nearly $200 million to fund the HPTF of D.C. This is a huge feat. The strategy did not include identifying one dedicated revenue stream. Instead, they focused on raising a dollar amount that is not dependent on a fluctuating, dedicated source or one-time investment. The HPTF Baseline Funding Amendment Act of 2014 was passed supporting $100 million annual baseline funding for the trust fund, a miraculous win.

As Memphis begins to plan for housing needs in 2016 and beyond, a dedicated funding amount for housing will be extremely important to combat deteriorating housing stock and property values across the city. 

Memphis is losing population, and with that loss, we lose revenue and investment. Based on U.S. Census numbers, at least 80,000 more people moved out of Memphis than moved in between the years 2000 and 2010. Tipton County homes sales are up 48% from 2014. People in the middle-income range are moving out. They leave behind vacant homes that cost government and homeowners money. There is an estimated reduction of value of $1,058 for each house within a 1/8 mile radius. Abandoned properties cost local governments $20,000 per house for lost taxes, increased police and fire calls, and public works, code enforcement and safely problems.

A strategy to increase investment in our older, existing neighborhoods is necessary if we want to grow our tax base, decrease blight, support local businesses and attract outside businesses to our city. A Housing Trust Fund or dedicated funding stream for housing initiatives, and/or tax abatement strategies with strategic and committed investment from our local and state governments, are a few things that will help Memphis mitigate population loss, increase investment in our older, existing neighborhoods and help to stabilize losses in property values and tax revenues. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Look into the 2015 People & Places Conference in Washington D.C.

Hi, I'm Amy Schaftlein, Development and Communications Director at United Housing. Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the People and Places Conference in Washington D.C. thanks to our partner organization, Livable Memphis. Livable Memphis sent me on a scholarship as an employee of United Housing, a member organization, and board member. I attended seven sessions covering housing and community development policy and advocacy and will share with you insights on these sessions through a lens of both a UHI employee and a volunteer on Livable Memphis board and Policy Sub-committee. 

The conference focused not solely on what organizations are doing, but how organizations are working with residents, neighbors, youth, elderly and immigrant families to strengthen communities. As the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) said, the residents and stakeholders have agency and are active participants in creating and sustaining parks, gardens and small businesses in traditionally forgotten neighborhoods. This conference saw community development practitioners not only as those employed at nonprofit and community development organizations but also as those living and working in neighborhoods every day - volunteering at community gardens, schools, and in advocacy campaigns in their cities. 

People & Places has boasted that they are the most diverse and inclusive conference in more than a decade and there is evidence of that on every panel and in every discussion from talks on racial justice, to tackling issues facing immigrants in America today. 

To the right, John Paul Shaffer with Livable Memphis presents on creative placemaking and tactical urbanism as innovative approaches to neighborhood revitalization.

Speakers from leadership position in government included Deputy Secretary of Labor, Christopher Lu, at the Thursday breakfast event. He spoke about wage equality and doubling apprenticeships not only in manufacturing but also in the information sector, to help families increasing their education and earnings. At lunch, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Jay Williams, noted a startling statistic, “While our production numbers are back to what they were in 2008, we got there with 1 million less workers.” That statement says a lot about our economy. Yes, it is getting better, but families are not feeling it because many are not contributing to it. 
Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams with Steve Glaude, Executive Director of  the Coalition of Neighborhood Housing and Economic Development. Photo courtesy of @CNHED.
Over the next several weeks I will share three takeaways I had from this conference. One, as community development practitioners, we should continue to find ways to incorporate the health sector in our work. Secondly, if Memphis wants to invest locally in our housing stock, one option may be to create a Housing Trust Fund and finding ways, locally to sustain it like the D.C. organization, Coalition of Neighborhood Housing and Economic Development proposed in their virtual tour. Finally, in order to strengthen neighborhoods, building the capacity of our community to advocate for local public policies that work in their neighborhoods will be central to creating the kinds of political will and buy-in necessary to fund a Housing Trust Fund and other funding and legislation that will help build community.