Housing development programs that focus only on increasing the supply of housing without explicitly integrating the interests of the community can prove ineffective, since community members — the customers — won’t buy what that organization is attempting to sell.
“Community First,” a resource released this month by Minnesota Housing Partnership, aims to close this gap by helping organizations
- understand the market they’re aiming to serve;
- identify and address existing barriers to homeownership;
- and establish effective programmatic approaches — tailored to their customers — to attract and support homebuyers to invest in properties and targeted neighborhoods.
To create this resource, Minnesota Housing Partnership and Econometrica dug into more than 300 homebuyer / homeowner programs across the United States. In addition to outlining general principles and best practices, the report includes short examples that showcase innovative ideas that organizations can apply as they look for creative approaches to put community first.
Creating opportunities or incentives for multi-generational households
Founded in 2004, Bridge Meadows in Portland, Oregon, provides affordable apartments for people 55 and above and single family homes for families of youth formerly in foster care with the goal of “building place, permanence and purpose.” Trained therapists support residents and facilitate relationship building between older people and families. Older residents commit to a minimum of 100 volunteer hours per quarter, sharing their talents with youth and their parents by teaching Spanish classes, hosting book clubs, and more. According to their website, “Bridge Meadows works because an untapped resource — older adults who seek purpose in their lives, find an unmet need: support for youth formerly in foster care and their adoptive families.”
Bridge Meadows provides technical consulting for organizations looking to replicate their model.
Bridge Meadows residents, LiLiane (left) and Ruth (right), share a hug. / Photo: Jaime Valdez, Portland Tribune / Read the Portland Tribune story here.
Hiring a Community Organizer to support the development of responsive programming
Community organizers can act as a key bridge between neighborhoods and programs by ensuring that initiatives effectively serve the communities in which they’re based. When Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership (DDNP) attempted neighborhood revitalization in southwest central Durham in 2000, a community organizer with strong neighborhood ties utilized the “technology of participation” method and listening sessions to gather input and better understand how to help community members meet their goal of homeownership.
“Those methods were the basis of the way in which we worked with the community and envisioned what the community could be,” said Mayme Webb-Bledsoe, community organizer at DDNP.
To help make homeownership in Durham’s downtown Southside neighborhood possible for Duke employees working in grounds, housekeeping, and food services, DDNP’s community organizer collaborated with local partners to create the Homebuyers Club. Established in 2013, the Homebuyers Club provides homebuyer education, savings counseling, credit repair support, and additional workshops developed in response to input and requests from community members. For instance, DDNP and partners created the “Staying Put Workshops” to address how homeowners can respond to increasing property taxes and home values and follow city zoning requirements. Of the initial group of Duke employees interested in purchasing a home in Southside, approximately 30 joined the Homebuyers Club, and, as of mid-2017, at least 13 had purchased a home.
Read more about DDNP’s impact.
Ashley, Homebuyers Club participant, stands in front of her new Durham home. Read Ashley's story here.
Widening reach and making resources go farther through collaborative partnerships
Collaborative partnerships ensure that organizations working within a specific community complement and enhance — rather than duplicate — each other’s efforts. For instance, the Sustainable Home Ownership Project (SHOP) is a collaborative partnership between seven entities working to increase home ownership on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. These organizations collaborate to provide coaching, credit building, lending, and Individual Development Account (IDA) support to individuals looking to purchase a home. To that end, SHOP recently rolled out a joint intake system, which allows SHOP organizations to share client information and streamline the referral process.
“Prior to SHOP, a lot of organizations here on our reservation were kind of working in silos,” explained Star Means, Homeownership Program Manager for Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. “Because our reservation is so far spread, it makes it hard for clients to get involved with other organizations [to utilize services]. We were looking to get out of working in silos and really work together to make home ownership happen here in Pine Ridge.”
Learn more about SHOP.
Engaging community members through strategic marketing
Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC), a nearly fifty-year-old nonprofit community development organization based in Phoenix, Arizona, makes effective communication a priority, and keeps target audiences in mind when advertising available programming. For instance, to publicize homeownership opportunities in Latino communities, Chicanos por la Causa arranged for a 30-minute spot on a popular Latino television station.
German Reyes, Executive Vice President of Real Estate at CLPC, emphasized that the success of CPLC projects and programs stems from a trust cultivated over many years with the communities they serve. Reyes said that CPLC uses a “community-centric model” and sees community support as a critical aspect of each development.
“Just about no development that we’ve done has ever been successful without community buy-in — even if the municipality says, ‘Hey, let’s go forward,’” Reyes explained.
Explore CLPC’s housing initiatives.
Leveraging private and philanthropic funding
In 2011, three major Detroit, Michigan, employers — Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Health System — partnered with Midtown Detroit, Inc. to attract their employees to the Midtown area through rental, home purchase, and exterior improvement programs. Each employer contributed $1 million to the Live Midtown program over five years, with additional support from local foundations and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Over a five-year period, Live Midtown attracted more than 1,200 new residents to the Midtown area.
Christopher Hughes, Data Manager for the Live Program, said that the Live Midtown initiative was seen as “an opportunity” to establish relationships with employers that could have impact over the long term.
“If [employers] are providing this benefit, the employees will live in the community, and maybe those institutions will be more interested in providing funding for the revitalization of the area,” Hughes explained. “We tried to leverage their influence in bettering the overall community.”
Learn more about the program, which has now come to a close.