More Than One Basket
Our guest blogger today is Lee Jones, Region 10 Public Affairs Officer (Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska)
The Housing Authority of Portland is receiving almost $13.7 million in funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by the Congress and signed by President Obama last year.
Visit the housing authority's website and you realize quickly that it's following advice your mom and dad probably gave you to not spend all of its funds in one place or put all its Recovery Act resources into one basket.
To the contrary, the key to the authority's plan is balance, using these one-time funds for urgent repairs and upgrades at more than 15 of its housing complexes all across the city. At Camellia Court on North Lombard Street, for example, it's using Recovery Act funds to upgrade plumbing and electrical systems. At Stark Manor on SE 217th Avenue its using the funds to help renovate kitchens and bathrooms. It's installing new furnaces and water heaters at Celilo Court on NE 95th Avenue. And it's putting in energy-efficient windows at Harold Lee Village on SE 112th Avenue.
That said, the authority does have at least one "big ticket" project on its Recovery Act portfolio - the eight-story Resource Access Center it wants to build at the request of the City of Portland near Union Station in downtown. The building is one of nine key recommendations made by the Citizens Commission on Homelessness in its Home Again: A Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Portland and Multnomah County that was adopted by the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission in 2004 to "provide homeless people direct access to programs that move them into permanent housing."
When completed, the LEED-certified Center will include a day shelter, 130 studio apartments for homeless individuals and couples who need permanent, affordable housing and a modern shelter for up to 90 homeless men. It will also provide services - and lots of them - to an estimated 1,000 Portlanders a day. At the Resource Access Center, they'll find housing, employment and treatment counseling, hot showers, storage and communication services to help with job and housing services. Simply put, it's a one-stop hub where folks who are down on their luck can go for help them get off the streets and back on their feet.
But the homeless aren't the only ones who will benefit. So will the surrounding community. There no longer will be sidewalk queues of people waiting for the services they need. The Resource Access Center will replace an aging men's shelter which will be demolished and the site used for more affordable workforce housing. And, in a period when so many construction sites have shut down, building the Center will employ 125 members of the construction trades industry.
On September 30th, the Resource Access Center received the final piece of financial support it needs to move its dream when authority executive director Steve Rudman was able to announce it had been competitively awarded some $3.3 million in Recovery Act funds that would help it to "close financing" on the $46 million project. With so much to be grateful for, ground was broken.
Rebuilding a Neighborhood, Rebuilding the Workforce
Rebuilding a neighborhood devastated by the housing crisis means rebuilding its workforce as well. The Recovery Act is working with local non-profits and small businesses to create jobs for the people of Baltimore. It is creating jobs for people like Omar Livingston.
Omar is a graduate of the Baltimore Jumpstart program, run by the Job Opportunities Task Force. They have provided Omar with 13 weeks of classroom instruction, math classes focusing on the construction industry, and hands on carpentry training. With the new skills he learned in Jumpstart, C.L. McCoy Framing gave him a job. Omar is working as a general laborer on the City Arts project in the Station North. This approximately $13 million dollar project was stalled due to the housing crisis, but thanks to the Recovery Act and $2.6 million in TCAP funds, the project is in progress again and Omar is going to work.
Being a general laborer is hard work, but for Omar it's just the first step in a new career. With the experience he will gain working at City Arts he will be eligible to become an apprentice carpenter, and eventually earn his carpenter's license. The Recovery Act isn't just giving Omar a job, it's helping him start a career.
Of course, Omar isn't the only one working on the City Arts project. Recovery Act dollars are helping established small businesses across the city. Times were hard for M&N Professional Concrete Construction. The credit crisis meant no major projects were being built. M&N was about to shut down and lay off the entire crew. The Recovery Act jumpstarted construction at City Arts just in time. The $200,000 concrete subcontract is enough to keep the doors open at M&N and keep their crew hard at work. Now instead of applying for unemployment, they are hard at work turning a vacant lot into affordable housing and an anchor for neighborhood revitalization.
Turning a disadvantage into an advantage
Caitlin Frumerie, Rhode Island's Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) Coordinator, is quick to point out how the state has been able to take the disadvantage of being a small state and turn it into a significant advantage when it comes to collaboration. Three entitlement communities and the state of Rhode Island have come together to create a unique partnership for the administration of their HPRP funds. By combining their resources, they have created an efficient and well-organized state-wide network.
Breaking down municipal boundaries has been especially beneficial for clients. Agencies can now look for solutions that are the best-fit for each individual regardless of borders. The set-up of the program has also provided agencies with a more holistic approach; they are connecting clients with HPRP resources but also with food stamps, legal aid, and other forms of assistance. Rhode Island's HPRP program is a true collaboration at both the top and bottom.
An additional and unexpected benefit of the HPRP program has been the creation of 20-30 new jobs state-wide, primarily as case managers and program managers. In total, there is a network of 65 program coordinators who meet regularly and are on a first-name basis, helping to achieve true partnerships on the ground.
Both the City of Providence and the City of Newport are benefiting from Rhode Island's centralized HPRP program. Each city has participating agencies working on the ground to address the needs of individuals and families facing the possibility of becoming homeless. For example, Family Service of Rhode Island has served approximately 75 people in Providence to date with HPRP funds. Two success stories from Family Service follow:
"A single father who lives in Providence lost his house due to a loss of income because of marital issues that left him with twin boys. HPRP was able to find him a three bedroom apartment, stabilize his utilities, and help him find employment. He attended the financial management classes and was connected with community support that helped to stabilize his entire family."
"A family who lives in Providence, a mother, father, grandmother and four children were about to be homeless due to the father's loss of income. They came to us and we were able to help them find a single family home that met their budget and stabilized their lives."
Modernizing Affordable Housing
The story of the Orlando Housing Authority?s (OHA) Carver Park HOPE VI development highlights the immediate effects of stimulus funds on Orlando?s economy. This project has provided 64 elderly public housing units at the Villas, 56 units of rental housing with 30 designated as public housing at the Landings, a Neighborhood Network Center and 1 model single-family home. These rental units were created through a combination of federal grants and low income housing tax credits. When the housing market improves, 82 homeownership units, which includes 30 affordable units will be built on-site.
Before construction began on the HOPE VI project, $4.4 million dollars of their funds were redirected to remove debris and remediate contaminated soil. This unexpected cost caused OHA to scale back the initial project plan. However, with the infusion of $3.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, OHA was able to forge ahead and complete the Landings. This injection of additional federal funds allowed residents to move in more quickly to their units.
Mary Scott, a senior citizen displaced from the former Carver Court public housing property during the building of the Villas stated, "I am blessed to be living in a place like Carver Park. I lived in Carver Court and Meadow Lake and they were nice. But the Villas at Carver Park are modern and absolutely beautiful. I cannot thank the Orlando Housing Authority enough." Gloria Mora, President at Citrus Square said, "I have to say thank you to the Orlando Housing Authority for the outside paint and the new bathtubs that you put in our units." Bruni Alfaro, a resident of Reeves Terrace said, "We are very happy for all the improvements that have been done at Reeves Court. Thank you for all the Orlando Housing Authority has done. The bathroom tile makes the bathrooms look bigger and the fence improves the appearance of our homes. It looks wonderful!"
Residents have also had recreational features restored and added as a result of Recovery funds. Griffin Park Apartments, an OHA property, had a historic spray pool restored and an obsolete residential building demolished to provide more greenspace for children. The greenspace is located adjacent to a newly resurfaced basketball court and next to the spray pool, which is slated to start spouting water in April. Dorothy Gray, President at Griffin Park stated, "The changes at Griffin Park are great! The area is more open and the greenspace will be a wonderful place for family events. It will be really nice when it is finished."
Residents will also benefit from utility savings thanks to energy efficient purchases such as: water heaters, attic insulation, replacement of windows/doors and plumbing re-piping. In all, Recovery funds have improved the quality of life for OHA residents by providing more modernized energy efficient units and additional recreational space.
Safer Homes, Stable Employment
It?s no secret that times have been difficult lately. Unemployment has been on the rise and layoffs have become a reality, particularly in the construction sector. However, stimulus funds provided to the Hammond and East Chicago housing authorities have not only improved the condition of public housing in those communities, but provided work and prevented layoffs for Precision Builders, a Gary-based company.
Precision Builders received approximately $1.27 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for kitchen upgrades and new entry doors at public housing complexes in Hammond and new roofs for public housing complexes in East Chicago. These contracts have provided employees of Precision Builders with a steady supply of work and have improved business for subcontractors and suppliers utilized by Precision. In fact, the work at Hammond and East Chicago housing authorities prevented the company from potentially laying off employees.
?It?s allowed us to keep more guys employed, which is good right now,? said Melanie Morgan, Precision Builders vice president, ?If we hadn?t received those contracts, we would?ve been scrambling, looking for more work to do.?
A Capital Idea
Ask a hundred economists and, probably, they'll give you a hundred different answers. Some will say the economy's down, some up and some that it's somewhere in the middle of a muddle. But we all know our economy's not firing on all sixes, the way it did just a few short years but what seems like a very long time ago.
Much of the confusion is the result of a lack of capital, particularly private capital. Visit, for example, Ketchum, Idaho. For a number of years a development company out of Salt Lake has wanted to build 32 units of affordable housing. The kind of housing, it told the Idaho Journal of Business, that "will provide for the first time a place for local workers to live close to their jobs in Ketchum in safe, decent affordable housing."
They'd planned to finance the deal using Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Tax credits are a pretty simple idea. They're sold to private investors looking to reduce their tax liabilities. But when the market went south last summer and fall, investors no longer needed tax credits to reduce tax liability. They had losses - and plenty of them - to do that.
So, like so many other financial markets, the markets for tax credits dried up faster than a sno-cone dropped on a sizzling summer sidewalk. The developers from Salt Lake - and, for that matter, developers of some 1,000 housing complexes with an estimated 150,000 scheduled affordable housing units - across the country - could no longer sell their tax credits and, thus, lacked the capital to break ground on their projects.
Thanks to the Recovery Act passed by the Congress and signed by President Obama earlier this year, families have a second chance to find affordable housing in the Ketchum area because developers of Northwood Place have been given the capital resources to "jump start" projects stalled by the downturn.
That?s because two important elements of the Act ? the Tax Credit Assistance Program administered by HUD and the Tax Credit Exchange Program administered by the Treasury Department are providing developers with financing to fill the gap created by the inability to sell tax credits to investors in the current market.
Just last month, in fact, the Idaho Housing and Finance Authority allocated $almost $5.3 million in TCAP and $25.4 million in TCEP funds to 13 projects that will provide 476 units affordable housing in St. Maries, Boise, Post Falls, Buhl, Montpelier, Caldwell, Idaho Falls, McCall, Payette, Marsing, Chubbuck, Grandview and, of course, Ketchum.
The funds, said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, are "an important step in achieving the goal of putting the American people back to work while providing quality, affordable housing options for low and moderate income families at a time when those options are needed more than ever." As the work on these projects start or re-start, you can be pretty sure in Idaho today, there are 476 families who?d say, "Ditto!"
"The best measure of a good idea," Boise Mayor David Bieter told an audience last August, "is whether it is adopted by others,"
The Mayor was speaking from experience. On that very day, standing next to Mayor Garret Nancolas of Caldwell, he was announcing that an idea tried and tested and found true in Boise - Charitable Assistance to Community's Homeless or C.A.T.C.H. - was about to be launched in Caldwell, 27 miles to the west.
Like its counterpart in Boise, the mission of CATCH of Canyon County is pretty straightforward - to provide the space, the time and the resources homeless families - especially those with children - need to get back on track. Its hope was to provide permanent housing to 12 to 15 families at a time and up to 30 families a year.
Another measure of the success of an idea is the kind of support it generates. And CATCH of Canyon County is passing that with flying colors too. Though less than a year old, it's already got an established network, accepting referrals from the Salvation Army, Western Idaho Community Action Program, Hope's Door, Valley Crisis Center and Lighthouse Rescue Mission in a 10-county area of western Idaho.
In just nine months, CATCH of Canyon County has also already generated tremendous community support, receiving help from more than 40 local churches, civic organizations private businesses and, of course, the City of Caldwell and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. HUD's also playing a role, providing almost $270,000 in Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help CATCH pay the salary of a full-time caseworker.
But maybe the most important measure of success is found among the people that good idea is intended to benefit. People like Dear who told CATCH it had "helped us to be able to spend valuable time together which wasn't possible with me at the shelter."
Or people like Sarah who said her family was "at the bottom, hopeless, and left with no options and your program reached out and lifted us up and showed us we can succeed."
Or people like Melanie, the very first of the 15 families - including 31 children - that CATCH has helped since last August. Before being referred to CATCH, she and her son had been homeless for a year, traveling back and forth between three shelters. Now she's got her own apartment and her future back. The program, she told The Idaho Post Tribune, "gives people their faith in their community back, their faith in their country back. It shows people you're not alone in your situation." Without it, she was sure, she'd still be homeless.
By all measures, CATCH has worked to help homeless families in Boise. Talk to Dear, Sarah or Melanie and it's clear it's working in Caldwell too... No wonder that, last August, Mayor Bieter expressed the hope that CATCH would catch on "throughout southwest Idaho and eventually the entire state." Good ideas always do.
As local governments and housing authorities continue to put Recovery Act dollars to work, you realize more and more that the glitziest work usually isn't always the most important work or the highest priority to be done.
Consider, for example, the $2 million in Recovery Act funds the King County Housing Authority is spending at Southridge House, an 80-unit public housing complex for the elderly and people with disabilities in the City of Federal Way just south of Seattle. The work planned is fundamental, not flashy.
Southridge is made of brick. Brick is porous. And "porous" can be the kiss of structural death for 40-year-old buildings in a moist climate like the Puget Sound's. So, instead of "bells and whistles," the Authority is prudently using these Recovery Act funds to get to - and fix - the heart of the building's problem - protecting the rebar against further corrosion, sealing the bricks, then wrapping them with rigid insulation and, finally, covering them with Hardie Board, creating a "rain screen" to prevent any further penetration or corrosion. Energy-efficient windows and more insulation also will be installed to make an even tighter envelope. And the Authority will also insure that six units are renovated to meet uniform Federal accessibility standards for persons with disabilities.
No glitz, no glamour? Absolutely! But so what. "It's a terrific project" anyway, says Authority executive director Stephen Norman. "This initiative will reduce operating costs and make Soutrhidge House a more comfortable and affordable place to live."
Even better, by the time the project's completed this December, the Authority will have used at least eight firms and given more than 40 skilled workers an opportunity to practice their craft. "The name of the game here," adds Norman, "is putting people to work. This truly becomes a win-win situation for everyone."
Planes don?t land anymore at Weeks Field, Fairbanks first municipal airport. But dreams ? and lots of them ? are taking flight there.
Dreams like the Retirement Community of Fairbanks' to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for senior citizens so that they don?t "have to leave their friends and move out of state for adequate housing opportunities." Or the dream of expanding housing opportunities for families in a state whose rental costs rank, year after year, among the 10 priciest states in the Union.
Those dreams began coming true in late October, with the grand opening of phases 1 of Weeks Field Estates, built on the site of the badly-deteriorated, but now-demolished Fairview Manor.
It?s comprised of two buildings with 28 one, two and three bedroom apartments each. The first building?s already leasing-up and the second should be ready for occupancy by Thanksgiving.
But it?s only the beginning. "Things," Fred Free of Community Development, Inc., the developer of Weeks Field Estates, told The Fairbanks News-Miner on opening day, "are going to happen faster from here on."
He?s right. Thanks to a loan from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and Tax Credit Assistance Program funds from HUD under the Recovery Act funds, financing for Phase II of Weeks Field Estates has been secured. It, too, will have 56 affordable rental units for families. Ground is expected to be broken next Spring. And residents of the now-gone Fairview Manor have the option to return to the new, Weeks Estate complex.
And that?s not all. The Retirement Community of Fairbanks will also have its shovels at the ready next Spring.
Thanks to financial assistance from Alaska Housing Finance Corporation?s Senior Citizen Housing Development Funds, the Rasmussen Foundation and HUD, that?s when the Retirement Community of Fairbanks will begin construction of the first 20 units of Raven Landing Apartments. With plans ultimately to have up to 70 market-rate apartments and condominiums, It will, says Alaska Housing Finance executive director Dan Fauske, will provide housing "specifically designed to meet the physical, emotional, recreational, social, financial and similar needs of seniors."
In decades past, Weeks Field was a place from which the people of Fairbanks departed. Today, it rapidly is becoming where you arrive and, then, call home. And, better still, the home will be affordable.
If we've learned anything since boom went bust last year it's that there's no one road to economic recovery.
Factories need to re-tool and workers re-train. Consumers have to tighten their belts, retire some debt and realize there's no shame ? indeed, there's a great deal of sense - in living within your means. Homebuyers have to venture back into the housing market and financial institutions have start lending again. Local governments, housing authorities and tribal organizations that receive Recovery Act funds have to get the money onto the streets quickly and make sure it's spent effectively and efficiently in revitalizing their communities and putting people back to work.
Then there's one of the roads to recovery that the City of Seattle is taking. Focusing on small business. When first advanced 15 years ago the notion seemed revolutionary. But today it's an economic fact of life - small business creates a vastly disproportionate share of the net new jobs in our economy. That's the good news.
The bad news, Mayor Greg Nickels noted at an October press conference at Alpha Cine, a motion picture lab in southeast Seattle, is that small businesses are hurting just as much ? if not more ? as anyone else these days.
The reason's clear... They're having difficulty accessing capital. As of last year, the Mayor reported, "only 28 percent of small businesses were using bank loans, the lowest rate since 1993." Restoring access to capital, said the Mayor, is a "critical need" of small business and a "key to achieve economic recovery."
Thanks to the City of Seattle, the Seattle Foundation, the National Development Council and, last but not least, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year, "help" ? in the form of capital ? "is on the way."
The City is using multiple approaches. First, it's dedicated $1.4 million in CDBG funds from the Recovery Act to small business lending. The funds will be disbursed to small businesses and micro-enterprises through three local organizations ? the Community Capital Development, Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia and Rainier Valley Community Development Fund. "As a group," said Jim Thomas of Community Capital, "we will be able to reach a broad spectrum of Seattle small businesses."
Second, thanks to contributions from the City and the Seattle Foundation with leveraging by the National Development Council, the City has launched an $8 million Grow Seattle Fund. The Fund will provide low-interest loans that will "help loosen up credit for small- and medium-sized businesses. Targeted to business improvement and expansion, firms will be able to use Grow Seattle funds for working capital, to acquire machinery or equipment, to buy real estate or, even, to refinance existing debt.
Will targeting Recovery Act and Grow Seattle funds work? If Alpha Cine is an example, the answer's yes. It's one of the first small firms to access capital through the Grow Seattle Fund and, as a result, has retained more than 130 "livable wage" jobs in southeast Seattle. Even better, in the weeks since the Mayor's press conference, more than 30 small and medium-sized businesses have contacted the City's Office of Economic Development for more information about the new programs. As the Mayor said, the new programs are "key" to unlocking the door to capital and putting Seattle businesses back on the road to economic recovery.
Multiple Problems, One Solution
Des Moines, IA
It's easy for a homeless family with medical issues to become even more isolated from the community and be at a loss for finding help. Because of Recovery Act assistance to a Des Moines community health center, one such Des Moines family ? a mother with three children with various disabilities and no roof of their own-found a way out.
Primarily Health Care Inc.'s "Health Care for the Homeless-Outreach Project" first assigned the family to a case manager, who referred the family to Anawim's Shelter Plus Care housing program, a supportive housing program that assists individuals and families with disabilities. The family was relocated to permanent supportive housing, making their stay in the shelter brief.
Because of the speed in which their case was managed and the strong partnership between Anawim (a HUD "Homelessness Prevention And Rapid Re-Housing" grantee) and Primary Health Care (an HHS ARRA grantee), the mother and her children were readily placed in a three-bedroom duplex on the south side of Des Moines. They were elated when they received keys for the duplex.
The family now has a place where children with special needs can get ongoing routine health care in their community, the children are excelling in school and they all are connected with their new neighborhood.
Building Affordable, Energy Efficient Rental Housing
Recovery Act grants administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provided to the City of Fresno Housing Authority gave a vital infusion of gap financing to a new multi family affordable housing project Parc Grove Commons. This project will supply 215 new affordable rental apartments in central Fresno, California. This project was set to begin construction at the end of 2008, but was stalled due to significant changes in the financial markets and projected funding sources. The Recovery Act investments totaling $4.7 Million were made available to the City of Fresno Housing Authority which has allowed this development to achieve financial closing and real estate settlement. Ground has been broken and construction has begun.
Aerial rendering of the future Parc Grove Commons affordable housing in Fresno, California. The adjacent green space will include an additional 264 units in a future development.
The Project will consist of a total of 215 units all serving low income families. These new homes will lessen a significant shortage of affordable rental housing in Fresno, California. There is a severe shortage of affordable rental units in the City of Fresno. There are over 20,000 families currently on the waitlist for affordable housing in Fresno County. Of this total waitlist for the County, there are 8,510 families currently on the waiting list for affordable housing in the City of Fresno. In addition to the new homes the project includes a community center and collegiate size aquatic facility. Additional amenities include classroom facilities, computer lab, fitness room, playgrounds, basketball courts and picnic areas. The project site planning allows for a second phase of development that will offer an additional 264 units of affordable housing.
The new homes are designed as highly energy efficient structures and the construction will utilize durable and environmentally friendly American made building materials. Green building techniques and innovative energy efficiency designs will be incorporated into the project. The energy innovations include solar panels, structural insulated panels for wall construction, satellite controlled irrigation systems, passive solar design, and utilization of recycled and sustainable building materials.
The development of these 215 new homes and community facilities will provide vital new jobs to Fresno County which has a current unemployment rate of 17%. HUD is working to make sure that Section 3 requirements are observed and that minority contractors are employed on the project. This targeted infrastructure investment is ideally located near schools, medical facilities, parks, shopping, employment resources and public transportation. This Recovery Act investment has been designed as part of a coordinated revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood.
Without the infusion of Recovery Act grant funds this high quality infrastructure investment providing crucial jobs, energy innovations and necessary affordable rental housing to the City of Fresno California would not have been possible.
Diversifying Skills to Maintain Jobs
Mr. Luis Garcia and his wife began the LEGO Construction Company in January 2006. During the first quarter of 2009, the company was struggling in the tough economy. To address the challenges, Mr. Garcia needed to diversify his company's portfolio of skills to expand his business. In March 2009, four of his engineers gained certification from Owens Corning, a shingle manufacturer in Jacksonville. In August 2009, LEGO Construction won a contract to fix the roofs at Donn Gardens, an elderly development of the Miami-Dade Public Housing Agency (MDPHA).
This contract was part of $19 million the MDPHA received in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve the quality of life for its public housing residents. It was LEGO Construction's first asphalt shingle project.
In addition to public housing funds, Miami Dade County's Homeless Trust will provide $7 million in HUD ARRA funds to assist homeless individuals and families. $4.9 million in HUD Community Development Block Grant funding is being used for infrastructure improvements, Small Business Assistance Loans, and foreclosure prevention services.
Success Stories by HUD Region
- Region 1 - Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
- Region 2 - New Jersey, New York
- Region 3 - District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
- Region 4 - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands, South Carolina, Tennessee
- Region 5 - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
- Region 6 - Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
- Region 7 - Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska
- Region 8 - Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming
- Region 9 - American Samoa, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands
- Region 10 - Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington