CEDAM Blog

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Development Without Displacement

trash-dumped-by-lake_w725_h488With the rise and fall of different economies nationwide and changes in where people choose to live, we’ve witnessed disinvestment of commercial districts, neighborhoods and even whole parts of cities. Resulting vacant property becomes the dumping ground for garbage and toxic waste, and are not only unappealing to potential residents or businesses, but are also, unsafe. But eventual re-investment in these areas can result in displacement of the people who stayed during the tough times if rents rise and redevelopment of residential spaces forces them out.

To combat this risk of displacement, local initiatives across the nation are considering values that should guide decision-making and ways to integrate community-minded strategies with development policy. Government planning, corporate investment and community-based visions paired together can collectively change the resulting patterns to advance development. Communities can revitalize and develop while benefiting all residents and stakeholders.

Community Land Trusts As an Option

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit organizations that use various sources of public and philanthropic capital to acquire homes in a geographic focus area. Residents own their home outright, but lease their land from the CLT. Their annual fee supports operations and the CLT retains permanent ownership of the land. Homeowners are free to update and change their home or sell it to whomever they choose. However, the home prices are set by the CLT and remain affordable. New residents agree to the same requirements around resale and home maintenance. CLTs are governed by a mixture of community residents, stakeholders and experts, and are designed to stabilize neighborhoods while keeping community control and public interest as the major strategy for future growth.

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Example

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Photo from the DSNI website: http://www.dsni.org/

In the 1980s, the Dudley Neighborhood in Boston was vacant, abandoned and a garbage dump for the rest of the city. In an effort to take control of their own future, they created a bottom-up revitalization plan and led the efforts to reclaim vacant property. Dudley Neighbors, Incorporated (DNI) was created to serve as player in the housing development portion of their comprehensive master plan drafted by the residents. In 1988, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) granted DNI’s status as a 121A Corporation, allowing them the power of eminent domain to acquire privately-owned vacant land in the area designated as the Dudley Triangle. Through this, the DNI structured a CLT and has changed the entire face of the community with a total of 225 new homes and two community spaces or micro-centers built on DNI land.

Detroit Development

Last month, Detroit stakeholders collaborated at the Financial Institutions Community Development Conference (FICON) to collaborate and share proactive initiatives focusing on two things: community involvement and the avoidance of displacement. While Detroit has lost 60% of the population over the past 60 years, the transformation that is in action right now is a partnership and collaboration of land banks, city and county government agencies, community development and block groups, Detroit Future City, individuals and others. There is a resurgence of growth and momentum sparking engagement and a public forum for activity. The City of Detroit progressively works to turn the lights back on, maintain parks and find alternative solutions for vacant property that involves investment and adoption by existing neighborhood residents. Community-based groups such as the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) take matters into their own hands by obtaining funding and installing solar lighting throughout the neighborhood to increase visibility and safety.

The Possibility of a CLT in Detroit

Reimagining vacancy is an opportunity to analyze possibilities from a new perspective. Partners want to grow by adding jobs and higher density development. Neighborhood stabilization and improved, yet affordable, quality of life for all current and future residents is critical. Transforming open areas into safe spaces for public gatherings, gardens or some other yet to be determined use is desired and on the table.

Would a CLT benefit Detroit? As the path toward a brighter future is defined, it is important to note the existing work that is taking place. The City of Detroit is actively trying to use the limited available resources as proactively as possible to merely get back to the starting line. Through this, stakeholders are not standing by as spectators. Instead, momentum grows each day with engaging activities working to empower residents and collaboratively define what Detroit will become. Maybe it will ultimately take form as a CLT in some neighborhoods. The concept has positive results in Boston and other areas. Detroit might just benefit from it too.

For additional information, check out The City-CLT Partnership Report: Municipal Support for Community Land Trusts.

What do you think?

Vote With Every Dollar

By Guest blogger Jon Barth, Southwest Detroit Business Association

Paying with Debit CardThe days are getting shorter, the leaves are falling and most Americans are gearing up for their annual holiday shopping spree. Last year, Americans spent more than $600 billion on gifts. A well-known superhero was once told “with great power comes great responsibility;” I’d say that $600 billion is a lot of power and responsibility. That’s enough money to buy 600 billion fast food cheeseburgers. Or 30 billion pairs of clearance rack jeans. Or you could even pay off the City of Detroit’s pre-bankruptcy debt 33 times.

Every dollar is a vote. When I buy a $1 cookie from the bakery down the street, I’m voting for that bakery to continue making cookies. I’m also voting for the company that supplied the bakery with their flour, the farmer that grew the wheat, the governments that the bakery pays their taxes to and so on.

Choosing to purchase the cookie from the bakery over one from a grocery store even if the price is a little higher and the quality is the same means that I value my community and want those dollars to benefit those within it. When a package of cookies is purchased from a grocery store owned by a company based out of California, a portion of the money spent goes to California, some goes to the bakery that made the cookies and some goes to all the supply-chain folks in between. Also, that’s a dollar I won’t be spending in my community, because I only have so many dollars, and I only need so many cookies.

Last year the average American spent a little over $700 on holiday gifts. While it pales in comparison to $600 billion, $700 is nothing to sneeze at. With $700 you could cast a major vote for American manufacturing, innovation in Silicon Valley or small-scale goat farming in Vermont. Every dollar you spend on a particular business makes it a little more likely that they will succeed in the marketplace and continue to do what they are currently doing. For example, if everyone in America buys goat cheese for someone on their list this year, next year we will still have farmers making the cheese, and the supply may even increase. But if nobody gives the gift of goat cheese, goat farmers may choose to focus on other pursuits.

Holiday shopping is small potatoes when compared to the impact of our day-to-day spending choices.  A couple of weeks ago I was ordering office supplies online for my office. I had my choice of products and a variety of opportunities use my organization’s dollars to vote. I work in Southwest Detroit, which happens to be home to the second most polluted zip code in the state of Michigan. Further, my office is located adjacent to the most polluted zip code in Michigan, and I experience the effects of this on a daily basis. My need for office supplies granted me the opportunity make my purchasing decisions around small, but very deliberate, votes. For example, I opted for non-toxic oil-based soap rather than a competitor’s floor-cleaning product that contained toluene, a toxin known to harm the central nervous system when inhaled. It only cost a couple of dollars more, and in doing so, I voted for non-toxic cleaning products and better air-quality in my office building.

Nobody’s perfect. Even the most principled individuals have to compromise on their values from time to time, especially when your ideal choice is cost-prohibitive. Sometimes, we don’t have enough information to know we’re making the right choice. Sometimes there really isn’t a choice. Regardless, we all have the power to make at least a small difference.

What are your values?

Think about how your spending habits might be voting for or against some of those values. Are there any ways that you might be able to change your spending habits to better support those values? If you want to keep American manufacturing alive, maybe it means spending a little more on your next TV to get the American-made set. If money is tight, maybe it means cutting back on non-essentials so that your spending on necessities can be more in line with your values.

What I’m really saying is that every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. I’m not trying to tell you how to spend your money, but am asking for you to think a little bit about how you are wielding your spending power.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Jon Barth works with the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA). The SDBA is a coalition of businesses and community interests committed to facilitating the continuation and enhancement of a stable, economically healthy Southwest Detroit. The SDBA employs strategies that support existing business and industrial enterprises, enhance the climate for public and private investment and economic growth and act as a vehicle for cooperative ventures that support economic development in Southwest Detroit. For more information, visit www.southwestdetroit.com.

Foreclosure 101 and Step Forward Update

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Full training available on CEDAM’s YouTube!

Last month Tracie Coffman, Coordinator of the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force, gave an in-depth introduction to tax and mortgage foreclosure for new MFPC AmeriCorps members. This is an excellent primer for anyone new to the foreclosure process in Michigan.

1 Introduction: http://youtu.be/rnM8hm6N-Nc
2 Foreclosure Terminology: http://youtu.be/-tyfw3CYRbY
3 Foreclosure Timeline: http://youtu.be/zfVib81xpKE
4 Loss Mitigation: http://youtu.be/CooBrDQFeLY
5 Step Forward Update: http://youtu.be/f0kL1QsiVuw

On a related note, the Step Forward Michigan program expanded. The following is the text from the official announcement:

In order to increase activity and more funding in our Step Forward Michigan’s Unemployment Mortgage Subsidy (UMS) and Modification Plan (MP) programs, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has approved our request for expanded guidelines. Please share this information with other staff members in your office as you continue to help applicants apply for Step Forward assistance.

Below are some highlights of the expanded eligibility requirements:

Unemployment Mortgage Subsidy Program (UMS)

The UMS program is now open to homeowners facing either of the following situations;

  • A 20% or greater reduction in gross income; includes self-employed applicants.
  • Received Michigan unemployment income within the last twelve months.

This program continues to subsidize the monthly mortgage payment, reinstate the delinquency and can now pay outstanding property taxes or condominium association fees directly to a participating county treasurer or condominium association when;

  • There is no mortgage lien.
  • The mortgage lien is current and held by a non-participating mortgage lender.
  • The participating mortgage lender is unable to establish an escrow account.

Modification Plan Program (MP)

The MP program is now open to homeowners facing either of the following situations;

  • Loan to Value above 115%.
  • Mortgage Payment to Gross Household Income ratio above 45%.

Up to $30,000 is available to pay toward negative equity, reinstate the delinquency and re-amortize the existing balance to reach a more affordable payment. The mortgage lender/servicer determines whether to do a modification or only a recast.

Loan Rescue Program (LR)

No changes

Principal Curtailment Program (PC)

No changes Program Funds may be exhausted by 11/01/2014.

Meet ALICE

By Nancy Lindman, Director of Public Policy & Partnerships, Michigan Association of United Ways

What if I if I eliminated all the extras from my budget – how much money would I need to live in Ingham County?  Before meeting ALICE, I really didn’t know what it would cost for just the very basics: food, transportation, housing, childcare and medical.  And while I was aware of Michigan’s poverty and unemployment rates, I was clueless about how many employed people in my community still did not make enough to cover the basics.

Now I know.  United Way’s ALICE Project has the facts on people making more than the official poverty level, but less than an individual or family needs to cover essential household expenses. What I learned from ALICE startled me - forty percent of Michiganders earn too little to cover basic necessities!

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE represents those among us who are working yet struggle to afford the basics. ALICE is someone you meet every day. She/he is someone you depend on to care for your kids, fix your car and tend to your elderly relative. Despite working, often at more than one job, ALICE households struggle financially – and their kids, your neighbors and our community will pay the price in the long run.

The conditions that put forty percent of Michigan’s families into the ALICE demographic is our focus at United Way. We believe everyone deserves opportunities to have a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income for a family to be financially stable, and good health.

Our hope is that the ALICE report ignites an informed conversation about the need for long-lasting changes. By shedding light on ALICE, we want to understand the magnitude of financial hardship on local, county and state levels and mobilize the caring power of people in public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop solutions.

Now that I’ve met her, I feel committed to helping ALICE.  I know that her fate and mine are intertwined.  ALICE opened my eyes – I invite you to read the Report, available here.

Funding Sources for Community Economic Development

Looking for grants in these places could bring you some unexpected funding! Photo credit: Pup Fan 

Below are some of the best places to use when you are seeking funding for community economic development in Michigan. CEDAM members can log in here to see more grant tools and our list of foundations and businesses that fund CED.

Every month CEDAM members also get a “Funding Alert” email containing relevant grants that are open for application. Typically there are 10-20 grants we find each month related to housing, placemaking, transportation, fresh food access, at-risk populations, development projects, main street improvements and so on. Though these particular examples are no longer available, below you will see some of the different varieties found in the funding alert:

Lansing Sense of Place $5,000 – $75,000
Placemaking projects that are taking place in the City of Lansing are eligible for funding from the City. Deadline is August 15, 2014.

Rural Home Rehab and Repair Up to $50,000
The USDA provides these grants to organizations and municipalities to assist low-income rural homeowners with home rehab and repair. Grants can also be used for rental units if the units are made available to low-income tenants. Deadline is July 24, 2014.

Gardening and Green Space $1,500
Miracle-Gro grants support community gardens and other green space projects. Deadline is February 17, 2014.

Note that the funding directory and funding alerts are only available to members joining as an organization and not an individual person.

Good luck!

Welcoming the Next Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Members

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

- Margaret Mead

10,627. That’s the number of homeowners facing foreclosure served through intake and triage by AmeriCorps members in the 2012-2013 program year.

30,000. That’s the number of hours that MFPC members provided of service to their host organizations in the 2012-2013 program year.

Last week, the newest group of Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps (MFPC) members began their year of service with a certified housing counseling agency in Michigan. This group of people, some brand new and others returning for an additional term, will spend their time on a variety of projects that help people who are facing foreclosure. They will offer countless hours of volunteer recruitment, marketing and outreach and intake and triage services. They will be empathetic toward homeowners and support them as they prepare to see a housing counselor, making sure that their process is as complete and organized as possible.

Many AmeriCorps members are just entering the professional world, others are new to this particular field. It is a big job with a lot of warm and fuzzy payback, but, as in any job, can be overwhelming. In preparation for their orientation last week, members from the last program year offered some advice.

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click to view the pdf

What advice would you add?

Microenterprise Month: Putting the Heart in Michigan Communities

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By Marcy Kates, Coordinator of the Microenterprise Network of Michigan

Pretend you can fly. As you soar through a bright blue Michigan sky, skimming the tops of brightly-hued autumnal trees, you spot your community and your neighborhood. Dip down closer, see the tops of the houses and buildings. Tilt your wings and swoop over a commercial area near where you live—maybe it’s the actual Main Street, or perhaps it’s simply a nearby smaller commercial/business enclave.

Land somewhere at street level, and look around. What do you see? A barber shop or salon that’s been there for decades? A husband- and wife-owned bakery? A neighborhood bookshop? Perhaps a local coffee shop or teahouse? The list may go on and on. Take a walk through your local farmers market or craft mall, and you’ll meet many more of these individually owned businesses.  Imagine visiting any of these microenterprises, and listen to the conversations that occur on a daily basis. See commerce happening—money changing hands, with approximately eighty cents out of every dollar staying right there in the community.

Click to download the pdf

(Click to download the pdf)

Now imagine that these microenterprises don’t exist.
How does it change the character . . . the atmosphere . . . the HEART of your community? How would the relationships change—who might never meet and become acquainted? Would the same level of collaboration and network exist? Are there business partnerships that might never happen?

Last destination (for today at least)—think about your local organizations, including municipal boards and committees.  Who are the people who serve your community’s civic groups? Who are the Board Trustees, the Chairs, and the board members? Who do you see at every community event, ribbon cutting, and festival? Are they the same people who operate the smallest of businesses (or those who started small and grew)? In my small community, well over half of the people who regularly volunteer to serve on boards and help run our civic organizations are small business owners.

Microenterprise owners pour their hearts and their wallets into starting their businesses, at the same time often becoming the foundations of communities. This is why Microenterprise Month in Michigan is a celebration! We celebrate and appreciate these entrepreneurs.  Please comment and tell us about the special small businesses in your own communities!  #MIMicroBiz #MIMicroBizMonth

Utility Data & Energy Efficiency Pilot Programs

Organizations that utilize grants or other federal programs to fund projects understand that reporting and data are important, constant indicators of program monitoring and success. Gathering and processing data can be time consuming and tedious for everybody involved.

Making Data Collection Easier

A variety of software applications and processes are becoming readily available to make this process simpler and more accurate. Processing tenant utility data is one such example and MSHDA is working to reduce and simplify the approach through a pilot program in collaboration with New Ecology and WegoWise. This application pulls the data directly from DTE or Consumers Energy via a landlord portal, thereby eliminating the need to enter any data.

Read the full article by Catherine Schirm about the pilot program here.

Multifamily Energy Savings in Michigan

This application and pilot program ties into a bigger initiative to help increase energy efficiency and meet the needs of multifamily housing developments. This is a collaborative effort initiated by Consumers Energy formed a partnership with MSDHA, Michigan Energy Options, Elevate Energy and Michigan Saves. The program is designed to provide a one-stop-shop with a single point of contact to help you through the process of an initial energy analysis, contractor recommendations and implementation. Coupled with credits through Consumers Energy and loan options through Michigan Saves and others, it is an unbeatable deal for organizations to consider.

Listen to the discussion with Ed Love the Program Manager for the Consumers Energy Multifamily Energy Savers and also with Michigan Energy Options, and Todd O’Grady, the Michigan Saves Finance Consultant and hear more about what the pilot program involves and who qualifies.

Energy efficiency is coming to a head in Michigan. These are only a couple of programs available that help organizations meet their needs, and there are seemingly more every day. Let us know how we can help you find those resources and help you help your community.

Voices of AmeriCorps – Leondra Fair

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“Of course there’s the cliché statement of “I have grown so much” or “AmeriCorps has prepared me for so and so,” but really the most valuable part of serving with people is that it has enhanced who I am. I realized what type of person I want to be not only moving forward into the professional world but as a whole.”

Leondra Fair

Leondra Fair

I decided to join AmeriCorps for many reasons. I wanted professional experience, I wanted to feel important, I wanted the stipend, insurance and school award. I had no idea what the service really entailed other than foreclosure and I probably didn’t really give it much thought. Looking back now on the reasons I chose to join was understandably reasonable at that time. After serving almost a year in AmeriCorps, I think that it would be a waste in so many ways to move forward in my life with thoughts centered primarily on what will benefit me. I found that there is so much I could do to contribute to relieving a lot of the hidden burdens people have.

My experience as an AmeriCorps member has been a wildly unexpected chain of profit, advantages and rewards. I say unexpected because I gained a lot of wisdom and maturity from the amazing people that I serve with and those that I assist. Of course there’s the cliché statement of “I have grown so much” or “AmeriCorps has prepared me for so and so,” but really the most valuable part of serving with people is that it has enhanced who I am. I realized what type of person I want to be not only moving forward into the professional world but as a whole.

It’s been a struggle in marrying self and service. It feels like neither is complete unless one vanishes. It has become a worthwhile struggle that has resulted in a person who has learned that she wants to be a person that is on time, does what she says she’s going to do, won’t complain, practices integrity and more importantly gives 100% to her craft. These are the virtues that have been modeled before me. It’s becoming the meat and potatoes that build my strong foundation of self with material benefits becoming the broth that keeps everything happily moving, and the hard work acting as the salt to bring out the flavor of character and wisdom.

I have been fortunate and honored to work with people in saving homes. To be introduced to real life pitfalls and being immersed into people’s personal lives is a tremendous responsibility. This AmeriCorps opportunity has shown me what life is all about, a tiring euphoria of creative service.

Leondra Fair is an AmeriCorps member at Inner City Christian Federation in Grand Rapids.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.

Consumers Energy’s Energy Savers Affordable Multifamily Program

By Ed Love, Program Manager at Michigan Energy Options with contributions made by Ariana Gonzalez of NRDC

This past May saw the launch of a new energy efficiency pilot in Michigan. The Consumers Energy program designed specifically to meet the needs of multifamily affordable housing. Elevate Energy, a Chicago based non-profit, Michigan Energy Options, an East Lansing-based non-profit, Michigan Saves, a Lansing-based non-profit and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, joined forces with Consumers Energy to tailor a program to meet this housing group’s distinct set of challenges and opportunities.

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Photo taken with an infrared camera from Sagewell, Inc shows a half insulated building.

Multifamily Affordable Housing Need

Who are we talking about and why do they need a tailored program? National multifamily occupant characteristics show that:

  • 28% are below the poverty line;
  • 13.5% of a family’s monthly income is spent on energy compared to the median household who spends 7%; and
  • HUD-assisted renter families with rent assistance spend 1/3 of their housing costs on energy. Comparatively, the average household only spends 1/8 of their housing costs on providing energy to their home.

Clearly, this housing group is spending a disproportionate amount of money on energy. Possible explanations include the fact that:

  • only 2% of multifamily units have received an energy audit,
  • 63% of units are poorly or only adequately insulated,
  • 30% of units have heating equipment that is over 20 years old,
  • or that 60% of units have heating equipment not routinely maintained.

Traditionally, multifamily affordable housing is considered hard to reach, but Michigan Energy Options’ Energy Savers “One-stop shop” program proves that groups are beginning to break through.  To qualify, a multifamily housing facility of 5 or more units must have at least 66% of its residents earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level.

“One-Stop Shop” Breakthrough

The “one-stop shop” not only provides a model for access, but a model for resounding success with a typical energy savings of 20-30%. What makes the program so effective is its comprehensive, yet streamlined process where the building owner has a single point of contact throughout the entire pursuit for deep and persistent energy efficiency.  The program walks the building owner through an energy analysis and on-site assessment, cost-effective energy saving recommendations, low-cost financing options with the help of Michigan Saves, contractor bids, construction oversight and quality assurance, utility incentives, and post-retrofit energy use monitoring. We act as the building owner’s advocate in assuring that energy efficient improvements are a good economic decision.  Aside from the measurable savings in lower utility bills for “the house”, there are other economic advantages to be had, such as tenant retention, shifting of energy allowance funds to rental income and more.  Most improvements are eligible for “reserve” funding, which helps building owners utilize capital that is usually reserved for improvement made under a capital need assessment.

The pilot’s goal is to touch 1,224 units in 79 buildings and utilize $400,000 worth of incentives over the next two years. Based on a typical centrally heated, 3-story, 24-unit masonry structure with 24,000 square feet of heated space, measures such as air sealing, roof insulation, boiler replacement, boiler controls, radiator replacement and CFL installations can result in savings on energy costs reaching $44,350 in 5 years. Seeing approximately the same level of success in these 1,224 units could translate into over $2,200,000 in energy cost savings in just 5 years!

Achieving Energy Efficiency for All

The launch of the Michigan Consumers pilot is one important step towards achieving energy efficiency for everyone. Energy efficiency is an incredible resource that can address so much more than just the burden of high energy costs. It can provide a more comfortable, affordable living space, reduce pollution, create healthier living environments and maintain affordable housing–particularly meaningful for this group. As Michigan continues to push toward higher renewable and energy efficiency standards, look to programs like this to be the model for clean and comprehensive energy solutions.

To apply for this program or for more information contact Ed Love at Michigan Energy Options at 517.337-0422, ext: 303 or via email at elove@michiganenergyoptions.org. Or visit their website at michiganenergyoptions.org and complete the online application.

Want to hear more? Join in our webinar with MEO and Michigan Saves on Thursday, Sptember 25 from 12-1pm. Register here.