Monthly Archives: April 2014

Senate Banking Committee Halts Vote on Major Housing Finance Reform Bill

This afternoon, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee was set to begin the markup process on S.1217, a bipartisan housing finance reform bill, but instead announced a delay in the vote to accommodate legislators interested in joining the effort to reform the banking system.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) posted the following statement on the committee webpage:

“We will now move to the consideration of S. 1217, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014. This legislation, offered by Senators Corker and Warner along with a number of our other colleagues on this Committee, would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and reform the housing finance system.”

“As all of the Members already know, there continue to be important discussions to build a larger coalition supporting the bill. While we have the votes to report the bill out today, Members of the Committee have asked for a brief delay to try to work out additional issues prior to a final vote. To allow time for those discussions to be completed, we will shortly recess the executive session subject to the call of the Chair. I have talked with Ranking Member Crapo, and we will continue working with interested Members on both sides. Staff will notify Members when the Committee is set to reconvene in the coming days.”

It is unclear how long the committee will delay the vote. The bill would include a fee on mortgages backed by the new system that is dedicated to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.

 

 

 

CDBG Spotlight: Tiny Homes for the Homeless

One big idea for solving homelessness comes in the form of a tiny house.

On December 24, 2013, 29 homeless men and women all got the chance to move into community of small homes called Quixote Village just outside of Olympia, Washington. They were residents of the former Camp Quixote, a homeless camp founded in 2007 that moved more than 20 times.

At 8 by 18 feet, the homes really are tiny, and include a bedroom, a toilet and a sink. An adjacent community center contains a kitchen, dining area, living room, laundry facilities and even meeting and office space for the residents to share.

But the residents don’t seem to mind the small scale of their new homes. One had lived outside in a tent for almost seven years. While they’re expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, many are unemployed. Fifteen report no income at all. Most are recovering drug addicts.

There’s a real community spirit among those living in Quixote Village. Ever since its days as a tent camp, the community has been self-governing, with elected leadership and rules they drew up themselves. That tradition continued after the houses went up. The tenants even had a say in the design of the village. They collaborated with MSGS Architects to come up with a layout for the village. They asked for the cottages to be arranged in a horseshoe shape, and chose to give up a little living space in favor of a front porch.

Quixote Village sits on 2.1 acres that was once an industrial park. Thurston County, Washington, offered a 41-year lease on the land for $1 a year. The total cost for the entire village was around $3.05 million. $699,000 of those funds came from Community Development Block Grants, which supported the village’s community center. While the residents govern themselves, a nonprofit group called Panza secured the funding for the project.

Anna Schlecht, housing program manager for the City of Olympia, said the choice was made to fund the program using a Community Development Block Grant because it is one of the few funding methods the city has to support housing, shelter and social services projects.

“The greater Olympia community has been very excited about Quixote Village and how the ‘tiny house model’ offered such a positive solution to homelessness,” Schlecht said via email. She said that prior to the construction of the village, the self-governing Quixote community would travel from place to place as an organized camp that had little impact on crime rates.

This isn’t the only tiny-home village that will offer shelter to the homeless. In Austin, Texas, a similar project including 200 homes is set to break ground in the next several months. In Ithaca, N.Y., small homes have already been built as transitional housing, with more planned for the future. Quixote Village has gotten a few visits and phone calls from homeless advocates considering their own village of tiny houses.

 

CDBG Spotlight: A new spring for Burnham’s Field

Once dilapidated, Burnham’s Field in Gloucester, Mass. is getting a dose of new life thanks to funding – plus the efforts of some dedicated community members.

The field had not undergone any major renovations in 30 years.

That all changed when a community group called the Friends of Burnham’s Field decided to pitch in to help revitalize the field. John McElhenny, the group’s founder, said it started three or four months ago with a modest membership of three to five people.

“Now it’s probably up to thirty or forty people who have contacted us and said, ‘I care about Burnham’s Field. I want to be involved too,’” McElhenny says. “There’s really a lot of momentum behind the Friends of Burnham’s Field.”

The community garden, which began in 2011, was one of the first steps to revitalization. McElhenny says the garden has 20 plots. Families get their own plot, where they grow vegetables and flowers. The garden has created a community of people who care about the field, and that has led to more frequent cleanups, removal of graffiti and repairs to the field’s fencing.

More improvements are set to get underway this spring with the help of more than $345,000 in funding from community development block grants, state Department of Environmental Protection funds and contributions from the Community Preservation Committee. McElhenny says the funds will go to two new playgrounds, one for toddlers, and one for older kids; improved lighting; pathways through the field; renovations to the two basketball courts; an area for kids to play in hot weather; and restroom facilities.

McElhenny says he had the support of local politicians in securing funding for the project. Stephen Winslow, senior project manager at Gloucester’s Community Development office, helped organize the grant process. State Senator Bruce Tarr and Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk have also been supportive.

“Burnham’s Field sits in the heart of Downtown Gloucester and serves as a prime spot for play, basketball and pick-up soccer games by hundreds of area youth,” Winslow says. “Neighbors had sounded the alarm that old facilities, lack of lighting, trash and drug use made the field less and less desirable for families. CDBG funding proved invaluable in getting the ball rolling on planning and implementing a park rehabilitation and have resulted in over a 1 to 1 match in state and local funding. Mayor Carolyn Kirk and other local officials will all join with the community on May 3rd to finally break ground on this project that has been 5 years in development and design. ”

CDBG Spotlight: Housing Authority of Bowling Green gives one house a total makeover

 

HABG Home Makeover     HABG Home Makeover_2Photos by Joshua Lindsey/Daily News

 

While you might not see it on television, the makeover this house will get is pretty extreme.

In the hopes of giving someone a home who might not otherwise be able to afford it, the Housing Authority of Bowling Green (Ky.) has purchased a house with the help of Community Development Block Grant funds. It’s in the process of getting an extensive renovation. Volunteers helped to tear down all the drywall, carpeting and ceilings inside the house. All the fixtures, like countertops and sinks, are gone too.

The outside of the house is getting an overhaul as well. The plan is to install new vinyl, landscaping and a porch. In fact, the only parts that will not be demolished are the original foundation and frame.

The effort has also brought community members together. Employees of Independence Bank, a community-focused bank who has supported Habitat for Humanity in the past, joined Fiji, the Western Kentucky University chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, to help the housing authority tear down much of the house. In addition, Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College will pitch in to install the electrical wiring plus heating and cooling in the home.

“The bank has several skilled people,” says Abraham Williams, executive director of the Housing Authority of Bowling Green. “They will do all the painting on the inside of the house.”

They’ll continue to be a part of the project through the rebuilding and renovation process. Williams also says that the local Chick-Fil-A even offered their support, supplying the fraternity members with lunch while they worked on the house.

“It’s a real community effort,” Williams says.

This isn’t the first extreme home makeover for the Housing Authority of Bowling Green. Previously, the university was looking to expand, and had a house they were going to tear down. The housing authority got the chance to buy the house and move it for a reduced price. Williams says they were able to give the home to a woman in the Section 8 homeownership program who was blind and hard of hearing. Now she shares it with her teenage son.

The Housing Authority of Bowling Green is in the process of selecting the lucky recipient of the renovated home. It hopes to complete the project and hand over the keys in July.