Unsung hero community groups save neighborhoods

(01/26/2011) Against all odds created by the deepest recession since the Great Depression, a network of community organizations beat back bad times and saved a host of distressed neighborhoods -- often block-by-block and home-by-home.

"Implementing the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP): Community Stabilization in the NeighborWorks Network" is the NeighborWorks America's report detailing a dozen "Yes, we can!" case studies about the super heroic efforts of community groups that kept neighborhoods alive during their darkest hour.

The studies reveal the power behind the National Community Stabilization Trust's "5 Cs of stabilization" a strategy used to rescue neighborhoods submerged in foreclosures, at a time when money was tight, resources were slim and the line for help went out the door.

The trust facilitates transferring foreclosed and abandoned properties from banks to local housing organizations. The homes are "recycled" for reuse to keep neighborhoods stable.

The "Cs" include comprehensiveness, a plan that addresses all destabilizing forces in the community; concentration, targeting for maximum impact; collaboration to include a broad array of partners with a strong focus on residency; capacity from organizations with demonstrated ability in the effort; and capital, especially new sources of capital.

Here's a sampling of the neighborhoods saved by the work of NW agencies.

• Home HeadQuarters, Inc., Syracuse, NY - The agency collaborated with local residents and a wide range of stakeholders to focus community stabilization and revitalization efforts on a 15 to 20-block area known as the SALT District. Using a combination of funding, the agency acquired and redeveloped 90 foreclosed, vacant and abandoned properties.

• Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc., Orange, NJ - This group worked with nonprofit, for-profit and city agencies to acquire and redevelop foreclosed inventory, first by acquiring the mortgages on 47 foreclosed properties housing 92 units.

• Neighborhood Development Services, Inc., Ravenna, OH - In the small city of Barberton, this agency helped acquire a 24-unit property from foreclosure and redeveloped it into an attractive community asset with affordable housing units. The agency collaborated with local, county and state agencies to acquire capital and worked with residents in the process of designing the improvements for the property.

• Neighborhood Housing Services of Orange County, Anaheim, CA - The agency worked with nonprofit, municipal and for-profit groups to obtain capital to acquire, renovate and re-sell nearly two dozen foreclosed homes to eligible buyers.

• Neighborhood Housing Services of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO - This agency became a one-stop shop for identifying properties, providing first mortgage loans, developing scope of rehab work, managing construction, assisting buyers with obtaining down payment assistance and closing the loans on 30 properties.

• Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, FL - The agency worked with nonprofits to apply for and implement funding from city and county governments and to redevelop 90 foreclosed homes.

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