Policy Insights – Creating Homeownership Opportunities in Hot Real Estate Markets

Local Economies

AFFORDABLE HOME COOPERATIVES: CREATING HOMEOWNERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES IN HOT REAL ESTATE MARKETS

This post is part of a lecture series I’ve conducted on affordable homeownership development and finance.

In the United States homeownership is a major vehicle for wealth accumulation. For many, it is the primary means of acquiring and maintaining economic mobility.

As described by Brookings: Wealth differs from income in that it serves three major purposes: (1) Wealth provides households with buffers during economic shocks. For instance during periods of unemployment, assets can be drawn down for emergency needs. (2) Wealth is a means for ensuring economic stability for future generations. (3) Finally, financial gains from personal assets are taxed at a lower rate than wages.

In 2017 the average homeowner boasted a net worth of($195,400) that is 36 times that of the average renter ($5,400).

Unfortunately, for many Americans the accumulation of wealth and its benefits through homeownership are out of reach due to highly speculative real estate markets, socioeconomic factors or race.

Among prospective first-time buyers highly speculative real estate markets has pushed homeownership further and further out of reach. Renters seeking homeownership are seeing an increase in household expenses especially in, well…rent! This makes it difficult for households to stash away savings for a downpayment on a home. As recently reported by the Washington Post, dozens of major cities across the nation are seeing annual costs and rental costs rise by 30% percent — for instance 34% increase in rents in Fort Lauderdale, 35% in New York City and 40% in Austin, Texas.

For Millennials and younger generations, homeownership is becoming less and less attainable.

Just as rents are skyrocketing, home prices are also through the roof. As reported by the National Association of Realtors, the

median price for a single-family home $358,000.

Economic Factors Impacting Home Affordability

Home Supply Deficit

In a nationwide survey of nearly 7,000 prospective homebuyers, researchers at Point2 found that 74% of Millennials who are interested in purchasing a home would like to do so in the next 12 months. However, 88% of respondents ages 25 to 40 have significantly less in savings than the average national down payment amount.

In 27 Markets, Millennials Need 5–10 years to save enough for a downpayment.

For Millennials and younger generations, homeownership is becoming less and less attainable.

This age group has suffered through two major economic recession since entering the labor force and are reported to not have benefited from the earnings and savings of prior generations at their age.

Advocacy and persistence among elected officials, local housing agencies community-based and mission-based private sector developers are needed to expand affordable homeownership development activity as well as affordable housing overall.

Racial Discrimination Exacerbates the Issue

Even for renters who could potentially afford a home, housing discrimination and systemic racism keeps homeownership out of reach.

In 2019 New York Newsday published the results of athree-year undercover investigationwhich found widespread evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents in Long Island, NY. Recorded interactions with 93 real estate agents showed blatant violations of fair housing laws with Black homebuyers 49% likely to be treated unequally; researchers reported unfair treatment of Latinos at 39% and Asians at 19%.

Investment in Local Community-Based Homeownership Development

For decades community-based nonprofit developers and mission-based for profit developers have been instrumental in building and preserving housing for low- and moderate-income households — including affordable homeownership.

In dense urban areas like New York City, cooperative development and homebuyer downpayment assistance can make purchasing more feasible for many. Though many housing coops units can sell very high on the open market, affordable homeownership typically targets working households earning at or below 80% of HUD’s area median income. Deed restrictions or community land trusts protect affordability long-term. Real estate tax abatements can substantially reduce expenses.

There are also housing cooperatives developments targeting moderate and middle-income first time buyers. These developments still offer below market purchase options, but unlike the limited equity cooperatives — buyers of these cooperatives have the opportunity accumulate and capture equity after a period of time. Subsidies on these projects are treated as a lien or as a forgivable mortgage. Deed restrictions and tax abatements are temporary for these projects.

Expanding Affordable Housing Cooperative Opportunities

Unfortunately, affordable projects and programs currently in the pipeline are no where near filling the gap in need. In fact, the need is so great, that developers use lotteries to select buyers.

Advocacy and persistence is needed among elected officials, particularly congressional leaders who can expand subsidies for homeownership development, and ease restrictions for federal grants. At the local level, housing agencies community-based and mission-based private sector developers can identify underutilized public and private property to expand affordable homeownership development activity as well as affordable housing overall.

Environment, climate resilience and social determinants of health are taken into consideration in affordable homeownership developments. For instance, in some cities, like New York all new major housing developments, including homeownership developments, require sustainability measures which reduces carbon emissions, while reducing energy and water usage and costs.

The diagrams below describe key aspects of affordable cooperative development. In most cases a mix of public and private funds are needed. An allocation of federal and state funding makes a project attractive to banks and investors that have below market rates and termsfor affordable housing development.

There are hundreds of affordable cooperative developments across the United States. And even in other parts of the world like Europe. I have toured homes in Slovenia for instance where 92% of apartments are privately owned. In NYC we have worked on securing funding for construction for affordable multi-family homeownership 1–4 family homes and cooperatives. I have worked with nonprofit developers secure and disperse funding for first-time homebuyer grants and low-cost end loans for the final purchases.

Homeownership is key to economic and social mobility for many Americans. It protects low- and moderate-income families against displacement due to gentrification. There are many avenues for creating homeownership opportunities across income levels. As we look towards rebuilding the economy with a focus on equity, we should explore as many avenues as possible to make homeownership a viable opportunity for as many citizens as possible.

Policy Insights – Building Community Resilience to Climate Change

Local Economies

Community- Centered Resilience Planning
Updated January 2022, First Posted Spring 2019

Building climate resilience requires addressing inequality and committing to social justice.

The UN estimates that 110 million people around the world are currently experiencing a climate-related crisis. A UNICEF report estimates that 1 billion children worldwide are at extreme risk of experiencing climate change.  The impact of climate change, the severity of storms, and the magnitude of their damage pose new threats and challenges to already vulnerable populations. Issues such as severe flooding, drought, wildfires biodiversity loss have resulted in the loss of human lives, destruction of homes and agriculture and industry. To make matters worse, the occurrence of one natural disaster can further expose communities to future climate-related disasters. 

Here in the US, we have observed these disparities state to state, as well as at the city level and community level. Resiliency preparedness and recovery responses often vary in their effectiveness across communities, with low-income communities seeing unequal service. 

For example, in the wake of the 2017 storms, researchers found that the federal response was faster and more generous across measures of money and staffing to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, compared with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  

 

Our most vulnerable residents are least able to adapt in a crisis that levels homes, destroys infrastructure and cuts off access to vital utilities and services.  Low-income communities as a whole are particularly impacted, as well as the community-based organizations that serve them.

Nearly 20 years ago, Hurricane Katrina highlighted the disastrous consequences of poor infrastructure maintenance as well as gross inequalities across race and class in the recovery and assistance. 

Equity in climate resiliency, storm response, and recovery is key to protecting all lives during natural disasters. Community-based organizations (CBOs) can play a pivotal role in closing gaps in infrastructure development and emergency management. 

Across focus areas, CBOs are uniquely knowledgable and nuanced in the needs of their communities. They are on the ground each day providing food, shelter, education to their constituents. CBOs are often residents’ first point of contact in an impending emergency. A large portion of the staff and board members at CBOs live in the community. Their experiences and knowledge as a member of the organization and constituent could be invaluable during an emergency.  

Climate resiliency planning (as well as management and implementation) is no small task. Many CBOs are already at capacity with fewer and fewer available resources to serve more people with increasing needs. However, with the strong likelihood of a future climate-related crisis, leaders must be supported and funded shore up their capacity to drive and manage resiliency efforts in their region. This maximizes the community’s and organization’s chance at a speedy and successful rebound after the next climate-related crisis. We are hopeful that federal funding coming down the pike for COVID-19 assistance and the passage of the Build Back Better bill will fill gaps in much needed resources. 

Graphic: Climate Resilience Planning Framework: People, Policy & Practices (Adapted from Enterprise Community Partners Ready to Respond Guidelines)
RESILIENCY PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT 

City agencies have pledged to invest in infrastructure and have produced guidelines for resilient building construction.

However, CBOs also have a vital role to play and can take the following steps to position themselves at the forefront of resiliency efforts. 

Below are five steps CBOs can take in ensuring more equitable approaches in climate resilience and sustainability : 

1..Assess areas of vulnerability for your community. 

Convene a task force comprised of scientists, engineers, architects and social researchers as well as residents in investigating potential areas of vulnerabilities -among buildings, public and private infrastructure and natural environments- during future natural disasters . Send findings from these assessments to regional resilience managers. 

Advise regional resilience planning officials on the needs of your community. Make sure that their agenda and resource allocations align with your community’s needs. 

Most cities and states have climate resilience and sustainability agendas in place. Regional planning is conducted in addition to, and in conjunction with federal programs and guidelines. Invite personnel to community meetings to discuss their plans. Make recommendations to these agencies based on the findings from community-based research. Request to review budgets and publish them throughout the community. Foster transparency in regional resiliency planning by encouraging local stakeholders to highlight concerns and make inquiries to public sector agencies as necessary. Encourage public officials to report on their progress regularly. 

2…Empower, Train and Mobilize Residents 

  (Major clean up, recovery can be hazardous and should be left to trained experts). 

Enlist vulnerable communities in investigating areas of concern and include them in action planning. Residents’ experiences in previous storms and knowledge of areas of infrastructure issues such as areas prone to flooding resulting in damage to homes or barriers for transit. Even resident observations during mild storms, for instance, such as, rising water tables along the river, can portend future problems with storm inundation. Collecting these insights and incorporating into action plans for resilience can be valuable. 

There are many documented methods for organizing such as Participatory Action Research. 

Information and ideas from PAR exercises should be published and shared broadly and help inform and shape local and regional planning on climate resilience and sustainability. Research and planning that comes out of PAR sessions, identifies the roles of specific government, private and community-based stakeholders and establishes benchmarks to work from.  Helpful resources include PAR tools and guidelines published by the

Community Development Project

and the

Ford Foundation.

And strategic planning guidelines we have outlined here.

 

Empower residents throughout the process by requesting their feedback any tools used for engagement, and add ideas that may improve the process. 

 

   4…Build Organizational and Local Capacity 

CBOs and their local stakeholders can add tremendous value to relief efforts during an emergency and work in collaboration with public sector agencies to supplement sheltering efforts, emergency food, and supplies for hygiene and comfort. During Superstorm Sandy CBOs throughout NY hosted FEMA, coordinated hot meals to the elderly and disabled residents and mobilized staff and volunteers who lived in the area to lend support on distributing supplies to home-bound residents or pitching in for minor clean up. This coordination was done on the spot and proved valuable and in some cases, life-saving. 

 While we know that climate-related emergencies are inevitable, we are cannot always be certain of the exact areas of storm inundation, fire, or damage. However, having a plan in place with layers of contingency measures built-in can be tremendously useful during an emergency.    

“Climate change hits low-income communities and regions first and worst.”

Oxfam

Develop in-house capacity for climate resilience:

Create contingency plans for client services, particularly for those who are most vulnerable during natural disasters including disabled clients, seniors and low-income families with children. 

Coordinate sheltering efforts. Determine the use of organization facilities for sheltering. Work with public and private neighbors to prepare other facilities for sheltering —immediately after identifying these sites. stockpile resources such as nonperishable food, water, and generators 

Finally, as mentioned in the previous section, designate staff, board members, and residents who can be a point of contact during emergency preparedness events. Equip and train them according to home and personal preparedness standards. Sponsor trainings by survival experts. (Major clean up, recovery can be very dangerous and should be left to trained experts) and; 

5…Secure and Protect Organizational Infrastructure and  Protect and Secure Data
More and more each day cybersecurity breaches are causing extensive damage to organizations’ information infrastructure. Part of organizational resiliency planning requires ensuring that client files and human resources data is protected. Cyber hackers are most successful during moments of vulnerability and crisis, making a climate emergency a perfect time to strike. 

CBOs can protect their IT infrastructure by assessing vulnerability and implementing measures to reinforce and secure your organization’s facilities and equipment. Housing organizations can refer to resources and guidelines for multifamily buildings climate resiliency guidelines developed by larger institutions, but also must begin developing plans that speak to the unique needs of your constituents. 

Graphic: Problems and solutions are nested.

In 2019, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) released their findings of an extensive study on climate change. The most worrisome of IPCC’s conclusions is an unexpected acceleration of ocean warming. The dangerously rapid pace at which the Arctic melting and, subsequent ocean warming is occurring has caught the environmental science community completely off-guard. “The consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,” said Ko Barrett, Vice-Chair of the IPCC.” 

While all humans globally are impacted by climate change, low-income families in particular lack the capital for emergency preparedness and resilience measures required to mitigate risks of current and future natural disasters that are likely to occur. They lack the resources needed for safe, rapid evacuation, stockpiling of food, and medicine.  

Climate change resiliency and adaptation are vital to saving lives and preventing further damage.  Community-based organizations can play an essential role in climate resiliency efforts by training and mobilizing their staff and residents; and building capacity to provide support and coordination during climate emergencies.

Policy Insights – Addressing The Health and Climate Crises Requires Fixing STEM Education

Local Economies

STEM Education in the US

The United States seeks to expand tech competitiveness through a number of policy measures and fund allocations in the coming decades. However these measures, from our analysis, does little to address the challenges of those who largely comprise our future workforce, including current middle, high school and college students attending public schools. Millions of students across the country live in what has been termed STEM deserts  –  lack of tech access, meaningful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and face increasing tech-driven marginalization. 

More important than our quest for tech dominance is having students well-equipped for work in STEM fields to avoid workforce deficiencies in numerous sectors important to citizens’ wellbeing such as health care, climate change resilience and cybersecurity.  

These challenges exist in a school system that was not designed to promote equitable opportunities and outcomes. 

The existence of STEM deserts is a critical equity issue in education and overall economic wellbeing, particularly for students in urban and rural communities, where access to high-level math and science courses are often out of reach. A small percentage of schools across the country offer computer science instructors and well-equipped technology labs required for adequate instruction. The pandemic and the need for remote learning revealed the staggering number of students who have limited access to secure and consistent broadband and personal computing devices. These challenges exist in a school system “that was not designed to promote equitable opportunities and outcomes”, as stated by Pamela Cantor, AFT.  

Soon, the impact of students learning STEM deserts and inadequate school environments will not only be reflected in those students’ high school and college completion rates and career prospects, but it will also take a toll on the country’s economic competitiveness technological leadership and national security.

Policy Insights : US Innovation of Competition Act of 2021

The US Senate recently passed the US innovation and competition Act of 2021 a $250 billion bill focused on investments in the technology sector with the aim of bolstering the country’s global competitiveness in advanced technological development. The bill also provides directive for an overhaul of the National Science Foundation a federal agency that promotes and advances scientific research.   Though a quarter of trillion in US-backed tech investment is nothing to sneeze at, China’s  investments far exceeds that of the US. China has a massive plan to surpass the US as a premier tech producer 2050. According to an analysis by the FBI, China allocated 15% of its gross domestic product on improving human resources from 2008 to 2020. China has already exceeded many strategic priorities for recruitment in foreign talent and state-backed venture capital investments. Comparatively the US innovation and competition Act of 2021  is a drop in the bucket representing a little over 1% of US GDP. 

Investment in developing and recruiting STEM must include significantly more funding and investments in education and technology access for all citizens. 17 million Americans lack access to broadband technology. And millions more are “under-connected” with limited access to devices or unreliable broadband access. According to a report by New America the majority of students learning remotely this year experienced disruptions in their education due to being under-connected. More than half (53 percent) of remote students experienced one of these type disruptions at some point during the past year.

Fund allocations should include support and rewards for entities working to improve equity in STEM education access, including local and state government agencies, community-based organizations and small businesses.

As explained in a 2019 Code.org Advocacy Coalition report: in most states, computer science is a new subject. In order to make computer science a fundamental part of the education system, states will need to create roadmaps to address a number of policy and implementation issues.  Having articulated goals for computer science education and strategies will be key. Equitable access to K–12 culturally-relevant and affirming computer science education must be at the foundation of our states’ plans. 

Computer science education is crucial for processing vasts amounts of data that will contribute to greater understanding and monitoring of pandemics, climate change and resiliency measures, cybersecurity among other important societal issues. 

Boosting Public Investments in Holistic STEM Education

 If our gaps in STEM education are left unaddressed, we will continue to exclude entire populations from this fast-growing field and miss out on the innovations and contributions that diversity promotes.

While academics continuously conduct advocacy and research around high quality STEM education access efforts to to date lack engagement of parents and communities. Students’ communities are the the environment in which students live, play and socialize. These environments play a major role in student success in STEM learning. Community-based organizations have a large role to play here. They are on the frontlines of filling gaps in public services. They provide safe spaces for children after school, with homework and tutoring support. They connect families job training and social benefits.  While there are some successful partnerships between schools and CBOs providing supplemental tech training, these relationships are not institutionalized and lack sustainable funding needed for such collaborations. 

School environments are typically staff-centered with minimal community engagement. Culturally-relevant and affirming curricula is frowned upon (i.e the highly politicized debate around critical race theory). Test scores rule with little attention to whether students retain and apply knowledge. Schools have limited capacity and time for student engagement, but are often giving the green light to out-source admin and “innovative” learning projects to external corporate contractors. Students and teachers who fall out of line with this model are punished. Black children in particular suffer greatly under this model.  

As Pamela Cantor poignantly outlines a framework to guide the transformation of learning settings for children and adolescents in the Fall 2021 issue of AFT’s magazine to create holistic environments for learning that centers students’ experiences and communities. Cantor sites guiding principles such as positive developmental relationships, environments filled with safety and belonging, rich learning experiences and knowledge development, development of skills, habits and mindsets and integrated support systems. 

Applying these principles in a STEM classroom would require student-centered teaching using inquiry and project based learning in classrooms and in enrichment programs in their communities. In lieu of test scores, knowledge proficiency could be measured using frameworks such as Funds of Knowledge and Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences which personalizes learning. Finally local community organizations and small businesses would be engaged in providing additional coaching, mentoring, safe spaces to study and apprenticeships. 

A Note on the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Act  

At the time of this post, the $1.75 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden hopes to get through Congress is supposed to expand job creation and generate opportunities across many industries. It also includes efforts to expand access to broadband for communities with limited or no connectivity. The paradox here is that among the industries to be tapped to complete this work (namely construction and tech workers), there is a labor crisis due to the rapidly dwindling workforce to complete the work outlined in the bill. 

The Build Back Better Act according to the House Committee Education and Labor highlights many key areas of social support for working families. And while it addresses much needed funding for preschool and higher education there is limited fund allocation for K-12 education and STEM education. 

We will continue to update this post as these details unfold. Are you an educator, advocate, tech worker or small business? Email us and share your perspective.

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References:

US News. The US Must Address Disparities in Access to STEM Education. (2017)

US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs

Staff Report: Threats to the US Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Program

Advocacy.org 2019 State of Computer Science

Cantor, Pamela, MD All Children Thriving: A new purpose for education. AFT, American Educator, A Journal of Educational Equity, Research and Ideas,  Fall 2021

Build Back Better Act Education and Labor Committee Provisions. November 2021. https://edlabor.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2021-11-03%20Ed%20&%20Labor%20BBB%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

 

 

We Need Business Cooperatives Now More Than Ever – A Slideshow

Local Economies

Data published by the Small Business Administration (SBA) late last year revealed that more than half of PPP funding went to just five percent of recipients. As reported in the New York Times a quarter of the dollars disbursed went to the top one percent despite the $349 billion program’s aim to ease some of the financial burden for the nation’s smallest businesses.

Public policy drives wealth in the United States. Business cooperatives are proven models for lifting up and sustaining marginalized communities during crisis. In our featured slideshow we highlight the economics of cooperatives, the role of public policy in wealth inequality and how shifts in public funding can expand access to collective economies for those who need it most. 

The post below has been presented to corporate and community-based leaders with aim of expanding understanding of cooperatives and their role in the global economy. 

How does the current economic crisis fit into historic context (i.e. the Great Recession) and what will be the long-lasting economic consequences for everyday citizens.  – Brookings Report July 2020

In the USA and overseas, cooperatives have excellent track record of economic resilience and success that should be targeted for public and private funding and procurement opportunities.

Entrepreneurs and Local Economies

Local Economies

 

Entrepreneurs and Local Economies 

Several years ago, one of our co-founders, Anasa Laude, had the unique opportunity of collaborating on a project with Professor and Entrepreneur, Ray Garcia, and his colleagues at the University of Pisa focused on promoting entrepreneurship among students in Italy. The project resulted in a publication of articles written by educators and entrepreneurs, including myself, as well as video lectures and case studies.

Entrepreneurship can be a viable vehicle for social and economic mobility for traditionally marginalized groups. Often, when we hear the term entrepreneurship, we tend to think of the Zuckerbergs and Gates of the world. However, entrepreneurs come in many shapes and sizes. Beyond the titans of the social media industry, there are everyday men and women providing goods and services in our neighborhoods – the hair braiding shop, the restaurant, the tailor, and the corner store.

These enterprising individuals help create viable local economies. They provide local jobs, creating opportunities for groups who often struggle to find work such as ex-convicts and new immigrants. In addition, business owners contribute to local tax revenue and add to the vibrancy and safety of their blocks.

They are neighborhood anchors upon which culture and traditions are created – the safe, fun pizzeria for kids to gather after school, the buffet where families celebrate birthdays, the food truck line where colleagues catch up, or the bodega that serves as a rallying point during emergencies.

Launching and running a small business is not without its challenges. The hours can be grueling, capital for start-up costs, and ongoing operations are not always readily available. Also, ebbs in the external economy impact disposable income and consumer spending. These issues create a situation wherein businesses are often unable to predict revenue and cash flow – money needed to pay employees, purchase supplies, and inventory while keeping food on their tables.

Mitigating the vulnerabilities of small businesses requires continued public support in addition to deeper tax breaks for lower-income entrepreneurs. In the USA, though limited, there are grants and low-cost loans for small businesses administered through philanthropic institutions and government agencies. When and where they occur, these public investments have tremendous social and economic returns for neighborhoods as a whole.

In Fall 2018, ILE Consulting Group launched an economic initiative in Harlem. We facilitated a series of focus groups and workshops with residents, business owners, nonprofit organizations, and elected officials. Participants shared their concerns, their dreams for their neighborhoods, and the role they want to play in expanding economic opportunities for future generations. Drawing from these discussions, ILE Consulting Group designed an economic initiative. We will be sharing more about this work in the coming months.

Below is a link to the book I referenced earlier, entitled Startup Social Dynamics. To make it widely accessible for educators and NGOs, it is available free as a PDF. Take a look, let us know what you think. #