Heroes, Heroines, and Others in Nonprofit Community Development
WRITTEN BY RICK COHEN CREATED ON THURSDAY, 14 AUGUST 2014 13:25
Almost everyone knows that homeownership is a good way to build assets and wealth, but during the bank-created economic recession, hundreds of thousands of Americans were—and still are—facing mortgage foreclosures. Saving homes from foreclosure can be thought of as a real estate transaction, but for CDCs it is an intervention to help people avoid losing their major and sometimes only asset, and simultaneously to help whole communities resist decline.
Flint, Michigan is one of the iconic communities devastated by the nationwide foreclosure crisis. However, homeowners like Regina Richards, who had been laid off from one of her two jobs, might have lost their homes due to a build-up of unpaid property taxes and other expenses had it not been for the ability of an organization called Metro Community Development. The group provided her with financial counseling and eventually helped her get access to a program that provided zero interest loans to struggling homeowners. Metro Community Development gets it that the issue isn’t simply housing units, it’s people. “Families lose assets, and those who don’t, lose value in their assets,” Metro Community Development CEO Ravi Yalamanchi said. “It’s a huge challenge.”
CDCs and their intermediary partners do themselves a great injustice when they boil down their activities and accomplishments to the production of housing units or, perhaps even more narrowly, how much money they have borrowed from banks and other lenders to make affordable housing happen. Housing production is an old-fashioned, myopic, and frequently inaccurate lens on what nonprofit community development corporations do.