17 NOVEMBER 2018
OK, I get it that some folks might get bored with the opinion columns. So, as an antidote, here are some briefs on activity around the agency:
1,200 Homeowners Rescued From Foreclosure
We just did some math and found that Community Action saved more than 1,200 families from the heartbreak of losing their home to foreclosure.
• 1,200 families whose kids don’t have to be embarrassed that their family lost their home;
• 1,200 blocks where property values weren’t diminished by a vacant house rotting as it goes through the foreclosure process;
• 1,200 families whose lives weren’t disrupted by being forced to move, costing the kids some friends, distracting the kids from their school work;
• 1,200 properties remaining in the tax base.
We share that cause for celebration with our friends in both Lehigh and Northampton counties’ courts of common pleas. Together, we developed a “diversion court.” Basically, it requires the lenders’ lawyers to appear before this side court with the homeowner and her/his representative. That representative is, almost always, a Community Action housing counselor. This is not a hostile, one-on-one battle. The banks don’t want the property; it is almost always a loss leader. So, they would really rather work out a deal.
And, by the way, very few of those 1,200 homeowners were owners who had gone through our homeowners’ educational seminars. Our folks bought responsibly and largely survived a nasty recession.
More Kudos from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency
I had the pleasure of attending an awards luncheon conducted by PHFA at which Community Action was named “Best Agency” (But there were four of us, so it’s not quite right to use the superlative.) Susan Gottwald and Dawn Godshall joined me (they’re the ones who do the real work).
We thank Brian Hudson, CEO of PHFA, for the kind recognition. This is our fourth award from PHFA.
Estamos Listos is Winding Down
We are making one last push to raise funds for the evacuees who fled Hurricane Maria. We have a very generous anonymous donor who is offering to match any donations over $500. We were hoping to raise at least $50,000, half of which will be distributed as gift cards for use during the holidays and half will be used for rent assistance, by far the toughest challenge our new neighbors are experiencing.
Hispanic Center, Casa Guadalupe and the Hispanic American Organization have been leading the way in the resettlement process. The contributions made to Community Action will be divided appropriately between them.
The agencies report that families continue to arrive but the volume has subsided considerably (by roughly two-thirds). They note that they continue to work with many of the families already here.
We are winding down the agency’s role in the effort. We should all be proud of how this community came together to prove that we can all be Americans together, offering lots of support to the 3,000+ Puerto Ricans who fled the island following the hurricane. We would welcome any sister organization in the region to the staff support role.
City Lights Flicker Out
We came so close. We tried so hard. We raised more than $1 million in subsidies on the $6 million housing development, we got a waiver (thanks, in part, to Senator Lisa Boscola) on a key restriction related to the steep slope. We had consultants, architects, engineers, bankers and others being very helpful.
City Hall deserves our thanks, Lamont McClure’s people were terrific. NeighborWorks America was very patient. Charlie Tuskes, from whom we were buying the land, was also patient.
Friends, this failure is a poster child for why we have an affordable housing disaster on our hands. And not enough people are doing anything about it. You would think the folks who lead the cheers on economic development would step up. If you expect people to live on the $15 an hour jobs the warehouses are bringing us, you better get the housing production going!
I expect to start doing much more of this kind of update than the op-eds. We plan to continue posting these kinds of short hits on Community Action’s endless campaigns to make any part of our communities more resilient.