Neighborworks Anti-Scam Campaign

NeighborWorks network organizations build awareness about scams

by Madelyn Lazorchak, NeighborWorks America’s Communications Writer

 

Symphony Malveaux, community relations coordinator for Louisiana’s Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, had been reading up on home scams as she prepared to bring awareness to her community through NeighborWorks America’s Stop Home Scams initiative. Then she realized she’d nearly fallen victim to a scam herself.

Malveaux had inherited her family home and was trying to figure out how to make back payments when she received a letter telling her that for $500, a company would adjust payments and in just months, the home would be hers.

At that emotional time, the offer seemed like a lifesaver; she was ready to grab hold, she says. But as she began to research the company, it didn’t appear to exist. She phoned repeatedly. No one returned her calls. She’d come close to being scammed, she says, and she wrote about her experience for Mid City’s website. “I wanted to show it could happen to anyone.”

As she continues to publicize the Stop Home Scams initiative, which NeighborWorks began in January 2021 with support from the Wells Fargo Foundation, she continues to connect with her community. Recently, she heard from woman who had inherited a home and was having trouble with back payments. “It was just like me,” says Malveaux, who ended up selling her inherited home to a family friend. “We were able to connect and offer resources. It’s good to be able to have a personal story we can share with people. We can tell them, ‘You’re not alone.'”

 

Raising awareness about scams – in Spanish

Juan Carlos Gordillo, marketing and communications coordinator for Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida knew how important it was for members of the community he worked with to get information about scams in their native language. He had seen similar outreach by healthcare organizations offering vaccines.

“Here in South Florida, it’s super important,” he says. “There are a lot of people that don’t speak English – or don’t speak it that well. They won’t pay attention to that information unless it’s provided in their own language. Without it, they might miss crucial information.”

In the South Florida region he serves, a significant portion of the population speaks Spanish (1.7 million) or Creole (more than 100,000). In that context, Gordillo began translating information about scams into Spanish as he publicized the Stop Home Scams initiative for the nonprofit’s social media pages. Last month, NeighborWorks released a Spanish version of its Stop Home Scams website, hoping to protect as many individuals as possible from mortgage and rental scams.

Gordillo, who began sharing that information, too, says NHSSF is now looking at hiring a Haitian Creole translator. Meanwhile, NHSSF continues to create public awareness of housing and mortgage scams, which are on the rise across the country, exacerbated by an economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

So far, his clients haven’t reported scams related directly to housing, he says, but some residents – and even staff members – have been approached with other types of scams, often via text message. The NeighborWorks initiative talks about how to report scams to the authorities.

 

A scam scare in South Dakota

Maureen Nelson, senior program director at Grow SD, says a resident in his 80s came to her recently holding a letter he’d received on a pink piece of paper. “Final notice,” it said, demanding that he renew his home maintenance contract. “The pink paper made him nervous,” she says. “He didn’t have a contract and he doesn’t need one. I told him it wasn’t a good investment.”

Nelson says the letter was a good reminder of the type of scams that are out there. Grow SD is working to raise awareness of home and rental scams as part of the Stop Home Scams initiative. “People have to keep seeing it; they have to keep hearing about it,” Nelson says. Grow SD is constantly putting messages about scams on social media. They also sent press releases to newspapers across the state.
A grant from NeighborWorks, with support from the Wells Fargo Foundation, helps with outreach. “Ask questions. That’s the biggest thing I tell people,” Nelson says. “If you get something in the mail that doesn’t make sense, ask about it.”

[…]

 

This story was originally posted on NeighborWorks America’s website


infographic detailing NHSSF CDFI program

U.S. Treasury awards NHSSF with $490,000 under its CDFI Rapid Response Program

U.S. Treasury awards $1.25 billion to support economic relief in communities affected by COVID-19. In that regard, NHSSF CDFI will receive a $490K Rapid Response Program allocation to respond to economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in underserved African-American communities across South Florida. The announcement was made today by Vice President Harris alongside Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, and U.S Representative Maxine Waters.

 

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today awarded $1.25 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to 863 community development financial institutions (CDFIs). The awards were announced today by Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen. The grants will be made through Treasury’s CDFI Rapid Response Program (CDFI RRP) and will provide necessary capital for CDFIs to respond to economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in underserved communities.

“In serving places that the financial sector historically hasn’t served well, CDFIs lift our whole economy up. We know that for every dollar injected into a CDFI, it catalyzes eight more dollars in private-sector investment, meaning that today’s announcement might lead to an additional $10 billion in investment,” said Secretary Janet Yellen. “The President and the Vice President ran on a very ambitious agenda – ‘Build Back Better,’ unwinding systemic racism, creating an economy that works for everyone. I believe this is what that looks like in practice. By channeling more capital into CDFIs, we are translating those ideals into reality.”

The CDFI RRP grant funds will be used to support eligible activities such as financial products, financial services, development services, and certain operational activities, and to enable CDFIs to build capital reserves and loan-loss reserves. The CDFI Fund designed the program to disburse the funds rapidly in light of the nationwide economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDFI RRP was authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260).

“These awards provide CDFIs with an unprecedented level of flexible capital to help distressed and underserved communities across the country take meaningful steps towards recovering from the debilitating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDFI Fund Director Jodie Harris. “CDFI RRP awards will enable CDFIs to help businesses keep their doors open, help families make ends meet, and help maintain important community facilities during this difficult time.”

CDFI RRP award recipients are headquartered in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The award recipients include 58 organizations that committed to direct their awards to investments in Native American, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian communities; they received a total of $54.6 million in awards.

 

NHSSF CDFI awarded with $490K RRP allocation

“As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), we specialize in providing financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, as well as traditional mortgage products. We are thrilled to be part of a reinvigorated movement to bring about greater economic equity across all social groups and with the deployment of these funds, be a catalyst for recovery and economic growth in the communities we serve,” stated Kimberly T. Henderson, President and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida.

For more than 40 years, NHSSF CDFI loan fund has implemented progressive community development strategies resulting in revitalized communities and financially empowered families. As a CDFI we have been able to build a nonextractive and trust-based relationship with the communities we serve.

NHSSF seeks to leverage our CDFI RRP allocation as a powerful tool to assist government in solving complex problems centered on connecting low-wealth families to capital, and thereby financial opportunity. Through the innovative use of our CDFI, we envision a South Florida in which low-wealth communities have access to the capital they need..

  • To build affordable housing,
  • To revitalize neighborhoods,
  • To assist small businesses that advance prosperity for all,

..while financial institutions and social impact investors have a partner meeting the needs of low-wealth communities.

 

You can view the announcement here:

 

A CDFI can be a bank, credit union, loan fund, or venture capital fund. The CDFI RRP award recipients include:

  • Loan funds: 463 organizations receiving $571.3 million in awards
  • Credit unions: 244 organizations receiving $401.8 million in awards
  • Banking entities: 149 organizations receiving $267.1 million in awards
  • Venture capital funds: seven organizations receiving $9.4 million in awards

 

About the CDFI Fund

Since its creation in 1994, the CDFI Fund has awarded more than $3.9 billion to CDFIs, community development organizations, and financial institutions through the Bank Enterprise Award Program, the Capital Magnet Fund, the Community Development Financial Institutions Program, the Financial Education and Counseling Pilot Program, and the Native American CDFI Assistance Program. In addition, the CDFI Fund has allocated $61 billion in tax credit allocation authority to Community Development Entities through the New Markets Tax Credit Program, and closed guaranteed bonds for over $1.7 billion through the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program.

 

About NHSSF

NHSSF is a certified CDFI and an accredited community development nonprofit serving South Florida residents for over 40 years. We are committed to advance prosperity for all South Floridians through Lending, Real Estate Development, Home Buyer Education & Counseling, and Community Transformation. NHSSF is also a chartered member of the NeighborWorks® America. In this capacity, we are part of a nationwide network of over 240 chartered community development organizations and one of the twenty that serve Florida residents.

 

You can read the official press release from the U.S. Department of Treasury here.

For more information about the CDFI Fund and its programs, please visit www.cdfifund.go

 

infographic detailing NHSSF CDFI program


computer rendering of an affordable housing development

Maintaining housing affordability in South Florida

The demand for affordable housing in South Florida was already strong prior to the onset of the pandemic. Factors such as the current seller’s market, record-low housing inventory numbers, supply chain disruptions impacting construction prices, and the year-over-year rise in home prices alongside continued in-migration and a recovering state and national economy reinforce the need for affordable housing options in a post-COVID world.

The situation may look dire but South Florida’s development and design community is keen on maintaining affordability for buyers and renters via different avenues. From design-led innovations that prioritize affordable building methods to maximizing state and national development incentives and tax credits, the solution to affordability housing in South Florida, and the state for that matter, will require a multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach.

Extracting the benefits of the local zoning ordinances is key in finding the suitable balance between market rate and affordable housing components for new developments, Flux Architects Partner Allen Vandersluis told Invest. Flux Architects’ service model is to review with developers and zoning authorities all possible affordable housing incentives, which can include an increase in the number of units and floor area, additional floors and even reduced parking, Vandersluis said.

“This creates a great opportunity for our clients to capitalize on these incentives. It increases surrounding property value, adds increased wealth into the community and assists municipalities with the need and demand for affordable housing. Ultimately, these projects provide people and communities the opportunity to have affordable living, services, lifestyle amenities, a diversified financial and safer community to live in. Developers also like to focus on cities with underdeveloped properties.  This ‘infill model’ reduces development impact on the environment, provides a more localized service demand for utilities, police, fire department and personal services and helps limit development on land vital to our natural resources and biological habitats,” he said.

When working with clients such as Housing Trust Group (HTG), Verdot Capital and Miami-Dade’s Public Housing and Community Development agency, these entities already have affordability and the creation of dynamic public and commercial spaces in mind. “This benefits the project’s occupants and their lifestyle and helps us design and build better communities,” Vandersluis said. Currently, Flux Architects and HTG are working on the programming and concept design phase of a five-story, 80-unit,

affordable housing apartment project for HTG in Bradenton, Florida. “HTG’s business model for that project requires Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) funding and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to make their projects feasible and requires low income, affordable or workforce housing components to qualify for these tax credits and financing,” he said.

 

Alleviating the Affordability Squeeze

Pandemic-related job losses coupled with South Florida’s penchant for attracting residents and businesses are among the factors exacerbating demand for affordable housing. “Demand for affordable housing in South Florida was already strong but it went through the roof during the pandemic. A lot of people, such as service workers, cruise line and hotel employees lost their jobs, so there was this huge surge in the number of people who income-qualify for affordable housing for the first time ever,” Housing Trust Group President and CEO Matthew A. Rieger told Invest. “We still have long waiting lists at our South Florida affordable communities. And while the economy is beginning to recover, more people are moving into Florida every day so the pressure is still on. Demand far exceeds affordable housing supply.”

Housing Trust Group is a full-service developer of multifamily residential communities across Florida, the Sunbelt and Arizona. The group has a bevy of new, affordable communities opening in South Florida later this year. “In Miami-Dade County, we’re wrapping up construction on Max’s Landing, which will deliver 76 affordable apartments in Kendall, and Father Marquess-Barry Apart

96-unit mixed-income community in the heart of Downtown Hollywood. Village View, a 100-unit affordable community for seniors in Fort Lauderdale, is opening this summer. In fall, HTG will complete Heron Estates Family, delivering 79 new, affordable townhomes to the Palm Beach County community of Riviera Beach. Flagler Station, a 94-unit affordable community in Downtown West Palm Beach, is under construction and scheduled to open in early 2022.”

Maximizing incentives and tax credits is instrumental to the successful development of HTG’s projects and may help bridge the nationwide inventory gap. “The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is critical. Without tax credit financing, we couldn’t make the math work and we’d have to charge market rate rents to cover the cost of land, construction and operations of a multifamily property. There is widespread bipartisan support for the expansion of the tax credit program, which is in our opinion the best way to close the gap between affordable housing supply and demand in the United States,” Rieger said.

Similarly, the Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida (NHSSF) is working toward alleviating the affordability challenges in the market. “Even before the pandemic started, South Florida suffered from a lack of affordable and workforce housing inventory that could be accessed by low- and moderate-income buyers,“ CEO Kimberly Henderson told Invest:. “In addition to historic record-low interests, rapidly rising buyer demand from other states and countries looking to relocate or invest in South Florida has put more pressure on this existing housing crisis. Finally, it is possible that the rise in construction costs due to supply chain issues fostered by COVID-19 is also helping to drive prices up as builders are unable to get inventory into the market at the lower price points. We see a real-estate frenzy with houses with median listed prices jumping 20-30% from a year earlier, which implies that ‘affordability’ is now farther out of reach than ever before,” she said.

To that end, NHSSF is employing the twofold approach of creating new, affordable products and providing mortgage and financing options to meet the rising market demand. “In partnership with Flux Architects, we recently submitted an RFP to the city of Miami, where we plan to develop eight units for low- and moderate-income buyers,” Henderson said. “In our existing inventory, we also have three lots for which we can build six single-family new construction homes with an initial price below $300,000, which is still unaffordable to many of our clients without additional subsidies. We are always in pursuit of land or houses that we can rehab and make available to low-wealth families. Further, NHSSF offers one of the best residential mortgage products available, called Champs, which helps put first-home buyers on the path of homeownership,” she said.

[…]

 

Writer: Felipe Rivas/Capital Analytics.

For the complete and original note that appeared on Capital Analytics on June 10th please follow the link: https://www.capitalanalyticsassociates.com/maintaining-housing-affordability-in-south-florida/

Photo Credit: Wynwood Senior Housing RFP Proposal | Client: NHSSF & SFCLT