An open letter to prospective homebuyers

I can remember being very nervous many many years ago, when I had just one year left on my relocation package from Chicago to Washington DC to use the $3000 closing cost benefit and I simply wasn’t ready to buy. I had not saved money for down payment or even identified a good neighborhood. I didn’t want to lose the $3000 closing cost benefit which was a lot of money back then. As a young professional living in DC, I had maybe one friend who already owned a home. Even after living in Chicago, I was still dumbfounded by the idea that my first place would cost at least 3 times what my parents paid for their home. And it would not be as nice or as big as the homes in my hometown of Milwaukee. I was not working in affordable housing or non-profits at the time and I had big aspirations for a large home, in a great neighborhood, with good schools.

 

Fast forward decades later, my vocation is to enable this dream of homeownership for thousands of people as a community development practitioner.  Personally and professionally, it has been rewarding to see people push back their fears to start and complete their journey of homeownership.

 

I was afraid back then to buy my first home. I remember reading articles about discrimination against Blacks and women. I read stories of discriminatory practices such as redlining or African Americans being charged higher interest rates. I didn’t know if I could trust the realtors or lenders that I met. So I did some research. I learned about down payment assistance and strolled into a nonprofit to inquire if I was eligible. This was my first exposure to housing counseling. Taking advantage of the opportunity to learn the home buying process and get some hand holding took the sting out of all that negative information. Owning a home has not only been financially beneficial, but it has allowed me to have an asset I can pass on and most importantly, it has been a place to build great memories with my friends and family.

Owning my home allowed me to tinker with my interest in interior design and to create a place of peace and refuge.

 

Still seeking peace, one of my goals this year was to strengthen my spiritual walk. I made it a point to get to church, bought myself a cute little Bible carrier from BoomTown, and vowed I would actually do some bible reading this year. As I sat in church flipping through the pages, I saw a donation envelope from a church I attended so long ago I am embarrassed to say the number of years. Despite its age, my Bible looked brand new from disuse. I realized I had taken for granted a millennium of wisdom that was just sitting in my trunk or house all these many years.

 

Permit me to make a modest analogy about wisdom. Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida has been serving South Florida for over 40 years. I calculate the current team has over 120 years of housing counseling and lending experience just waiting for you to call upon us. Ultimately, it is up to you to take advantage of the wealth of resources we have to help you stride confidently into homeownership…whether you are a first time homebuyer or back in the market, we can help. My team and I are working hard to keep our educational resource and one on one counseling free of charge despite the strong pressure we are under to begin charging for these services.

 

I am holding steadfast because I believe in the power of information. Information levels the playing field and empowers us to accomplish important objectives. Our services are consumer friendly with a focus on consumer choice. NHSSF is a lender AND we work with other responsible lending partners to bring a wide range of possibilities to our customers. This is YOUR year to make that move toward homeownership. And you won’t be taking that walk alone. Call us, walk in, or check out our website…we are expanding our online services so you can skip the trip but not the journey.

 

Happy New Year. And God Bless. Kim


National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

On Sept. 17, 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had taught in a Hispanic school in the South Texas town of Cotulla, issued Proclamation 3869 establishing National Hispanic Heritage Week. He proclaimed: “It is with special pride that I call the attention of my fellow citizens to the great contributions to our national heritage made by our people of Hispanic descent — not only in the fields of culture, business and science, but also through their valor in battle.”  A half century later, Johnson could not have foreseen the profound changes that Hispanics and Latinos would bring to this Country nor to the demographic and social fabric of our nation.

 

The week in September was chosen because five of our “Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the 15th of September and the Republic of Mexico on the 16th.”  Johnson was referring to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, countries that celebrate nearly 200 years of independence from Spain.   In 1989 Congress expanded the Week to a month with Sept. 15 to Oct. 16, as Hispanic Heritage Month.  NHSSF salutes our national Hispanic Heritage Month.

 

Kimberly T. Henderson

President and CEO, and

alumnus LBJ School of Public Affairs


Public Land for Public Good

Statement of Values

The cost and availability of land is frequently identified as a barrier to affordable housing and community development. Meanwhile, housing costs in Miami-Dade County continue to increase, making it unaffordable for close to half of its residents. Small businesses, non-profits, as well as community amenities and services are also affected by the increasing cost of living and diminishing disposable income for the majority of Miami-Dade County residents. Communities often feel as if they are reacting to new development and displacement pressures on a case-by-case basis. This is particularly of concern in low-income and communities of color, which have long been shut out of opportunities for meaningful, community-led economic development. A recent study entitled, “The Color of Wealth in Miami,” points out that “racial wealth disparities are enormous and persistent, rooted from the country’s inception with profound intergenerational effects.” The Ohio State University, Duke University, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, The Color of Wealth in Miami (February 2019). This study underscores the importance of community investment and identifying a long-term strategy for the use of publicly-owned vacant or underused land for the benefit of the community.

The recent unveiling of LAND: The Land Access for Neighborhood Development, a tool developed by the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement, demonstrated that there is approximately 500 million square feet of publicly-owned vacant or underused land scattered throughout Miami-Dade County. LAND: Land Access for Neighborhood Development, http://land.ccs.miami.edu/explore/parcels. The LAND tool presents a unique opportunity for entities to coordinate public resourcesfor the benefit of the community. This tool has become available as our communities face an unprecedented and growing threat of displacement from various fronts. Residents feel the burden of unaffordability ever more acutely when Opportunity Zones are ushering in new incentives for speculation, sea level rise is shifting the real estate market, and the demographics of cultural neighborhoods are changing drastically. In the face of these pressures, the disposition of publicly-owned land should be guided by the following core values:

Housing:

  • Public land should be used, in part, to address the affordability crisis. It should be targeted to those most cost-burdened, from extremely low income to moderate income households. (Those living at or below 30% AMI up to 80% AMI. Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development:Income Limits, https://www8.miamidade.gov/global/housing/income-limits.page;Statistical Atlas data based on 2010 US Census & 2015-16 American Community Survey.)
  • Public land should be used to minimize displacement and ensure residents have the right to remain, if they so choose, in the communities they built. This includes incentivizing models that ensure permanent and long-term affordability, such as Community Land Trusts and other equitable development strategies.
  • Public land use should balance the need for increased density and the preservation of unique characteristics of our neighborhoods.
  • Public land use should aid in the research and development of techniques and technologies that make construction more affordable.

Resiliency & Strategic Locations:

  • Public land use must take into account rising seas and the urgent need to build a more climate-resilient county. The New York Times, Detailed Maps Show How Neighborhoods Shape Children for Life, October 1, 2018. The resiliency and environmental sustainability of new or rehabilitated structures should be a core concern.
  • Use of public land for green space and flood mitigation, public gardens, and parks should be prioritized and considered in conjunction with community development plans.
  • Land disposition and use should prevent climate gentrification, the displacement of small businesses and low-income residents from high-ground neighborhoods to less climate-resilient areas. Zoning rules and other local laws should be crafted to enable this objective.
  • Disposition should encourage transit-oriented development by coordinating resources between the County and nearby municipalities, by facilitating the increase in density, (where appropriate) and by developing at or near areas of opportunity to leverage access to transit, jobs, green space, schools, grocery stores, pharmacies, and health clinics.

Community Engagement:

  • Community stakeholders, including home-owners, renters, and small business owners, must be at the table.
  • Implement an authentic community education process so that communities can determine what they want in their backyards and craft a community-informed plan for land use with pilot/implementation steps;
  • Community benefit policies must be incorporated into disposition processes to ensure equity and that all parts of our community can thrive.

Systemic Interventions:

  • Engage in inter-governmental and inter-institutional collaboration for assemblage of land that benefits low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Provide a transparent, equitable and accountable process for the conveyance of land, including set-asides of certain parcels for non-profit and mission-aligned developers whose projects are community-led and meet the needs of the community.
  • Improve the permitting process to lower the cost of construction and speed up development timelines.
  • Invest in community control, economic sustainability, ownership and generational wealth for low-income communities and communities of color.

In order to support these values, we urge the prioritization of legislation focused on equitable development, environmental justice and a systematic restorative rights framework. We ask for more consistent and strategic public land disposition processes, as outlined above, which we believe will better serve all our communities while reducing vacancy and blight, and adding to our tax rolls.

 

Sign the Statement of Values Here

 

Who has signed so far?