Generations of Hope February 2018 Newsletter
As the Congress rumbles through the (95th) session, there are several changes now being implemented by federal agencies that could impact Generations of Hope-inspired projects. Some are helpful, several are not and others are in the category of “who knows.” In this newsletter we will cover several of these proposed changes, monitor and share others in order to understand their impact. We will also examine the idea of private housing as a part of Generations of Hope projects. As many of you know, Treehouse community (2005) was created as part of a larger tract planned for private housing. The concept, covered by an article in the Urban Land Institute publication is noted below. This will be of interest to those communities thinking about affordable apartments/housing and private housing. In addition an update from Grounded Solutions may help those sites thinking about building on a newly created Community Land Trust.
Several Housing Policy Changes Worth Noting
The Administration’s Infrastructure Plan has the unintended consequence of benefiting affordable housing by lifting the state volume caps on Private Activity Bonds. These tax exempt bonds are used by state and local housing authorities as well as many other public bodies to fund projects. While the intent of lifting the cap is to help local governments fund infrastructure improvements, at present nothing would restrict their use and prohibit housing projects from using this low interest source.
The new Tax Reform Act will have the effect of making Low Income Housing Tax Credits less attractive to wealthy people and corporations trying to avoid a larger tax bill. Currently Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) help fund 90 percent of affordable rental units built across the country (and many Generations of Hope projects). According to some prognosticators, the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent may have the impact of reducing the number of housing units by 200,000 over the next 10 years. At this juncture, with so many variables in the new tax law, a clearer impact of the negative side, for affordable housing, may not emerge for some time. Needless to say this change could slow down new and expanding Generations of Hope communities.
On a brighter note, a press release from Fannie Mae about its Healthy Housing Rewards initiative provides a program to advance the development of sustainable communities and the availability of affordable housing. It will encourage affordable multifamily borrowers to implement healthy design features and resident services that improve the health and stability of residents. As part of this effort the new fund will include $100 million of LIHTC to increase affordable rental housing including serving undeserved markets.
Child Welfare in the U.S. Faces Big Change
Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) is now law. Proponents describe it as acomplex piece of Federal legislation which will take some time for states to figure out. With foster care prevention as the major priority it will provide new efforts to expand child welfare as well are reduce the number of foster youth in group homes and residential care. The act addresses a wide range of issues in child welfare including adoption, kindred care and guardian payments. However, its major priority is preventing child abuse and neglect primarily through strengthening the resiliency and protective capacity of families.
FFPSA expands federal support for services to prevent the need for children to enter foster care, while adding new restrictions on federal room and board support for some foster children placed in group care settings. (the latter may increase the desire and need for Generation of Hope communities).
FFPSA will restrict availability of room and board support (“maintenance payments”) for children in foster care placed in non-foster family homes unless that placement is made to meet clinical or other treatment/ service needs. This includes residential institutional care and group homes.
FFPSA will restructure how the federal government spends money on child welfare — in ways that stand to improve today’s challenging conditions. For example, this legislation makes federal money available earlier in the process. Under the new law, the funds can be spent on critical services to prevent the need for foster care — from in-home training and family therapy to mental health and substance abuse programs. Not mentioned is the total number of families served will now increase dramatically creating a new employment boom in child social workers and others.
Treehouse Community as part of a bigger neighborhood!
When Treehouse was developed in Easthampton MA about 2004/5 it was part of a larger tract of land owned and now being developed by Beacon Communities. Beacon is a privately owned real estate firm that develops, acquires, invests in, and manages a wide range of multi-family housing. Their portfolio includes affordable housing, market rate housing and mixed income-housing. Beacon is developing market-rate housing – an additional 33 two-, three-,and four-bedroom homes on multiple sites within five-acres of the remaining property. In terms of mission, these homes house about 100 people who are not connected to Treehouse’s original 33 homes.
Osprey Village as part of new, long term development
Osprey Village has been deeded 63.12 acres of land (about 25 acres of buildable land) near Hilton Head Island to develop a “neighborhood with a purpose.” The community will provide housing and support services to adults with developmental disabilities. The parcel was donated by Argent Land Holdings, LLC. It is part of the 7,300-acre East Argent Planned Development District in the City of Hardeeville, The total project creates a town of 9,500 residential units and 1,500,000 square feet of commercial retail-office space to the area over the next 20 years. The parcel donated to Osprey Village includes the right to develop up to 140 residential units. The remaining property consists of wetlands that surround the parcel on the north and east sides. Osprey hopes to have its first units ready for occupancy in 2019. (concept drawings available on request)
Why a Community Land Trust?
Generations of Hope believes in the planning of an intentional neighboring community, the local board should look at a Community Land Trust as an option to assist in assuring a perpetual community. This option is particularly important in strong growth cities where a well planned intentional community will gain significant market value as the community grows.
Often because of state and local laws, there are lots of different types of community land trusts across the country. The number of CLT’s have been growing; there are about 250 CLTs in 46 states and internationally. The classic community land trust is a non-profit organization that acquires land and holds it permanently on behalf of the community. The board oversees the property and structures home buying(leases) and rental so homes and businesses in the community remain affordable. The major goal for most CLTs is to prevent windfall profits pushing the homes out of the affordability range. This critical when many or most of the residents are on fixed incomes and need a long term stable community. In communities with mixed private housing and rental property, assuring the vulnerable population can continue to live in a mission driven village is important. The CLT concept controls affordability and prevents gentrification. For greater detail visit the Grounded Solutions website (https://groundedsolutions.org/)
Generations Communities continue to grow in number
The next newsletter will include a progress report on the following newer sites. We will look at:
- Bridge Meadows #3,
- Harmony Park (Boise ID)
- Handsacross New Mexico, Albuquerque
- C.A.R.E in Seneca, South Carolina and Toccoa, Georgia,
- Harmony Christian Community in Columbia, South Carolina
In April I will be heading down to New Orleans, to visit Bastion – a Community of Resilience. Dylan Tate, the exec and I will have a chance to talk about replication in other parts of the states.
I have been asked to be part of the conference planning committee for the International Communal Studies Association.(http://www.communa.org.il/icsa/) The conference, held every two years convenes in the summer of 2019 at the Camphill community sites in upstate New York . It is a strange new age for me to skype a meeting around the world with multiple time zones, countries and interests. A fascinating experience!
I hope one of the results of this work will be a developed interest in spreading the Generations of Hope intergenerational neighboring concept beyond the United States and Canada. Of course part of the long range plan will be to open an office in Paris. (Yes, I am joking.)
If anybody has governmental or non-profit agency contacts in Puerto Rico let me know. I have been talking with schools of social work and local governments to explore the idea of using Generations of Hope community development as part of their recovery efforts.