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Executive Director’s Notes

Happy New Year!  The holidays are over, and many of us are recovering from the frenzy of food, family, and fun.  For some of us, this was a deeply spiritual time of year where we reflected on our pasts and prepared for our futures.  For others of us, it was whirlwind of re-dedication to those connections in our lives that make every day meaningful.

For even others of us, the holidays are a tremendously dark and desperate time.  For victims of domestic violence, the holidays mean increased stress.  It can be difficult to navigate the dangerous waters of an abuser’s emotions while balancing the concerns and expectations of friends and families.  And while high profile cases of domestic violence made headlines in 2014, we often do not realize the real price victims pay when they speak out.

Access and affordability of housing can be a major issue in domestic violence.  From the homes of high profile athletes to military bases to public housing, victims of domestic violence also face losing their homes when they report domestic violence.  If you live with your partner in housing that depends on your partners status – either as a wealthy athlete or a service member – you can kicked out of your home with little or no notice.  And in the cases of high profile athletes or service members, your partner could lose their job, which further jeopardizes your safety and ability to afford decent housing.

In communities where there are public nuisance ordinances, renters can face eviction if there are too many calls to police from their address.  Imagine being in a situation where you have to choose between safety for you and your children or homelessness.  These public nuisance ordinances generally make no provision for crime victims or people who call the police out of legitimate fear and need.  And property owners and landlords are faced with choosing between the needs of their renters and facing stiff fines and penalties if they don’t evict.  In some municipalities, these ordinances are enforced far more often in domestic violence situations than against the drug, property, and weapons offenses they were meant to target.

For victims who do manage to escape their situations, finding housing can be a tricky and unsafe endeavor.  Many public housing authorities and property managers require a high detail of information from applicants – information that may become publicly available and reveal their whereabouts to abusers.  At every turn, victims are forced to make decisions that may leave them even more vulnerable to abuse.

To learn more about the housing challenges that face domestic violence victims, go to www.aclu.org/blog/tag/violence-against-women-housing.  Find out if your community makes it harder for victims to get help and advocate for change.

Finally, be sure to check out the Policy Update and Announcements, for the latest news as well as new job postings. Special thanks, also, to our new Member Spotlight: Cape Fear Regional CDC.

Thanks for all that you do!

Sincerely,

Satana Deberry
Executive  Director

Policy Update

Dear Colleague Letter Thanks FHFA Director Mel Watt for Funding for NHTF

Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) is circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter thanking Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt for terminating the temporary suspension of allocations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and Capital Magnet Fund (CMF).

Thus far, Representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Hank Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA) have joined this letter.

“We need more than 7 million more homes nationwide that are affordable and available to extremely low-income households — those that earn less than 30 percent of the area median income,” the letter says. “Today, nearly 80% of renter households in the bottom 30% of income pay more than one-third of their income for rent. Housing subsidies do exist, but they only reach one in four eligible families nationwide because of funding shortages. We thank you and your colleagues for ensuring that resources designed to assist low income families and communities continue to flow as required by law.”

Advocates are urged to ask their Members of Congress to sign the letter. The deadline for signing will be in early 2015. Members can contact Carol Wayman with Mr. Ellison to sign on at carol.wayman@mail.house.gov.

The Dear Colleague letter is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Dear-Colleague-Letter_FHFA-Director-Watt.pdf.

 

Senate Hearing on Housing Market Challenges Touches on NHTF and MID Reform

On December 9, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development held a hearing, “Inequality, Opportunity, and the Housing Market.” While the hearing focused primarily on homeownership and access to affordable credit, witness Julia Gordon of the Center for American Progress included support for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program in her written testimony. Ms. Gordon also spoke in favor of changes to the mortgage interest deduction that are similar to changes sought by the United for Homes campaign.

Subcommittee Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) opened the hearing saying that the housing market was at the epicenter of the Great Recession, and that when the housing bubble popped the devastation was broad. While the nation is rebounding, challenges remain because more than five million households still owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and first-time homebuyers and underserved markets continue to face significant obstacles to participating in the housing market, according to Senator Menendez. said.

Regarding the NHTF Ms. Gordon states, “[The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)] should capitalize the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund. We believe that FHFA has both the right and the responsibility to direct [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] to begin contributing to these funds right away.” On December 11, FHFA Director Mel Watt announced he had lifted the suspension on funding for the National Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund.

Ms. Gordon also urged Congress to “extend the [Low Income Housing Tax] Credit’s 9% minimum credit rate floor for two years until the end of 2015 so at least one year would have the full benefit.” On December 16, Congress passed a tax extenders bill that only extends the 9% credit floor through 2014 (see article elsewhere in Memo.)

During the hearing, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said that the home mortgage interest deduction (MID), the country’s major homeownership program, “doesn’t extend to lower income families” and suggested adding a grant program onto the MID for people who currently cannot take advantage of it. Deborah Goldberg of the National Fair Housing Alliance agreed that the MID structure strongly disfavors people of modest means, who are often people of color. Ms. Gordon added that the MID is a huge subsidy, and in order to direct the subsidy toward people who most need it, the MID should be capped and converted from a deduction to a tax credit.

An archived stream of the hearing and witness testimony is at http://www.banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=9a041872-9581-4912-8414-16c343da15f2

 

CONGRESS

113th Congress Passes Tax Bill and Adjourns

The 113th session of Congress came to a close on December 16. In its final days, the Senate passed a tax extenders bill and confirmed dozens of President Barak Obama’s nominees, but failed to confirm the nominee for HUD PIH Assistant Secretary. Other unfinished business was extension of Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). Also on December 16, the President signed the bill that funds HUD and USDA programs for FY15.

Tax Extenders

On December 16, the Senate passed a bill to retroactively extend just for 2014, several expiring tax expenditures, including the 9% credit floor for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The vote was 76 to 16. Support and opposition the bill was bipartisan.

Senate Committee on Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), the chamber’s top tax writer, voted against the bill saying it “doesn’t have the shelf life of a carton of eggs” and that “[r]etroactive tax bills like the one before the Senate…may satisfy Congress, but they leave workers, families, and businesses wanting. It’s time for Congress to do the hard work of tax reform.” The House passed the bill on December 3 (see Memo, 12/8). President Obama signed the bill on December 19.

The bill provides the minimum 9% credit to LIHTC projects allocated tax credits before January 1, 2015, but not necessarily placed in service. Without this extension, these LIHTC projects would have received a floating rate based on a formula that uses the federal cost of borrowing to establish the credit rate; for example, the December rate is 7.51%. However, the value of the one-year 9% credit floor for 2014 is limited. While it is good to keep the minimum within the larger package of tax extenders for future legislative action, the provision offers no immediate benefit because most LIHTCs in 2014 have already been allocated.

Senator Wyden’s floor statement on the tax extenders bill is at http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=b8a3beb4-98a4-416f-bd0d-62da0ef3016c

 

Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act to Lapse

Another important piece of unfinished business is the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). Protections provided by the PTFA expire on December 31, 2014 and were not extended by this Congress, despite efforts by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) to do so. The PTFA, authorized in 2009, ensured that renters living in foreclosed homes could stay in their homes for at least 90 days or through the term of their lease, whichever was greater.

Republican objection to PTFA extension prevented it from advancing.  The objection took two form. One was purely political. The last PFTA extension was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation, which many Republicans oppose. The second objection was to the federal nature of the law and the belief that tenant protections are for state law to provide.

NLIHC, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and the National Housing Law Project will work to encourage lenders and regulators to voluntarily keep the policies in place that have been developed in response to the enactment of PFTA in 2009. In addition, the status of state laws that provide protections that match or exceed PTFA will be monitored and updated.

To read more housing news, click here.

 

CHIN Corner

The Carolina Homeless Information Network (CHIN) is a program of the NC Housing Coalition and North Carolina’s centralized, balance of state homeless management information system (HMIS). It’s designed as a secure and confidential, computerized data collection tool to aggregate client-level information, over time, on characteristics, service needs and service utilization of individuals experiencing homelessness.

Housing First

With the success of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), homeless programs throughout North Carolina have been shifting more and more resources towards minimizing the amount of time individuals and families are in the homelessness system, with impressive results. Research has shown that rapidly moving people experience homelessness into permanent housing increases chances of successful exits from homelessness, and costs significantly less than most traditional programs. That said, Rapid Rehousing programs are generally aimed at individuals whose impediments to permanent housing are mostly financial in nature (rent or utility payment assistance, for example).

The Housing First model looks to take the core philosophy behind Rapid Rehousing and apply it to programs that provide permanent housing to our chronically homeless population (called Permanent Supportive Housing). Individuals are quickly housed in permanent housing but still provided the robust supportive services that persons with disabilities require.  Individuals benefit from the independence and stability of permanent housing while receiving active case management. The quick movement into these programs can greatly reduce the time chronically homeless individuals spend in more expensive systems that are not designed to meet their needs.

To learn more, please visit these sites:

http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/housing_first

http://mhlp.fmhi.usf.edu/publications/view_publication.cfm?PUBLICATIONID=162

http://www.ncceh.org/articles/tuesdays-two-reducing-chronic-homelessness-series-asheville/

 

Announcements

Jobs

Click on the links for more information on the jobs listed below.

Mentor Advocate
PLM Families Together

Director of Operations
Community Home Trust

Executive Director
PLM Families Together

Development Director
PLM Families Together

Continuum of Care Administrator
Tri-County Homeless Interagency Council

Development Director
PLM-Families Together

Portfolio Analyst
CICCAR

Part-time Apex ReStore Associate
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County

Part-time Raleigh ReStore Associate
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County

Part-time Donation Pickup Driver
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County ReStore

Housing Counselor
Kingdom CDC

Development Project Manager
The Community Builders, Inc.

Construction Superintendent
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County


Member Spotlight

Cape Fear Regional Community Development Corporation (CFRCDC) is a non-profit housing, community and economic development organization formed in 1987 and located in Wilmington, North Carolina. The CDC’s mission is providing information, education and counseling related to home ownership and entrepreneurship to low and moderate income residents of the greater Cape Fear region and facilitating and administering community and economic development programs in cooperation with other community organizations and local units of government.

Over the past 25 years, CFRCDC has helped more than 700 families avoid foreclosure; completed comprehensive or urgent housing repairs for 151 lower-income families; built 25 new, affordable homes, which were sold to lower-income families; rehabilitated 12 abandoned or foreclosed homes and sold or rented them to low-to-moderate income families; and nurtured more than 60 small businesses.

CFRCDC, a certified housing counseling agency, also keeps a toolbox full of programs to help low-to-moderate income families with housing. In these years of economic distress, foreclosure prevention is its most popular. One such program is geared to individuals who lost their job after 2008. Qualifying individuals receive a deferred loan to cover their mortgage payments for up to three years, time they can use to retrain for another job and get back on their feet. If they stay in their homes for 10 years, the loan is forgiven.

CFRCDC also helps low-to moderate-income families acquire housing. CFRCDC builds homes and rehabilitates houses that appear irredeemable. These houses are built or transformed with fine craftsmanship and features such as granite counters and hardwood floors. The organization then sells or rents them to qualifying families at affordable prices. CFRCDC helps families obtain low-interest mortgages, too.

Education is another CFRCDC service. Its home buyers’ education class teaches how to get a loan, maintain a house and work with a realtor or lender. Its financial literacy class teaches the cost of credit, how to read a credit report and what constitutes an acceptable amount of debt.

Also, through its small business incubator program, CFRCDC provides reduced rent to new businesses.

Though CFRCDC focuses on families, its work benefits the entire community. Keeping families in their homes and rehabilitating deteriorating houses helps the tax base and fosters a stable community, Turner said.

CFRDC is a member of the NC Housing Coalition because, “we wanted to support the advancement of non-profit housing development and we believe the Coalition provides useful and timely updates on the issues and regulations that affect our industry.”

To learn more about CFRCDC, visit their website.
As a membership organization, we’re only as strong as our members. Luckily, our members are some of the best in the affordable housing business! We love to recognize those who are doing great work. If you’re interested in becoming or nominating a Member Spotlight, please click here.

 

Thanks to our New and Renewing Members

McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc

Noria Namaz

CAHEC

CommunityOne Foundation

Blanco Tackabery &  Matamoros, PA

Greensboro Housing Coalition

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity

Reinvestment in Communities

MIller-Valentine Group

RADA

Southern Energy Management

Jones Architecture

Elizabeth Mutzl

The New Edenton Housing Authority

Burlington Housing Authority

The Housing Assistance Corporation

Align Development

Bernard Robinson & Co.

DHHS-Division of Aging and Adult Services

City of Charlotte

Gateway Construction

North Carolina Indian Housing Authority

Kelly Otis

BB&T

Red Stone Equity Partners

Bennett Group Consulting

David Morrow Realty Co

Julia Myers

Landura Management Associates

Nancy Walker

Opportunity Inc.

Tyler Mulligan

CCCS of Western NC / OnTrack Financial Education and Counseling

Cynthia Manley

Russell Henry

Housing for New Hope

Morrow Realty

Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills

Partners Ending Homelessness

Forsyth County NC

Boston Capital

Carolina Bank

Vulcan Development

Christine Berndt

Pittman Insurance Group LLC

Greensboro Housing Coalition

Habitat for Humanity of Durham


To become a member, click here.

 

News

Greensboro first in N.C. to OK sexual orientation, gender identity housing protections

New apartments to house homeless vets

As cold bears down, homeless urged to seek shelter

Letter: Praise for Smith, Council on housing initiative

Community rallies to keep homeless safe during cold snap

Obama in Phoenix: Housing market now driving economy

 

Click here for older articles.

 

Greensboro first in N.C. to OK sexual orientation, gender identity housing protections

News & Record
Joe Killian
January 6, 2015

GREENSBORO — The city is the first in the state to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in its housing non-discrimination policies, city officials say.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to make the changes to three existing non-discrimination ordinances.

The first prohibits discrimination in city programs, services or activities. As part of this the city will explore the feasibility of adding gender neutral restrooms or changing rooms in all city buildings. The rooms would be available to all genders and people of all gender identities and expressions as well as to families.

Councilman Tony Wilkins expressed concern at the possible cost of creating new, gender neutral accommodations. But Mayor Nancy Vaughan said it shouldn’t be difficult.

“A lot of our buildings already have family restrooms or changing rooms,” Vaughan said. “This would just designate these spaces as gender neutral.”

The second change codifies non-discrimination protections already in place for city employees based on sexual orientation and adds gender identity as a protected class.

The last change prohibits discrimination in the “buying, renting, selling, or advertising of real estate” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — a newer battleground in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Chris Sgro, executive director of LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, congratulated the council on making the changes.

He said he is proud, as a Greensboro resident, that his city is the first in the state to adopt these protections.

“There’s massive public support for protections in housing, protections in employment and protections in public accommodations,” Sgro said. “Most North Carolinians believe the protections already exist, but they exist in a surprisingly small number of municipalities across the state and Greensboro becomes the first in the state to add those protections in terms of housing.”

Sgro said Charlotte is expected to adopt similar protections later this month and his group has been working to get similar protections in other cities throughout the state in what he believes will be a “domino effect.”

“I think this means we’re going to be able in Greensboro to position ourselves in a critical business environment,” Sgro said of the changes. “Eighty-five percent of LGBT folks and 70 percent of young professionals say they take into account whether municipalities have these kinds of protections as a barometer of whether it’s a city they want to live in. Major employers across the country pay attention to that. So, it’s the right thing to do and it also gives us a competitive edge.”

Vaughan said she believes the move sends the right message about Greensboro.

“It says we’re inclusive and welcoming,” Vaughan said. “That’s what we want people to think of when they think of Greensboro.”

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New apartments to house homeless vets

The Durham News
Matt Goad
December 1, 2014

— Homeless and disabled veterans in Durham have a new place to live with the opening of a new apartment building in northern Durham.

The Denson Apartments for Veterans, at 1598 Sedgefield St., at the corner of Sedgefield and Guess Road, features 11 one-bedroom apartments. Phase two of the project includes another 12 units for homeless veterans to be completed next year on the lot next door.

“I’m glad we’re getting 11 people off the street,” said Debra King, CEO of the Raleigh-based nonprofit CASA, or Community Alternatives for Supportive Abodes,. “I hope it ends for them the cycle of homelessness.”

The Denson Apartments will house 10 men and one woman.

According to CASA, the most recent Point-in-Time count, an annual nationwide census of the homeless, found at least 255 homeless veterans in the Triangle area.

With the completion of the first phase of the Denson Apartments, CASA will be providing housing for 65 veterans. That number will grow to 87 with the completion of the second phase. CASA has already identified 75 percent of the funding for phase two.

“This is giving me hope,” said Stanley, a soon-to-be tenant who did not want to give his last name. “This is making me believe that things are going to start going in the right direction. I’m so grateful.”

Phase one includes a small community meeting room, including a kitchen, which is why it has 11 units and not 12.

Each unit is 650 square feet. Two are fully wheelchair accessible, with roll-in showers and roll-up sinks.

CASA maintains its sites. Vinyl floors and plastic walls around the showers are designed to help with maintenance.

“It looks good over time because people just stay and stay with us,” said Missy Hatley, CASA director of resource development.

The Green Chair Project, another Raleigh-based charity, will help Denson tenants with furnishings.

‘A special group’

The project is named for Alexander B. Denson of Durham, a retired federal judge and Navy veteran. Denson grew weary of seeing veterans trapped in a cycle of poverty in his courtroom.

“As a veteran,” Denson said, “I feel that I am in a special group of people who have served their country, often at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. We enjoy the freedoms of our democracy today because of the many people who have made this sacrifice.

“They were there for us when we needed them. We need to be here for them when they need us.”

CASA owns and maintains properties in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. It manages 330 affordable apartments across 55 properties.

CASA specializes in building sites with 10 to 12 units along main corridors and on bus lines.

“Our folks don’t have vehicles,” King said.

Most CASA tenants earn less than $800 a month and can only pay about $250 per month in rent. CASA charges tenants just 30 percent of their income in rent, allowing them to pay for other basic necessities, save for the future and prepare for a more independent life.

CASA’s goal is that once its tenants have been housed they never face homelessness again.

Most of CASA’s properties are small infill developments in established neighborhoods. It would be cheaper to build out in the country, King said, but CASA wants to make sure its tenants have access to city services and amenities.

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As cold bears down, homeless urged to seek shelter

The News & Observer
Barry Saunders
January 7, 2015

DURHAM — Patrick Blackman didn’t want the cupcakes or hot coffee the group of men from the Durham Rescue Mission offered him Wednesday afternoon as the temperature began to plummet, and he definitely didn’t want the roof and cot back at the mission.

Blackman told the men who traipsed through the woods to his encampment that he has an aversion to missions and shelters.

“You end up getting robbed and stabbed in the neck,” he said, raising his head to bare his neck and show what he said was a stab wound received at such a place.

That doesn’t mean Blackman refused everything the men had to offer, though.

“I could use a prayer,” he said.

Chaplain Lynn Holloway of the Rescue Mission held his hand, we assembled dudes bowed our heads, and Holloway led us in a prayer for Blackman and his tent mate, Bill Glurley.

It was a prayer for safety, for health, for warmth.

People such as Blackman, Glurley and the other homeless men we encountered were going to need that prayer over the next two days. Temperatures were expected to drop into the low teens overnight Wednesday and not rise above 30 degrees Thursday.

The rescue mission goes out in search of homeless men when the temperature drops, Holloway explained.

“Our immediate objective is to get them out of the elements,” said Rob Tart, the mission’s chief operating officer. That’s why a mission rule requiring men to commit to staying there at least seven days – so they won’t treat the mission as a flophouse – has been waived: They can leave the next day and come back that night.

‘You have to warn them’

Three vans full of men fanned out across the city Wednesday, deployed like soldiers in an army whose mission was to alert the homeless to the impending cold.

“You have to warn them,” Tart said of the people living on the street. “They are not always good about keeping up with the weather reports.

“There are people out there,” he added, “who aren’t going to come in. They want to be out there in the elements. I can only speculate why. … There are people who just don’t want to be a part of society, but that’s the choice they make.”

For those of us who do choose to be a part of society and who can afford it, uncharacteristically cold temperatures merely require that we turn up the heat, pull on another sweater, throw another log onto the fire.

What do you do, though, when you’re sleeping outside and that log is your pillow, as seemed to be the case with a log I saw with a wadded up towel on it under a bridge on Roxboro Road near the Eno River Park? The encampment was vacant when we got there, but fresh prints in the mud from human feet and a dog’s paws – and a half-eaten doughnut – were evidence that someone had been there recently.

The dog prints were no surprise to David Burton, the driver of our van. He’d already told me, “Nine times out of 10, if somebody is sleeping out somewhere like this, they’ve got a dog.”

Despite being chased by a dog last year while alerting homeless men of approaching cold weather, Burton said, “It’s a good job. I’m glad I’m helping people.”

The other men in the van expressed the same feeling with their actions – never complaining about wading through brush, up hills, in the cold to reach men who often didn’t want to be reached and weren’t shy about letting you know they didn’t want to be reached.

A world not seen

Perhaps that’s why I never knew there was a subterranean homeless camp directly under a bridge I cross daily to go home, or a homeless camp in the woods a few hundred yards from the store where I get my tennis rackets restrung.

Of course, that raises the question: Did I never see them because they didn’t want to be seen – or because I didn’t want to see them?

Blackman, from Alaska, said he ended up on the street when he came to Durham to visit his girlfriend, had a fight with her 18-year-old son, and she put him out.

“Somebody give him a motel room for New Year’s,” Glurley said of Blackman, “and he invited me to stay. The next day he didn’t have any place to stay, and I invited him to come stay with me.”

Despite rejecting the invitation from Holloway to get off the street, Blackman and Glurley were welcoming once they realized that their initial suspicion – that the six men coming through the woods were aiming to rob them – was wrong. The wariness, however, never left their eyes, even as they related the personal tales of woe that led to them residing in woods across from the New Hope Commons shopping center.

How wary were they? So wary that they broke camp the minute we left and were last seen quickly crossing Mount Moriah Road while glancing back to see if they were being followed.

Who can blame them? To live on the streets, in the woods, exposed to brutal elements and even more brutal people, requires a heightened sense of wariness.

I hope they feel safe enough to go back to their camp, into which they’d obviously put a lot of work.

First, though, I hope they go to the mission for a respite from the cold – even if only for a couple of nights.

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Letter: Praise for Smith, Council on housing initiative

Asheville Citizen-Times
January 3, 2015

The Asheville Board of REALTORS® would like to extend a letter of appreciation to Gordon Smith and the Asheville City Council for their work in passing the affordable housing initiative on Dec. 9. The initiative will increase the potential for affordable housing development in eleven (11) zoning districts in the City of Asheville, which will ultimately increase the number of affordable housing units within the community. The Asheville Board of REALTORS®, the Affordable Housing Committee at ABR, and the Executive Board members have a strong interest in increasing resident density with the development of affordable housing in and around the city. The council session of Dec. 9 was a statement that the City of Asheville recognizes the need for more workforce housing solutions. With a combined focus, it appears we have taken a leap forward in helping to create new housing possibilities.

Debra Marshall, president, Asheville Board of REALTORS®

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Community rallies to keep homeless safe during cold snap

WTVD
Nicole Carr and Angelica Alvarez
January 6, 2015

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) — For the past four years, on-and-off, Frank has called the land underneath the Person Street bridge home.

“Everybody’s a paycheck away from being homeless, you know,” said Frank, an Army veteran who didn’t want to identify himself further. “You lose your job tomorrow and everything’s gone just like that.”

Frank said he’s satisfied living under the bridge, despite the frigid temperatures expected to sweep the Sandhills region later this week.

“People say ‘There’s no way, you’ll be cold,’ but my tent keeps me warm,” said Frank. “They talk bad about us, but we’re survivors.”

The City of Fayetteville and its partners said this week that there’s enough room to shelter all the Franks out there, especially with the addition of a new shelter run by the True Vine Ministries, and supported by the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

“It was like a no-brainer,” said Ernest Jones, senior pastor at True Vine. “I mean we didn’t need to pray about it, do anything. The need was there.”

Jones’ church off Morganton Road will open a 300 capacity cold weather shelter for the first time this week. Jones said the ministry recently met with city officials who told them the need was great on their side of town, which is home to the shopping district that includes Cross Creek Mall.

“We had no idea,” said Jones, referring to the shelter need. “Personally, we felt all the homeless were toward the downtown area.”

The True Vine shelter — which will be housed in the church’s gymnasium — will offer cots, hot meals and shower facilities. The service will be open on White Flag nights, which is signified by 32 degree or below temperatures. The church is expected to begin shelter services on Wednesday night.

This is the most recent addition to True Vine’s homeless ministry. For years, they’ve assisted people with food donated through the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Each Tuesday and Thursday, grocery bags of food are distributed from the church’s facility off Morganton Road.

“You’d be surprised at how many families need food and stuff,” said Vicki Daye, who had to turn to True Vine for assistance in December. “It helps.”

Adolf Thomas, a specialist with the city’s Community Development Department, said Tuesday there’s more than enough shelter space in the city with the addition of the True Vine space. Thomas said “Operation Inasmuch,” which provides homeless outreach off Hillsboro Street in Fayetteville, won’t be providing overnight shelter anymore, because the need has been taken care of through other shelters.

“It’s a blessing they’ve been able to step up,” said Thomas, referring to True Vine.

Jason Smith, a director for the Salvation Army’s surrounding counties, said white flag nights do require attendees to submit a quick, free warrant check at the sheriff’s office. That’s because women and children stay in the shelters.

Smith and city police said it’s preferable that attendees check into the shelters by 7:30 p.m.

“But if they come a little later, we won’t turn them away,” said Smith.

Raleigh

“I’ll stay right up at the top of that hill, right in the back of this store, I’ve got a tent set up there, I’ve got three sleeping bags,” said Johnnie Jackson.

Jackson used to live on Fort Campbell and spent 20 years in the construction business in Raleigh. He moved to Goldsboro a few years ago to care for his ailing mother. He was laid off and when she passed he found himself with no money and not able to get a job.

“I kept applying. I applied for a bunch of jobs in the construction industry. I’m old. The people I knew have all retired or passed away,” said Jackson. “Everybody’s looking for young guys. So I ended up not being able to get a job so I ended up on the streets.”

He now lives in a tent behind Briggs Hardware off Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh. He just recently got a new tent because his old one went up in flames.

“He recently blew up in a fire trying to keep himself warm with propane. He lost everything,” said Evelyn Murray, the Director of Bridge Ministries and the CFO of Briggs Hardware.

It’s those extreme measures to keep warm that Murray hopes to prevent. Jackson lives on the hill behind her store. He’s just one of many living in tents, under bridges, and in parks who she says can’t go to a shelter.

“Anyone who is familiar with PTSD knows soldiers can’t be in crowds. They’re afraid of people. They’re always constantly watching their back, and so the shelters bring high anxiety and kick the PTSD into high gear,” said Murray. “There’s also no Dorthea Dix anymore and without that mentally incapable people are on the streets with no place to go. There are also some with substance abuse problems, but their lives matter too and don’t deserve to die in the woods or the streets. Alcohol, of course, decreases your blood pressure and is an extreme risk for temperatures such as this.”

Murray is collecting coats, socks, hats, rescue blankets, and hand and toe warmers.

“We have one lady who lives year round inside a bus. We’re extremely worried about her because of health concerns and we’re laying these hand warmers underneath her blankets to try to give extra warmth,” said Murray.

She even has a special pair of black warm boots set aside to give to a woman living in Moore Square in downtown Raleigh.

Murray said they have been overwhelmed with clothing donations and other items following our story.

If you would like to donate any cold weather items you can drop them off at Briggs Hardware on Atlantic Avenue.

The store is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you want to drop off items after hours, Murray says people can leave donations near the loading dock behind the store.

Durham

Many in need of warm place to sleep flock to the Durham Rescue Mission. Just Monday night, Rob Tart, the COO of the Durham Rescue Mission, said they sheltered close to 440 people. On the men’s campus, he said they are out of beds and pulling out the mats as they pledge not to turn anyone away.

“We’ve had people out in this weather and they’ve lost digits, lost parts of feet. There have even been people who died,” said Tart.

Even with being over capacity already, Tart said they still plan to send three rescue crews to canvass homeless camps on Wednesday. Those teams will be loaded with hot coffee and pastries. They will be warning people that the temperatures will drop in the teens.

“A lot of times the homeless people don’t keep up with the weather and they can get caught kind of flat-footed,” said Tart. “The biggest thing is if the community would let the homeless know about the weather and let the homeless know about the Durham Rescue Mission and that they can come here. We will make room for somebody all the time.”

The Durham Rescue Mission will provide a place to stay, a hot meal and warm clothing. If you would like to make a donation, just $2.05 will feed a homeless person at the mission.

Click here for more information on the Durham Rescue Mission.

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Obama in Phoenix: Housing market now driving economy
USA Today
David Jackson and Catherine Reagor
January 8, 2015

President Obama, mid-way through a national tour designed to promote his economic record, told supporters in Phoenix on Thursday that the once-busted housing market is now fueling an economic surge.

“This is the kind of boost that we need to keep the momentum that we have seen over the last several years,” Obama told a friendly crowd at a Phoenix high school.

In announcing plans to lower federal mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5%, Obama said the move could save new home buyers $900 a year, money that could be used for “groceries, or gas, or a child’s education.”

Obama is also using a three-day series of national appearances to preview his State of the Union address on Jan. 20.

After starting Wednesday in Michigan with a speech about the auto industry, Obama wraps up Friday by visiting Tennessee to discuss plans to help more people attend community colleges.

Republicans said the policy to reduce home mortgage insurance premiums will sap funds from an often-strapped Federal Housing Administration. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said the president’s plan could wind up costing taxpayers in the end.

“It was just two years ago that taxpayers had to bail out the FHA to the tune of $1.7 billion,” he said, “and just two months ago an audit revealed that FHA is still in violation of federal law because it does not maintain sufficient capital reserves.”

Republicans — and some Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — have said that while some economic indicators are up, others are not. Many have cited stagnant wages as a prime example.

In Phoenix, some housing advocates didn’t think the president went far enough with his plan.

“I don’t believe that the (FHA mortgage insurance) reduction is going to allow a large enough group of new buyers to enter the marketplace and make a noticeable enough difference in the Phoenix real estate market,” Matthew Coates, a real estate agent with Chandler-based West USA Realty Revelation, said after the speech.

“It would make more sense to loosen underwriting guidelines just a bit instead of a pricing reduction. Instead of more people buying, this will primarily help those that are already buying to have a little more manageable payment.”

Obama also visited Phoenix in early 2009, about a month after his inauguration, a time in which Phoenix was at the epicenter of the housing bust.

The crowd the president addressed Thursday had different housing needs. Foreclosures have dropped from 5,000 a month to less than 350. The area’s median home price has climbed back up to $205,000 from $135,000 in 2009.

Investors purchased many of the region’s bargain foreclosures and turned them into rentals. That sped up the area’s housing recovery but has almost made it difficult for first-time buyers to find a house they could afford.

Obama cautioned listeners to not buy more house than they could afford.

Metro Phoenix home sales are down more than 10% from 2013’s pace, and many analysts say one of the biggest drops has been among first-time buyers.

Mike Orr, real-estate analyst with the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said lower insurance premiums is “a step in the right direction” to helping more people buy.

Before his speech Thursday — in which, for a second straight day, the president said that “America’s resurgence is real” — Obama visited what he called “a new neighborhood here in Phoenix where a lot of families are buying homes with the help of the FHA.”

While in Phoenix, Obama also spoke with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., exactly four years after she was critically wounded in a shooting spree in Tucson.

“She looks wonderful, and she’s got the same energy and passion that she always has had,” Obama said. “She’s a hero.

The Republicans, meanwhile, criticized Obama for a trip he did not take: To the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital at the center of nationwide protests against the quality of VA care.

“It is a testament to this president’s misplaced priorities that he would choose a photo op for his next executive action over visiting the VA hospital where veterans died on secret government waiting lists instead of getting care,” said Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus.

For a second straight day, Obama did not mention the newly sworn-in Republican run Congress — at least not directly.

Noting that Giffords has a relative who is headed for the space station, Obama joked: “I know there’s some folks in Washington who wish I was going to be in space for a year … But I’m still around. Because I got some work to do.”

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