Housing Opportunity

Pacific Southwest REALTORS® Helps Create Homeless Resources Website

San Diego’s East County communities had more than 1,000 homeless residents in early 2019, according to the best estimate of an annual homeless count, a number that will only be increasing, given the lack of new housing construction and the escalating cost of housing in the region. Looking for a way to connect this population with the local food, shelter, health, and veterans’ resources available, the area’s REALTORS® discovered that, according to additional studies, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in the area have cell phones. An increasing number of these publicly funded phones now have internet access. A $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant enabled the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® (PSAR) to partner with the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The East County Homeless Task Force in developing ECAssist.org, a website serving as a one-stop resource for those experiencing homelessness.

PSAR Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth explains that the initial idea was to create an app, similar to the City of San Diego’s “Getting it Done” app, but she learned from colleagues that app stores like Google and Apple are notoriously selective about the programs they’ll market. So, they decided to create a website, instead.

The East County Homeless Task Force is a collaborative grassroots organization determined to reduce homelessness in the area; its Access to Services Solutions group and its Communications and Marketing Committee worked together to develop the website. Hollingworth credits Past Chair of the PSAR Government Affairs Committee, Kay LeMenager, with providing the tireless dedication that really got the project off the ground. Grants don’t have to be large to be effective, she notes, as long as there are enough dedicated people willing to do the work. “It was a slow, methodical process – three years – collecting all that information from all those resources, but Kay and her Committee members saw it through.” Now that it’s up and running, the Task Force has a commitment from the El Cajon Collaborative, who developed the website navigation and serves one of the poorest communities of East County, to maintain and update the site over the next two years. The site is well organized and user-friendly, allowing visitors to locate food pantries, various hotlines, medical care and shelter information in just a few clicks. The site translates into 15 languages, and also has a function that accepts donations.

PSAR is now helping with marketing ECAssist.org:  press releases have gone out to the media and relevant publications; the East County Homeless Task Force and has asked other municipal entities to feature it on their own websites; and Hollingworth is working with LeMenager and her Committee to create a speakers bureau to spread the word at local civic and business clubs. Last April, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, representatives of PSAR officially presented the $5,000 check to the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, at a meeting of the El Cajon City Council.

“We made a great effort to try to reduce homelessness in Eastern San Diego County through the development of ECAssist.org, and we’re so grateful for the support of the REALTOR® Party that allowed us to do so,” says Hollingworth.

To learn more about how Pacific Southwest REALTORS® is working to connect area residents experiencing homelessness with available resources, contact Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth at 619-618-5986.

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Charlotte REALTORS®Dive Deep into Regional State of Housing

Every day, an estimated 60 to 70 people move to Charlotte, North Carolina. Nice as it is to be popular, the city is learning that unless it plans accordingly, the fast-paced growth resulting from its desirability will present some real challenges moving forward. To get a handle on the current status of housing in the region, community leaders and local elected officials turned to the REALTORS® for help.

“We’re fortunate in having an excellent resource in the real estate department at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte,” says Terri Marshall, Executive Director of the Housing Opportunity Foundation associated with the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association (CRRA). In 2017, CRRA’s leadership approached the university’s Childress Klein Center for Real Estate and asked if it would undertake a five-year study of the state of housing in the greater Charlotte region. The initial report, released in February 2019 and clocking in at more than 80 pages, provides a valuable benchmark analysis of the city and eight surrounding counties. In addition to funding from a REALTOR® Party Housing Opportunity Grant, CRRA contributed eight-counties’ worth of MLS data to the project – and will continue to do so for another five years. The overriding finding, says Marshall, is that “We’re just not delivering enough housing, and the supply crunch is driving prices up steadily, at all levels of owner-occupied and rental housing.”

Joe Padilla, CRRA’s Government Affairs Director who worked closely with Marshall on the effort, explains that because affordable housing concerns are not limited to the city of Charlotte itself, it was important to take the outlying counties into account: “As the report states up front, no analysis of the Charlotte market would be complete without understanding its suburban markets. We share a responsibility to develop ample affordable housing for the growing population. If a county’s not allowing homes to be constructed at price points that are accessible to buyers at all income levels, it’s going to face difficulties down the road,” he notes, adding, “The report is generally positive, but it’s a wake-up call for all of us, as well as a road map.”

In committing five years’ support to the study, the REALTORS® were joined by a strong coalition of partners including the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, the Charlotte Housing Authority, and numerous other industry leaders. The initial study was rolled out at the Summit on the State of Housing in Charlotte in February, an event that drew more than 300 participants – with more on a waiting list. “UNC is a research organization, and the study is the presentation of its findings, not a policy paper,” says Marshall. She adds, “But the Childress Klein Center did a phenomenal job of putting two panels together for the summit, and that was where stakeholders and city leaders began to talk policy. It brought about the most unifying discussions I’ve encountered in a very long time. Our involvement in the process has positioned the REALTORS® to be, more than ever, the voice of housing in Charlotte.”

“This has filled a real need,” agrees Padilla. “As our community leaders are planning and looking ahead, they can refer to this benchmark report and say, ‘What does the UNC study say?’” He notes that the effort complements Charlotte’s pro-active and responsible stance towards its housing challenges: a major affordable housing bond was recently approved on the ballot in Charlotte, and each year as the successive UNC studies are released, annual roll-out summits will focus on policies, solutions, and next-steps. For his part, he is hoping to expand the study’s impact by bringing some of the UNC study’s authors out in to the surrounding counties to meet with local chambers of commerce, REALTORS®, and homebuilder associations. “It would be great to sit down together and focus on the data specific to each county. The analysis has been done; now it’s time to share in a meaningful and productive way!”

View the complete report online.

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Charlotte are working to address the affordable housing crisis in their region, contact Terri Marshall, Executive Director of the Housing Opportunity Foundation of the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association, at 704-940-3148; or Joe Padilla, its Government Affairs Director, at 704-940-3174.

 

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Greater Greenville REALTORS® Promote “Missing Middle” Housing

In the rapidly growing city of Greenville, S.C., as in many others nationwide, the demand for housing is increasing, while the supply is shrinking – a trend exacerbated by a framework of outdated policies that limit housing diversity. Facing the problem head-on, the REALTORS® of Greater Greenville teamed up with a number of other community organizations to host a housing forum to address what kind of housing is needed, and the existing local land use and zoning codes that inhibit its construction. A Housing Opportunity Grant helped them to do it.

There’s no silver bullet to solve the affordable housing problem that so many communities face, asserts Chris Bailey, Government Affairs Director of Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® (GGAR).  “The solution has to be long-term, because there are often complex issues like education and transportation involved; yet politicians, who live from term-to-term, may not be all that interested in long-term thinking, and, of course, tax hikes are the kiss of death.” So the goal of the housing forum, he explains, was to show city administrators what they could actually be achieving if only their zoning policies weren’t so antiquated. GGAR partnered with a broad range of local charitable and advocacy organizations such as Upstate Forever (a local conservation organization,) Piedmont Health Foundation, and the Jolley Foundation, as well as Piedmont Natural Gas, the American Institute of Architects, and the City of Greenville, to present the half-day program to a capacity crowd of 200 stakeholders and municipal officials.

The event’s keynote speaker was Karen Parolek of Opticos Design, a firm renowned for its work on the concept of “missing middle” housing, the kind of multi-unit or clustered housing that is affordable by nature, and compatible in scale with conventional single-family homes. Break-out panels featured experts discussing shifting demographics, barriers to development, and the newly created Greenville Housing Trust Fund. “It may have seemed like a strange partnership, initially, pairing speakers from the Home Builders Association with affordable housing advocates,” says Bailey, “but if you really want to learn about the barriers to development, there’s no one better to ask than the home builders, who are the ones who actually have to pull permits.”

“There were a lot of ‘Aha!’ moments, and there’s strong momentum moving forward,” he continues, reporting that the Greenville City Council has already agreed to cut all permitting fees by 50% on housing projects under $169,000. “That really helps,” he says, adding, “Now if we could just get them to reduce a handful of codes… there’s actually one on the books here that requires housing facades to be a certain percent brick. That’s the kind of low-hanging fruit we’ll be going after in the short term, the baby steps that will make it easier to provide the housing our city needs.”

The Greater Greenville Association was no stranger to the REALTOR® Party grant programs; in fact, Bailey is such a believer that he promoted them in a talk at last year’s Association Executive Institute. “These grants are a great way for associations to meet the core standards,” he says. “They’re so user-friendly, no matter how small your association staff might be; there’s no reason to be intimidated. The applications are only a few pages long, and they help organize your thoughts, and ultimately, your project.  Plus, the National Association has a great staff to help you every step of the way with advice and expertise. I can’t recommend them highly enough!”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Greater Greenville are using REALTOR® Party resources to encourage policy makers to reduce barriers to affordable housing, contact Government Affairs Director Chris Bailey at 864-992-1953.

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Is Smart Growth the Key to Preserving Montana’s ‘Big Sky?’ Gallatin REALTORS® Funds Study to Find Answers.

In a land known as ‘Big Sky,’ it should come as no surprise that there’s a certain cultural resistance to development density. Yet in Gallatin County, Montana, which has been topping best-places-to-live and best-places-to-retire lists in recent years, tremendous growth is forcing a closer look at the best ways to accommodate the burgeoning population. A Smart Growth Action Grant recently funded a comparative analysis study that will inform the ongoing development debates by clearly quantifying the fiscal implications of dense development versus sprawl.

In fact, the 1,100-member Gallatin Association of REALTORS® (GAR) received two grants to contribute to the complex process of developing a growth plan for the greater Bozeman region: a $15,000 Smart Growth Action Grant supported the study by an Asheville, NC-based urban planning consulting firm called Urban3; and a $1,500 Housing Opportunity Grant helped to fund an Affordable Housing Summit that brought stakeholders together to begin discussing goals for Bozeman.

“I have a handwritten note of thanks from the mayor on my desk right now,” says Ellen Beck, GAR’s Government Affairs Director. Between the in-depth analysis that was provided by the Urban3 study and the data collected at the Housing Summit, she says, the REALTORS® have earned not only the gratitude of City Hall, but also recognition as a serious partner in discussions about the region’s future growth.

The comparative analysis study, which was completed in July, highlighted the significant return of property tax per acre that would be realized by reinvesting in urban centers and historic commercial corridors; the findings were illustrated by a series of colorful 3-D images that convey relative land value, tax value, and value-per-acre at a glance. On July 11, Joe Minicozzi, principal of Urban3, presented the study results to three different Bozeman audiences: at a breakfast for the REALTORS®; at a City Hall luncheon for city staff, the local homebuilders association, and developers; and once more in the evening for the general public. Beck, who attended all three sessions, says “The primary goal was to educate the public with this very clearly reasoned analysis. I think a lot of minds that had been skeptical were opened, when presented with the tax implications of building up the urban core, as opposed to on the outskirts, or way out in the country. The graphics made a very compelling argument for Smart Growth.”

Two weeks later, GAR joined the city in hosting an Affordable Housing Summit that gathered representatives from the university and the local hospital, the region’s largest housing consumers; AARP; the Department of Transportation; the school district; the local land trust; and, of course, REALTORS®. A facilitator from the university had small groups work together to answer a series of questions ultimately seeking to determine an acceptable definition of ‘affordable housing’ beyond the HUD standard. “It was a fascinating and highly effective exercise,” says Beck, “and by having teams from such different sectors working together, it really made us all think in broader terms.” City Hall was so thrilled with the results, she says, that it asked the REALTORS® to follow up with an even more comprehensive summit.

“We could not have achieved all this without the support of the National Association of REALTORS®,” notes Beck. “Our goal, going in to these programs, was to inform the growth policy planning process, which will promote Smart Growth development standards and spur an uptick in compact, walkable neighborhoods,” she says. “Another really positive outcome is that the city is looking to us as partners with valuable resources, expertise, and information.”

To learn more about how the Gallatin Association of REALTORS® is working as a valued partner of City Hall to plan the region’s Smart Growth, contact Government Affairs Director Ellen Beck at 406-585-0033.

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West Central Minnesota REALTORS® Help to House the Homeless

The REALTORS® of West Central Minnesota believe it’s important for everyone to have a home, and that doesn’t always mean homeownership. Late in 2016, the 398-member board received a Housing Opportunity Grant that it used to partner with the Southwest Minnesota Continuum of Care (CoC), a clearinghouse of resources and aid for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Thanks to a new system the grant has been promoting, a total of 72 new households have been established in the region, including at least 16 with school-age children.

It all began, says Sue Blumhoefer, Chief Executive Officer of the West Central Association of REALTORS® (WCAR), when one of its members, who serves on the board of the Southwest Minnesota Continuum of Care (CoC), wondered if there was a REALTOR® Party grant that could help support the work of the regional aid organization. Blumhoefer investigated, and met with the CoC to determine how possible funding assistance from the REALTORS® could best meet its needs. With guidance from Christine Berger, the Minnesota REALTORS®‘ Vice President of Political Affairs, and the staff at NAR, WCAR applied for and received a Housing Opportunity Grant to promote and help implement the CoC’s new Coordinated Entry System.

This initiative, explains Blumhoefer, streamlines, standardizes, and shares information among the 20 separate agencies within the Southwest Minnesota CoC, which spans 18 different counties. “When a person or family is homeless or about to become homeless, they receive an intake assessment to be considered for all potential housing assistance from all CoC agencies. This will keep clients from having to go from agency to agency seeking help and having to go through a different assessment at each one. It also helps to match clients with the most appropriate assistance based on their level of need.”

The Housing Opportunity Grant, together with a contribution from WCAR, was put to work informing the public in the region about the new Coordinated Entry System. A new website, posters, and brochures in four languages, newspaper and billboard advertising, and a radio spot recorded by WCAR’s President Ann Anderson, got the word out:  to date, the combined efforts of WCAR and the Southwest Continuum of Care have helped create 72 stable households for clients in a previous state of homelessness. The funding from the REALTORS® also supported a training event for those performing the new assessments, and provided starter kits for clients, containing Walmart gift cards for basic household supplies.

“This means stability for those housed, which means better school outcomes for the kids, better chances at finding work, and generally better health outcomes,” says Blumhoefer, noting that, “Ultimately, the goal is the get them to a point where they will be strong enough to move to homeownership.”

One 19-year old who was assessed by the new program had been couch-hopping, spending nights in Walmart and Cashwise, and was housed in a hotel a couple of times.   He recently received keys to his own apartment, and with his gift card, was able to buy a shower curtain, garbage can, dish soap, broom/dustpan, bathroom rug, cooking pot, paper goods, and an oven mitt.  “How awesome is it to know we helped from day one with the program used to qualify him, and then, made sure he had some basics to set up a home,” says Blumhoefer.

Now that it’s in place, the system the Housing Opportunity Grant helped fund will continue to help those in need in the 18-county area, and the REALTORS® are maintaining an ongoing partnership with the CoC, sponsoring community immunization fairs and a cell phone drive for senior clients.  Says Blumhoefer, “We definitely couldn’t have done this without the grant from NAR!”

To learn more about how the West Central Association of REALTORS® is working to get all its neighbors into stable housing situations, contact Chief Executive Officer Sue Blumhoefer at 320-235-6881.

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Partnership Spurs Diversity for the Grosse Pointe REALTORS®

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at a high school in the affluent, nearly all-white Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. At the anniversary event this March memorializing King’s “The Other America” speech, the Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® (GPBR) will be among many in the community marking Grosse Pointe’s progress toward diversification and social equality. It will also be a time to provide thinking about what remains to be done.

According to Bob Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of the almost 1,000-member board, this is not an interest that gets dusted off for special occasions, just as Fair Housing is not something that the board saves for the month of April. “Promoting diversity and equal opportunity is a mindset. We’ve internalized it, so that it impacts all our decisions and  thinking,” he says.  He credits an exceptionally engaged and focused Fair Housing & Diversity Committee, led for four years by Ursel Mayo, with bringing about this change.  Supported by a Board of Directors led this year by Lori Jaglois and last year by Mario Como, Fair Housing & Diversity are part of the board’s daily consciousness.

“We wanted to have constructive conversation, provide insight, and eliminate ‘if we’re talking about Fair Housing it must be April’ thinking,” explains Jaglois. “Consequently, we no longer have ‘Fair Housing Month’ recognition. Instead, there’s a dedicated “Fair Housing” component at each of our four yearly membership meetings.” GPBR offers the NAR’s “At Home With Diversity” certification class annually, in the past using REALTOR® Party Diversity Initiative Grants to keep the cost down. Jaglois is proud to note that attendance is always robust: the last class, taught by Mayo, had upwards of 40 participants. Twice in the last four years, GPBR also offered the REALTOR® Party’s “Leading With Diversity” program. Most recently, the Detroit Association of REALTORS® was a co-host, with Fred Underwood from the National Association of REALTORS® and Dr. Agustin V. Arbulu, the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, co- presenting.

A new GPBR initiative called “All in for Diversity” available to members for a small contribution, allows those who want to bolster funding specifically for diversity projects to do so. In 2017, the board partnered with the Grosse Pointe Public School System to produce a calendar celebrating diversity as seen through the eyes of the community’s K-12 school children. The project generated more than sixty submissions, thirteen of which the GPBR jury selected to feature on the handsomely produced calendar. It was offered for sale to the membership and to families in the school system, with all proceeds going to the schools for further diversity efforts.

Rebecca Fannon, a representative of the Grosse Pointe Public School System, can’t say enough about the REALTORS®‘ involvement in strengthening the community: “The Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® has been an amazing partner with the school system over the years, promoting the area with community open houses, and assisting in projects coordinated by the local Chamber of Commerce. The Diversity Calendar project took this partnership one step further. Our school system was honored to participate, and so grateful that the proceeds from the calendar sales were donated to continued implementation of the district’s diversity initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan.”

GPBR has close ties with the Detroit chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and plans to begin working with them, and other diversity groups in the area, to strengthen efforts that support diversity and inclusion. “If we can share resources like Placemaking Grants and Housing Opportunity training with groups that share our interests, then that moves everybody forward,” says Taylor.

In 2017, Ursel Mayo, a long time member of the GPBR’s Board of Directors, was selected to be President-elect for 2018, the first African American to hold that position.  Is that because the Board wanted a person of color at the forefront?  “I don’t believe color had anything to do with the decision” says Taylor.  “The Board of Directors felt she was the very best person for the job, and she happens to be African-American.” Our goal is to seek those who are most passionate about serving our members, and encourage them to be in leadership.  President Jaglois, herself a tremendous leader, urged Ursel to consider the role.  We are extremely fortunate to have this kind of thoughtful and focused leadership.  It’s the reason this board is making a difference in Grosse Pointe — and beyond.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Grosse Pointe, Michigan are taking a leadership role in promoting diversity in their community, contact Chief Executive Officer Bob Taylor, at 313-882-8000 x3.

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Housing Opportunity Training Sponsors

Give your members an edge in their business and help them become leaders in their communities.

The Expanding Housing Opportunities class is organized and held by authorized sponsors. Organizations that are eligible to become sponsors include REALTOR® Associations and boards; NAR Institutes, Societies, or Councils; multicultural real estate organizations; real estate training schools and companies; and brokerage firms.

Sponsors may offer these classes an unlimited number of times during their sponsor term.

Questions? Contact Wendy Penn at 202-383-7504 or Holly Moskerintz at 202-383-1157.

Resources for Housing Opportunity Training Sponsors

Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) Sponsor Resources

Authorized EAH instructors
Sponsor Responsibilities & Administration
Class Notification Form
Class Roster
Student Evaluation Form
Customizable Marketing Flier
Student Certificate: Simply enter the student’s name and print out
CE Credit Outline – Use this document to apply for CE Credit for the EAH Class.
CE Credit Test – May be required in some states.

Expanding Housing Opportunities (EHO) Sponsor Resources

Authorized EHO Instructors
EHO Sponsor Guide
Class Description
Class Notification Form
Student Evaluation Form
Class Roster
EHO CE Credit Outline Option 1
EHO CE Credit Outline Option 2
CE Credit Test – May be required in some states.

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Homelessness

NAR supports cost-effective approaches towards preventing and ending homelessness. The individuals and families that are housing insecure or currently experiencing homelessness can be helped through evidence-based approaches, such as “housing first,” which prioritizes providing permanent housing as quickly as possible then providing supportive services as needed. NAR urges its state and local REALTOR® Associations to work with community stakeholders to develop innovative and proactive strategies to aid citizens experiencing homelessness or facing housing insecurity. Adopted May 2016

REALTOR® Success Stories

Hawaii REALTORS® Look to Create Housing Opportunities for the Homeless
Austin REALTORS® Accept Mayor’s Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness 

NAR’s Housing For All Symposium (2016)

Housing For All brought together NAR and the affordable housing community to address homelessness and housing affordability. Speakers included representatives from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Center for American Progress, National Low Income Housing Coalition, NeighborWorks America and other leaders. Attendees discussed effective affordable housing solutions; shared innovative ideas, partnerships and experiences; and formulated plans of action for their communities. Housing For All built on NAR’s policy that urges state and local REALTOR® Associations to work with community stakeholders to develop innovative and proactive strategies to aid citizens experiencing homelessness or facing housing insecurity.Housing For All Agenda

Federal Resources

  • U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
    The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is responsible for coordinating the federal response to homelessness across government and providing leadership for activities to assist homeless families and individuals with the goal of preventing and ending homelessness in the nation. Some agencies include:
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
    The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and supporting the delivery of essential human services.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
    The Department of Housing and Urban Development funds a range of programs managed by local organizations to help the homeless, including shelter, food, counseling, and jobs skills programs.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
    The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a wide array of special programs and initiatives specifically designed to help homeless veterans live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible.
  • Department of Labor
    The Department of Labor administers programs providing employment and training services that are crucial components in the comprehensive efforts to address the cycle of homelessness.
  • Department of Education
    The Department of Education supports a program that supports the coordination of the education of homeless children and youths in each state and gathers comprehensive information about homeless children and youths and the impediments they must overcome to regularly attend school.
  • Social Security Administration
    The Social Security Administration’s mission is to advance the economic security of the nation’s people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America’s Social Security programs.
  • White House
    The White House has spearheaded the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to alleviate the poverty made worse by the current economic crisis. Broad investments also include $1.5 billion in Homelessness Prevention Funds to keep people in their homes or rapidly relocate them.

National Organizations

 

Questions? Contact Wendy Penn at 202-383-7504.

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Community Outreach Webinars

Housing Opportunity Webinars

In partnership with National Housing Conference (NHC), Housing Opportunity webinars are designed to educate the REALTORS®  about affordable housing issues, policies and programs, and to help REALTORS® be better able to engage in the affordable housing issues in their communities.

Questions? Contact Wendy Penn at 202-383-7504.

Paycheck to Paycheck 2015
This free webinar demonstration of the National Housing Conference’s online, interactive Paycheck to Paycheck database. Paycheck to Paycheck uses data from the first quarter of 2015 to examine the gap between wages and the housing costs, both rental and ownership, in 208 U.S. metro areas. The webinar will also include a discussion of key findings from the 2015 Paycheck to Paycheck report, which focused on the housing affordability challenges of workers in occupations commonly filled by millennials. 

Back to School: Making the Link Between Housing and Education
This webinar described the key links between housing and education and highlighted ways people are working to improve educational outcomes for children through housing and community development policies and programs.

Housing Counseling and Returning Home Buyers
Navigating the housing market and preparing financially for homeownership can be a daunting process, not only for those new to the housing market, but especially for previous homeowners who have experienced a foreclosure or were negatively affected in the housing market downtown.  Housing counseling is an effective tool to help people financially prepare to buy a home or re-enter the housing market after a foreclosure, providing advice to potential homebuyers on repairing or protecting their credit and assisting them in preparing for mortgage application, budget planning, and foreclosure prevention.

Local Affordable Housing Policymaking and Advocacy
Key affordable housing resources available from the National Housing Conference (NHC) and the Center for Housing Policy were discussed using real-world examples. Panelists discussed how these resources can be used to document and describe local affordable housing challenges, to communicate persuasively about housing needs, to identify promising local affordable housing solutions and to present affordable housing strategies to local stakeholders.

Housing and Older Adults
Experts in the area of housing and older adults presented on housing needs of the growing older adult population, livable communities policies that address the safety and quality of neighborhoods, and programs that combine housing and services to enable aging in place. 

 

Placemaking Webinars

The Placemaking Webinar Series provides more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® are involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Questions? Contact Holly Moskerintz at 202-383-1157.

REALTORS® Engage in Placemaking
Looking to become engaged in a placemaking project in your neighborhood but just don’t know what to do or where to begin?  Wondering what placemaking is all about and why it matters to REALTORS®? Learn how four local REALTOR® Associations used Placemaking Grants to build projects in their community. Association staff and REALTORS® will tell us about their projects; how they and their partners were engaged in the projects; and the outcomes and benefits not only to the community and REALTOR® brand. Please note that at about 49 minutes in there is an audio pause of about 1 minute.  The webinar is not over.

Make your Community a More Walkable Place
Walkable communities—a community in which residents can get to grocery stores, shops, schools, work, cafes, and parks by walking, biking or taking public transit—are becoming the latest trend in real estate. REALTORS® need to be aware of how walkable communities may affect their business and the future of real estate. Get the details on what makes a great walkable community; walkability’s impact on real estate; the demand for walkable communities; Walk Scores and MLS; and one community’s strategy to become more walkable. 

REALTORS® in Action
The Placemaking Grant has been up and running for almost two years and we have approved over $300,000 in projects in over 30 states. Many of these projects have been completed and the communities, as well as the REALTOR® Associations who have worked on these placemaking projects, are seeing outcomes. Join us to hear about the placemaking projects four local REALTOR® Associations participated in including a description of their project; involvement of the association, members and partners; and outcomes and community responses. You just may get an idea for a placemaking project in your community.

Reactivating Vacant Properties into Community Spaces
Is your community faced with blighted and vacant properties that are disrupting the neighborhood’s sense of community and lowering property values?  This webinar focuses on how to address vacant properties, specifically vacant lots.  After a brief overview of vacant properties and the negative impact on a community, you will hear from several organizations on how they are transforming vacant and abandoned lots into community open spaces and vibrant gathering places.  

Streets as Places
Streets make up more than 80 percent of the public space in our downtowns and no public space works harder than our streets.  But, streets and sidewalks need to do more than just move cars. They need to be designed to meet the needs of people and create great places where people meet, sit, socialize, relax, wander about, play and more. Find out how to transform the streets and sidewalks in your community into great places with a variety of tools including street painting, parklets, plazas, block parties, seating and other activities. 

Community Outreach Leads to Commercial Revitalization
Discover how engaging communities in downtown revitalization can lead to leasing/sales of vacant buildings and other positive impacts on commercial real estate development. Targeted efforts involving REALTOR® Associations, REALTORS® and community organizations, including how a Better Block event, a Main Street® planning approach and a tour of vacant properties have resulted in positive economic changes and are strengthening communities. 

Revitalizing with Main Street®
Main Street® is a unique economic development tool that enables communities to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets. This approach focuses on traditional commercial districts in a community and can help address vacant properties and other revitalization challenges. Get an overview of Main Street® and hear from REALTORS® who have initiated a Main Street® program in their communities to help revitalize their downtowns.  

How to Build a Better Block
Learn the ins and outs of a Build a Better Block project which involves a group of community stakeholders and volunteers organizing and making visible changes to a place over a day or two such as cleaning up litter, planting flowers, installing benches, and maybe launching temporary businesses called pop-ups in vacant storefronts. 

Lighter, Quicker Cheaper
Find out how to take small, incremental, low cost steps to quickly turn your community’s vision into reality and build momentum for further improvements.” Lighter Quicker Cheaper is an approach involving several small projects in a neighborhood where, taken together, will make the neighborhood a better place to live, work and play. These hands-on projects can be proposed and finished in months or weeks.

Smart Growth Webinars

Public/Private Partnerships: Complete Streets & Large-Scale Development Webinar
Private development projects and large-scale land use programs can play an important role in creating new, healthy, and equitable Complete Streets. How can developers use healthy and Complete Streets design principles and public/private partnerships to achieve community goals? And what are the opportunities and challenges public and private partners face? The Public/Private Partnerships: Complete Streets & Large-Scale Development webinar hosted by National Complete Streets Coalition and co-hosted by the National Association of REALTORS®. 

Download the PDF of the presentation

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REALTORS® in Ottumwa, Iowa Help Bring Life Back to Their Downtown

“The vision became real – if only for a short time – and we saw what it would be like to bring our Main Street back to life.” 

Those were the words of Steve Campbell, an Ottumwa, Iowa, REALTOR® from who spearheaded his board’s involvement in a highly successful Better Block Project in his home town.

  • One of the giant “wheatpastings” of an image from renowned Ottumwa Photographer Michael Lemberger’s collection of more than 1.5 million photographs.
  • Ottumwa Better Block Poster
    Ottumwa Better Block Poster
  • Sign outside the old theatre announcing the upcoming Better Block Party in Downtown Ottumwa
    Sign outside the old theatre announcing the upcoming Better Block Party in Downtown Ottumwa
  • The block party concluded with a live concert in the abandoned Ottumwa Theater.

With a $15,000 REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant, money of their own, elbow grease and lots of enthusiasm, the South East Iowa Regional Board of REALTORS® partnered with the Better Block Foundation and other community leaders to host the Main Street Ottumwa Better Block Party, October 12-15.

“Overnight, our quiet and struggling downtown commercial area became what it was always meant to be,” Campbell says.  “It became a place to come together to shop, eat, play games, enjoy some music and even dance!

He says that one of the highlights is to see the old Ottumwa Theatre that had been abandoned for years come to life with a live concert on the final evening of the block party.  Watch this video of the concert in the old Ottumwa Theatre:

The weekend event in this hilly city straddling the Des Moines River, included pop-up shops, food trucks, a temporary bike lane from downtown to the river, outdoor dining and games.  It ended with a live concert in the long-abandoned Ottumwa Theater.

The day before the event, more than 120 volunteers, including REALTORS®, got to work setting up, stringing lights, painting the bike lane, installing landscaping, building signs and more.

The event even included a tribute to the late Michael Lemberger, a renowned photographer from Ottumwa, whose collection of 1.5 million photographs was recently donated to the University of Iowa.  Several of the buildings along Main Street were adorned with giant “wheatpastings” of his black-and-white photos featuring everyday life in rural America.

The Start of Something Good

“It’s just the beginning, but it’s a good one,” explains Campbell, who recently finished serving his second term as president of the 400-member regional board, which was organized in 2015 by consolidating eight smaller boards.

“The great thing about the Better Block Team is that they help you see what could be in a tangible way,” Campbell says.  “Yes, the block party is over, but the inspiration to continue rebuilding our downtown area is alive and well.

This year’s President Carla McEntee adds, “We are so proud to be a part of this wonderful downtown revitalization project in Ottumwa. Our members understand the importance of volunteerism, and this effort is extremely gratifying for all of us.”

The Process

Jamie Rix, the Government Affairs Director for the Iowa Association of REALTORS®, worked with the board to obtain the Smart Growth Action Grant, which helped to pay for event expenses; as well as consulting and guidance from the Better Block Team to help transform the weekend experience into an actual planning tool.

The Better Block team visited Ottumwa last July and met with more than 50 local groups and individuals to discuss how best to apply the Better Block process to the 300 block of Downtown Ottumwa. The focus from the start was on public art, health, transportation and economic development. Better Block also conducted a survey of community members on how to improve Downtown Ottumwa quickly and from the ground-up.

“It was just a good fit to bring the REALTOR® Party funding and the Better Block Project together in Ottumwa,” Rix says.  “That city has so much potential, and the weekend event made that clear to so many people.

The Better Block project is building on what the “Main Street Iowa Program” has been doing in Ottumwa for the last 10 years.

“Main Street Iowa is a program dedicated to preserving and revitalizing the unique identity, assets and character of historic commercial districts in more than 50 towns across Iowa,” explains Main Street Ottumwa Executive Director Fred Zesiger.

Ottumwa’s Main Street District has 134 buildings, of which 41 are vacant on the first floor. There also are 57 historic buildings along three blocks of Main Street, 26 of which are vacant on the first floor.

Revitalization by Main Street Ottumwa so far has included rehabbing alleyways, putting on new building facades and restoring 49 apartments over the street level shops—all of which are occupied today.

Zesiger says the effort in Ottumwa is successful because it’s a collaborative effort.  The Smart Growth Action Grant was a match for a National Endowment for the Arts Grant received by Main Street Ottumwa. “When we can put our money, skills and dedication together, great things happen.”

More than Just Good for Business

Campbell stresses that the whole project has been especially uplifting for his board.  “I am convinced this project has “REALTORS®” written all over it! Being a part of the grassroots movement to breathe life back into a depreciated commercial/residential area is a challenge worth the effort…and the best part is yet to come!” Campbell says.

“As real estate professionals,” he continues, “we care deeply about bringing our downtown back.  It’s not only good for business, it’s just plain good for everyone.”

For more information about the South East Iowa Regional Board of REALTORS® work with the community to revitalize Ottumwa’s Main Street District, contact Jamie Rix, REALTOR® Party Advocacy Coordinator for the Iowa Association of REALTORS® at 515-309-9348 (ext. 348).

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