The Power of “We” (Part 4)

The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is elevating solutions to Atlanta’s affordable housing needs via a series of articles from our public, private, philanthropic, nonprofit, and community partners who – through “The Power of We” – can help define a coordinated set of policies, programs and resources that build and preserve affordable living opportunities for all.  Last month, Georgia ACT and the TransFormation Alliance spoke to the critical role of nonprofit advocacy and community-based leadership. This month, Enterprise Community Partners discusses the important role of intermediaries and identifies examples of policies, programs and funding sources gaining traction in other major cities facing the same affordable housing challenges and opportunities we face here in Atlanta. You can read all installments in the series here

Once in a while, the opportunity presents itself to change the status quo. Catalytic moments in the life of a city often create these windows to effect real, transformative, large scale change. Atlanta is a city of great opportunity, but that opportunity does not reach everyone.  Together, we can change this. Atlanta is facing a catalytic moment right now.  The city is at the start of a once in a lifetime investment in transit infrastructure that could reshape the built environment for generations and move Atlanta from “two” cities into a transformed Atlanta with opportunity for all.

Transformative change is often supported by an intermediary organization that brings together nationwide know-how, effective partners, ​policy leadership and investment to multiply the impact of local affordable housing development. ​Intermediaries, like Enterprise Community Partners, create space for innovation by bringing best practices and effective tools from other cities and training local partners so we can continuously improve and innovate housing solutions. This means that the best practices grown in Atlanta can be used in other cities and the innovative solutions used in other places can be replicated in Atlanta.  Intermediaries also direct private and public capital to the right places, work with government leaders by offering nonpartisan advice, and support and foster community improvement from the ground up so that well-designed, affordable homes are connected to resources like health care, schools, jobs and transportation. 

Affordable housing has traditionally relied upon government resources which are becoming scarcer.  As a result, we are at a moment in time that requires us to be more innovative and reach beyond our traditional molds.  Leveraging any new available public funding sources with private and philanthropic funds will be critical to our success in creating affordable housing and communities of opportunity.    And, with Atlanta ranking third in FORTUNE 500 headquarters (above Dallas and Nashville combined), including our corporate and anchor institutions is a must.  Recognizing that collaboration is gaining momentum in Atlanta, particularly as it relates to transit expansion and place based initiatives, we can learn from other cities facing similar challenges and opportunities.   

  • How can we harness property now to secure affordability near transit? Denver created a public-private multi-tiered Transit Oriented Development Fund supporting proactive and strategic acquisition of property to ensure affordability aligned with their planned transit expansion;  
  • Building a public, private and community platform for solutions will be needed. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Housing Solutions Task Force is a multi-sector, public-private partnership collaborative working together to address the continuum of long-term housing solutions in development, finance, policy and services. 
  • We’ll need to use our anchor institutions as assets in the process. The Greater University Circle Initiative (GUCI) is a collective effort of several anchor institutions located in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood focused on institutional partnership, physical development, economic development (live, buy, hire, thrive “local”) and community engagement.
  • How do we move the needle on single family redevelopment in communities suffering from appraisal gaps? Detroit’s Home Mortgage program is a guarantee fund leveraging philanthropic, public and private funds to enable the development of single family homes which require rehabilitation but do not appraise to allow for a traditional mortgage.
  • I’m just one person, but I want to be a part of the solution! Social impact investing allows for multiple investors – including individuals, philanthropy, banks and corporations – to invest in their communities.  Our Region, Your Investment, launched in 2016, allows Impact Note investors to support affordable homes in the Washington, D.C. region with $11 million invested in year-one. 

Intermediaries help achieve transformational change by leading the development of long-term strategies based on research of proven solutions, finding effective organizations and programs to deliver results, and developing and tracking metrics to ensure investment goes where it can have the greatest impact and foster economic mobility.

The Urban Land Conservancy acquired 11th Avenue TOD in July of 2012 using Denver’s Transit-Oriented Development Fund. Adjacent to ULC’s Sheridan II property and currently vacant land, ULC will work with a development partner to construct affordable housing and potentially nonprofit facility space.

Large-scale, transformative change also requires adequate financial resources. Intermediaries can foster coordinated community investment based on shared prioritization, strategic pipelines and an enabling environment among a complex network of players: nonprofit and mission-oriented for–profit developers; providers of support to small businesses; economic development agencies; community development corporations and other neighborhood-based organizations; community development financial institutions; corporate partners; philanthropy and foundations; financial institutions; and public sector agencies at the local, state and federal levels.

To achieve transformative change, all the partners need to collectively focus on solutions that will leverage all available resources to help transform neighborhoods and communities.  As an intermediary, WE stand ready.

This article was originally published on June 23, 2017 as a Saporta Report Thought Leadership column. 

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