Babcock Foundation names new executive director

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — David Jackson, a 25-year veteran of government, philanthropy and nonprofits who has focused on affordable housing and on workforce and economic development, has been named executive director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in Winston-Salem.

Jackson, who is president and CEO of the Center for Working Families in Atlanta, will begin his new job in November, succeeding Gayle Williams, who has led the $154.5 million-asset foundation for 19 years.

Kathy Mountcastle, chair of the foundation’s board, said in an email message to colleagues that the organization’s senior staff would remain, “ensuring continuity in our approach and grantmaking.”

Under Williams, the focus of the Babcock Foundation has been helping to move people and places in the Southeast out of poverty.

For the next two years, the foundation will be completing a 10-year strategic plan, and then embarking on a new strategic plan that will be informed by its current work, Jackson says.

Jackson, who has a special interest in creating business-ownership opportunities for residents of underserved communities, says his work has taught him that “change is most sustainable when people who want to change participate and lead in making it happen.”

Change also results from “learning and listening and doing it through collaboration,” he says.

Both the Babcock Foundation and the Center for Working Families are rooted in working in partnership with other organizations to improve the lives of people and places in need, he says.

A native of New York City who grew up in Harlem and the South Bronx, Jackson says he saw a lot of abandoned buildings as a child and told his mother, when she asked him what he wanted to be when grew up, that he “wanted to be the guy who builds buildings.”

He studied architecture at the High School of Art and Design, and received a bachelor of science degree in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology, then went to work for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, where his first assignment was helping tenants take over the management of apartment buildings by turning them into limited equity cooperatives.

He later worked as associate director of the Atlanta office for the Enterprise Foundation, one of the largest financiers and developers of affordable housing in the U.S., and then returned to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development as assistant commissioner of homeownership.

Before joining The Center for Working Families, he served as vice president of One Economy Corporation, a global nonprofit that works to use technology and information to help plug low-income communities into the economy.

He led One Economy’s expansion into new markets, including Atlanta, San Antonio, New Orleans and Kansas City.

Operating with an annual budget of $4 million and a staff of 30 people, the Center for Working Families serves about 1,200 people a  year, providing intervention services such as connections to support services for roughly half of them, and deeper services such as job coaching and financial coaching for the other half.

Jackson, who holds a master’s degree in business administration  from the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University, says he learned in business school that “if someone does it better, don’t try to do it yourself, just buy it or partner to get it.”

The Babcock Foundation “works with communities and nonprofits that don’t have unlimited resources,” he says.

“At the Center for Working Families, I sometimes tried to think of our work like an auto plant that assembles cars from parts such as windshields and seats manufactured by other companies, working with them to serve the ‘end-user,'” he says. “We were more effective by working together with other nonprofits to serve our constituents.”

In the case of low-income families and neighborhoods that are “disconnected,” for example, nonprofits can partner with one another to connect families “to the resources they need to achieve the goals they’re setting out for,” Jackson says.

And working with constituents is key to effective collaboration, he says.

“I’ve always found that when people who are wanting a change help design and implement that change, outcomes remain sticky, it lasts longer,” Jackson says. “When it’s a top-down approach, it might work for a little while, but eventually it’s not sustainable.”

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Community Link focuses on homeless

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What was launched in 1929 as a local Travelers Aid Society helping stranded travelers find housing now operates as Community Link, an agency with an annual budget of $3.8 million that helps just over 1,200 families a year get into rental housing or become homeowners for the first time.

And with the consolidation earlier this year of programs from Community Link and two other agencies that focused on providing homeowner education and counseling for first-time homebuyers and homeowners struggling to keep their homes, the organization has taken on that piece of those agencies’ work.

With 34 employees, Community Link focuses on helping homeless people in a six-county region get into housing.

Its mission is to “enable individuals and families to obtain and sustain safe, decent and affordable housing, says Floyd R. Davis Jr., president and CEO.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, for example, Community Link helped 816 families moved into rental housing, while helping 252 families become first-time homeowners.

It also helped 600 individuals find housing elsewhere in the U.S. after their attempt to live in Charlotte did not work out and they wanted to return to communities where they had support systems, a program that dates to the agency’s roots as a local Travelers Aid Society.

Community Link’s work with first-time homebuyers began in 2004, when it merged with Ugamma, a smaller agency that focused on home-ownership education and counseling.

That program, which now has been consolidated with similar efforts that had been housed at United Family Services and the Latin American Coalition, has faced rising demand for services as a result of the crippled economy, Davis says.

“Given the economic situation of the last few years, we see a growing number of people are facing difficulty in obtaining and sustaining housing,” he says, mainly because people have lost employment or cannot find jobs.

And people who lost jobs with higher pay are taking jobs with lower pay that otherwise might have been available to people with low-to-moderate incomes, making it tougher for them to find work, he says.

The program at United Family Services that provided housing counseling had served roughly 1,800 people a year, while the program at the Latin American Coalition had served about 400 people a year.

Community Link has hired the housing counselor who worked on that program at the Latin American Coalition, filling a vacant position.

And it has taken on a total of $516,000 in contracts United Family Services had with the city of Charlotte and with the N.C. Housing Finance Agency to operate its program.

Davis says he anticipates Community Link will expand its work assisting homeowners who are facing foreclosure as a result of the damaged economy.

The agency will seek funds to pay for that expansion from dollars the state will receive from a big settlement that attorneys general from a number of states made in lawsuit they filed against financial institutions for the way they had been handling foreclosures, Davis says.

Community Link also launched a new fundraising event in May, a “Sweet Escape” chocolate party, that it estimated would raise $10,000 to $15,000, an event it hopes to hold on an annual basis.

As part of its work, Community Link works to help clients repair their credit, cope with their budgeting, and address problems such as substance abuse and other mental-health issues that may keep them from finding housing.

“We help people deal with the barriers that have prevented them from obtaining rental housing or becoming homeowners,” Davis says.

Affordable-housing group seeks partners

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — At the nine communities for seniors that DHIC has developed in Wake County, Resources for Seniors coordinates a range of services.

Those include health and education programs, assistance with transportation, screening for high blood pressure and diabetes, flu-shot clinics, and tips on nutrition and healthy cooking.

While it dates to 1994, the partnership with Resources for Seniors reflects a strategy DHIC will be pursuing more aggressively as it looks for ways to better serve people who live in affordable housing.

“Our goal is to explore new partnerships that allow us to make full and better use of local services that are already being provided by other agencies, and then to match those services with the needs of our residents” says Yvette Holmes, who joined the nonprofit agency in January as its first director of community partnerships and development after serving for 18 years as campaign director at the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

Formed in 1974 as the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation, DHIC has developed and owns 1,600 housing units at 32 sites, most of them in Wake County.

The agency operates with a $1.5 million annual budget and a staff of 13 employees, and serves roughly 3,000 individuals and families a year, most of them renting housing, with about 300 families that participated in home-buyer workshops.

Revenue includes over $100,000 in core operating support from the City of Raleigh; $130,000 to $140,000 a year in core operating support from NeighborWorks America, a group chartered by Congress to spur affordable housing and community development; $100,000 from foundations and banks; and $250,000 in apartment rent income.

The balance consists of fee income paid to DHIC by its equity investors when it completes development of projects.

DHIC sells tax credits to its investment partners, reducing their tax liability in return for equity that reduces the mortgage loans the agency must borrow and thus the rents its tenants pay.

According to county planners, Wake needs 25,000 units of affordable housing, defined as housing that does not consume more than 30 percent of household income for a family of four, says Gregg Warren, president and executive director of DHIC.

A key challenge in developing affordable housing, he says, is finding available land, a challenge DHIC is addressing through partnerships with developers like Craig Davis Properties, which was involved in the sale of commercial real estate for Wakefield Plantation.

Through that partnership, DHIC developed two separate developments at Wakefield, including 80 apartments for families and 96 apartments for seniors.

And with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, or those born from 1946 through 1964, demand for affordable seniors housing is surging, Warren says.

In addition to seniors and low-wage workers, the population DHIC serves includes single men and women in recovery from addiction, as well as single parents and people who work downtown in local businesses, such as restaurants, nonprofits and arts groups.

“There’s a real need for a range of housing opportunities in downtown Raleigh,” Warren says.

In her new job, Holmes aims to identify funding sources to support direct services to residents of DHIC properties, and to develop partnerships with other agencies to help provide those services.

DHIC also continues to look for real-estate opportunities.

“That means land that is affordable, close to schools, transit, community services, grocery stores,” Warren says.

DHIC developments are “well-designed, well-constructed, well-managed, and can be an asset to any neighborhood in Wake County and the Triangle,” he says.

And they boost the economy: In 2009, 2010 and 2011, DHIC construction projects created about 220 jobs, plus another 54 ongoing jobs, he says.

And in 2011, DHIC paid $344,000 in Wake County taxes.

“We’re creating jobs,” Warren says.