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.

Community philanthropy seen on upswing

Community giving and participation are essential for social progress and global development, and can generate increased local ownership and local accountability, new report says.

Local participation in community projects can generate increased local ownership and local accountability, says The Value of Community Philanthropy, a report from the Aga Khan Foundation USA and the Charles Steward Mott Foundation.

“Community philanthropy should be a central feature in developing civil society and enhancing the effectiveness of development aid,” the report says.

Still, despite its potential, community philanthropy is “under-developed,” says the report, which calls for a “joint program to develop the capacity of the field of community philanthropy” so it can more effectively partners with foundations and development agencies.

That program, it says, should “strengthen the infrastructure, build key links between partners, and enhance technical features,” such as “definition,” performance and evaluation.

It also should aim to increase the pool of funders and “raise awareness of community philanthropy among official development aid practitioners for whom it is presently invisible,” the report says.

Community philanthropy, or “local people helping each other, by sharing resources for the common good,” is a new force in the charitable world that is “driven by ordinary people working from the bottom up of our societies, rather than wealthy people working from the top down.”

That kind of giving, it says, “has the potential to transform how philanthropy works and in the process help to solve some of the deeper problems in our society, such as poverty, racism, and gender equality.”

The Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support, for example, has charted the growth of community foundations throughout the world over the last 10 years, finding an average of 70 new community foundations a year.

Nearly all that growth has been in North America and Europe, it says, but there also is an “underlying ferment of activity” in other parts of the world.

Community philanthropy is “organized and structured” and “self-directed,” uses “open architecture” so that “anyone can design add-on products,” and operates in civil society, the report says.

It also uses its own money and assets, it says, and is rooted in “values.”

Community philanthropy also is “based on a voluntary impulse embedded in the human condition,” the report says.

It also says community philanthropy has important benefits than can assist development processes.

“When local people act as donors, the hierarchical structure at the heart of development aid breaks down,” the report says.

An “inclusive, non-hierarchical structure,” it says, “can be transparent and accountable, as well as trusting and respectful,” rooted in “true partnerships that promote lateral processes as opposed to top-down relationships.”

Using such “lateral” processes, the report says, community philanthropy “breaks down boundaries between people, taking account of place, issue and identity.

A key element of community philanthropy is “help the other but help the other help the other,” so that “each act of philanthropy begets other acts of philanthropy,” the report says.

That kind of approach “has real potential to work with communities within communities and, in the process, involve the most excluded,” it says. “Such collective activity carries powerful messages for collective ‘within-group’ and ‘between-group’ processes in society, containing the potential to resolve conflicts, build harmony, and develop an equitable frame of reference for the d development of progress within society.”

Making progress in community philanthropy as a “mainstream force in building sustainable civil society and improving the effectiveness of development aid” will require “joining up different parts of the field that are presently disconnected,” the report says.

While community philanthropy “tends to operate from the bottom up, with local actors taking the initiative” and “aiming to influence the way central authorities behave,” it says, most international development “tends to operate from the top down, as a central agency disperses resources to a range of local actors.”

But evidence suggests that both top-down and bottom-up approaches are important, and that “neither is sufficient to deliver progress on its own,” the report says.

“Indeed, what often determines success is what happens at the point at which top down meets bottom up,” it says. “This is the point where outside intervention meets inside culture.”

The report calls for the field of community philanthropy to take five main actions to strengthen itself, including “using clear definitions, metrics and data analysis to demonstrate what works;” mobilizing a “critical mass of people as part of a process of participatory democracy in favor of the common good;” joining “top-down efforts with the views of beneficiaries of programs;” finding “complementary roles for different actors to ensure the sustainability of civil society and the effectiveness of development aid;” and developing “a constructive engagement using plain language.”

Rural giving tied to economic growth

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Born and raised in rural Jones County, one of North Carolina’s poorest counties, Chris Meadows opted after college to stay rather than join the exodus of young adults moving out of the county.

Now, as principal of Jones Senior High School in Trenton, Meadows wants to inspire other young people to remain, and give them tools to succeed.

In a collaborative initiative that includes the N.C. Rural Center, the Jones County affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation is working to raise $10,000 to create an endowment fund to support an entrepreneurship program at the high school.

“If we get our kids to come back and start a business and be successful, they will start a cycle of transferring wealth from one generation to the next and keep the wealth here instead of going out of state or out of the county,” Meadows says.

The Jones County initiative is part of a larger effort by the Rural Center and the North Carolina Community Foundation, and their counterparts in states throughout the U.S., to reverse the flow of wealth and residents from rural counties.

“Throughout rural America, kids are leaving because there aren’t jobs,” says Jason Gray, director of research and innovation at the Rural Center. “Homegrown philanthropy can and should be a resource to plug into targeted community economic-development work that makes these communities a place where their children can stay.”

Over the last two decades, while the statewide population under age 18 grew 22 percent and the population age 24 to 30 grew 5 percent, 22 rural counties lost population under age 18, and 54 rural counties lost those age 24 to 30, including 15 counties that lost over 20 percent of that age group.

In Jones County, for example, the number of residents age 24 to 30 fell by 232 from 1990 to 2010, or 23.4 percent.

The Jones County initiative has the goals of inspiring students to launch local businesses, and inspiring donors to invest in endowment funds to boost the local economy while retaining philanthropic assets in the community.

Beth Boney Jenkins, vice president for development at the North Carolina Community Foundation, says a local couple has pledged to give $1,000 to create the new Jones County fund if the foundation’s local affiliate can raise $10,000.

“Rural development philanthropy,” she says, involves “bringing people in rural communities together to teach them how to use philanthropy to raise local dollars to address their own needs.”

Sally Migliore, director of community leadership at the North Carolina Community Foundation, says the Jones County initiative can serve as a model for other rural counties, each of which can identify and address its own needs, “inspiring and promoting philanthropy over the long haul” to address local needs.

Gray says the Jones County initiative is part of a larger effort by the Rural Center to help rural communities retain and support youth and young adults.

Meadows says a key goal of the entrepreneurial fund will be to “showcase the potential” of staying and working in the county.

“That’s one of our biggest challenges,” he says. “We just have to show kids there’s a lot we can do in Jones County if we decide to stay here.”