Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Innovations in Neighborhood Stabilization: Responses to the Foreclosure Crisis

December 31, 2013

December 2013


Sarah Berke*
Housing Partnership Network

Carolina Reid
University of California, Berkeley

Five years ago, in July 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco convened a symposium in Los Angeles on the topic of stabilizing communities in the wake of foreclosures. The goal of the conference was to identify strategies that could help to mitigate the negative spillover effects of foreclosures on families and neighborhoods. At the time, there were few models to turn to for neighborhood stabilization—and many unanswered questions. How could we leverage federal funding to bring additional financing partners to the table? What strategies could be deployed in cities with weak markets, where rehab costs exceeded market values? Was it possible to manage scattered site rentals?

Since then, nonprofit organizations across the country have been responding to these questions in innovative ways, drawing on their expertise to meet the challenge of foreclosed and abandoned homes head on. It hasn’t been easy—funding for neighborhood stabilization remains small in comparison to need, and the volatile housing market has required quick thinking and the ability to design new solutions on the fly. And although the housing market has finally begun to rebound, nonprofits are working to sustain their work in response to continued historically-high levels of foreclosures and bank-owned inventory. They are also looking ahead to develop strategies for community development work in the post-crisis environment.

In this issue of the Community Development Investment Review, we have brought together a series of articles that highlights some of the stabilization strategies emerging from the efforts of committed nonprofits across the country. The articles in the first section of this issue reflect the lessons learned from the Housing Partnership Network’s (HPN) 2011-2013 Innovations in Neighborhood Stabilization and Foreclosure Prevention Initiative, funded by the Citi Foundation. The goal of the Innovations Initiative was not only to support emerging strategies for neighborhood stabilization, but also to share experiences across nonprofits and create a body of knowledge of successful strategies for the community development field. On behalf of HPN, we would like to thank the organizations who participated in the Innovations Initiative, as well as those who served on the advisory committee, including Eric Belsky, Pat Gamble-Moore, Patricia Garrett, Bill Gilmartin, Catherine Godschalk, Bob Kantor, Alan Mallach, Mike Mullin, Craig Nickerson, Rebecca Regan, and Laura Sparks.

In the second section of this issue, we bring you a series of essays written by influential nonprofit and public sector leaders that enriches the conversation about neighborhood stabilization, providing new and provocative perspectives on this work. Together, the articles and essays reveal the passion and expertise that the field has brought to the crisis, and point us toward strategies that will continue to be relevant, post-crisis, for investing public and private resources to make a real impact in low- and moderate-income communities.

Sarah Berke is Director of Research & Development at the Housing Partnership Network.

Carolina Reid is Assistant Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley.

*The authors would like to thank Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Matt Perrenod, Housing Partnership Network, and Peter Richardson, Housing Strategies, Inc. for their editing and support for this issue.

The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Federal Reserve System. Material herein may be reprinted or abstracted as long as the Community Development Investment Review is credited.

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