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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 54

Week #54

'Children Living in Poverty'

Meeting Notes Prepared by Zoë Haddad (Walls Project)

J. Daniels (Partners Southeast + EBRPHA)

  • Redefine how we view and capture “public housing”

  • Public housing has a stigma - we want to change the vernacular

  • We are redefining it, talking about affordable housing

  • When I talk to our partners they say, “What do you do about your tenants?” I say, we don’t have tenants, we have families

  • They ask “Are you building new projects or facilities?” No, we’re building new communities

  • As we talk about the path to homeownership, rebuilding communities, we have to rethink affordable housing

  • David Summers is really helping us execute our existing portfolio as well as the affordable communities

  • We promote the Housing Choice Voucher Program for home ownership - EBRPHA invests $30 million per year in the Baton Rouge region through this program. You may know it as Section VIII, but at the end of the day it’s a housing choice. We work with different partners to help in city redevelopment

  • Subsidizing the mortgage, allowing them to secure the home

  • LHC launched a program that allows us to offer low interest and forgivable loans

  • Outside of that program, we have the Family Self Sufficiency Program

  • Target up to 25 families to position them to change the wealth factor in their lives (financial literacy, workforce development, job opportunities and training, etc.)

  • Approach it different ways

  • Everybody congratulate David, he just closed a $26 million deal, 99 units, senior development within Baton Rouge. Huge opportunity to reposition affordable housing inventory.

David Summers (Partners Southeast/EBRPHA)

  • Partners Southeast is the development arm of the EBRPHA

  • Works to ensure safe and affordable housing for all our families who need it

  • The development arm helps reposition those communities that have aged out or aren’t surrounded by support services and amenities they need to do better

  • Dual function of repositioning and repurposing

  • Direct correlation between families having to pay more than 30% of their income on rent every month, tremendous amount of renters in BR

  • Doesn’t allow them to be in a position to save money, set them up for home ownership

  • Really trying to take an aggressive stance to help out families transition from longterm generational renters into homeowners

  • To the community that J just mentioned, this is a 99 unit senior community

  • Specifically for seniors 65+ there’s a tremendous lack of affordable housing in Baton Rouge but we will still be capturing less than 2% of the market. The demand is tremendous. Huge supply gap that we will very intentionally be working on as part of our Choice Neighborhood Program

  • Other areas in the city that that are amenity rich, near health care facilities…we think will be great opportunities to provide affordable housing to our seniors.

  • One other thing…less about directly driving to home ownership and more the importance of being intentional about how we develop and what we communicate is the name change…The name of this project was originally Cypress at Gardere. As we got closer to closing we started being intentional about the history of Gardere. It was named for François Gardere, a Frenchman who came to Louisiana. One of the largest plantation owners in the state. Long and heavy history associated with François Gardere and the neighborhood. Rather than move forward with that name, we positioned ourselves to name it Cypress Pinchback. P.B.S. Pinchback was the first Black governor of Louisiana. We’re excited to be able to reposition this project in a way that honors his legacy and makes a statement about how we intend to move forward with our projects.

Courtney Scott (ACAO, City of Baton Rouge)

  • Representing City Parish today, we’re a conduit to many of the people speaking today

  • Housing First Alliance - many of the folks speaking today are the brain trust behind it - Sam Sanders, J. Daniels, Chris Tyson, Alfredo Cruz

  • These folks have ben doing work over the last few years to build a social contract with the EBR Parish community around a healthy housing network

  • On behalf of the Mayor’s office, we were excited to be able to join the conversation to navigate where we will allocate resources, how we build healthy housing, engage with stakeholders and prioritize affordable housing, nurturing those partnerships necessary to create these opportunities for all

  • We will be using two main strategies to inform the public about gaps in place

  • We know that stable housing, a roof over your head, a community, a family of people are necessary for us to thrive…it’s part of our fundamental foundation

  • The use of collective impact - everyone working together to leverage those local resources for healthy housing sustainability

  • A lot of that starts with our Office of Community Development which is administered and managed by Build Baton Rouge, we look at a lot of those pieces and parts to say how do we continue to rebuild/evolve to work well?

  • Two key things we’ve done over the last year - made a very conscious decision to rapidly evolve and start this work in a collective

  • Didn’t want to just be City Parish, wanted many minds there

  • Awarded a $3.4 million grant for lead hazard

  • Also had to respond rapidly to COVID-19 and the financial impact on our families with rental assistance and facing losing their homes

  • Responded by standing up our Rental Emergency Assistance program

  • Also made sure to put sustainable partners in place to sit at the table with us - Mid City Redevelopment, UREC, Habitat for Humanity, Project 70805 as case managers

  • Case-worthy system connected to our department for human services

  • Respond to the needs of our families right now and keep them connected to resources in the future

  • Case managers are set to respond to folks facing evictions or financial burdens due to COVID-19 at this time, but we can now look to the future to keep them connected to more resources

  • Also putting a legal support system in place offering immediate assistance to folks in danger of losing their housing

  • Want to champion Alfredo Cruz again…he always stands in as an advocate making sure we are not only solving a quick need but putting long term solutions in place

  • In the chat, Ms. Pat LeDuff said the case management model has been very successful, and we’re excited because we finally have a system in City Parish where pieces can speak together…it becomes our job to look at how we can build a system to get people from poverty to stability

  • We don’t need to do quick fixes anymore, we have to build systems

  • We’ll be sharing more information about our lead positive program , again groups like Mid City Redevelopment and Build Baton Rouge will be at the table putting infrastructure together and working with the National League of Cities to make sure we’re looking at best practices across the country

  • See questions about data and homelessness in Scotlandville...I will continue to answer questions in the chat.

Sam Sanders (Executive Director, Mid City Redevelopment Alliance)

  • For those of you interested in housing, reach out to Casey and he can connect you to me and Alfredo and plug you in

  • As to my topic, barriers to home ownership, I’m going to start with controversy…homeownership is not for everyone.

  • When I first started this work I believed in was. I now realize it’s not necessarily for everyone. Key things to remember are it costs to get a house, maintain one, protect the investment in its lifetime, and you really have to be able to navigate these expectations.

  • First barrier is about the prospective buyer and their understanding and ability to manage the long term commitment of home ownership

  • Other barriers are affordability, credit, and closing the gap

  • Affordability has definitely been misused over the years - we are talking about it being affordable to specific someones. Those having a harder time reaching that achievement. 80% and AMI. If you make $62,800 as a family of four or less, that’s who we’re talking about. We are not talking about mini mansions. Developers will build those and call it affordable housing.

  • We want to normalize what we’re talking about. Typically when people hear public hosing they go with the worst of images, calling people leeches and lazy. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re talking about those who need and deserve an opportunity to thrive. What can we do to help get them there?

  • We have to remind people there are qualifications.

  • Credit is one of the most important things we have to talk about.

  • Lenders want a 620 credit score. They want perfect clients, easy loans to process that are comfortable and consistent. Not who we’re talking about. Credit can be a huge barrier because time is the only thing that can really fix that. Life challenges produce credit issues. The series of issues people come up with over time can be a huge driver to poverty. One mistake can cause a seven year impact that gives them a long, long road getting back.

  • Buyers need forgiveness and fairness - we need the credit scoring model to be revised. It forces people to become traditional credit users instead of taking into account where people are.

  • They need lenders to embrace the tenants of CRA - we have legislation on the books that banks and credit unions have to do things to help even though they don’t necessarily want to help.

  • Lenders need to embrace the concept of community lending. Community lenders must have a special skill set, understanding that people have lives and may have been through a whole lot before walking into the bank. The right person on the other side of that table can make a huge difference. We don’t always see that.

  • Baton Rouge struggles today with lenders. We need to hire caring people who really care about the opportunities they’re providing. We need lenders who don’t mind doing a little extra - what’s the definition of equity? Just giving someone a little extra if that’s what’s required.

  • Buyers need assistance: Gap assistance. Down payment assistance. Closing cost assistance. A fair shot is equity. All of those are needed to help someone get to the finish line.

  • We are creating home ownership opportunities but it’s equity work.

  • There’s a lot of work to be done, there’s a lot of angles we can go about this. The administration today is focused on equity and housing is at the top…we’re excited about the promise and will do the best we can with what comes.

  • The most important thing I think deserves repeating is, as Sam said, home ownership is not for everybody. What’s really important is having safe, habitable, humane housing in our community.

  • We’ve fetishized home ownerships at the detriment of having a robust system that includes tenants rights, protections, and enforcement; holistic community planning beyond units; and understanding the interdisciplinary work required to sustainably and equitably turn around communities that have been systematically distressed over decades

  • How do we create whole communities? We need to increase production of affordable housing units, make sure affordability addresses people at risk of homelessness, people that are on the bottom of the economic ladder. We have an economy that provides very few protections for people who do low work

  • Stitching together a thicker safety net

  • Housing First Alliance is vitally important work - unearthing data that Baton Rouge has never captured, that we don’t even know about ourselves. We’re late to the game.

  • Can’t have a meaningful conversation about moving housing forward in this community without the level of rigor and analysis that’s happening right now

  • Recap of the work of Build Baton Rouge - we’ve been around for over a decade and always try to tie all of our work together because it is long cycle collaborative work

  • As you know our legacy project has been the Ardendale Master Plan, the Choice Neighborhoods Project, which we are working on alongside J. Daniels and the City that is an outgrowth of a decade of planning we were able to use to compel HUD to make a $30 million award to this community

  • Also focused in the Mid City area - in 2018 we completed the Rail Station Master Plan tied to the Electric Depot development, which revolves around housing development and transit oriented development

  • We have to think holistically about creating neighborhoods...that’s what makes a city vibrant, healthy, durable, and attractive

  • We can’t just drop a few units. All of our city deserves high quality planning

  • Another thing about equitable housing, is that it doesn’t just occur in North Baton Rouge. Particularly if we’re interested in desegregating our community, we have to look at the entire region as an opportunity and ensure that when also thinking about transit, affordable commercial development, other supports that families need to live all over the city

  • Lastly, the Plank Road Master Plan continues to advance across a number of projects including affordable housing, urban infill development, mixed use development, a grocery anchored mixed use development with housing on the same site as grocery connected to transit and the BRT project

  • Number of partners including CATS, EBRPHA, Mid City Redevelopment Alliance and City Parish

  • At the end of this year the Capital Area Transit System will have a vote to renew their tax. Lets’ be clear - as a community if we want to advance housing and we aren’t talking about transit-oriented development, we kneecapped our competitiveness for national grants to do the kind of work we want to do here. When we received the Advancing Cities Grant $5 million award from JP Morgan Chase, one of their final questions was what’s up with the BRT plan? That most caught their attention. We don’t get BRT without a dedicated funding source for transit. There are other housing related developments we can do with a robust, well funded transit system. If you care about this work, you need to care about transit.

Coalition Questions

Casey Phillips: Gwen had multiple questions in the chat so I’m going to cherry pick a couple of these…the first is for affordable housing built by EBRPHA, how are you measuring success J. and David?

J. Daniels: There are a couple of deliverables. I always start with access. Access is our transformation plan which leverages our housing opportunities to create greater access and outcomes to education, economic opportunities, health and wellness. As we grade ourselves as a metric, we ensure that we are developing properties that have access to transportation, recreation, other housing opportunities, schools, all those things that create a great community. That meshed with the actual delivery of units…In the past we have not delivered the number of units that we should have. We are unearthing this data that says we are woefully behind. That’s going to be a key metric of our success as a community.

David Summers: The main focus for us is to produce as many affordable housing units where we can that are mixed use, mixed income, that allow families to have success. One thing I think worth discussing it the bell at the housing authority…it’s a tremendous way we measure our success.

J. Daniels: One of our last metrics of success is how our housing choice families graduate to homeownership. We had a tremendous amount of people independently without resources deciding to build wealth and buy a home. We wanted to celebrate that fact so we installed a bell in our lobby. It (our service) is a temporary assistance - ultimately we want to celebrate that family. They come out and ring a bell and everybody in the office comes out and we celebrate, we cry...the family says thank you. Ringing the bell is a very symbolic ceremony. It allows us to move that family to home ownership but it also creates another housing opportunity for the next family up. We have thousands of people on our wait list. It’s a great aspect of what we do.

Casey Phillips: You can’t have a conversation about housing without talking about schools and transportation. Sam, is there a collective actionable strategic plan to address the gaps and challenges that all these agencies are working on together?

Sam Sanders: That’s really the point of the alliance. Stay tuned, it is coming soon. Three action steps would be:

  1. Plug into Housing First website (coming soon) so you know the data and can participate in strategy development.

  2. Help us label housing as a matter of equity...tell everyone.

  3. Ask our City Leaders how they are supporting transformation (not status quo) in the housing and don’t stop asking

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and more collaborative ways so we can leverage as much as we have available. The Alliance was born out of frustration. After the flood, it frustrated me to no end that I couldn’t figure out where to plug in to help those in need. I didn’t know what to do and had to figure it out myself. Thankfully I had the resources but it didn’t make sense. From that, I felt like I could see clearly that the recovery was not equitable. Those in the north/more challenging neighborhoods had a hard go at getting back. We have not really galvanized the support. This whole planning effort has been an attempt to slap Baton Rouge in its face, to find out the number of affordable housing units that are needed in our city so that no one can get away from that. It’s supposed to burden us that this exists. We’ve got to do something about it, develop strategies and get into the uncomfortable space of challenging our leaders.

Alfredo Cruz: I’m so happy to hear these partners lift up these issues we’ve been talking about this last year. Let me just emphasize something that Courtney said - this is about creating a social contract with our community. We’re co-designing solutions with new partners and a broad array of folks who understand what it’s like to not have a home. It’s going to take some time to get there but we’re on the right track. I’m so glad the Housing First Alliance website is almost done - likely going up next week. It’s timely because last week we heard we’re going to be coordinating in a different way with these coalitions. This will be the right way to plug into coalition that’s already underway. I wanted to add that we are part of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The latest gap report shows the gap we have in Louisiana of affordable housing units for extremely low income renters, that is, folks paying more than half their income for housing costs and make less than 30% of the area median income per year. For those folks, they are facing the most extreme shortage of affordable housing. For every 100 people in Louisiana that are considered extremely low income there are only 49 units. That means 51 extremely low income persons don’t have access to affordable housing. Home ownership is not for everybody but if that’s the case and we want to build more affordable rental housing we have to make sure we have the proper protections in place for renters.

Pam Wall: I’ve been affiliated with the Housing Authority for nearly twenty years. What’s happened in the last few years has been transformational. J. has bigger dreams than most people can really understand. Folks don’t understand how restrictive HUD funding really is.I tried to advocate for building that implement childcare - they have it in New Orleans - the former CEO said HUD would not stand for that. It had to be an outside thing. Now we’re working with the YWCA to make sure we have childcare in the new CNI. Now we have this opportunity - and I miss Sam so much on the board of partners because he always had a great grounding statement for me. I feel like a lot of people don’t understand that there’s these mobility studies that show when you take folks who have lived in subsidized housing and give them the opportunity to move to neighborhoods with more wealth and opportunities, many of them come right back within five years. We can’t just create housing and move folks from subsided housing to different neighborhoods without a lot of wraparound services. I really think this group needs to understand that in spite of what people say in the legislature, it’s not only teenagers working minimum wage jobs. We have a lot of moms in housing and their two biggest challenges that would move them out of housing authority properties are childcare and transportation. We all need to be advocating for a decent minimum wage. I heard the new secretary of HUD speak two days ago and she talked about all the money that’s going to be available to expand affordable housing. I think it’s really, really important that we don’t waste those dollars. I’m really glad to see everyone working together. I’m hoping there will be more money available for helping folks who live in Section VIII and housing authority properties to get job training and jobs. We recently worked on a grant in which HUD would give us money to hire one social worker but that social worker can’t work with over 50 families. We have nearly 900 families…with two social workers. Because HUD wants us to use them to refer. It’s not the kind of case management we need. There’s policies even at the federal level we can change if we all work together.

Courtney Scott: Taking in all the comments, I wanted to address that City Parish is looking to go towards more person-centered, holistic case management. That’s what we’re hoping the Housing First Alliance will do. Conversations like this turning into tangible frameworks backed by evidence-based data will allow us to build the systems to put in place. Case-worthy for us is one of those first steps to make sure our families receive housing support but that everyone in the system, say rental assistance, will then be connected to EmployBR and DHDS to figure out how we can train them, what food stability do they need, are there children there who can join the Mayor’s Youth Workforce Experience? We want to start building a whole person-centered approach to all of this work. It will take time but conversations like this and accountability to our administration…Sam said it best, while we work together, Sam holds us accountable to what we say and what we need to do. This is just the start. We’re also looking at how do we train our organizations to work more collaboratively and not in silos. These conversations let me know that Baton Rouge has the resources, we just need to realign and engage.

Reginald Brown (Gardere Initiative): What’s the measurement for segregation? I’m looking at the 2020 EBR Assessment of Fair Housing. It shows the number of people who would have to move from one place to another in the city to evenly distribute. High trends of segregation in most of our area.

Christopher Tyson: That assessment is a great start. We know experientially in this city that we’re a very divided city spatially, not only where people live but the quality of development and extent of development in different parts of the city. I would count that as contributing to the racial and spatial stratification that defines life in Baton Rouge. We wake up everyday with addressing that stratification as our target.

Sam Sanders: We know how significant it will be to really bust segregation. There’s so many different angles.There’s some folks who want to be segregated, who thrive in an environment that looks like them. We need to be looking more towards measuring quality of life. If it’s not apparent that the others exist, there’s something wrong. I’ve heard many people say that Florida serves as the Mason Dixon line…many people go to North Baton Rouge just for the airport. People need to understand there’s a reason to go north of Florida and they don’t need to be terrified there and back.

J. Daniels: I just want to encourage our partners to continue using the housing authority as a resource. As we move to push the needle to grow wealth within our families we truly encourage all of our partners to consider us with future and ongoing partnerships.

Marlee Pittman (Mid City Redevelopment): We’re starting a really interesting collaborative around community development with the Safe Hopeful Neighborhood Initiative. We’re launching a slew of resources for residents who want to do work in the community with the belief that resident-led approaches are the best. People who live in a neighborhood understand what they need. They just need to be empowered to make that change. We’ll be talking about some of the strategies we’ve seen other communities use and the resources you can plug in to do some of these projects. You’ll probably see a press release later today opening up applications for our summer Community Change Academy - every Saturday in June/July. We’ll be using NeighborWorks America’s nationally recognized curriculum. Graduates will receive $2500 for projects in their area that they design and carry out. If you want to learn more, reach out to me.

Manny Patole (Co-City Baton Rouge): Brought in as a collaborative effort with Build Baton Rouge and some folks up here in New York and DC. We are working on the idea of intergenerational wealth community land bank. We’ll talk more about it in that June call, specifically how we’re working with Marlee and the resident leader program…when you’re developing these leaders and they graduate, it’s to do what? Those folks will be able to graduate into being part of the board for this community land bank. In the interim we’ll start recruiting for people on the call to be part of the advisory board. Two of our legal scholars afforded to us through the JP Morgan/Chase have been drafting governance and by-laws for this new institution to ensure this idea of affordable housing and building community wealth for years to come, hopefully setting the example for other cities throughout the country.

Christopher Tyson: This is very important work. We are patterning land trusts established as close as Houston, New Orleans, and all around the country as a way of bringing more cooperative forms of ownership and stewardship of community we think about housing holistically, there are many ways communities can build equity and ownership and autonomy. This is a platform for doing that. We do this work through the generous support of the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation and JP Morgan Chase.

Manny Patole: What’s innovative about what we’re doing is not just about housing but placemaking…some of these properties could be used for commercial or recreational uses, and that’s another component of the work with JP Morgan Chase is the eco part.

D’Adario Conway (The Ascent Project): I lead the People Strategy of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative Grant. There’s Housing, Neighborhood and People Strategy and that’s where me and my team come in. We provide an intensive case management model synonymous to a total wellness plan, looking at economic stability, emotional stability, mental health, physical wealth, education, and so forth. Our outcomes and metrics are health, education, and economic self sufficiency. My team makes often contact with family members. Some of the barriers are transportation, childcare, lack of motivation to work right now due to low average annual income with minimum wage ($10-12k). With unemployment benefits, they’re able to take in more than when they were working. We’re working on education, motivation, and job training opportunities so that when this insurance benefit runs out they have a cognitive restructuring of maintaining a livable wage. We’re really consistent with our message, contact, and education. This is year two of the grant with us, so we’re still establishing trust. My role is to connect with community partners who submitted commitment letters. Once I can fully connect with everyone I’ll be able to better position our families.

Reginald Brown: It looks like we’ve done a lot of good work. My first question, is there a program where we can talk about ownership of multi-family apartments for apartment buildings as a form of wealth creation? Most of the families in Gardere live in apartment buildings. I would love for them to be able to own apartment buildings, to create that pride of ownership and thereby reducing litter and trash. The second issue is that the programs y’all are talking about are, I think, only for your community. Can we model and outreach to those non-EBRPHA communities?

J. Daniels: To your first point, automatically families think about single family residences or a town house. But doing doubles or triplexes we can present opportunities to create true wealth. That’s something we could all work on. Secondly, you’ll be surprised that even though we have a pretty broad swath, we don’t own every apartment community. Many are owned privately and less willing and accepting to have conversations like this. Families are treated like a commodity. I think we have to encourage conversation with the private sector.

Reginald Brown: And we have done that and they’re on board. But on the other side of that, the good property owners and landlords are at our meetings and are part of our group. I don’t know how to reach the ones who want their money and don’t want to do anything else. There’s about 10-12 owners in the Gardere area very willing to make sure the quality of life for residents is great.

Sam Sanders: Bold ideas for transformative housing. There’s many different ways you can go and it’s something Baton Rouge does not talk about. There’s room and a need for more discussion. Collaboration is what matters. You make a pearl by starting with irritation.


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