ONE Neighborhood Builders (ONE|NB) hosted panelists from five New England Community Development Corporations (CDCs) for April’s virtual session called Fresh Fridays on Friday, April 14, 2023.

Panelists discussed affordable housing, financing of development for nonprofit developments, the special challenges CDCs face, what special skills nonprofit development corporations bring to the table, and the opportunities available for increasing development of affordable housing.

Panelists included Joe Garlick, Executive Director, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley; Intiya Ambrogi-Isaza, Director of Real Estate, Madison Park Development Corporation; Harrison Kanzler, Executive Director, AHEAD, Inc.; Jason Bird, Penquis Housing Development Director and MaineStream Finance Director; and Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director, ONE Neighborhood Builders. Grace Evans, ONE|NB’s Chief of Staff, hosted the session.

Garlick kicked off the session by defining affordable housing. He said it is legally defined as housing where the cost of rent or the sales price of the house is restricted to what a moderate income household can pay. He said it’s housing where the cost of rent or the sales price of the house is restricted to what a moderate income household or family can pay, so that their housing costs don’t exceed 30% or more of their income. For rentals, he said, moderate income is defined as 80% of the area median income (AMI) for a family of four, around $77,000. Home ownership, he said, for ownership is at 120% AMI, around $116,000.

“In Rhode Island, communities need to hit a goal of 10% of their housing stock being classified as affordable,” Garlick said. “Only six out of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns have reached that goal.”

Intiya Ambrogi-Isaza said Madison Park Development Corporation’s mission is fostering a vibrant and healthy Roxbury, Massachusetts neighborhood and developing affordable housing. She said the goal is to build beautiful, amenity-rich buildings that families can live in while charging them below-market rents, which creates a funding gap between traditional financing and the cost of producing the homes.

The funding gap, she said, is then filled through low income housing tax credits — a federal program administered at the state level. And then there are other programs and other funds administered by the states and local municipalities that they also leverage, she said.

“We have a typical mortgage financing situation that any real estate developer or doing any kind of work would have. And then on top of that, we layer a bunch of state and city resources to ensure that we’re able to provide the homes at a discount, effectively.”

Madison Park Development Corporation is committed to producing homeownership opportunities despite losing money on every unit produced and finding ways to balance it out across their portfolio, she said.

Harrison Kanzler discussed his advocacy work around housing and working with municipalities and how to solve the problem of the lack of housing. He said that one of the issues in rural areas of New Hampshire is the inconsistency in funding, with a lot of one-off programmatic funding and not enough recurring funds.

Additionally, he said, there is a strong “not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, mentality in rural communities, but there is starting to be a shift in political will, with conservative-led programming in New Hampshire advocating for regular recurring funding for rural areas and increased funding for infrastructure.

There is also increasing community support and involvement in these efforts, with decision-makers within the communities helping to lead the charge, he said.

Jason Bird noted that Penquis provides a comprehensive list of the services, from transportation, financial coaching, legal services, supportive housing, assisted living, and close to 50 other services. He said that being comprehensive in its approach can be challenging, especially when Penquis needs to speak to public officials who expect them to be experts in every area.

However, Bird’s organization is becoming stronger in data management and communicating their impact in the community, he said. He is seeing less NIMBYism because people recognize the need for affordable housing and many constituents have gotten assistance from their programs.

He said Penquis is community-focused and locally driven in its strategic planning, with a board makeup that includes low-income individuals, actual clients, and the business community.

Jennifer Hawkins stressed the significance of public policy in promoting the development of affordable housing.

She pointed to instances of municipalities like East Providence, that mandate a minimum percentage of affordable housing in any new development.

Hawkins said that for-profit developers are usually disinclined to create affordable housing and instead collaborate with non-profit organizations that possess the expertise to finance such projects. She said that this presents an opportunity to encourage more non-profit developers and advocates for more legislation and ordinances to require affordable housing set asides.

Fresh Fridays are virtual gatherings hosted monthly during which ONE|NB invites practitioners, community members, and experts to explore new topics in community development.

For more from this Fresh Friday’s session, watch the video above.