Alabama statewide discussion topline report 5.3.12


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Alabama statewide discussion topline report 5.3.12

  1. 1. Alabama Statewide Discussion Topline ReportSocio Economic StateThe socio economic state of Alabama is highly vulnerable at this time. According to the CFED the overallstate is failing in terms of areas of “Assets and Opportunities.” In particular, the key areas of failure areFinancial Assets and Income (looks at poverty rates and net worth), Businesses and Jobs (microenterprise, unemployment rates, underemployment rates) and Education (early childhood educationenrollment, 8th grade math and reading proficiency, two and four year college degrees). While notfailing, Alabama’s Healthcare score is a D mainly because of employee share of premium, uninsured lowincome children and parents and uninsured by income). An additional health concern is that of foodaccess options. In fact there are 30+ food deserts (counted by census tracts) in state of Alabamaprimarily in 10+counties. This presence of food deserts signals that residents in these areas lack accessto grocery stores and thus healthy food options. The food insecurity can be a contributing factor to thehealth challenges that residents are facing. Housing and Homeownership individually received a scoreof B because of the high homeownership rate, low foreclosure rate, but that only tells half of the story.There are still many housing issues facing Alabama that are not evident in this average score.Community stability is in jeopardy for two key reasons: foreclosure and reoccurring tornadoes. Whileforeclosures are a national issue the true impact of foreclosures is just recently being seen in Alabama.The economic downturn in Alabama is depicted by mass layoffs and folks in certain areas losing theircommercial business to Katrina and the BP oil spill among other things. Nonetheless, loss of income ordecrease in income has put a financial strain on households regardless of tenure. Residents are severelycost burdened and are faced with making personal sacrifices just to make ends meet. Many residentsare already on a fixed income such as the elderly or those with adaptive needs but are forced to live inunconscionable living conditions because they have no alternatives or the resources to improve theirexisting home. For those who were unable to negotiate with their lender when they fell behind they arewithout homes and their former home is now among the 36, 000 tax delinquent properties for sale inthe Alabama Department of Revenue’s database. Acquiring these tax delinquent, foreclosed, abandonedproperties is no small feat in Alabama. Regarding shrinking the affordable housing deficit practitionersreport challenges with getting a clean title, dealing with air property for existing properties and comps,resources and developers for new properties, especially in rural areas. There are still opportunities fornew development . Since the beginning of the 2012 housing permit issuance has shown a consistenttrend, most permits being issued are for single family or 5 or more units (multi -family). While permitsare being issued, on the ground data indicates that housing developments aren’t necessarily being builtin the areas most needed and for the people in the greatest need.Impact of TornadoesThe tornadoes that struck Alabama between April 2011 and March 2012 had a devastating impact notonly on communities, but it also compounded an already affordable housing scarcity issue. Oneorganization reported a 600 home deficit (300 existing and additional 300 needed). According to the 1
  2. 2. Alabama Center for Real Estate the April 27, 2011 impacted 65% of the counties in Alabama andapproximately 14,000 (as of August 2011 report) were declared inhabitable or a complete loss.Interestingly enough practitioners reported that many homes destroyed in the storm were inhabitableor unstable prior to the storm and the structure vulnerabilities were just highlighted by the storms. Thestorms following the April 27th, 2011 tornado in some cases re-victimized residents who previously losttheir homes and were in the process of rebuilding or took new residents’ homes that had not previouslybeen hit. Low income communities and those in rural areas were hit extremely hard and besides homes,lives, schools and even churches in some areas were lost. Rebuilding these communities has been andwill continue to be challenging due to time required, costs and financial constraints in trying to maintainthe same level of affordability residents were previously use to, i.e. $300-400 month rent. Additionally,in rural areas economic feasibility is challenging and thus hinders these areas from attracting developersto build there. These reoccurring disaster episodes and lack of disaster recovery infrastructure haveprovided an opportunity for Alabama CDCS to be innovative and in some cases to collaborate with oneanother to ensure the needs of Alabama residents are met concurrent with helping them recover fromthe tornado. For instance, organizations mentioned aiding families by creating one stop shop housingresource centers, creating a cdc for long term disaster recovery or serving as a liaison between the homeowners and their lender following the disaster.Housing is one key staple that every resident regardless of the socio economic status deserves as areaccessibility to community assets such as grocery stores, medical facilities, transportation, jobs andbusinesses to patronize. Again issue of community assets like grocery stores was further compoundedby the tornado by increasing the number of food deserts in a county as well as for the state of Alabamaas a whole. These tornadoes have caused resident displacement as well which impact their “daily round”and results in increased expenses for things like transportation. While a large majority of individualsseem to live and work in the same area, tornadoes striking completely disrupt that phenomenon.Collectively, the vulnerability of the socio economic state of Alabama compounded by the economicdownturn and impact of the tornado has resulted in community instability. Residents are struggling dayto day to make ends meet in areas with often limited access to resources. Access to education, access tohealthcare, access to healthy food, access to transportation, access to jobs and most importantly accessto safe, quality and affordable housing. This current environment presents an opportunity for theNeighborWorks Network and Alabama CDC Network to collaborate on addressing these issues.NeighborWorks Network + CDC NetworkThere is a great deal of strength in numbers and this is especially true in Alabama. NeighborWorksAlabama Network coupled with the other local cdcs in the area possesses a tremendous amount oforganizational strength, particularly around housing. As a collective group the network could certainlymake meaningful impact. Some of the key strengths highlighted were: 2
  3. 3. Biggest Strength • Strategic relationships • Community engagement in decision-making process • Community Asset • On the ground community insight • Quality housing development • Quality housing programs • Skilled StaffDespite their organizational strengths and expertise, all organizations still expressed state challengesaround existing housing inventory and economic lossBiggest Challenges • Access to credit • Getting solid appraisals—comps aren’t there • Foreclosures • Lack of development funds • Reduction in funds from government sources • Shortage of affordable rural housing • Old housing stock and thus lack of quality affordable housing • Resilience to disasters • Lack of Housing PolicyEconomic Loss • Mass layoffs • Businesses destroyed in the tornado • Spatial mismatch 3
  4. 4. • Population Drift • Destruction to Maritime Industry-Katrina and Oil SpillEach Alabama NeighborWorks Network organizations expressed their own service area nuance orunique characteristics that impact their ability to serve their population. For CAPNA whose 2011 marketanalysis service area included Morgan, Lawrence, Jackson and Cullman counties, “Population Drift hasbeen an observed occurrence. According to CAPNA, Population Drift occurs when families to seek stableemployment or safe harbor with family or friends. With the economic downturn and subsequent jobloss Alabama’s rural area population has “drifted.” CAPNA stated Morgan and Cullman counties saw apopulation increase between 2005 to2010 and Lawrence County had no population change during thatsame period while Jackson County saw a decline.CSP given its work in the black belt stated the area itself presents its own challenges. The blackbeltincludes 12 counties in the Central Alabama Area. Residents in this area are poor and were described interms of ownership as “land rich and money poor.” Blackbelt residents are older, some are grandparentsraising their grandchildren and many have literacy, particularly financial literacy obstacles.NHS of Birmingham also has a unique position given its position as the only homeownership center inthe state of Alabama. This undertaking presents it challenges and provides a tremendous amount ofopportunity to not only serve residents themselves but to also partner with other organizations toprovide that service.All Alabama housing professionals interviewed aspire for a strong Alabama housing infrastructure andare actively seeking ways to facilitate that. Beyond their own efforts everyone had a vision about whattheir “Ideal Alabama” would be like in terms of affordable housing.Ideal AlabamaOverall practitioners are seeking impactful change in Alabama around affordable housing. Ideally theyaspire for a cohesive stance and system around affordable housing. Housing leaders believe that aconvenient system that allows individuals to enter a single entry point (clearinghouse) and then be ableto navigate a seamless process to get their complete household needs met would be ideal for Alabama.Furthermore, practitioners envision affordable housing in Alabama to consist of diverse housing stockbuilt which includes a mix of populations in terms of age, education, race and income rather than solelysegregated communities. Affordability is a big issue for both urban and suburban areas so the visionincludes abundance of safe, quality affordable housing for all areas along with community amenities andsupport services. Also, they would prefer an easier land acquisition process or more governmentsupport around housing in Alabama as a whole. 4
  5. 5. Unfortunately there are several obstacles identified that currently hinder achieving the “Ideal Alabama”(beyond resources) which are: • LACK OF POLITICAL WILL • LACK OF HOUSING POLICY; HOUSING TRUST FUND BILL GETTING PASSED • OBTAINING CLEAR TITLES • LAND ACQUISITION-AIR PROPERTY • LACK OF A COHESIVE PLANConclusions & RecommendationsAlabama is facing many issues from a socio economic stand point but in terms housing in particular. Oneof the main housing issues is that there is not enough safe, quality affordable housing, particularly inrural areas. In the context Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Alabama residents are struggling miserably atthe lowest rung of the triangle i.e. meeting basic needs of food and shelter. Through no fault of theirown but rather due to lack of policy, infrastructure and a statewide housing plan. An initial step wouldbe to organize a statewide discussion at least with the main funding institutions such as intermediariesLISC, NeighborWorks, Enterprise along with major foundations and funders such as Untied Way andothers to implement a collective voice that can support the on the ground efforts of local cdcs. Beyondthe statewide organizations some tasks that an Alabama Collaborative should consider are:Advocacy around Housing Policy to Ensure Affordability in Perpetuity • Organize/Lobby as a group to ensure existing and new housing legislation gets passed and funded • Establish a Alabama Community Land Trust leveraging the National Community Land Trust and nearby successful land trust such as in Charlotte and Georgia • Establish an Alabama Land BankRural Housing Initiative • Incentivize investment in blighted areas and rural communities; need programming similar to what has taken place in Mobile, Alabama 5
  6. 6. • Institute peer-to-peer sharing with other NeighborWorks Network organizations who have been successful inAlabama Housing Collaborative Details & Procedures • Incorporate other local cdcs in the collaborative in some capacity • Model FAHE’s caucus format in terms of meeting frequency and data sharing • Develop MOU’s pertaining to different lines of service, taking advantage of the each organization’s strengths and capacity • Leverage FAHE’s back office operation for lending, access to credit and some of the “financing” challenges previously expressed 6