Houston HOPE Book
Houston HOPE is the City of Houston's effort to revitalize select inner-city historic neighborhoods through blight removal and acquisition of abandoned lots for affordable housing.
Building HOPE Revitalizing Houston's Historic Neighborhoods Building HOPE Revitalizing Houston's Historic Neighborhoods � www.hhphoto.com All photos in this publication were taken in the houston region. Author - meredith Spencer Author - cindy Gabriel Author - Katy Kennedy Author - tory Gattis program Director - Steve tinnermon primary project coordinator - chris Butler project coordinator - Valerie watson Research - Lynn henson �2010 copyright city of houston and houston hopE homes cover photo � www.hhphoto.com All Rights Reserved tA B L E o f c on tE nt S BuildiNg HOPE Revitalizing Houston's Historic Neighborhoods foreword by mayor Bill white page 5 Executive Summary page 9 Introduction page 13 Step 1: Selecting target neighborhoods page 17 Step 2: creating the Legal and organizational foundation page 29 Step 3: partnering with community organizations and Builders page 41 Step 4: financing and Downpayment Assistance page 49 Step 5: marketing page 57 Step 6: Supporting Activities page 61 Step 7: Energy Efficiency page 71 conclusion: the future of hopE page 75 mayor Bill white cIty of houSton [ 4 ] houston hopE � www.hhphoto.com Foreword for decades some of houston's most historic neighborhoods had experienced a cycle of decline. Shameful discrimination resulted in deteriorating infrastructure. older houses were abandoned rather than sold when the owner died, and vacant lots multiplied, becoming magnets for crime. School enrollment dwindled in areas populated largely by seniors. that, in turn, discouraged new building, and often you could not even get a mortgage for a new home because there were no comparables for an appraisal! But I believed that if a great, historic neighborhood near an employment center could experience a downward cycle, we could also create an upward cycle with real momentum. we started by clearing weeded lots, tearing down abandoned properties, repairing homes which had become almost uninhabitable, improving safety through aggressive policing, and upgrading streets and drainage and public facilities, such as parks and libraries. next we recruited both homebuilders and homebuyers. we sold lots at good prices to builders and provided down payment assistance to homebuyers. we provided incentives, but used the market � private builders and mortgage companies � to build housing desired by buyers. often they allied with community development corporations. we set reasonable standards for housing quality, using builders with experience and requiring strong energy efficiency. we began with requirements that monthly payments stay in the range of $700-950 per month, and some builders were able to set prices even lower with private grants. most housing prices are still in that range. As new homes began to be built, we accelerated movement with a wave of activity that improved the appearance and reality of community life � better schools, more trees and landscaping, crackdowns on nuisances such as hourly motels, enhancements of parks and libraries, enhanced police patrols, retrofits for thousands of existing homes for energy efficiency, and social services. this process took both patience and commitment, and we have measured progress in biweekly meetings at which I presided and attended by senior city leadership, builders, and community-based nonprofit organizations. we generated more interest by homebuyers and builders through extensive marketing in every conceivable forum. After steady, weekly progress over the course of several years, in certain areas we reached a "tipping point," a critical mass of change so that builders putting new houses on vacant lots obtained them without foreclosure. where we began with a few, small minority-owned builders willing to take the risk of building on scattered sites, now other builders have come along. we believed in beating expectations and growing success, and so we started with targeted zones as small as twenty square blocks, and expanded the areas only once we made significant progress. we also overcame mistrust by existing residents and community leaders based on prior redevelopment schemes in houston and other cities which had resulted in displacement of existing residents and a loss of the history and identity of neighborhoods. too often in the past, rows of $200,000 townhomes and new, gated apartment complexes covered entire blocks which had once been the site of modest singlefamily homes. I spent hundreds of hours listening to community residents and leaders, building trust and assuring them that homes would be affordable for working families who wanted to build equity and put down roots. After a while, where a new builder in the past might be viewed as a threat, now residents view new builders as a resource. And because we dramatically increased the city property tax exemptions for seniors and those with disabilities, long-time residents view the inevitable rise in market values of improving neighborhoods as a benefit rather than as a threat to their ability to stay. houston hopE [ 5 ] we avoided several weaknesses typical of public sector initiatives. often these same pitfalls afflict private sector firms, but they are cured by these businesses simply going out of business. first, we were pragmatic rather than proud. If something seemed like a "good idea" at the time but did not work, we abandoned the approach and moved in another direction. Second, although the program does use some funds with an overlay of misguided federal mandates, we have reduced program requirements and simplified its implementation as we have made progress. too often, in mature government programs and private sector entities, the number of policies and rules and regulations tend to expand, creating unnecessary complexity. An example of the fruits of this simplification can now be witnessed in the ability of qualified builders to simply pick and reserve online abandoned lots on which to build in these neighborhoods. third, we have crafted our approaches to take into account the market realities in each of our houston hopE neighborhoods. though they all have in common some historically high rates of crime and residents with lower income and numerous vacant lots, each neighborhood has its own promises and challenges depending on location in relationship to employment centers, average lot size, schools, and the condition of the existing housing stock. In one area, in part of the historic third ward, other city programs funded through a tax Increment Reinvestment Zone provided sufficient resources for land banking and the prime location of the neighborhood makes ultimate revitalization inevitable. fourth, we have emphasized that the most important people in the program are not the mayor or senior city officials or "community leaders," real or self-appointed. Instead, the most important stakeholders in the program are the new potential homebuyers, existing residents, and those who know how to and do build new homes on scattered sites of good quality at affordable prices. we have never succumbed to the thinking that the "vision" of some public official or self-proclaimed leader is more important than the needs of an individual resident and homebuyer and those who construct housing for them. houston hopE started as a tiny seed which has grown to a sapling. Like any seedling, its first years are the hardest, with the greatest threat to its survival. over 400 homes have been built on what had been abandoned lots, and in some cases crack houses, and at least a couple of hundred more have been built on private lots in the same neighborhood. hundreds of homes have been repaired with public assistance, and many hundreds of others have been repaired by their owners, although the changes they saw giving hope to the neighborhood are not the full measure of houston hopE's success so far. Its greatest success is to show that with concentrated effort, private investment made by homeowners themselves, and a willingness to use the power of foreclosure on abandoned properties and provide public downpayment assistance, we can start an upward cycle of redevelopment without jeopardizing the character of historic neighborhoods. houston hopE does not simply benefit the residents of the neighborhoods and their new neighbors. too often, large accumulations of abandoned properties serve as a refuge for those engaged in criminal conduct, which hurts us all and absorbs scarce policing resources. concentrations of abandoned lots are an invitation to illegal dumping, and tax dollars are absorbed by the cost of removal. fundamentally, about a quarter of the mortgage payments by the new homeowners represent payment of property taxes used to support public safety, schools, infrastructure, and so much more. having residents contributing to these common costs helps spread the burden of these costs over more productive land owners. finally, traffic for all houstonians is reduced when people can live closer to where they work. patterns of leapfrog development resulting from citizens' believing that some neighborhoods are not suitable for new home construction are economically inefficient, since it is cheaper per resident to provide services to a more compact community. [ 6 ] houston hopE when I first moved to houston in 1979, I had little savings and employment history, but I was committed to buying a house and putting down roots in a neighborhood. I looked at various neighborhoods within the city limits with low property values, and searched for new housing. I was attracted to a neighborhood with good people, big lots, and trees, a neighborhood called Acres homes. there were no new houses being built, despite the fact that houston was undergoing a housing boom. I bought the cheapest new house I could find in all of the city, just beyond the Acres homes area, in a new subdivision with little grass and no trees. I drove to work through the heart of Acres homes and wondered why no homes were being built. After all, in many places the water and sewer utilities were already installed, and that neighborhood was closer to downtown than mine and had existing community institutions such as churches and schools. I returned to that neighborhood from time to time and visited it several times during my campaign for mayor. there had been public money spent improving the thoroughfares to get in and out and through Acres homes, but if anything there were more vacant lots and no new homes being constructed. on one street, Apollo Street, along my commuting route almost thirty years ago, there were only a handful of houses left on either side of the street for two entire city blocks. now, because of houston hopE, there are 40 new homeowners living on those two blocks, and they are building wealth and equity for their families when they had previously paid the same amount as their current mortgages in rent to landlords. That is houston hopE. -- mayor Bill white mayor white poses with a group of houston hopE homeowners. � www.hhphoto.com houston hopE [ 7 ] � www.hhphoto.com Reversing the cycle of Decline in Low-income neighborhoods: the houston hopE case Study executive Summary HouSton HoPe iS tHe city oF HouSton'S eFFort to revitalize bligHted but HiStoric neigHborHoodS by creating new aFFordable HomeS in areaS witH HigH concentrationS oF abandoned lotS. even tHougH tHeSe neigHborHoodS are near Some oF HouSton'S major emPloyment centerS, tHe areaS Have SuFFered From Poor PHySical inFraStructure, crime, and Struggling Public ScHoolS. Few HomeS were built in decadeS. many PeoPle witH tieS to tHe neigHborHoodS leFt to Seek a better quality oF liFe in diStant SuburbS. tHrougH land banking, incentiveS For new Home conStruction and neigHborHood enHancementS, tHe city oF HouSton HaS drawn citizenS back to tHeSe communitieS witH revitalization tHat reSPectS tHe HiStorical Fabric oF tHe neigHborHoodS. houston hopE [ 9 ] Senior city leadership, builders, cDcs and lenders meet monthly to report on building progress and to address any program concerns. to acquire the tax-delinquent properties for redevelopment, the city of houston partners with the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA), which began operations shortly before mayor white took office. As of December 2009, the city has foreclosed on and acquired 1,128 lots in houston hopE neighborhoods since 2004 and 1,259 more have been placed on the tax rolls with new owners or were paid. Due to a two-year redemption requirement under state law, the first home was not built until 2007, but as of December 2009, 446 houston hopE homes have been completed and purchased by first-time homebuyers. In recent months, affordable energy-efficient home construction has begun in these neighborhoods. Energy efficiency adds to the affordability aspect of houston hopE homes. partnerships have led to the overall success of houston hopE. In addition to the land bank, other taxing jurisdictions and the Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLp (Linebarger Goggan) law firm, the city of houston partners with builders, community development corporations, local churches, neighborhood centers, hospitals, and schools. the city of houston provides downpayment assistance to qualified buyers; the city's Department of public works and Engineering is continuing to upgrade the physical infrastructure in the targeted areas to support the new housing development; and the houston police Department has an increased presence in these communities. to manage these and the many other city departments involved, cut through red tape and make decisions on the spot, mayor white chairs monthly meetings of the intra-city working group comprised of senior city leadership. mayor white also chairs monthly meetings for an expanded working group that adds the city's many partners and places an emphasis on homebuilders reporting their progress and troubleshooting any bottlenecks in the overall process. the meetings also provide transparency and accountability. funding for houston hopE comes from a variety of sources including the city's capital Improvement plan (cIp) fund; huD grant funds in the form of community Development Block Grants (cDBG) and homE Investment partnerships funds; the houston housing finance corporation (hhfc); and affordable housing setaside monies generated through houston's tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (tIRZs). [ 10 ] houston hopE JAnIcE RuBIn photoGRAphy many renters in houston hopE neighborhoods could be homeowners building equity for the same amount of money in the same neighborhood. for decades potential homeowners resisted the idea of moving into neighborhoods in decline. houston hopE has helped builders attract buyers through advertising, community outreach and visibility through community fairs, seminars for hospital employees, and more. houston hopE builders are required to post the homes on the multiple Listing Service (mLS) where realtors and individual buyers can search online. Social networking has also greatly increased. houston hopE now has its mark on two popular social networking sites, facebook and twitter. In addition to the 446 new homeowners in houston hopE neighborhoods, over 200 privately acquired lots have been built on by developers recognizing that infrastructure upgrades and other improvements make these neighborhoods good investments. community involvement has greatly increased, leading to a variety of neighborhood watch programs initiated by new homeowners taking pride in their communities. the effect of increased homeownership has led to a noticeable reduction in blight and illegal dump sites. Among lessons learned which should be helpful to others wanting to replicate this initiative: Engage all taxing jurisdictions of abandoned lots early in the formation of the initiative; research existing laws governing tax foreclosures; seek state legislative changes necessary to minimize the redemption period for foreclosed lots; undertake extensive due diligence to locate anyone with an interest in lots slated for foreclosure; work with the judiciary system revising unnecessary and lengthy court rules; engage title companies early on in order to ensure title insurance commitments; engage all stakeholders in each step of the program planning and implementation; undertake a parallel and extensive program of home repairs; engage realtors knowledgeable in the target areas; work with mortgage companies that can address issues clearing applicants credit; and have a marketing strategy prepared before homes are built. houston hopE represents a lesson from not only past histories, but also from current practices being employed in other cities around the nation today. In January 2007, houston hopE received national recognition.1 the u.S. conference of mayors (uScm) 2 honored the city of houston and Linebarger Goggan with an outstanding Achievement Award for public-private partnerships.3 the city of houston and the law firm were recognized for Best practice programs in overcoming the complexities in creating the legal tools to enable the program to acquire vacant and distressed properties for the affordable home redevelopment projects.4 the national League of cities (nLc) included a description of "project houston hopE � LARA" in their city practices collection,5 "which is nLc's central repository for effective and innovative programs used by researchers across the country." 6 more recently, the city of houston and houston Association of Realtors (hAR) were designated as a 2009 Ambassador city by the national Association of Realtors� for the houston hopE program.7 JAnIcE RuBIn photoGRAphy Partnerships have led to the overall success of Houston HOPE. houston hopE [ 11 ] � www.hhphoto.com Introduction "we Have Had PromiSeS tHat tHe Federal government HaS articulated tHat are deSigned to make PeoPle'S liveS better in dePreSSed neigHborHoodS, Forgotten neigHborHoodS, neglected neigHborHoodS. until tHiS Program, not one tHing iS better tHan it waS SPent uPwardS oF 40 yearS ago. and we Have Probably $200 million over tHat time on tHeSe neigHborHoodS." � antHony Hall, city oF HouSton cHieF adminiStration oFFicer and HiStoric leader oF tHe aFrican american community houston hopE [ 13 ] Every city has them. neighborhoods caught in a cycle of decline. the symptoms are easily recognizable: � � � � � � � � � � � � Rising crime rates Visible drug use and trafficking Abandoned lots and vacant land Abandoned homes, often attracting vagrants and illegal drug activity trash and illegal dumping theft and vandalism Blight such as hourly motels and other eye-sores that drive people out homes falling into disrepair Declining public school performance, expectations, and enrollment out-migration of longtime residents Shuttering of commercial retail businesses Loss of hope And as each of these symptoms become worse, they reinforce each other in an overall cycle of decline. mayor Bill white realized that affordable housing is a crucial part of plotting a comeback for blighted communities and that the need for affordable housing affects everyone, not only those in need of it. mayor white envisioned a program he named houston hopE. houston hopE is an integrated policy and operational approach to reducing the number of abandoned lots and tax delinquent properties; increasing affordable housing; upgrading infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, and water and sewer facilities; improving schools; reducing crime; demolishing dangerous buildings; and ridding communities of blight all while retaining the historical fabric of the neighborhoods targeted for revitalization within the program. mayor white put the houston hopE program at the forefront of his agenda during his first term in office. this is the story of houston hopE and how it forged as a model for successfully reversing that decline into an upward cycle of mutually reinforcing neighborhood improvements to generate forward momentum � and hope for a brighter future. houston hopE: A new Era Arrives on an especially cold January day in 2007, houston mayor Bill white stood at an outdoor podium in the Acres homes neighborhood to reflect on the sheer hopelessness he had heard for years about this dream he has come to call houston hopE, 8 a plan to revitalize the city's most blighted neighborhoods. historical realities alone were evidence of why it couldn't work. once vibrant communities had contributed to the culture, history, and economy of the burgeoning city for nearly a century. By the 1970s, however, the promise of desegregation beckoned a younger generation to the suburbs. the inner city was already on its knees when the 1980s' oil bust delivered another blow. Some residents in houston's most vulnerable neighborhoods were forced to walk away from their homes. [ 14 ] houston hopE They were entering a new era for the city and its forgotten neighborhoods. Even as houston's economy recovered and largely Anglo communities experienced a resurgence in the '90s, some historic urban neighborhoods continued to decay, as evidenced by vacant commercial buildings, abandoned houses, overgrown lots, and despair for those who had remained behind. past efforts had invariably failed. Virtually everyone, the mayor included, knew those lessons and the longstanding arguments why improvements could not succeed now. Derelict buildings and houses remained for a reason: basic law protects even the most tax-delinquent properties.9 foreclosures can be a difficult and uncertain process that could be expected to take years for property that hasn't been claimed by anyone for decades, in some cases as far back as the 1950s. community leaders were leery. In the event redevelopment took hold, these fragile neighborhoods could be confronted with another death knell: gentrification.10 upgrading services could trigger an invasion of townhouses, condos, and upscale apartments. they would drive up property values, suffocate the area's character and tradition, and roust existing residents in the process. Builders knew the perils personally. Affordable housing, especially the kind that could attract residents without sacrificing the unique personality of the neighborhoods, would be impractical without economies of scale. mass developments would only blur these communities into mirror images of distant subdivision tracts. Spot construction on isolated lots wouldn't be financially feasible if the residences were to remain within economic reach of those needing them most. to further complicate matters, builders were off-put by the risk of theft and vandalism that threaten profits and redevelopment incentives. Infrastructure issues presented further obstacles � aging utilities couldn't handle the stress of redevelopment. And even if these issues were addressed, the most nagging concern of all still remained: who would buy in these blocks so battered by crime and blight? "they said this would take decades to accomplish," white told the crowd on that January morning. "well, I want to tell you, I don't have decades, do you? we've been promised too long. the time has come." then the mayor, accompanied by community leaders, housing activists, builders, other government officials and � most importantly � neighbors, walked to the front porch of the new Acres homes model home behind him. they weren't just stepping into the first affordable home constructed through houston hopE. they were entering a new era for the city and its forgotten neighborhoods. houston hopE [ 15 ] mary Lawler, Executive Director of Avenue cDc StoRIES of hopE: A mission for change mary Lawler, executive director of Avenue cDc, possesses that rare mix of compassion and pragmatism that it takes to successfully lead a debilitated community back to health. when others might have overlooked a struggling neighborhood like near northside, she was there to lend a helping hand in the form of economic resources and outreach programs. And when logistical obstacles stood in the way of recovery, she took a commonsense approach to getting over the hurdles. In her role at Avenue cDc, a nonprofit community development center that partners with houston hopE, Lawler has helped restore and revive near northside, where dilapidated houses and littered lots were once conspicuous signs of decline. now brand new homes and tidy yards line the streets. with so many residents eager to invest in homes in the area, it seems the community has finally gotten out of [ 16 ] houston hopE its rough patch � literally. "there were a lot of vacant lots scattered throughout the neighborhood," Lawler explained. "these lots may have had owners who have passed away or moved away, and so a lot of them were neglected and overgrown and really a problem for the community. what we've been able to do over the past few years, especially with the help of the houston hopE program, is to acquire these vacant properties and put homes there." Before joining Avenue cDc, Lawler worked with a nonprofit that offered services for the homeless population in new york city. She has been with Avenue cDc for thirteen years now. She has enough experience to know how much work it takes to turn around a neighborhood. "you can't just build one home and expect the neighborhood to turn around," Lawler said. "It really takes a lot to help some of these neighborhoods that have gotten into poor condition." Lawler credits the houston hopE program for amalgamating all the resources necessary to effect positive change on a large scale. "It really brought not just financial resources but also a real kind of focus from the city in a lot of different ways. there's the new homes, which are important, but also the infrastructure, the police work, the code enforcement � it all really came together to help these neighborhoods improve." when it comes to revitalization efforts, Lawler appreciates both the big picture and the smaller snapshots � those moments when she gets to see the excitement on a first-time homebuyer's face as they first get the keys to their new home. "It's a really great feeling when somebody has worked so hard to achieve that and they're getting ready to move into their new home. It's a great part of the job." � www.hhphoto.com Step 1: Selecting target neighborhoods "tHe moSt critical element oF all iS gaining tHe community'S truSt tHat redeveloPment would PreServe tHe identity oF neigHborHoodS witH long HiStorieS and many Solid but aging reSidentS. FearS oF gentriFication Had Stalled eFFortS in tHeSe neigHborHoodS and oFten tHoSe FearS were valid baSed on tHe revitalization oF PartS oF tHe old FourtH ward wHicH Had reSulted in tHe diSPlacement oF exiSting reSidentS. HouSton HoPe ProvideS a bluePrint For revitalizing neigHborHoodS witHout tHe loSS oF identity or ability oF longtime reSidentS to aFFord tHe taxeS on tHeir own ProPertieS." � HouSton mayor bill wHite houston hopE [ 17 ] the houston hopE program uses several criteria to guide neighborhood selection: � Concentration of abandoned tax-delinquent properties eligible for foreclosure. critical mass is important for scale economies in construction, infrastructure, and other neighborhood improvements. It also makes the neighborhood turnaround more visible, drawing complementary private sector investments. � Proximity to major employment centers. this is an inexpensive way to maintain affordable workforce housing without transportation bottlenecks. there are enormous social advantages to building affordable housing closer to where people work and avoiding "leap frog development." � Protection from the forces of gentrification. one of the first priorities is to keep housing affordable for existing residents, so the program bypasses those neighborhoods that are already undergoing natural redevelopment from the market. � Existence of community support. commitment from existing residents, builders, and community leaders to support the revitalization efforts is critical. � Habitable environments. the program avoids areas with severe toxic pollution or environmental issues (often near industrial zones). It just doesn't make sense to encourage more people to move into such areas until they have been fully remediated. [ 18 ] houston hopE GREAtER houSton conVEntIon AnD VISItoRS BuREAu mayor Bill white personally spent much time studying abandoned properties, neighborhood by neighborhood, and he reviewed affordable housing practices in other cities across the nation. he analyzed data both before launching houston hopE and as the program progressed in an effort to constantly look for ways to improve the program. under the mayor's direction, the city of houston designates the geographical boundaries of each houston hopE neighborhood. those areas within city limits with the highest concentration of abandoned, tax-delinquent lots and no new development on the horizon were chosen to be part of the project. In 2005, the "houston hopE housing typology Analysis" was prepared for and delivered to the mayor.11 for Acres homes, clinton park, Independence heights, Settegast, Sunnyside, and trinity/houston Gardens, the report included a brief history, data on existing housing, and builder and buyer economics. the report also contained an addendum of various affordable housing types and projects from around houston and the country. In late 2004, the city's public works and Engineering Department produced a capital needs assessment and cost estimate on water, storm drainage, sanitary sewer, street, sidewalk and traffic sign needs in each of the six areas listed above, and infrastructure plans were made part of the city's capital Improvement plan and budget.12 In late 2008, areas of Sunnyside, fifth ward, and near northside outside the then-existing houston hopE neighborhoods were studied for possible inclusion in the program. charts and graphics prepared by planning and Development (p&D) show the detail of data reviewed in considering boundaries for the program.13 Analysis of tax delinquency data is crucial and must take into consideration the texas system of financing for school districts. A 2005 report on the Settegast houston hopE area and the north forest Independent School District provided the mayor and the working group with crucial information.14 the houston hopE boundaries have changed slightly throughout the program. currently, the houston hopE area is made up of eight neighborhoods: Acres homes, Denver harbor, fifth ward, Independence heights, near northside, Settegast, Sunnyside, and trinity/houston Gardens.15 16 these neighborhoods have rich histories and were once bustling communities but had been overrun with neglect and blight. Settegast, for example, is a subdivision located in northeast houston which was platted in the 1920s and only partially developed at the time. In a memo from mayor white regarding affordable housing for lower-income working people, the mayor provides a brief history of this houston hopE neighborhood consisting of many taxdelinquent lots: In the days of segregation, [Settegast] was marketed to African Americans who bought lots and built houses; but after the Depression there was no money and the infrastructure was never built by the developer. Large amounts of property have been vacant since that time. the original purchasers, who paid far less than $100 for residential lots, never paid taxes and died without wills [leaving the issue of recovering titles a mess].17 Many of the Houston HOPE neighborhoods share similar but unique stories. houston hopE [ 19 ] [ 20 ] houston hopE Acres homes Acres homes, a wooded area northwest of the city, was originally subdivided into large lots and marketed to African Americans around the time of world war I. According to the handbook of texas, it was "once considered the South's largest unincorporated black community." the town derived its name from the fact that land was sold by the acre and not by the lot. Development occurred slowly until the late 1930s when w. w. mount and the wright Land company began building in the area. Acres homes originally was marketed as "a bit of genteel country" with quick and easy access to the city. from its beginning, it was the home to some of the finest African American cowboys. It was touted as one of the few places in the area where African American houstonians could own homes and land instead of living in more dense urban environments. Like many rural areas in America in the mid-twenties and thirties, a large percentage of homes were owner occupied; many were substandard compared to urban homes. An interesting trait attributed to Acres homes is that it was the home of the first African American trail Ride in America. the prairie View trail Riders made their first journey from prairie View, texas to the houston Livestock Show in 1957, with six riders, one driver and one wagon. the trail today includes over ten wagons and hundreds of riders. the prairie View trail Ride is the only trail ride with affiliation with an institute of higher learning, prairie View A & m university, and they still "Ride with pride." Acres homes was annexed into the city of houston in 1967. water and sewer service was introduced into the original subdivisions during the 1970s. In the 1980s, the city improved many of the dirt or substandard roadways, making transportation within and through the neighborhood easier. while still primarily African American, the community now includes a combination of large areas of pine forests with only a scattering of homes: small tract homes built in standard suburban subdivisions, and large comfortable homes on well-maintained wooded lots. there is little commercial or industrial development. the economic changes of the 1970s and 1980s were not particularly kind to the community. Even so, the community pulled together. on April 9, 1988, in a remarkable show of community pride and determination, one thousand residents entered the area's winzer park and people took it back from the drug dealers, thereby earning the Acres homes war on Drugs a presidential citation as the president's point of Light in the nationwide battle against drugs. Another example of determination is the formation of the citizens chamber of commerce in 1988, formed to help revive the community and handle growing conflict between local residents. now the community's 16 civic associations try to help residents with specific needs � be it securing wider streets, installing sidewalks, or resolving nuisance complaints. Denver harbor Denver harbor, one of houston's original neighborhoods, is located north of the houston Ship channel, bordered by Lockwood, Liberty and port houston. Denver harbor is primarily residential. Just over six square miles, the wooded neighborhoods are full of Bungalow and cottage styled historic homes. In the early 19th century the current area known as Denver harbor was made up of four subdivisions: Denver, houston harbor, Liberty heights and harbordale. Settlement in the area began in 1891 and areas were platted in 1911 and 1913. As with many other areas in houston, it was not originally part of houston, it lied just outside the city limits and was an alternative for those that wanted a more country feel. It was surrounded by open prairie and homes had a variety of farm animals. the north-south Southern pacific transportation company railroad tracks separate Denver harbor from the fifth ward. Early residents found work on the railroads and industrial companies established along the houston Ship channel. tucked inside Loop 610, it is within minutes of downtown, the medical center and other major hubs. the city of houston operates the Selena Quintanilla perez park at 6402 market Street, named after the tejano music singer Selena Quintanilla. the park has a .87 mile hike and bike trail, a volleyball court, a swimming pool, a playground, and a lighted sports field. the city administers various programs out of the community center which include a weight room, indoor gym and meeting rooms. two other parks within the area include cliff tuttle park and Santos and Esther neito park. houston hopE [ 21 ] fifth ward residence. circa 1920s. fifth ward In 1840 houston's charter was altered and the town was divided into four wards, with each ward electing two representatives to the municipal government. the fifth ward was added in 1866 when houston's development spread across Buffalo Bayou to the north. originally a multi-racial community, fifth ward quickly became one of the centers of houston's African American community. At the end of the 19th century, the ward enjoyed a boom following the construction of repair shops for the newly built Southern pacific Railroad. Growth was interrupted by fires in 1891 and 1912; the latter destroyed 119 houses, 116 boxcars, nine oil tanks, thirteen plants, and St. patrick's catholic church and school. But, the community quickly recovered. within fifth ward, one particular area to note is frenchtown. this four-square-block neighborhood in the ward, founded in 1922, was originally home to 500 blacks of french and Spanish descent from Louisiana. today, it retains its own character within the larger community. By 1927, phillis wheatley high School, with 2,600 students and sixty teachers, was one of the largest African American high schools in America. working-class blacks were primarily employed within walking distance of the ward; many worked for the Southern pacific Railroad or at the houston Ship channel. other new businesses developed in the 1930s, including printing plants, photography studios, and the club matinee, which came to be known as the cotton club of the South. Local businessman Grand Duke crawford organized the fifth ward civic club. finnigan park, the second public park for African Americans in houston, opened in the community in the postwar years, and the Julia c. hester house, an African American community center, began service. nat Q. henderson, long-time principal of Bruce Elementary School, was the mayor of the fifth ward and became known for his leadership. with passage of integration laws in the 1960s, however, many residents left the community seeking wider opportunities. population in the ward declined significantly, and as a result, so did businesses. the heart of the community was, and seemingly remains, within its churches. mount Vernon united methodist church, founded in 1865 by former slave Rev. toby Gregg, is the oldest institution in the ward. five other churches are over 100 years old. with only five pastors during its first 125 years, mount pleasant Baptist church maintains the traditions of its founding members, with generations of area families still serving and ministering to the fifth ward community. currently its commercial streets, especially Lyons and Jensen, provide retail outlets and entertainment for the residents of the small wood frame homes that predominate in the area. Small clusters of brick homes identify a small middle class population. within the past two decades, many original, sub-standard housing units have been demolished, and a recent revival of commercial activity and home construction is now filling these empty lots. [ 22 ] houston hopE couRtESy houSton mEtRopoLItAn RESEARch cEntER, houSton puBLIc LIBRARy "Fruit ProvideS nouriSHment For tHe mind and body and caPturing tHe legacy oF leaderS in our HiStory kind oF ProvideS nouriSHment For emPowerment and SelF-eSteem in our community." � reginald adamS, executive director oF tHe muSeum oF cultural artS HouSton and land aSSemblage redeveloPment autHority board PreSident "fruits of the fifth ward," a mural depicting 21 notable individuals who are natives of the fifth ward or have connections to the fifth ward, was created by wheatley high School students. Reginald Adams, the executive director of the museum of cultural Arts houston (mocAh), oversaw the creation of the mural. the project began after the history channel gave mocAh a $10,000 grant to create a mural depicting the history of the fifth ward. the mural was dedicated on Saturday october 21, 2006. the mural is adjacent to crawford Elementary School. houston hopE [ 23 ] Residence of G. o. Burgess, former mayor of Independence heights. circa 1913. Independence heights Independence heights is a historical community located north of Loop 610 and west of I-45. the neighborhood lies approximately six miles from downtown houston along north main Street. today, Independence heights is a neighborhood of small cottages, churches, schools and a few commercial buildings. the community, as originally platted, covers approximately 329 acres. Around 1908, Independence heights was the first major neighborhood developed by the wright Land company. the same developer also subdivided Acres homes and highland heights. African Americans were attracted to Independence heights because the developer offered them property at reasonable prices and financed almost all of the sales. Some paid $6 down and $6 a month for the land and had their homes built. Independence heights grew at a rapid rate because it offered a better environment and living conditions than the typical ward neighborhoods. many residents moved from houston to the area, as did residents from other parts of texas. for the most part, these residents were well educated with good jobs. most houses were built by its residents who were contractors, carpenters, bricklayers, and electricians. It was a progressive neighborhood that took pride in home ownership. this created a middle class suburban community typical of early 20th century suburbs. Businesses in Independence heights included retail stores, restaurants, building contractors, lumberyards, a blacksmith shop, tailor, and barber shop. In 1911, the residents and county officials realized the necessity of a school for the children. thus began Independence heights School and as the community grew, so did the school. property was secured and a tworoom building moved from neighboring Sunset heights to the site. the school became a part of the houston Independent School District in 1925. It was renamed Burrus Elementary School in 1928 and is now a magnet school for music. covering eight lots, Independence park at 1000 E. 40th St. was created by a land grant from the wright Land company in 1910. It was the place where families gathered for church gatherings, school activities, and annual Juneteenth celebrations. now known as James mccullough park, it is the only public space remaining from the early years of Independence heights. Later, the city of houston opened the Independence heights park at 600 E. 35th. the neighborhood's architecture materially represents the circumstances under which some African American houston families lived during the era of legal racial segregation in the first half of the twentieth century. the Independence heights Residential historic District is the most intact collection of early houses associated with the original subdivision. Although the individual entities are less distinguished, the district as a whole is representative of the larger community during its period of significance. After world war I, Independence heights was the first African American town incorporated in texas, a town with a disappearing history. It was consolidated with houston in 1929 and remains a predominantly African American neighborhood. [ 24 ] houston hopE couRtESy houSton mEtRopoLItAn RESEARch cEntER, houSton puBLIc LIBRARy Settegast park circa 1912. Residents enjoyed free musical concerts held under the pavilion. near northside near northside is a historic neighborhood that dates back to the late nineteenth century. It developed in response to the city's growing industrial centers such as the Southern pacific Rail yard and the port of houston. Located north of downtown houston, the near northside community is primarily occupied by people of hispanic descent and a growing number of African Americans. the boundaries of the neighborhood are along main Street and Lorraine Street to main and I-45 to hardy Street. the majority of the near northside is organized around five neighborhood associations: the Ryon civic club, the north central civic Association, Silverdale civic club, Glen park civic club and the Blocks organized neighborhood Defense (B.o.n.D.) Association. near northside includes six city parks. moody park, the most popular and largest in the area, has 35 acres of land and includes several sports fields, a swimming pool and a recreation center. the second largest is Irvington park which contains six acres and also includes a large sport field. the homes in the community have various architectural styles which include Queen Anne, craftsman, and Bungalow. Although there are some examples of early revival styles such as Renaissance Revival and Italianate Revival, the majority of the housing stock is of single-family homes built before 1950. Establishments in the residential areas mainly serve a pedestrian clientele. there is also large pedestrian activity to and from the community's seven elementary schools which are within the residential areas rather than on the main roads. many of the children walk to school. nearly 90 percent of the school children live within the school zone and are not bused or driven in from other neighborhoods. Settegast the Settegast-upham neighborhood was originally platted in 1892. It was developed by German immigrants william J. and Julius J. Settegast, who had first become interested in land speculation in 1872. orphaned at a young age by one of houston's historic yellow fever epidemics, the brothers were raised by another German immigrant and trained to be butchers. following the civil war, the boys opened a small butcher shop and engaged in buying and selling cattle in support of the shop. using the vast proceeds from these endeavors, the boys began investing in real estate in houston and Galveston. By the turn of the century, the brothers owned several thousand acres of land in the houston area and were two of houston's wealthiest citizens. Although most of the neighborhood was platted before the turn of the century, 70 percent of its homes were built between world war II and 1960. most are modest one-story frame houses. more of the area was platted for homes in the late 1940s. African American families seeking a better living environment, and finding many other residential areas restricted to them, began to move to this new area known as Settegast heights houston hopE [ 25 ] couRtESy houSton mEtRopoLItAn RESEARch cEntER, houSton puBLIc LIBRARy in substantial numbers by about 1949. By 1950, when the first civic club was formed in the area, about 30 families, nearly the entire population in the area, were present for the occasion. the city of houston annexed the property in 1956. As a result, city streets and utilities improved the quality of life in the neighborhood. In the 1960s, integration began and the community hit a downward spiral. Like so many other previously segregated neighborhoods, Settegast lost many residents to surrounding neighborhoods like Kashmere Gardens and Scenic woods. the area suffered significant losses, and the losses continue in present day. Between 1990 and 2000, the neighborhood population went from 4,798 to 4,282 -- an 11 percent drop. Approximately 37 percent of its residents are employed. currently, small wood frame homes are interspersed with many empty lots and very few commercial or industrial uses. It is bordered on the west by a very large railroad-switching yard, and on the south by Loop 610 and the old Beaumont highway. the community had its own high school when the northeast houston ISD (now north forest ISD) was segregated; that school has since closed and neighborhood high schoolers travel to forest Brook high School. Sunnyside Sunnyside is the oldest African American community in south central houston. It was originally developed to provide homes for people wanting to live outside the city, but close enough to commute for work. the area encompasses approximately 2.3 square miles and is located nearly five miles south of downtown. the area was developed by h. h. holmes on land that he purchased in 1912. It was said to be "somewhat of a rural setting on an open plain." the initial plat included only the area south of the Southern pacific Railroad lines and holmes Road (presumably named after mr. holmes). the land was east of an oil field called pierce Junction. h. h. holmes platted the neighborhood or his "little town" known as Sunnyside place. to encourage people to move out his way, holmes offered low-priced housing to anyone who wanted to live in his new community. people came, drawn to the idea of a little town in the middle of a big city. James marshall, from one of the original five families who moved to Sunnyside in 1916, grew tired of seeing his kids having to walk all the way out of town every day for school. So in 1918, he established the first school in the neighborhood, Sunnyside School. two years later, he set up the first church in the neighborhood inside the school building. Initial development occurred slowly, but the area began to develop more quickly in the 1940s when holmes platted Sunnyside place Addition, Blocks D - S on november 4, 1941. Smaller plats for Brookhaven Subdivision, East Sunnyside and Sunnyside court were created to the east of Sunnyside place. Sunnyside Extension South was platted on August 4, 1945. the community retained its rural character with smaller homes on large lots with many "Victory" gardens. the community even had their own tiny cemetery at the end of a small private dirt road in a heavily wooded area. Dirt roads were the standard. In fact, many of them were constructed by the residents. the residents took it upon themselves to provide other improvements as well. A couple of the residents were instrumental in getting gas for heating pipes into the area. By the early 1950s, water district documents say Sunnyside boasted about 1,500 homes. Residents had schools, lights, natural gas and telephone services. But, they still had to get water from a well. J.c. pickett and pat thomas worked on getting a municipal water system; by 1952, pickett successfully lobbied for $850,000 in federal funds for the project. "the bureaucrats in washington thought (pickett) was so persistent, they offered him a job paying $8,000 a year," said pickett's daughter, Jean Belt. "But, he wanted to stay down in Sunnyside and help out his neighbors," she added. citizen leaders negotiated the formation of water District no. 26 which was opened on may 26, 1952. the $1 million dollar water and sewage project served more than 2,000 homes in Sunnyside place. Residents also established Bricker park and constructed a building where Sunnyside civic club first held meetings. In 1949, the Brookhaven subdivision became the first part of Sunnyside to be annexed into the city of houston. the remaining areas were annexed in 1956. with annexation, the water district was dissolved and replaced with city services and Bricker park also became under city jurisdiction. Sunnyside now includes a number of tract home subdivisions on typical suburban streets, as well as the original frame homes interspersed with small churches of the original neighborhood. It has endured a number of detrimental land uses, including a major land fill which dominates the center of the community, a now-closed garbage incinerator next to the land fill, and a number of salvage yards. Recently, new developments have revived parts of the community, especially along cullen. [ 26 ] houston hopE houston area ward residence. circa 1920s. trinity Gardens trinity Gardens is located approximately six miles northeast of downtown houston. the land was owned and originally platted by the hutcheson family. the neighborhood, including Section one and Section two, was platted on november 24, 1936. trinity Gardens was intersected by the B. S. L. & w. Railroad while the southern boundary was the houston Belt and terminal Railroad. Section three, located to the north of the B. S. L. & w. Railroad, was platted by the perkins Development company, Inc. on August 31, 1938. the platting of Section four, east of Section three, followed on July 9, 1945. Some residential development occurred before annexation, but most growth occurred afterwards, resulting in a mixed land use of predominantly single-family homes with small commercial establishments, apartment units and vacant lots. the area was annexed by the city of houston on December 31, 1956 as part of a large annexation of land all around the city. houston Gardens the homestead communities were part of the "new Deal" policy created by president franklin D. Roosevelt to help the country recover from the Depression of 1929 and to provide affordable housing. houston Gardens, a 320-acre development, was part of the first round of homestead housing projects to be built throughout the country. At the dedication ceremony, it was announced that 100 homes would be built in houston Gardens, 80 four-room houses to be completed by october 1934 with 20 five-room houses to follow. Although there was uniformity in lot design and park-like planning, there was to be variation in house design. Each home with its huge park-like lot was to be landscaped with evergreen shrubs, fruit trees and fences all included in the cost of the home. four different floor plans of the four-room houses and twelve varying styles of exterior architecture were arranged, so that there was no repetition of appearance throughout the various streets. Each of the 80 four-room home sites had two to three and a half acres of ground with fenced-in garden space, garage and shrubbery. the 20 five-room houses would each have three to five acre lots for those who wished to raise poultry either for market or their own use. the area's need for housing was great. over 2,000 people applied for homeownership of the 100 houses. federal housing authorities made the decision on who were eligible for homes based on a minimum qualifying average income (around $100 a month) and the applicant's credit ranking. By february 1935, the first 83 families had moved into their new homes. when the successful project was completed, the total cost of the 100 houses was $283,568 with an average unit cost of $2,836. the community benefited houston in two ways. not only did the homes provide affordable housing, but many jobs were created for houstonians during construction with an average of 100 men being provided steady work, with more than 175 laborers working during peak periods of construction. couRtESy houSton mEtRopoLItAn RESEARch cEntER, houSton puBLIc LIBRARy houston hopE [ 27 ] � www.hhphoto.com Step 2: creating the Legal and organizational foundation "tHey Said it would take too mucH time and eFFort becauSe you Have to Start tHouSandS oF ForecloSure ProceedingS and tHey would take yearS to work tHrougH tHe SyStem. we SimPly got to work and Started 2,500 ForecloSure ProceedingS on abandoned and weeded lotS." � linebarger goggan managing Partner leaH Stolar houston hopE [ 29 ] Environmental Benefit: Public Nuisance Abated Public Safety Benefits: Decreased Criminal Activity SUCCESSFUL URBAN LAND BANk PRogRAM Housing Benefits: More Urban Housing & Potential for Affordable Housing Economic Benefits: Catalyst for Economic Activity Urban School Benefits: Enhanced Local Funding Revenue Municipal Finance Benefits: Increased Tax Return the Land Bank the core entity for any program like houston hopE is the land bank. A land bank is defined as: a public authority created to efficiently hold, manage, and develop tax-foreclosed property. Land banks act as a legal and financial mechanism to transform vacant, abandoned, and tax-foreclosed property back to productive use. In addition, a land bank is a powerful locational incentive, which encourages redevelopment in older communities that generally have little available land and neighborhoods that have been blighted by an out-migration of residents and businesses.18 (A chart illustrating the benefits of an urban land bank is presented above.19 ) Virtually every city administration since the 1970s set neighborhood revitalization as a goal, but a huge deterrent to success involved acquiring the land. If houston hopE was to succeed, the city would have to deal with one of the most fundamental issues preventing redevelopment: complicated and clouded title to the land. typically, a half-century or more had passed since the original homeowners had moved in. In many cases, properties were abandoned when their owner-occupiers died without a will. As the community lapsed, their children and heirs moved on. thus the modest homes went unclaimed, drawing decay, vandalism, illegal dumping, and drug dealers. hundreds of these unoccupied structures fell into such a state of disrepair that they were not worth more than the lot they sat on, which meant that the legal costs of clearing title and paying back taxes were often greater than the value of the houses. Because the houses could not be successfully repaired to meet code, they would have to be rebuilt entirely, but of course no private investor would ever risk building in these forgotten neighborhoods. [ 30 ] houston hopE white's predecessor in office, Lee Brown, attempted to acquire the land in an effort to begin the process of reversing blight. But efforts by Brown were frustrated by the fact that these properties were subject to many tax jurisdictions. In order to forge ahead, a whole slew of entities had to be on board with the effort, including the city of houston, houston Independent School District (hISD), houston community college System, port Authority of harris county, harris county, the Department of Education, hospital District, and flood control District. negotiating an agreement among these entities spanned the entire six years of his administration. finally, during the last weeks of the Brown administration in november 2003, a 25-page Interlocal Agreement was signed.20 the Interlocal Agreement outlined the rules for an expanded thirteen-member LARA (Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority) Board of Directors that was chosen by the mayor, houston city council, harris county, and hISD. under Article III of the original Interlocal Agreement, the parties agreed that all properties under consideration for tax foreclosure and resale "must either be vacant or distressed with all improvements, abandoned and unoccupied, and must have an ad valorem tax delinquency of six or more years." 21 An ad valorem tax is a tax levied according to the value of the property being taxed.22 occupied properties are not foreclosed on.23 the document gave the city the right to acquire 217 properties in the third and fifth ward areas as a pilot project � a job left for the white administration. these local entities had consented to have the city acquire the foreclosed properties at less than their market value, or the total amount of the tax bills. "the rapid return of these properties to productivity would encourage revitalization of deteriorating neighborhoods, reduce government expenditures on these properties, and provide an increased tax base which would enhance future tax revenues," the agreement stated. one obstacle the program was forced to encounter early in its implementation was the lengthy tax foreclosure process leading to long delays. In July 2004, mayor white sought the assistance and advice of harris county Judge mark Davidson regarding foreclosures on distressed and abandoned properties. In a letter to Judge Davidson, the mayor described his request for assistance and advice from the courts on how to expedite the lengthy foreclosure process. he explained that there are tens of thousands of abandoned, tax-delinquent properties within the city of houston, and "the taxing authorities' failure to foreclose and place properties back into use has resulted in a vicious cycle of decline of many of our neighborhoods." 24 Later that same year, william E. King, former managing partner of the law firm Linebarger Goggan, explained the issue to mayor white via an e-mail correspondence: "the reality is that the tax suit process is surprisingly complex and is touched by many hands. there are many opportunities for the process to break down. we [Linebarger Goggan] continue to make progress in a number of areas. however, there is no silver bullet to solve the problem overnight and new issues continue to pop up." 25 One obstacle the program was forced to encounter early in its implementation was the lengthy tax foreclosure process leading to long delays. houston hopE [ 31 ] But the neighborhoods picked for the pilot program had fundamentally changed during the years it took to negotiate the agreement. the third and fifth wards were undergoing a market-driven revitalization, complete with expensive new condos and townhomes. many of the lots targeted had naturally increased in value, and neighborhood protests over gentrification were growing. this did not fit the model that would come to be called houston hopE, the first priority of which was to provide affordable housing to first-time homebuyers. more economical areas would have to be found. In July 2005, mayor white negotiated an amendment to the Interlocal Agreement that targeted close to 1,500 properties in neighborhoods that were in less danger of gentrification.26 properties are obtained through the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA), the land bank first established under mayor Lee Brown in 1999. Incorporation papers reflect the intent of building houses � not new bureaucracies. they give houston city council the right to dissolve LARA at any time, and state that the authority's board shall dissolve itself when its purposes have been "substantially met." the city is also granted unrestricted rights to any LARA income, and no part of that income is for "the benefit of any private interests." the LARA board is comprised of business and community leaders largely from the houston hopE areas.27 It includes officials from the city of houston, harris county, and the houston Independent School District � the taxing entities that will ultimately benefit from the return of these properties to the tax rolls. LARA oversees the development and construction on the properties, which began in July 2006 with Requests for proposals (Rfp) to builders. federal and local funds are used to pay for infrastructure improvements. Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLp (Linebarger Goggan), a law firm specializing in collections on tax-delinquent properties for government entities, has been responsible for the city's delinquent property tax collections since 1993 and handles the court foreclosure proceedings for potential LARA properties.28 they identified 12,000 of the city's most delinquent properties. Areas of "critical mass," where such properties were most concentrated, were identified and targeted as houston hopE property. the city planning and Development Department established strict boundaries inside Acres homes, clinton park, Denver harbor, upper fifth ward, Independence heights, near northside, Settegast, Sunnyside, and trinity Gardens where "upside down" properties (lots worth less than the amount of outstanding taxes) would become targets for infrastructure improvements, home repair programs, stepped-up neighborhood protection, and an array of other city services in preparation for new homes. major obstacles remained. the job of finding the title to and foreclosing on these properties has become a personal challenge for Leah Stolar, managing partner with Linebarger Goggan. Stolar was inspired by the opportunity to finally do something productive with properties that had been written off as unsalvageable for decades. "we're not just collecting taxes. we're turning these neighborhoods around with these houses," Stolar said. Before Linebarger Goggan stepped in, the frustrating title searches had been a deterrent to homebuilders and developers working independently. "this is an incentive for the builder. not only do they get land, but they also get it cheap and without any of the complicated title issues," said Stolar. the usually sedate family Law center lobby and courtyard springs to life on the first tuesday of every month. Some 300 interested buyers arrive ready to bid on the latest group of foreclosed properties at [ 32 ] houston hopE The surprise has been the private sector response. concurrent auctions by constables. typically, Linebarger Goggan has focused on trying to get about 50 of the LARA properties posted for sale each month. A variety of other bidders--ranging from neighbors of a designated property, to small-time speculators, residential builders, and developers--crowd together to compete for what they see as the bargains of the day. If there are no outside bids on foreclosure properties, the government entities that foreclosed on that land are automatically awarded the property outright, in what is known as a "strike-off." LARA representatives had initially expected to gain most properties for houston hopE through this economical method. however, the city's appearance with the large number of properties in concentrated areas piqued the interest of speculators. "By bringing these properties to the marketplace where they never were before, we sort of built a niche market. what LARA found was that unless we were willing to forgo taking these properties, then LARA was going to have to bid on them like everybody else," said Steve tinnermon, Special Assistant to the mayor for neighborhoods. Still, roughly a third of the LARA target properties are acquired by strike-off; another third require a bid averaging $7,000. the Authority, which goes into the auctions with preset limits on values of the target properties, is typically outbid for the final third of the desired land. If any proceeds remain after payment of court costs and other costs of sale, they are split among hISD, the county and the city. It took years to accumulate a critical mass of foreclosed properties, but the city has made significant strides toward this goal. Since the beginning of houston hopE, LARA has acquired 1,128 lots.29 of these 1,128 lots, 653 lots were purchased at an average cost of $7,182 and 475 lots were acquired by strike-off.30 the surprise has been the private sector response. of the new single-family building permits, 188 of the 208 are on non-LARA lots in response to the houston hopE program. "this increase in development is in neighborhoods that have not seen this level of construction in decades," said chris Butler, Special Assistant to the mayor for neighborhood Development. houston hopE [ 33 ] G. Lyon photoGRAphy, Inc. mayor white (seated at the center of table) addresses the houston hopE work group during one of the monthly meetings. city Departments the city departments essential to this undertaking include: housing and community Development (hcD), planning and Development (p&D), public works and Engineering (pw&E), the mayor's office, houston police Department's neighborhood protection corps, and the office of the city Attorney. other departments such as Solid waste (SwD), and parks and Recreation (hpARD) also are involved to some extent in this holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization. federal grants from huD for funding of revitalization activities and downpayment assistance used for affordable housing are distributed to hcD. hcD and the houston housing finance corporation, whose Board the mayor appoints, oversees the home repair programs within hopE neighborhoods. p&D oversees the property lot management and lot preparation for redevelopment. p&D also assists cDcs' package proposals for consideration by LARA. pw&E assesses the property and neighborhood infrastructure needs, conducts repairs when necessary, and supports the building process in many ways, including expediting the water and sewer tap processes. Affordable housing set-aside funds from the city's tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (tIRZ) cover the costs of these taps, which increases affordability since these costs would normally be paid by a builder and passed on to the homebuyer.31 tying it all together: mayoral Leadership and Guiding principles "White combines his background in commercial building with his ability to identify the variety of federal, local and Capitol Improvement dollars, finding unique funding, issue by issue. He has the capacity to understand the entirety of the resource base of the City and the government. . . . There is nobody who understands the variety and complete set of values in this more than Mayor White." -- Anthony Hall, Chief Administrative Officer to Mayor Bill White thursday afternoon sessions in the first-floor conference room of city hall have often turned houston hopE skeptics into believers. private builder Zack Burghli and others view these working Group meetings as evidence that the mayor means what he says about steering houston hopE past obstacles of every kind. [ 34 ] houston hopE � www.hhphoto.com Deputy chief of Staff for neighborhoods Ada Edwards and Alyson Griffin of cornerstone mortgage. "I don't care how small the problem is," the mayor told one audience. "It will be solved at this meeting." the sessions are a blend of basic briefing, brainstorming, rapid-fire reports and on-the-spot decisions. white, who sits at the center of a massive, 32-seat table, receives quick updates from all involved. Builders and community Development corporations summarize their latest stats on building starts, lot acquisitions, completions, and closings -- the bottom-line barometer of progress. police weigh in on neighborhood enforcement. public works officials outline the latest projects. mortgage lenders chart their efforts, and city lawyers and others chime in as needed. the free-ranging forum often lasts long after city hall itself has closed for the day. the result: An issue that might otherwise take weeks or months of inter-agency memos, study groups, or formal debate gets resolved within minutes with face-to-face problem solving. funds for high-priority, unexpected crises can be committed almost instantly � course corrections are charted toward more effective solutions. those around him recognize the mayor's management approach from the weekly early morning sessions he started as a way of gaining immediate action for thousands of evacuees in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. white equates the affordable housing situation as no less of an emergency. the meetings are designed to avoid the built-in threat of inter-governmental and organizational inertia that doomed past city efforts. At the sessions, discussion can be as broad as general policy directions, or as focused as directives on dealing with a specific neighbor's need next door to a houston hopE residence. In one typical meeting, he adds a note of caution to the campaigns to force clean-ups and repairs at tenant properties in the houston hopE neighborhoods. "the purpose is not to kick out tenants," he tells the group. "It is to make landlords responsible." peering along the long rows of faces, white emphasizes the city policy in simple words: "It won't be, can't be, and shouldn't be to remove renters from single-family homes." he instructs them not only to track down offending landlords, but also provide basic incentives of matching funds for renovating their rental units. "we want to stick up for tenants," he reminds them. houston hopE [ 35 ] � www.hhphoto.com In keeping with that direction, the closest white has to an operating manual is a may 17, 2007, memo to the houston hopE working Group. It sums up the expectations for the program and its participants in slightly more than two pages. the memo lists "the most important `decision-makers,' whose needs come first:" these are "existing residents, who understand that occupied houses are better than abandoned lots." they also are "every potential homebuyer capable of meeting the monthly payments." finally, there are "homebuilders and cDcs working with homebuilders who commit to build in the neighborhood, because their interests are aligned with potential buyers." white states in the memo that, compared to these central program participants, "nobody else's opinions or preferences are important. In fact, opinions that are not based on direct interaction with those decisionmakers can serve to distract or confuse our focus." he also condenses what he views as the barriers to progress. Delays "of any sort, even for a day" and "complexity, because that increases cost and causes delay." Another source of delays is "lack of flexibility in response to market conditions." other major obstacles, his memo states, include displacement of existing homeowners and "any abandoned lot or dangerous building without some plan for new investment." he cites one obstacle as "fear and anxiety caused by lack of information for residents." white's memo stresses personal interaction. mailings, e-mails, and phone banks may serve to inform residents, but "the most effective communication is accurate, clear transmittal and gathering of information from the residents door-to-door," his message states. "meetings," white concludes, "can be important, but they should always supplement, and never be a substitute for, direct communication with residents at home." he advises city staff that "ordinances and rules and regulations and procedures should be quickly altered to meet the program goals and to change the legal documents to conform to these goals." At the top of the strategy and operating principles in the memo, the mayor states, "Issues that arise concerning the accomplishment of our goals should be resolved before or during biweekly meetings." Decisions made there "will be binding and implemented immediately, unless the mayor agrees otherwise between meetings." Zack Burghli credits the commitment of white himself for breaking through the typical bureaucratic maze that can kill momentum for minor or major municipal projects. face-to-face attention usually equals immediate resolution, the builder said. "the mayor is so good about this," Burghli said. "he will look at you and say, `Did we do what we said we were going do?' If you say no, he says, `what's wrong?' " the builder said the mayor then wants suggestions; if they "make sense," then he asks if anybody has problems with the proposed solution. "And if everybody says no," Burghli recalled, "the mayor says, well then, let's do it." Face-to-face attention usually equals immediate resolution. [ 36 ] houston hopE G. Lyon photoGRAphy, Inc. houston hopE [ 37 ] [ 38 ] houston hopE "Prior to 2007 tHiS Street waS covered witH abandoned HomeS and weeded lotS. now new aFFordable HomeS exiSt -- adding to tHe tax baSe oF tHe city inStead oF draining it." � SPecial aSSiStant to tHe mayor For neigHborHood develoPment cHriS butler houston hopE [ 39 ] � www.hhphoto.com Reverend James nash, Sunnyside place cDc StoRIES of hopE: the Sun Rises over Sunnyside Reverend James nash has lived in Sunnyside his entire life. to hear him tell it, he grew up in a neighborhood that was so depressed "tears flooded the streets." now that same neighborhood beams with life. the charismatic pastor of St. paul's Baptist church has seen his community through thick and thin. "I deliberately built my church in the old Sunnyside area because that's where I was raised up. I've been pastor of this church now for thirty years." nash's roots in Sunnyside mean that he's deeply committed to helping the neighborhood flourish, and now a whole new generation of residents has begun planting roots in the area as well. Sunnyside's comeback owes a lot to the efforts of Reverend nash, whose larger-than-life presence in the community has been instrumental in rallying support and kindling community pride. After establishing Sunnyside place cDc and partnering with houston hopE, Reverend nash helped transform the downtrodden [ 40 ] houston hopE Sunnyside of his childhood into a thriving neighborhood that continues to attract new affordable home construction and new residents eager to call the place home. "this community has been neglected for so long but now it's beautiful. when you get so many new residents coming in, it really tells you what kind of community we're building." Reverend nash's story illustrates just how indispensable the roles of community leaders and organizations are to growing the houston hopE program. nash was determined to get the revitalization cause on the city's radar. "I personally went around and took a lot of photos of the blight, the old houses, the weeded lots and brought them to Bill white while he was still campaigning for mayor. And lo and behold, he did become mayor and created the houston hopE program." Reverend nash continues to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the people of Sunnyside. his church works with the houston food Bank to donate a trailer full of food once a month to anyone who wants it. "we feed about 300 to 400 people each month, and that's my way of giving back to the community," said nash. nash also realized how important it was that residents feel safe, so he worked with the houston police Department to increase police visibility and clean up crime in the area. After helping close down a hotsheet motel, his cDc bought the property and is now in the process of replacing the demolished motel with four singlefamily homes. It's a perfect metaphor for the houston hopE philosophy that every once-blighted neighborhood has the potential to turn over a new leaf � or turn over new ground, as the case may be. Reverend nash remarked that he's still amazed to drive through his neighborhood and see all the positive changes the area has gone through. "we in the Sunnyside area are very proud of what our neighborhood is becoming." � www.hhphoto.com Step 3: partnering with community organizations and Builders "tHankS to tHe `big mamaS and PaPaS' wHo kePt tHiS community togetHer until we got Somebody wHo could come out Here and do SometHing. Held tHe ligHt and kePt tHe dream uPon uS. Sweat and tearS oF tHeSe PeoPle. tHey tHiS iS built uPon tHe blood, tHey were not aFraid to be Part oF tHe community wHen it iS down, So we can celebrate wHen it iS uP." � dePuty cHieF oF StaFF For neigHborHoodS ada edwardS houston hopE [ 41 ] "the 99K house," located in houston's fifth ward, is a showcase of affordability, using sustainable design techniques and materials specially suited for the hot, humid Gulf coast climate. In September 2007 the Rice Design Alliance and AIA houston organized an international competition to design a home that could be constructed and sold for $99,000 or less. After evaluating over 180 design entries from 16 countries, the jury announced that the first-place prize would go to Seattle architects from hybrid / oRA, a team comprised of Robert humble, Joel Egan, Ben Spencer, owen Richars, tom mulica, and Kate cudney. the house is 1,200 square feet and has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an energy-efficient heating and cooling system. the design can be easily replicated throughout the Gulf coast region. organizers hope it will become a prototype for future affordable and sustainable housing in houston and encourage future rejuvenation efforts in the neighborhood. Volunteer employees from D. E. harvey Builders donated their services to build the house. the tejano community center arranged the sale of the winning house. the 99K house competition was supported in part by generous grants from the houston Endowment Inc., the national Endowment for the Arts, the texas commission for the Arts, and the houston Arts Alliance. more details about the house and design competition are available at www.the99khouse.com. [ 42 ] houston hopE Sunnyside cDc breaks ground on a new home in Sunnyside. community Development corporations mayor white had insisted from the start that houston hopE would be inclusionary. his message stressed that this was a mission to renew the neighborhoods -- not to create new ones to the detriment of the established residents. his primary allies in this effort are the community Development corporations (cDcs). they are neighborhood-based nonprofit organizations, many of them early pioneers in revitalization efforts inside the houston hopE areas. mayor white committed early on to include cDcs. without continual community support, houston hopE would not succeed, he explained. their role has evolved into several essential parts of the houston hopE plan. Qualified cDcs conduct an eight-hour, huD-certified course on responsible home ownership -- required learning for all houston hopE homebuyers. the cDcs help locate and screen qualified buyers within the community as part of the marketing efforts. those who don't qualify due to low credit ratings may go through another course offered by cDcs to improve their credit. And finally, cDcs are building houston hopE housing themselves at an ever-increasing rate, either on their own or by contracting with an independent builder.32 the list of builders has grown to include community Development corporations such as those formed by catholic charities, habitat for humanity, and tejano center to name a few. the community presence, and diversity of the faith-based organizations and others, was evident at the dedication of two houston hopE homes in Independence heights in march 2008. Joseph fiorenza, the archbishop emeritus of the catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-houston, joined catholic charities cEo Bonna Kol, mayor white, builder Ralph marek and true Light Baptist church pastor John w. Bowie near the home under construction at 40th Street and north main. Bowie, in turn, praised the nearby Islamic mosque. It had allowed the group to hold the event on mosque-owned land adjacent to the construction site, mired in mud from recent rains and work. houston hopE [ 43 ] Bowie recognized white's commitment, saying the mayor understood the "historic neighborhood where we got our foundation should be restored." "we are not building a residential district," the preacher said. "we are building community in Independence heights. Anybody can build residential districts, where you don't have to know your neighbor -- we are building community." Steve tinnermon, the mayor's houston hopE liaison, explained later that white has been adamant about the need for cDc and community involvement. "we made a commitment not to exclude them from this process. there were discussions as to how do we keep the cDcs involved and ensure they would be successful." community housing Development organizations A community housing Development organization (chDo) is a private, nonprofit, community-based service organization with the capacity to develop affordable housing or carry out other huD homE programfunded activities for the community it serves. Each chDo is governed by a Board of Directors and maintains accountability to the community through formal community input and processes.33 the homE program is operated by the federal department of huD, and the city of houston is a participating jurisdiction (pJ) disbursing the homE funds to the chDos. the homE program allows pJs to fund four primary types of activities: homebuyer programs, homeowner rehabilitation programs, rental housing programs, and tenantbased rental assistance (tBRA).34 Every chDo must provide a formal process for low-income program beneficiaries to advise the organization in all of its decisions regarding the design, development, and management of affordable housing projects. An important distinction must be made between chDos and cDcs. Every chDo is a cDc, but not every cDc is a chDo. most cDcs and chDos are faith-based organizations. there are benefits for cDcs and other organizations to become designated as chDos: first, they receive operating funds, and second, there are federal dollars set aside specifically for chDos. huD's homE Investment partnership sets aside 15% of its funds for chDos; 10% of that amount may be used for predevelopment activities such as appraisals and surveys.35 the city also benefits from chDos. As previously mentioned, huD allocates funds to cities specifically for chDo use. If the city does not use the funds (i.e., if the city does not have chDos to allocate the funds to), the funds must then be sent back to huD rather than being used in local communities. through the city of houston's chDo program, the city provides a homE grant to qualified chDos in the amount of $70,000 per house to build up to ten affordable single-family homes in houston hopE areas; the maximum amount a chDo may receive per contract is $700,000. the city currently partners with three banks that are providing lot acquisition and construction loans: whitney Bank, capital one, and unity national.36 the chDo must be able to obtain a loan to build the houses and finance the project. once a home is completed, the city pays down the loan directly to the bank. the proceeds from the sale of the house must go to an interest-bearing account at the bank to be used on approved homE related activities. the net proceeds cannot be withdrawn from the interest bearing account without written permission from the Director of hcD. A homE eligible activity must be conducted with the net proceeds. [ 44 ] houston hopE [A] [B] In Sunnyside, a formerly weeded, vacant lot situated on a dirt road [ A ] has been transformed into a new energy-efficient, single-family home [ B ] on a recently paved street. houston hopE [ 45 ] Builders the builders in the program are chosen through a proposal bidding process. Request for proposals, or Rfp, for Affordable housing Development are sent out to builders. Interested builders then respond to the Rfp. It is interesting to note that the original Rfp was written by mayor white himself. the Rfp was approved by the LARA Board and received much input from various stakeholders in the process. In february 2009, the Rfp was replaced with "Solicitations of offers for Affordable housing Development."37 According to Steve tinnermon and chris Butler, this change was implemented when methods to streamline the process and increase efficiency were developed. In order to acquire LARA lots and participate in the program, qualified builders must complete and submit the following for consideration: "a fully signed copy of the contract (accompanied by the proposed house plans and drawings), builder qualification statements, requested parcel list for acquisition, builder house construction specifications document, and a bid cost performance document worksheet."38 many of the builders involved in houston hopE are smaller builders with background and experience in the construction of affordable homes. private builders and cDcs contract to build each home within 180 days. the sales price of the home cannot exceed $200,160 and includes the construction cost, realtor and closing fees, and associated expenses. Builder Ralph marek and the catholic charities cDc have pledged to build from 40 to 60 affordable homes in Independence heights. the houses, in sizes of up to three bedrooms, will sell for less than $100,000 because they are being constructed at cost. cost control is particularly important because parts of the community lie within a floodplain, so homeowners will need to pay for flood insurance in addition to their mortgage. other prime builders were the tejano center and habitat for humanity, which got off the ground quickly due to its well-established structure. with 41 houston hopE lots in the Settegast community, habitat is transforming a neighborhood by blending the organization's usual "sweat equity" program with the benefits of the houston hopE downpayment assistance program. the subsidy enables habitat to bring down costs for homebuyers to as low as $51,000. Incentives most homebuilding firms are used to working with clean, open tracks of land. the houston hopE "in-fill" approach would require unique incentives. the city responded by offering houston hopE builders reimbursements for water and sewer taps, expedited permitting, police coordination to prevent building-related theft and vandalism, free culverts set for driveways, and properties with clear deeds. foremost is the downpayment assistance program for the buyers. [ 46 ] houston hopE Sharone mayberry and Shanon thomas with mayberry homes StoRIES of hopE: Building a community mayberry homes, a private building company that partners with houston hopE, has a slogan: "Revitalizing the heart of houston, one home at a time." when you talk to Sharone mayberry, the founder of mayberry homes, you quickly get the sense that the phrase is more than just an advertising jingle. for mayberry, reviving houston's historic communities is a deeply held commitment. After all, mayberry himself grew up in Sunnyside. mayberry started out building houses in a subdivision located outside the city, but his business took a hit when the subprime market fell through. he had to find a strategy to bounce back. So he decided to try concentrating his construction efforts closer to home � in Sunnyside. As it turned out, breaking new ground in Sunnyside gave mayberry the business boost he needed. It also sparked an insight that building homes for low- to moderate-income families could be a way to give back to his community. So mayberry homes joined forces with houston hopE, which allowed mayberry to offer homes to families who would not otherwise have been able to afford them. "the grants the city of houston provides are really an avenue for those who have never owned a home to become homeowners. the door really opened with the houston hopE program." Since mayberry homes started building there, Sunnyside has taken off. mayberry is heartened to see the positive turnaround, but it does beget a new challenge for his business. now that the area is so attractive, mayberry homes faces a lot of competition from other builders. Still, mayberry doesn't mind all the hard work when the end results are so rewarding. "there was a woman who bought a home perhaps a year ago over on Grandview. She always felt like owning a home was beyond her reach and that she would live out the rest of her days in an apartment. Several times during the process of getting her credit straightened out, she kept mentioning giving up � it was just too challenging. But she stuck with it. She became a homeowner. "we have a lot of stories like that." houston hopE [ 47 ] � www.hhphoto.com Juan and Svetlana Jimenez with daughter Isabella enjoy their outdoor space. StoRIES of hopE: cultivating new friendships when Juan and Svetlana Jimenez moved into their hopE home in the near northside area of houston, they weren't sure if their new neighbors would accept them. most of the existing residents had been living there for decades. But suddenly there was a new family on the block: Svetlana, who emigrated from Russia ten years ago and is now completing her last year in a master's program in architecture at the university of houston while balancing a job at the houston police Department; her husband Juan, a high school science teacher who is also working toward his doctorate in microbiology at the university of houston; and their daughter Isabella, only a couple years old at the time of the move. "I thought at first people might be suspicious, like what are we doing here?" said mrs. Jimenez. [ 48 ] houston hopE But then she started growing plants � including a lot of sage that "blossoms very beautifully in the summertime" along with lemon and orange trees � until her new home's yard transformed into a lush garden. the crowning glory was a mango tree that produces fruit that's "very sweet, hardly any fibers." "All of my neighbors, especially the old ladies, just loved it." now mrs. Jimenez says her family is very close to their neighbors. She speaks in fond tones of her quaint neighborhood, which is situated in an ideal location that allows her and her husband to live close to work and school. Before moving into their new hopE home, the family had lived in a cramped one-bedroom rental. they had dreamed of owning their own house. "we had a young child, and we wanted her to be able to play outside, maybe have a dog. And I love gardening so I wanted a space to plant something." But every property inside the 610 loop seemed outside their price range. finally the family drove through the near northside neighborhood on a whim. mrs. Jimenez described seeing "this cute house with a sign in the front yard" designating that it was a houston hopE home. After doing some basic research, she and Juan decided to try to purchase the home. "It was very easy. they helped us with all the paperwork � what to do, where to go," said mrs. Jimenez. Best of all, "it was very, very affordable. we pay less than we would have for an apartment." now the couple has added a fourth member to their family, a one-year-old son named Sebastian. Since moving into their own home, both the family and the garden seem to be flourishing. � www.hhphoto.com Step 4: financing and Downpayment Assistance "PurcHaSing a Home waS very imPortant to me becauSe it meant a better more Stable liFe For me and my cHildren. originally From i am a young Single motHer memPHiS, tenneSSee. i Have two cHildren and i i am alSo Have an working towardS my maSterS degree. it waS imPerative tHat aFFordable Home wHile building my Future. to Put i would never Have been able $30,000 down on my FirSt Home witHout your HelP." � HouSton HoPe Homeowner artruH Fleming houston hopE [ 49 ] program funding funding for the entirety of the houston hopE project "comes from a variety of sources including: the city's capital Improvement plan (cIp) fund, huD grant funds in the form of community Development Block Grants (cDBG) and homE Investment partnerships funds, the houston housing finance corporation (hhfc), and affordable housing set-aside monies generated through houston's tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (tIRZs)."39 houston housing finance corporation (hhfc), provides a line of credit to LARA to purchase the lots for affordable housing, "primarily through issuance of single-family mortgage revenue bonds" authorized by vote of the citizens of houston.40 the hhfc is a public nonprofit 501 (c) 3 corporation formed by the city of houston in December 1979.41 Downpayment Assistance mayor Bill white is an advocate of the phrase "why rent when you can own?" the mayor knows that many people with below-average incomes may need some assistance to fulfill their dreams of owning a home. for this reason, houston hopE provides assistance programs to potential homebuyers through hcD's homebuyer assistance programs. houston hopE currently 42 utilizes two downpayment assistance programs: the houston hopE program and the workforce housing (wfh) Downpayment Assistance program.43 Grant money from huD's homE Investment partnerships fund and houston's tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (tIRZ) affordable housing set-aside monies provide the funding for these two programs. certain income and qualification restrictions apply for both assistance programs. under the houston hopE downpayment assistance program, qualified applicants can receive up to $37,500. In a subset of the houston hopE program specifically designated for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and EmS personnel, qualified applicants can receive $39,900 in assistance. to qualify for downpayment assistance under the houston hopE program, the individual applying: � � � � � cannot currently be a property owner; household income must be at 80% or below the area median income (AmI) which translates to $35,750 or less for a family of one and $51,050 or less for a family of four;44 must be able to obtain a mortgage loan using an Affordable Lending partner (ALp); must be able to sustain ownership for ten years;45 and complete a minimum of at least eight hours of a homebuyer education course offered by any huDcertified housing counseling Agency approved by the city of houston.46 [ 50 ] houston hopE tHiS tHree-bedroom, two-batH, two-car garage $889 montHly Payment Home Sold For aSSiStance oF $128,000. witH downPayment $37,500 tHe montHly PaymentS are $889 including taxeS and inSurance. buyer Put $500 down and Financed at 5.25% Fixed 30-year mortgage. houston hopE [ 51 ] � www.hhphoto.com Ken and pamela Sanders with son Kaylen pose in front of their new home. StoRIES of hopE: A home of their own Ken and pamela Sanders not only moved into a new house, but in doing so they moved back home. mrs. Sanders grew up in houston's fifth ward, where houston hopE's partnership with the fifth ward Redevelopment community corporation helped them move into a new three-bedroom house in 2007. mr. and mrs. Sanders had been praying about a better place to live after sharing accommodations with a family member. when the opportunity through houston hopE presented itself, they felt very blessed. And when the location turned out to be in the fifth ward, they felt doubly blessed. "Everybody has their own space, so it's really great. we love our house," said mr. Sanders. the couple's nine-year-old son Kaylen now enjoys a room of his own, complete with Spiderman sheets, comforter, and toys. mayor white came out for a visit when the Sanders were first moving in. Kaylen, who was six at the time, took the mayor by the hand and gave him a tour of the house. And there's enough room in their house for their chihuahua, picasso. we have room for him to be a part of the family, too." mrs. Sanders works as a fitness instructor, and mr. Sanders teaches special needs children at Dowling middle School on the southwest side of town. he has always loved working with kids, so when someone mentioned that he might consider going into special education through the district's alternative certification program he decided to give it a try. "I love my job. I haven't regretted it at all. I have to say that I have more fun than anyone else on this campus," said mr. Sanders. the houston hopE program had a dramatic impact on the Sanders. "It's good to feel that I actually own something," said mr. Sanders. "It feels good to know that because I work hard I have something to show for it, which is my home." [ 52 ] houston hopE � www.hhphoto.com The Workforce Housing (WFH) program was created to provide working citizens of Houston whose income is in the 80-120% AMI range the opportunity to purchase a new home in a Houston HOPE neighborhood. on march 22, 2007, mayor Bill white along with hcD Director Richard celli and officials from huD presented the first downpayment assistance program check through the houston hopE program in the amount of $40,000 to Kenneth Sanders, a local teacher, who purchased a home in the fifth ward.47 As of December 2009, the houston hopE program has provided assistance totaling $7,487,100 to 220 clients in houston hopE neighborhoods.48 the workforce housing (wfh) program was created to provide working citizens of houston whose income is in the 80-120% AmI range the opportunity to purchase a new home in a houston hopE neighborhood. Approved applicants can receive $30,000 in assistance under the wfh program. According to a Request for council Action (RcA) on march 11, 2009: ...since the inception of the wfh program in march of fiscal year 2008, hcD has provided 42 loans to eligible applicants. Demand for the program has grown from an average of four loans per month since the program began, to nine loans per month over the last three months, with a high of eleven loans for December 2008. with increased emphasis on marketing, hcD anticipates maintaining the current level of eleven loans per month or 132 loans over the next year." 49 As of December 2009, the total amount of downpayment assistance grants for both programs exceeded $11.4 million.50 AmI Requirements under Each Downpayment Assistance program 51 funding Source and program huD (houston hopE) family Size 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 80% of houston's median Income $35,750 $40,850 $45,950 $51,050 $55,150 $59,200 $63,300 $67,400 tIRZ (wfh program) 120% of houston's median Income $53,625 $61,275 $68,925 $76,575 $82,725 $88,800 $94,950 $101,100 houston hopE [ 53 ] According to a presentation by Juan chavez of hcD to the houston city council housing and community Development committee on march 12, 2009, there is an eight-step process for homebuyer assistance: 1. customer calls 713-522-homE and is screened for qualification and entered in the client database. 2. the call center refers potential customers to Lending partners. 3. Lending partners contact potential clients and determine pre-approval status. 4. Lending partners refer pre-approved clients to hcD homebuyer education course. 5. Lending partner continues loan process and refers educated client to homebuyer Assistance program (hAp) in housing and community Development. 6. hAp beings grant process and refers client to cDc or Builder. 7. cDc or Builder enters into sales contract with customer. 8. Documents are sent to title company and settlement is scheduled.52 overcoming obstacles Getting the houston hopE homes through the closing process involves a coordinated effort overseen by houston's housing Department. Banks, lenders, title companies, and realtors are all part of the houston hopE team. those sometimes-disparate interests had been plagued by communication problems in finding and qualifying buyers and bringing them to closing. Builder Zack Burghli recalled the early 2007 concerns over the sluggish pace of getting buyers to the final closings. he had purchasers lined up for the nine houses he had completed. Instead, the homes remained empty as the financing process dragged on, increasing his costs "and killing my profit," he said. his letter to the mayor about the issue brought immediate attention at one of the houston hopE working Group sessions. white demanded point-by-point answers from the assembled staff members and cDc representatives. hcD Director Richard celli and Downpayment Assistance program manager Juan chavez convened a meeting with Burghli and officials from the financial institutions. chavez said a reduction in required paperwork in the downpayment program shaved nearly a month off the process. the antiquated check requesting system gave way to a 24-hour wire transfer. program guidelines were upgraded to align with lending industry requirements. the results trimmed some two months off the closing period. "Since then, we have developed a strong alliance with the housing department," Burghli said. "I look at this as a very positive change in the program." white himself negotiated the program past another major delay. title companies were balking at insuring the "upside-down" properties, an uncharted area for them. they were concerned about property heirs or former owners showing up to claim the property within the two-year deadline after foreclosures. Anthony hall said the mayor devised a plan for the city to post a bond to cover that unlikely event. the poor housing economy and market have had some effects on the program. when asked what he believed to be the single most difficult obstacle the program encountered in 2008, chris Butler, Special Assistant to the mayor for neighborhood Development, responded: the housing market--lenders are not loaning right now, particularly to those with low credit scores. for Butler, acquiring the lots has not been the issue, finding builders to obtain loans and purchase those lots and then finding qualified buyers to purchase the homes has been an issue. [ 54 ] houston hopE Brenda clay (standing center) with daughter Lacresha, grandchildren JaKeith, maryha, Kimaja and nephew marcus gather in Brenda's kitchen. StoRIES of hopE: from Dope to hopE Brenda clay likes to tell the story of her life in a single point-blank catchphrase: "I went from dope to hope." She says it with a winking sort of playfulness, as though she knows she has her listener on the edge of their seat waiting to hear how the rest of the story goes. when asked to elaborate, she doesn't shy away from narrating the gritty details of her past. "there was a period in my life when I had a rough time. met a guy, fell in love, and we did drugs together." clay is ever earnest, never making excuses for her past mistakes. At one point, clay says, she couldn't support her children and was forced to live with them in a shelter. But then her story takes a turn. "I decided to get myself back on my feet." And so clay started the process of turning her life around. It wasn't easy, but her close-knit family was there to help her over the hurdles. her mom and aunt cared for her children as she gradually patched her life together. "I am so grateful for my mom's love and support." clay worked hard to secure her future. She got a raise at work and decided to try to buy a house. Gradually, she was able to pay off $3,000 in debt, which meant she could at last afford a home through houston hopE. Incurably bubbly, she gushes over how excited she was to witness the construction of her brand new home in Sunnyside. "I came by the site just about every other day. I watched them break ground and do everything until it was fully ready. I just walked around and let them know who I was and whose house they were building." It was her very own home, a testimony to her transformation. clay has nine grandchildren and one godchild, and they love coming over to play in her new backyard. She recently purchased a swimming pool � a big hit with her grandkids over the summer. "I get to see them pretty often. we have church on Sundays, and I go and they go. we have lots of family functions." Even her neighbors join in the family get-togethers. clay was born in monroe, LA, but moved to texas when she was nine years old. As a longtime resident of Sunnyside, she feels completely at home in the neighborhood. clay works the night shift as a mental health clerk, but she has not a single complaint about the hours. for clay, life is good. though there is one thing, clay admits, that's still missing from her life. "I'm not married, I'm single. I'm looking for a family-oriented man, somebody caring and loving. you can put that in print!" clay's life story has a happy ending � one that's still in progress. houston hopE [ 55 ] � www.hhphoto.com � www.hhphoto.com Step 5: marketing we knew tHat we Had to Publicize wHat we were doing and get tHe word out So tHat we could create more oPPortunitieS For HomeownerSHiP. eFFective marketing would multiPly our reSultS. Providing our builder and cdc PartnerS ProFeSSional marketing material increaSed tHeir ability to reacH more ProSPective HomebuyerS. � HouSton HoPe marketing director valerie watSon houston hopE [ 57 ] marketing, advertising, and visibility were some of the obstacles houston hopE faced in its infancy. A marketing position was created in January 2009 to expand the program's advertising and marketing efforts. Increased marketing, advertising, and community outreach events has helped to improve the program's visibility within the city and community. celebrating small successes, ranging from new home openings to the arrest of individuals apprehended for illegal dumping, builds a sense of momentum within the community. houston hopE uses other marketing channels such as citizensnet, the city's opt-in e-mail program to communicate via regular e-mails with existing residents in hopE neighborhoods about progress being made. Social networking sites were utilized. houston hopE now has its mark on two popular social networking sites, facebook and twitter, which allows the program to reach hundreds of fans and followers. It is key to consistently monitor and update the houston hopE website with current information as well as post notifications of upcoming events to increase the program's visibility within communities. In march 2008, houston hopE teamed up with the Greater houston Builders Association (GhBA) to host "comE homE: the home Buying process" at the George R. Brown convention center located in downtown houston aimed at first-time homebuyers. the all-day event gave attendees the opportunity to meet with lenders to review their credit scores, sit down with builders to view floorplans, talk with cDcs to learn about upcoming homebuyer education classes, and become informed about the homebuying process. over 2,000 area residents attended. over 1,200 attendees registered for additional information. In the communication arena, a Live call center was created at the houston housing Department to immediately answer program questions. A monthly training program was introduced: It attracted more than 600 realtors, lenders and builders in one five-month period. on-going classes are held monthly for new attendees. [ 58 ] houston hopE � www.hhphoto.com Houston HOPE now has its mark on two popular social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter. on friday, June 5, 2009, the city of houston coordinated and hosted an Affordable housing Drive for the public outside of city hall in martha hermann Square. the event was held on the first friday of June to celebrate national homeownership month and targeted the thousands of employees who work in downtown houston. city staff, builders, cDcs, banks, and lenders set up dozens of booths with pamphlets and handouts, and were available to answer any questions for prospective homebuyers and passer-bys.53 Almost 500 downtown employees attended the event. this large event gave the houston hopE program tremendous exposure and media as it was covered by local news stations. the houston hopE logo was updated in february of 2009 and new brochures, posters, and signage were created to increase the brand awareness of the program. materials were created in both English and Spanish to reach a more diverse market. Direct mail campaigns are sent out periodically targeting renters in zip codes within the houston hopE areas. the direct mail details the anticipated monthly payments including estimated taxes and insurance in an effort to encourage residents to switch from renting to homeownership. Double-sided 4'x8' signs are placed on select lots owned by LARA in areas that receive high traffic visibility. Additionally, smaller one-sided coreplast signs are placed on interior lots owned by LARA to promote the downpayment program. to make prospective buyers aware of the partnership between the builders and cDcs and houston hopE, yard signs are placed next to the builder sign to generate more inquiries on the properties. houston hopE [ 59 ] � www.hhphoto.com Acres home resident, Edith white, relaxes on the front porch of her renovated home. StoRIES of hopE: An old home made new Edith white has been living for 100 years, and she has lived 54 of them in the same house. So when termites brought by hurricane Ike destroyed the roof of the longtime Acres homes resident, she wasn't about to let the damage chase her out of her home. Instead, she rallied her great-grandniece Diane Lewis, who is also her caretaker, to request houston's housing Department home repair program come out and replace her roof. the home repair program, which awards grants to qualifying residents in hopE neighborhoods, agreed to do more than just give white a new roof. they offered to remodel her entire house. the renovation crew installed new flooring and put in a new bathroom with a handicapped shower. they also redid the kitchen. white lives alone, and although all the commotion made her anxious, she insisted on staying in her home throughout the entire renovation process. "that's how brave she is," said Lewis. [ 60 ] houston hopE one of white's favorite sayings is "honey, never have any doubt and God will surely bring you out." her faith that her home could transform back to its former glory was duly rewarded. when the renovations were complete, white was delighted with the improvements. "Baby, when I wake up in the morning, it's like coming into a new home," white told Lewis. "I never thought I would live to see this day." white loves sitting on her porch drinking her coffee and admiring her home. Every morning she takes pleasure in making her favorite breakfast, bacon and eggs, in her new kitchen. She loves working in her yard. when she goes out to rake the leaves, she announces with pride that she's "going out to the field"--a throwback to her days picking cotton. And she loves chatting with her Acres homes neighbors, many of whom she has known for decades. "this old lady isn't quite finished being nosy. I want to know what's going on." over the years, white has cultivated close friendships with some of her neighbors. one of her dearest friends, Jean Johnson, lives right next door and has helped white through many difficult times, supporting her after the death of her mother and later her husband. "mrs. white is like the cEo of Acres homes � she's seen everything and been there from the start," said Lewis. when Lewis comes over to help white get ready for church and Sunday school, white insists on dressing in her Sunday best, and her outfit isn't complete without a hat. "A lady should be dressed like a lady at all times," she says. But these days, fashion is no longer foremost in her mind. now the first question white asks before she will leave for church is always the same: "where are the keys to my house?" white may be 100 years old, but Lewis insists that living in her remodeled home took ten years off her aunt. "She acts ten years younger." � www.hhphoto.com Step 6: Supporting Activities in a letter From mayor wHite to HarriS county judge ed emmett dated november 10, 2008, mayor wHite accomPliSHmentS. SummarizeS Some oF tHe Program'S He exPlained tHat tHe city oF HouSton HaS inveSted in inFraStructure, including drainage and water and Sewer lineS; enHanced Police Patrol; imProved ParkS in tHe areaS; Planted treeS; demoliSHed dangerouS buildingS; cleared weeded lotS; made energy eFFiciency imProvementS in over 1,000 HomeS; and rePaired Several Hundred exiSting StructureS54 in HouSton HoPe neigHborHoodS. houston hopE [ 61 ] "no one wants to buy a brand new house next door to a house where drugs are bought and sold," said houston police officer Jack hanagriff, the neighborhood protection Liaison to houston hopE. when hanagriff hears a houston hopE home is being built, his job is to do what he can to secure the community that surrounds it. "Builders will let me know when high profiles of material are coming in. we will increase patrols, put in cameras, and notify area patrol officers to increase their presence," said hanagriff. If the house is near a corner where vice or drug transactions are suspected, hanagriff has been known to install one of his infamous "talking cameras" 20 feet up on a nearby light pole. when the camera senses intruders on the property, lights go on, a photo is snapped and a voice announces that the houston police Department has just taken their picture. hanagriff is a phone call away to the houston hopE builders and community development corporations (cDcs). his day may range from getting the public works & Engineering Department to clear a nearby drainage ditch, to enforcing city codes requiring a trash pick-up or weed cutting, to working with undercover vice officers in fighting prostitution and drug dealing. hanagriff is one of the regulars at the mayor's biweekly houston hopE work Group meetings. neighborhood protection and clean-up are always part of the discussions. Recent disturbances are often reported directly to the mayor at these meetings. As houston hopE officials have found out, neighborhood enforcement isn't a duty that necessarily gets delegated by the mayor. manny Lopez of the tejano center cDc remembers when mayor white asked Lopez to show him some of tejano's newly built homes in the upper fifth ward area. on a Saturday morning, they drove to Lucille Street to admire two of them, side-by-side brick houses accented by new lawns, shrubs and blooming flowerbeds. however, white was quickly distracted by the adjacent yard. It was littered with rotted lumber, discarded furniture, a capsized grocery cart, and an abandoned tire. "the way the house looked, it appeared to be abandoned," Lopez recalled. "But lo' and behold, the mayor went over there and knocked on the door. And the guy walks out." there was the mayor of houston in his front yard, telling him to get that mess removed. "he wanted two weeks to clean up," Lopez said. "But the mayor said, `no you're gonna do it now, or neighborhood protection will come in and do it for you.' " Lopez said it was the same kind of immediate action that white has used to get results on issues involving street lighting, water and sewer hook-ups and illegal dumping, in ways that are unprecedented since the tejano center formed in 1993. A similar incident occurred on a Sunday morning in July 2005. A bicyclist and a few friends rode by to check on a derelict motel in Independence heights. In the process, they stumbled into an illegal dumping operation, apparently timed for when nearby residents would be away at church services. two men were throwing mounds of construction debris into an open roadside ditch. No one wants to buy a brand new house next door to a house where drugs are bought and sold. [ 62 ] houston hopE the bicyclist � mayor white himself � confronted the pair. police arrested them minutes later near the old motel. "well, that motel isn't here any more," white told a crowd later at a houston hopE dedication ceremony blocks away. white urged the residents to "be the eyes and ears" of the city and law enforcement, to help in the crackdown on dumping and derelict structures. hanagriff said it is sometimes difficult to see the broader houston hopE initiative in the day-to-day job of turning around a decades-old problem, one weed-infested lot or clogged drainage ditch at a time. however, he told of returning to the third ward scene where the pilot project of houston hopE was first launched. there, on Dennis Street, were the same two houses of elderly homeowners who were once surrounded by trash and boarded-up houses. "But now, new (houston hopE) homes were next door, new townhouses were across the street, the trash and weeds were gone. It looked like a neighborhood. I said, `So this is what the mayor is going for,' " said hanagriff. "It was my proudest moment." Since then, hanagriff says there are other such moments on streets in Acres homes, Sunnyside, and Settegast as houston hopE begins to take hold. And many of those improvements are the result of the houston hopE home repair program, rather than law enforcement actions. Statistics 424 structures were demolished between December 2005 and november 2009. Between September 2007 and September 2009: � 1,099 tons of garbage were removed. � 1,929 lots were cleared. 55 � 6,389 tires were removed. � 186 structures were secured. � hundreds of weeded lots were mowed and cleared. houston hopE [ 63 ] � www.hhphoto.com School Improvements many families move into neighborhoods based on the schools their children would attend. If given a choice, no parent--high-income, low-income, and everywhere in between--wants their child to attend a poor quality school. for this reason, houston hopE also looks to increase the quality of schools in hopE neighborhoods. the mayor, the mayor's Director of Education, and others collaborate with the school districts that serve the houston hopE neighborhoods, primarily the houston Independent School District (hISD), to keep neighborhood schools open and inform prospective homebuyers, builders and others of the educational opportunities. many members of the hISD faculty attended a houston hopE working group meeting in 2008 to present information on the feeder patterns serving houston hopE neighborhoods. houston hopE home Repair program mayor white has identified existing homeowners as among the most important "decision makers" in the houston hopE community along with qualified home buyers, builders, and community development corporations (cDcs). A new home next to a dilapidated existing home often has the result of creating conspicuous class distinctions when the goal is to create community. for houston hopE to successfully turn these neighborhoods around, the program would have to make concentrated home repairs for existing residents in parallel with building new homes. homes are identified for repairs in areas where new houston hopE construction is already underway � renovating residences makes the overall area more attractive to buyers of new affordable houston hopE homes. It also makes the existing residents vital partners with builders and new homeowners, so they can combine to reclaim the neighborhood. mayor white stressed the need to seek out these residents by "knocking on doors." Bob conklin, executive director of Rebuilding together houston,56 remembers his first houston hopE client. he was asked to check on wayne and Agnes Johnson, a couple in their eighties, the first couple to build a home as newlyweds in Sunnyside in 1952. In the ensuing years the Johnsons watched the neighborhood become a community and then decline. now, once again, they are witnessing the very earliest signs of resurgence. Some five houston hopE homes have emerged within two to three blocks of the Johnson's while they remain surrounded by homes that are at best renter-occupied, at worst, abandoned. conklin was asked to check on the Johnsons by the city's houston hopE contractor and houston housing finance corporation (hhfc) following a screening process involving various city Departments. Eligible houses for the repair program are in houston hopE areas, have clear titles, and no back taxes owed. "This nice man crawled up into my attic, it must have been 110 degrees up there, and dropped down some wires to my kitchen so my wife could have electricity. I can't believe he did that for us." �Wayne Johnson, 87, Sunnyside resident since 1952 [ 64 ] houston hopE home Repair crew tackles a roof renovation in a houston hopE neighborhood. A wall in Johnson's home told his story. on one wall was the photograph of Johnson in his Great Lakes naval training facility uniform in 1942. Another picture, one year later, was of Johnson boarding a navy ship heading into one of world war II's most fierce combat arenas, Guadalcanal. "then there was this picture of him in a baseball uniform," conklin said. Johnson, who is African American, played baseball on a segregated navy baseball team while stationed in chicago. "I knew I needed a new roof," said Johnson, "now where in the world was I gonna get $2,000? I was going to have to go into debt to get it." within days, the Johnsons watched in amazement as a team of Rebuilding together houston volunteers and contractors descended on the Johnson home in a flurry of work. A new roof, new exterior doors, new electrical wiring to meet city code and a wheelchair ramp made up the first phase of work. Later, the bathroom would be remodeled with a pedestal sink and a walk-in shower. It replaced a bathtub that could no longer be easily navigated because of the couple's increasing physical limitations. conklin knew that Johnson's veteran status would qualify the couple for additional funding beyond the $7,500 available through houston hopE. "houston hopE is a great vehicle to get people what they need and then leverage other funds and volunteers around the city's money," conklin said. the earliest talks with Johnson about the houston hopE rebuilding program were in the fall of 2006. As a former real estate professional, conklin was intrigued with the idea of targeting homes based on location rather than his organization's traditional approach of responding to random calls for help from homeowners. "the mayor's right on target," said conklin. he typically works through programs that rely on calls from individuals with needs in random areas of town; an effort that continues. "the idea of turning a community around in concentrated areas is excellent." Sometimes the homes are submitted as candidates directly from the community, by a houston hopE homebuilder, neighborhood protection, or a cDc. mayor white has been intensifying the efforts to improve homes in the houston hopE communities. he organized a campaign in early April 2008 for city employees and others to conduct door-to-door outreach campaigns to identify more residences for the repair program. houston hopE [ 65 ] Liliana meza (center) with children, uncle pedro and her mother enjoy dining as a family at their new table. StoRIES of hopE: Room at the table Before houston hopE, Liliana meza and her family used to live in a very small apartment. they had to take turns eating because the kitchen would only fit a tiny table and two chairs. her daughters slept in the bedroom, and she slept on an inflatable mattress in the living room � she had to blow it up every night. the apartment was infested with rats, and the only place for her daughters to play outside was in the parking lot. She worried they would get hurt. one day, Liliana's mother noticed some new homes under construction near the apartment, and she convinced Liliana to call the number on the sign � the number for Avenue cDc. Liliana, along with her uncle pedro mendoza, attended an Avenue [ 66 ] houston hopE cDc homebuyer education class, where they learned that it might be possible for them to buy one of the homes. But first, they would have a lot of work to do. their Avenue cDc counselor helped them to develop a budget for their income and expenses. to keep within their budget, they stopped eating out, so that they could save up enough for a down payment. they had to collect lots of documents: tax returns, bank statements and pay stubs � and that was a challenge because uncle pedro used to throw all of that away. Sometimes Liliana got discouraged. She said to her mother, "mom, you never in all of your life owned a house. And I am only 28 years old. how can I believe that I will succeed in buying a home?" finally, after months of work, Liliana's closing day arrived. She and her family moved into their new home that very night. now they have three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a nice yard for her children to play in. Best of all, their monthly payment was only $565, about half of what they used to pay for their tiny, ratinfested apartment. they love their new house. they are still getting used to being homeowners, and they still call their Avenue cDc counselor when they have a question about property taxes or something else that is new to them. But today they are happily living in their new home, where they can all eat at the same time at a table together. � www.hhphoto.com the same title challenges that exist with LARA lots are often present in existing houses as well. Someone who is at least a partial owner must occupy a home. It must also be on property that is not tax delinquent. those closest to new houston hopE construction would be targeted first, though all qualified homes within the boundaries are eligible. the home Repair program has the funding to service close to 100 homes a year. By early 2008, the program had selected 95 homes for repairs; 55 of the renovations had been completed, with an average cost of $5,000 per house, according to Jeff Smith, the executive director for hhfc. "now we're finding more of the `low hanging fruit,' " conklin said, "It's taken us about six months to get traction." Benefits of the work extend beyond those families in the home repair program, or the new houston hopE homebuyers. Joyce hawkins was born in 1946, as the daughter of one of the early families to build a home and settle in Sunnyside. She remembers going across the street to pump water from the neighbors' lot, until her parents were able to drill a well of their own. Like many who lived there, she moved away when she grew up. After 10 years in the Los Angeles area, however, she came back and rented a residence so she could take care of her ailing parents. the progress with new � and old � homes has already had an effect, she said. "It is so important because it builds up the neighborhood � it gives the neighborhood a good look," she said. "It makes you proud to live here." "It gives you the idea that somebody cares about the community; that somebody wants to live here," hawkins explained. "And that's very important, because with homes in the neighborhood being improved, I want mine to look good, too." for fiscal year (fy) beginning July 1, 2008 and ending June 30, 2009, the city's housing Department completed a total of 308 single-family home repairs � 80 of which were in houston hopE neighborhoods representing 26% of the total completed repairs.57 hhfc also conducts home repairs in hopE neighborhoods. upgrading existing homes is important to the overall revitalization goal of the houston hopE areas. not only does this allow current residents to stay in their homes, it also makes the neighborhoods more attractive to potential homebuyers. program Recognition the broader implications of houston's work became apparent as the chief executives of America's cities gathered in Las Vegas for the u.S. conference of mayors annual meeting in June 2006. Keen interest of mayors at the conference, which represents more than 1,100 cities nationally, collectively focused on the findings of the organization's task force on Vacant and Abandoned properties. project houston hopE was highlighted as one of only three active initiatives of large urban cities � chicago and Dallas were the other two � using neighborhood revitalization plans to attack the financial and quality of life challenges brought on by blighted inner city areas. task force chair John fabrizi, mayor of Bridgeport, connecticut, said revitalization is a prime way for cities to maximize revenues "without adding to the burden of those who already pay." "one of the most obvious routes to accomplishing this is to find creative ways to develop and redevelop properties within our city that are unproductive and generating little or no tax revenue," he said. houston hopE [ 67 ] "the central goal of the initiative is to revitalize houston hopE neighborhoods without destroying their rich historical fiber," houston hopE official Steve tinnermon said in the task force report, titled combating problems of Vacant and Abandoned properties. "the expectation is they can be revitalized so that they are attractive to a younger generation of households that moved away but continue to have family and other ties to these neighborhoods, and attractive to new houston residents searching for safe, vibrant communities." houston's advice to the conference mayors: "Engage all tax jurisdictions having an interest in abandoned lots early in the formation of the initiative, undertake extensive due diligence in researching existing laws governing tax foreclosures, and engage stakeholders in each step of program planning and implementation." the report's introduction reflected on the increasing interest among u.S. cities, emphasizing that revitalization goals are among their top priorities: "All share the goal of putting troubled properties to productive use for residents and the community as a whole." Vacant or abandoned properties, the report said, "are a drain on city budgets. they detract from the quality of life, as well as the economic opportunities, of those living around them. they are an impediment to individual neighborhood redevelopment and, ultimately, to achievement of city-wide economic development goals." national notice again focused on project houston hopE in January 2007. the u.S. conference of mayors honored the program and its law firm, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, with an outstanding Achievement Award for public-private partnerships. houston and the firm were recognized for Best-practice programs in overcoming the complexities in creating the legal tools to enable the program to acquire vacant and distressed properties for the affordable home redevelopment projects.58 the national League of cities (nLc) included a description of "project houston hopE � LARA" in their city practices collection,59 "which is nLc's central repository for effective and innovative programs used by researchers across the country." 60 An independent panel of conference judges evaluated entries on criteria such as "improvement in delivery of services, replicability, sustainability, cost savings, creativity of approach, benefits to both public and private partners, economic and business benefits, and measurable results." the cooperative work by the city of houston and Linebarger Goggan laid the legal groundwork needed to get the blighted lots for the affordable homebuilding that will revitalize inner-city neighborhoods, the award officials said. "It is gratifying to be able to demonstrate, through houston hopE, that the benefits of publicprivate partnerships not only to the governments we represent but to the taxpayers they serve," said Leah Stolar, a Linebarger Goggan partner who heads the firm's LARA work. the u.S. conference of mayors gave recognition to the program again in 2009 in "Vacant and Abandoned properties - Survey and Best practices." this issue was the third in the u.S. conference of mayors series of reports on the efforts being made by mayors across the nation to minimize the problems that vacant and abandoned properties are creating in their cities, and to restore these properties to productive use as homes and businesses. the national Association of Realtors� and the u.S. conference of mayors named houston a 2009 Ambassador city for its houston hopE homes program. "Realtors� build communities and are committed to helping increase opportunities for more families to achieve and sustain the American dream of homeownership," said nAR president charles mcmillan, a broker with coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-fort worth. "A program like houston hopE deserves to be recognized for its tremendous impact on bringing stability to and enhancing the appearance of houston's historic neighborhoods." [ 68 ] houston hopE chakeitha Allen relaxes in the family room of her new houston hopE home. StoRIES of hopE: Living with Belief A good home is always built on a solid foundation. for chakeitha Allen, a strong foundation means one that is fortified by God's word � literally. "God laid it on my heart to put a Bible in my foundation," said Allen. And as she monitored the construction of her brand new house in the Acres homes neighborhood, the exuberantly self-described born-again christian did just that. "when I did that, to me that was like my covering, my protection." the gesture was one of the many ways Allen integrates her spiritual beliefs into every aspect of her life. She strives to "stay prayerful. I read my Bible a lot because my Bible is my roadmap for life. It's like my guide. It teaches me to stay on focus, teaches me how to love, how to treat people the way I want to be treated." She makes time for practicing spirituality in spite of a daunting schedule. She works full time as a manicurist at an upscale spa and attends a nursing program part time. now two years away from receiving her Bachelor's degree, she plans to continue her education in a master's program that would qualify her to work as a nurse practitioner. Allen's robust sense of resolve was no doubt one of the qualities that helped her secure her own home. once she made the decision to move from tenant to homeowner, she discovered houston hopE by blessed coincidence. And although she encountered stumbling blocks along the way, she persisted in working with houston hopE to find a way to receive downpayment assistance. "they created a program where my income would qualify," Allen reported. now she lives in her own home with two stories and three bedrooms -- room enough to accommodate her large cajun family when they come over for homecooked gumbo or shrimp creole. It's also spacious enough for Allen's big dreams. "I always wanted to be a homeowner. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that whatever is in here is mine. the first day that I moved into my new home I was so excited just getting the keys. I don't think I even moved any furniture, I just got my futon and slept in the living room." then she promptly got to the business of throwing a housewarming party. "A houseblessing. my pastor came and blessed my home." houston hopE [ 69 ] � www.hhphoto.com Zack Burghli of Burghli homes stands outside one of his solar-paneled homes. StoRIES of hopE: A new future on the horizon when the city was just beginning to look for ways to encourage more energy-efficient home construction in houston hopE neighborhoods, private builder Zack Burghli and wife Deanna Burghli were already e-mailing the mayor their own ideas on the matter. "we sent an e-mail to the mayor saying, `mayor, this is probably not the right time to talk about this, but we have been working on this project for years,' " said mr. Burghli. that project was Burghli's "zero-energy home" � a highly energyefficient house that not only made basic utilities like power, water, and gas more affordable for its occupants but that had been constructed affordably, too. he believed it could serve as a model for future hopE homes. mr. Burghli now proposed a radical idea to the mayor: "I went to the mayor and said, `Look, if we take a normal house we're building and put [ 70 ] houston hopE these features in it, we could build a house that saves 60 � 70% more than a standard code-built home.' And I was being very modest about it." the first energy-efficient home the Burghlis built for houston hopE was even better than promised. "we had thought that the total water, gas, and electric bill should be anywhere between 100 and 120 dollars a month, average. It turned out to be between 50 to 60 dollars a month," said Burghli. these days, Burghli-built "green" homes line the streets of neighborhoods like Acres homes, Sunnyside, near northside, trinity Gardens, and the third ward. new homebuyers are eager to own an energy-efficient home not only because their utility bills will shrink dramatically, but also because they are eligible for energy-efficient mortgages, which take into account how much money an applicant will save on their utility bills when calculating the size of the loan their income qualifies them to receive. Burghli homes come outfitted with energy-saving features like solar water heating, dual flush toilets, and motion sensor faucets, as well as Energy Star appliances that use up to 60% less than the average appliance. And of course, there's the solarpaneled ceiling that harnesses the sun's power to produce energy. Burghli is skeptical of the media hype surrounding "green living" and renewable energy sources. "they're talking about a recycled countertop that costs $100 a square foot," said mr. Burghli, flabbergasted with the prevalent notion that an energy-efficient home necessarily costs millions of dollars to build. "we're talking about things that make sense. things that actually benefit people," he said. � www.hhphoto.com Step 7: Energy Efficiency "uSing renewable SourceS oF energy SucH aS more Solar and wind Power meanS we are conServing energy, Saving money and Protecting tHe environment," Said mayor wHite. "tHe city oF HouSton wantS to lead by examPle and become tHe world'S energy conServation caPital." � HouSton mayor bill wHite houston hopE [ 71 ] The electric bill on one of these homes was negative twenty dollars, which meant the homeowner actually received a credit for their electricity generation. Energy Efficiency Standards As of April 1, 2008, builders in the houston hopE areas were required to construct energy-efficient homes built to the certification standards of an Energy Star� new home. to earn the Energy Star� rating, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the u.S. Department of Energy. these homes are at a minimum 15% more energy-efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential code (IRc), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 15�30% more efficient than standard homes. components of the qualifications included effective insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment combined with efficient Energy Star� rated products including lighting and appliances. In addition to the Energy Star� program, the city of houston initiated a program to subsidize solarpowered, super-energy-efficient homes for low-income residents, among the first of its kind nationwide. So far, 10 homes have been built in northeast houston, and city council approved the construction of 13 more homes planned for the third ward. Each home will list below the area median sales price of $175,000 utilizing a $45,000 subsidy from the city. this subsidy allows the builder to incorporate energy-efficiency innovations, including solar panels, tighter wall cavity insulation using foam, and water heaters that rely on solar energy to reduce heating energy requirements. As a means of example, a prototype built in near northside received a zero energy bill for the past three months, according to statements by builder Zack Burghli. he built this home and 10 other solar homes in northeast houston using this same subsidy and constantly streamlined process. In June 2009, the second hottest month in recorded houston history, the electric bill on one of these homes was negative twenty dollars, which meant the homeowner actually received a credit for their electricity generation. the city of houston continues to make strides in leading the country as a green city. Effective october 2009, Energy Star� standards are mandated by the city of houston as the minimum building code for every home built within the city limits. the houston hopE program has attempted to exceed these standards using an even more aggressive energy program called 45-4-45, effective november 2009. [ 72 ] houston hopE city of houston's Green Resource center the new program is performance-based using the hERS (home Energy Rating System) score system, defined by the DoE. A hERS score of 100 is a standard built home, with the Energy Star� home having a hERS of 85, using 15% less energy than a standard home. A home Energy Rater uses specially-designed software (RESnEt) to analyze the expected energy use of the home based on the home's construction plans. this analysis yields a projected, pre-construction rating score for this home. with the hERS score based system it holds the builders and raters accountable for the performance before, during and after construction. the home plan before construction must be hERS scored by a certified rater. the home during construction must be inspected by the same hERS rater to validate the energy saving components have been installed correctly. After construction, every home must have a duct blaster and blower door test performed. for data collection, the city will request the buyers to voluntarily supply 12 months of electricity usage, not based on dollar rates, but kwh usages. once the builder submits all of the required reports (hERS prior, hERS after, and Duct blaster/Blower Door test), they are eligible to receive sliding scale reimbursements up to $45,000 per completed home. As designed, the 45-4-45 program will encourage builders to seek lower hERS scores and therefore greater energy efficiencies. In 2009 houston opened the Green Building Resource center located at Building code Enforcement in downtown houston. the Resource center was designed as a combination waiting room, showroom, classroom and library of information with the physical space serving as a green building demonstration project itself, registered to achieve LEED for commercial Interiors. Builders are able to have their plans reviewed for opportunities to add green strategies to save energy, save water and make the buildings healthier. they can learn about green building options at the interactive kiosks, see samples of green building materials and consult with public works and Engineering staff and program Director. the center is open to the public monday through friday. houston hopE [ 73 ] oncE onLy ImAGES Ann Scheffler and children Auli and Eric enjoy family time at the neighborhood playground. StoRIES of hopE: A Bright future Ahead "this is not an unusual story." that was how Ann (Lori) Scheffler described her personal journey to homeownership in a speech she gave on behalf of houston hopE. She was speaking about how many people have, like her, been able to realize their dreams of homeownership because of the services houston hopE provides. In that respect, Scheffler is right. But her own story is more unusual than she lets on. Before she became a homeowner, Scheffler had to overcome a set of challenges that most people have never had to face. At a young age, Ann found herself the single parent of two young children, Eric and Auli. providing for two children was difficult enough, but when Eric was diagnosed with autism, the medical expenses multiplied the financial burden by another factor. "I knew I had to give my children the life that they deserved. I knew I had to get a degree. I had to get a career." So Scheffler, all odds stacked against her, went to college with two [ 74 ] houston hopE children to care for and two jobs to hold down. She even got elected to student government and became president of two organizations. And against everyone's expectations, she graduated and went on to get her first teaching job. her first apartment was just 400 square feet. "I slept in the living roomslash-kitchen, and my children slept in the bedroom-slash-bathroom." Scheffler dreamed of owning her own home, one where her children would have enough space to play, but she didn't know how she could possibly afford it. then one day she received a newsletter from the school district notifying her of upcoming local events � including a houston hopE homebuyers' seminar. She jumped on the opportunity. And not long after, she found herself holding the keys to her dream home, still in a daze. "It was gorgeous. I did not think it was possible, ever, for a single mother and teacher to ever have such a beautiful house." her children, now ages ten and eight, were as thrilled as she was. Eric had always had a passion for science, and when he found out his new home would be solar-powered, he lit up. And her daughter Auli � who was named after the tsarina Alexandra Romanoff � finally got her own princess-themed bedroom. As for Scheffler, she got straight to work painting the walls. her apartments had always been beige-- not exactly a color suited for a bright spirit--and Scheffler had always been turned down when she asked her landlords if she could paint one of the walls red. now she has not just a red wall, but an entire red room. "I'm truly blessed," said Scheffler. "But I don't think I just could sit around and deserve it. I had to work for it." � www.hhphoto.com the future of houston hopE i believe HouSton iS tHe beSt Place in america to live and raiSe a Family - and i intend to keeP it tHat way. i Have SPent my entire adult liFe - in tHe Private Sector and aS an elected oFFicial - FigHting to imProve neigHborHoodS and tHe quality oF liFe For HouSton FamilieS. � HouSton mayor anniSe Parker houston hopE [ 75 ] Builders, cDcs, lenders, attorneys, and city employees who make up the houston hopE work Group. communication and technology In nearly every houston hopE working Group meeting the mayor stresses the importance of communication. A very important way the program can be improved upon would be to create a shared database in which all city of houston departments involved in the project would have access. Access to a common or shared database would potentially eliminate much of the duplication of data as well as provide a common data figure. A shared database would also eliminate the amount of time department personnel works on a particular task and thus increase productivity and efficiency. consistently updating the city website as well as the houston hopE website has aided in alleviating some of these issues. the consumer website at www.houstonhopehomes.org provides information on the program to the public. Buyers may visit this site for information on downpayment assistance, the neighborhoods, and contact information for the builders and cDcs. houston hopE partners with the houston Association of Realtors� (hAR) and the home finder tab features an interactive map powered by hAR's mLS database to help prospective buyers find qualifying properties in the houston hopE areas. the houston hopE online application makes information about the program easily accessible to everyone, including the builders, cDcs, and staff. Builders can log on to the portal, view maps that show which lots are available, select lots, print the real estate contract and submit required forms. Real time updates are sent to builders via an e-mail notification system. All data is stored in a database accessible over the internet. Internal staff and outside clients may access data from any internet browser. As data is acquired, [ 76 ] houston hopE � www.hhphoto.com each responsible party may log in and make live updates. when all the updates have been made, the maps automatically change to reflect the most recent information. marketing the new homeowners are not the only beneficiaries of houston hopE. the taxing authorities of the city of houston, harris county, the houston community college (hcc), and the school districts: houston ISD, north forest ISD, and Aldine ISD also benefit. It would be advantageous for all taxing authorities to promote houston hopE through their own websites. not only would this enhance marketing efforts and stimulate the growth of the program overall, it would also increase the amount of tax dollars each entity would obtain. It is especially important to monitor and update the website as current information changes, new information is provided, or upcoming events are created. out-of-date or incorrect information simply contributes to unnecessary delays. conclusion Despite the countless hours, energy, and dollars that the white administration has committed to houston hopE, it is still a story of a beginning. A drive through the houston hopE areas today confirms that the effort to reclaim these neighborhoods requires a persistence and vigilance that must continue in administrations to come. plans to bring stores and businesses back to serve these citizens are forming. Alliances to improve schools, an essential ingredient to neighborhoods with families, have begun. these are visions shared by past mayors and elected officials. however, there is a drive and intentionality behind white's words that weren't there before. this constancy of purpose was made apparent at the hopE biweekly meetings, which fostered accountability and urged everyone to persist even when unforeseen obstacles cropped up. "without that this could not happen in my view," said Anthony hall. At the final houston hopE meeting of the 2009 year, the mayor stressed that inertia is the ultimate hindrance to progress. "the purpose of a meeting like this is to remove friction, so the ball can roll faster," he said. And the more people that push, the more force is created -- and the ball will stay in motion. to continue making strides toward revitalizing its historic neighborhoods and improving the quality of life for its residents, houston hopE will need the continued commitment of many people -- city officials, community leaders, builders, homebuyers, and citizens of every walk of life. But we have already succeeded together in making that first crucial push forward, and we have kept the momentum going long enough to effect real change on a widespread level. our future efforts will continue to make a difference. "I've seen cities select target areas before, but the mayor has stepped outside the target and pumped oxygen into communities that showed no signs of recovery and then up comes the city of houston with hopE," said Sheila frye, homeowner consultant to low-income families. Bishop James Dixon of Dominion cDc summed up what he believes is ultimately behind the success of houston hopE. "you don't do great things with people who find out why you can't. you do it when you find someone who finds out why we can." houston hopE [ 77 ] [ 78 ] houston hopE houston hopE [ 79 ] � www.hhphoto.com 1 Gabriel,Cindy.EditedbyMeredithSpencer."Let'sGiveHoustonHOPE:RestoringHistoricNeighborhoodswithAffordableHomes." 2 TheU.S.ConferenceofMayors(USCM)istheofficialnonpartisanorganizationofcitieswithpopulationsof30,000ormore.Thereare1,200suchcitiesinthecountry today.EachcityisrepresentedintheConferencebyitschiefelectedofficial,themayor.<http://www.usmayors.org/>. 3 U.S.ConferenceofMayors(USCM),U.S.MayorNewspaper.Mayors,BusinessLeadersBreakfast:2007PublicPrivatePartnershipAwards.By:ErinWenglekowski.Date: 12February2007.Lastaccessed:30June2009.<http://www.usmayors.org/usmayornewspaper/documents/02_12_07/pg11_biz_breakfast.asp>. gov/lara/conferenceofmayors.pdf>. 4 TheUnitedStatesConferenceofMayors,Five Cities Honored For Best-Practice Programs,dated25January2007,lastaccessed:30June2009,<http://www.houstontx. 5 NationalLeagueofCities,City Practices Collection,<http://www2.nlc.org/examples/cknsearchtest.htm> 6 DonaldJ.Borut,ExecutiveDirector,NationalLeagueofCities,lettertoMayorBillWhitedatedMarch20,2007. 7 "FiveCitiesReceive`Ambassador'DesignationbyRealtors�,MayorsforExpandingAffordableHousingOpportunities."Dated:6March2009.Accessed:17July2009. http://www.realtor.org/press_room/news_releases/2009/03/ambassador_designation. 8 "MayorWhiteInspectstheFirstHometoBeBuiltUnderHisHoustonHOPEInitiative,"LandAssemblageRedevelopmentAuthority(LARA),20January2007,<http:// www/houstontx.gov/lara/20070120.html>,Dateaccessed:17October2008. 9 Propertycanbeboughtfordelinquenttaxesonlyafteralawsuitfortaxlienforeclosurehasbeenfiled,andlaterajudgmenthasbeengrantedbythecourttosellthe property(<http://www.tax.co.harris.tx.us/propertytax/proptaxfaq.asp#procedure>).Informationgaps,titleclearanceproblems,andlengthytaxforeclosureprocesses arecommonbarrierstoredevelopingabandonedproperties(<http://www.housingpolicy.org/toolbox/strategy/policies/abandoned_properties.html?tierid=150>). Dateaccessed:17October2008. Gentrificationisoftenassociatedwithaninfluxofhigher-incomeresidents,anincreaseinpropertyvalues,andthedisplacementofatleastsomeoftheoriginallowerincomeresidents,whichcanmakeitcontroversial."(<http://www.housingpolicy.org/glossary.html#G>)Dateaccessed:27October2008. AustinSchoolofArchitecture."HoustonHOPEHousingTypologyAnalysisPreparedforMayorBillWhite."1August2005. 10 "Gentrificationisaprocessinwhichalow-cost�andpossiblydeteriorating�neighborhoodundergoesrevitalizationthroughreinvestmentinitsphysicalassets. 11 DowntownHoustonManagementDistrict/CentralHouston,Inc.;AlexSong,HarvardUniversityGraduateSchoolofDesign,andJasonHercules,UniversityofTexasat 12 "ProjectHoustonHOPECapitalNeedsAssessmentandCostEstimate."File:HoustonHopeMasterListbyPW&ER2.December2004. 13 "TaxDelinquentDataforStudyAreas."G:\PDDNPD\LARA\GIS\Sunnyside-NewStudyArea-HH_tax_delinquent2.xls30September2008. 14 "PROJECTHOUSTONHOPE,NorthForestISD/Settegast."PreparedbyLeahStolarofLinebargerGogganBlair&Sampson,LLP.24October2005. 15 "HoustonHOPENeighborhoodsandRevitalizationZones."Lastaccessed:17July2009.Map.<http://www.houstontx.gov/houstonhope/revitalizationzones.pdf> 16 NOTE:TheHoustonHOPEboundariesaresubjecttochangewithoutnotice.<http://www.houstontx.gov/lara/index.html>. 17 White,MayorBill.CityofHouston."AffordableHousingforLower-IncomeWorkingPeople."SenttoJeffHildebrand;CC:ChrisButler,AlecStetzer,andAndyIcken. Memodated:10October2008. 18 deWit,Jessica.UniversityofMichigan."RevitalizingBlightedCommunitieswithLandBanks."Lastaccessed:2January2009.<http://www.umich.edu/~econdev/ landbank/>. 19 KirwanInstituteforStudyofRace&Ethnicity,OhioStateUniversity.2004.Lastaccessed:2January2009.<http://www.umich.edu/~econdev/landbank/>. 20 "UrbanRedevelopmentInterlocalAgreement,"November5,2003. 21 CityofHouston,Texas,OrdinanceNo.2003-1018."LandAssemblageRedevelopmentAuthorityInterlocalAgreement.ArticleIII:PropertiesUnderConsideration."5 November2003. 22 Dictionary.com,LLC.Lastaccessed:27October2008.<http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ad%20valorem%20tax>. 23 White,MayorBill.CityofHouston."ProgressonRevitalizingNeighborhoodsThroughLARA."LettertoJudgeEdEmmett,HarrisCountyJudge.Letterdated:10 November2008. 24 White,MayorBill.CityofHouston."ForeclosuresonDistressed,AbandonedProperties."LettertoHonorableMarkDavidson,HarrisCountyAdministrativeJudge. Letterdated:26July2004. 25 King,WilliamE.LinebargerGogganBlair&Sampson,LLP."LARA/Foreclosures."SenttoMayorBillWhite;CC:JohnWalsh,SteveTinnermon,LeilanyPena,Arturo Michel,andJimMoriarty.Memodated:22November2004. 26 "FirstAmendmenttoUrbanRedevelopmentInterlocalAgreement,"June8,2005. 27 TheLandAssemblageRedevelopmentAuthority(LARA)isa13-memberboardappointedbytheMayor,CityCouncil,HarrisCounty,andtheHoustonIndependent SchoolDistrict.TheLARAAuthorityisorganizedforthepurposeofaiding,assistingandactingonbehalfoftheCityintheperformanceofitsgovernmentalfunctions topromotethecommongoodandgeneralwelfareoftheCityandinundertakingandcompletingoneormoreprojects,asmaybedefinedordeterminedby theCityCounciloftheCity.Inparticular,suchprojectsshallinclude,withoutlimitation,theacquisition,assemblage,management,marketing,developmentand dispositionofpropertiesthathavebeenacquiredbytaxingauthoritiesthroughforeclosureofdelinquentadvaloremtaxes,includingtheredevelopmentofsuch properties."(Viewed21October2008,<http://www.houstontx.gov/lara/index.html>) 28 LinebargerGogganBlair&Sampson,LLP�AttorneysatLaw."AbouttheFirm."Lastaccessed:12February2009.<http://www.publicans.com/about/index.htm>. 29 CherylFelps,emailmemotoLeahStolarandChristonButlerRE:LandBank,dated11January2010. 30 Ibid. 31 RequestforCouncilAction(RCA),AgendaItem#16.OriginationDate:6March2009.AgendaDate:1April2009.HCD09-34.Theadgendabackupcanbeaccessed at<http://choice.cityofhouston.net/citysec/backup/2009/033109.pdf>.Lastaccessed:20July2009. 32 "CDCAgreement,"http://www.houstontx.gov/lara/2008/d-exhibit.pdf;Dateaccessed:27October2008. 33 CityofHoustonwebsite."CommunityDevelopmentHousingOrganizations."Lastaccessed:5February2009.<http://www.houstontx.gov/housing/chdo.html>. 34 AlistofeligibleHOMEactivitiescanbefoundonHUD'swebsite:U.S.DepartmentofHousingandUrbanDevelopment�CommunityPlanningandDevelopment� EligibleHOMEActivities.Lastaccessed:5March2009.<http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/training/web/abc/activities/>. regardingCDCs,CHDOs,andtheCityofHouston'sCHDOPrograminHoustonHOPEneighborhoods.Date:28January2009atHCD. 35 MeredithSpencer(CityHallFellow,Mayor'sOfficeofGovernmentAffairsandPolicyPlanning)meetingwithDonaldSampley(HCD)andMaldrickBright(HCD) 36 Ibid. 37 CityofHouston>Business>LARA/HoustonHOPE.Lastaccessed:29June2009.<http://www.houstontx.gov/lara/rfp.html>. [ 80 ] houston hopE 38 CityofHouston�LandAssemblageRedevelopmentAuthority(LARA)andHoustonHOPE�SolicitationofOffersforAffordableHousingDevelopment.Date accessed:5March2009.<http://www.houstontx.gov/lara/rfp.html>. 39 TheU.S.ConferenceofMayors'2006Report:Combating Problems of Vacant and Abandoned Properties: Best Practices in 27 Cities,p.24-25.Lastaccessed27 October2008.<http://www.usmayors.org/uscm/best_practices/vacantproperties06.pdf>. 40 HoustonHousingFinanceCorporation,<http://houstonhfc.com/>. 41 Ibid. 42 Currently,asofSeptember2009. 43 Formoreonthesetwoprogramsvisit:<http://www.houstontx.gov/housing/resource.html>.Lastaccessed:29June2009. 44 CityofHoustonwebsite>HousingandCommunityDevelopmentDepartment>DownpaymentAssistanceProgram>HoustonHOPEProgram."2009Household IncomeLimits"chart.Lastaccessed:29June2009.<http://www.houstontx.gov/housing/houstonhope.html>. 45 HoustonHOPE�WhoQualifies?Lastaccessed29June2009.<http://www.houstontx.gov/houstonhope/qualify.html>. 46 AlistoftheHUD-CertifiedHousingCounselingAgenciescanbefoundoftheCityofHouston'sHoustonHOPEwebsite:<http://www.houstontx.gov/houstonhope/ started.html>.Lastaccessed:15May2009. 47 "FirstCheckPresentedtoCoupleasPartoftheGoodNeighborNextDoorProgram:HomebuyerReceives$40,000CheckforDownPayment."CityofHouston,Press Release.22March2007.<http://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/press/20070322.html>.Lastaccessed:28October2008. 48 RosalindaCabezuela,emailmemotoChristonButler,KennishaL.FreemanandJuanChavez,RE:CalendarYearReport,dated8January2010. 49 RequestforCouncilAction(RCA),AgendaItem#14.OriginationDate:10February2009.AgendaDate:11March2009.HCD09-09b.Dateaccessed:11March2009. Theagendabackupcanbeaccessedat:<http://www.houstontx.gov/citysec/backup/2009/031009.pdf>. 50 RosalindaCabezuela,emailmemotoChristonButler,KennishaL.FreemanandJuanChavez,RE:CalendarYearReport,dated8January2010. 51 HoustonHOPE�WhoQualifies?<http://www.houstontx.gov/houstonhope/qualify.html>.Lastaccessed:7July2009. 52 Chavez,Juan."CityofHoustonHomebuyerAssistanceProgramFlowChart�HOPEDesignatedAreas.The"8"StepProcess.PresentedtoHousingCommitteeMarch 12,2009. 53 Seeflyerfor"HoustonAffordableHousingDrive2009"Binder4,TabY,Tab95. 54 White,MayorBill.CityofHouston."ProgressonRevitalizingNeighborhoodsThroughLARA."LettertoJudgeEdEmmett,HarrisCountyJudge.Letterdated:10 November2008. 55 JackHanagriff,emailmemotoValerieWatsonRE:TotalWeedCuttingandDemolitionintheHoustonHOPEArea,dated18December2009. 56 RebuildingTogetherHoustonisanon-profitorganizationthatprovideshomerepairservicestolowincome,elderly,and/ordisabledhomeownersinHouston(http:// www.rebuildingtogetherhouston.org). 57 Single-FamilyHomeRepairHoustonHOPEAreaProductionDataSummary,FullFiscalYear:7/1/08-6/30/09,dated14July2009.DistributedbyHousingDirector RichardCelliatHoustonHOPEmeetingon15July2009. 58 TheUnitedStatesConferenceofMayors,Five Cities Honored For Best-Practice Programs,dated25January2007,<http://www.houstontx.gov/lara/ conferenceofmayors.pdf>,Dateaccessed:27October2008. 59 NationalLeagueofCities,City Practices Collection,<http://www2.nlc.org/examples/cknsearchtest.htm>,Dateaccessed:27October2008. 60 DonaldJ.Borut,ExecutiveDirector,NationalLeagueofCities,lettertoMayorBillWhitedatedMarch20,2007. houston hopE [ 81 ] Special thanks to harris county commissioner El franco Lee and the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA) is a 13-member board appointed by the mayor, city council, harris county and the houston Independent School District. 2009-2010 LARA Board members David collins (chair) Antoinette Jackson (2nd Vice chair) Reginald Adams (president) Jeremy Ratcliff (2nd Vice president) teresa "terry" morales (treasurer) Steve hall (Secretary) Reverend John w. Bowie Stephan fairfield michael harris James harrison III curtis Lampley Richard Leal Houston HoPE HomEs 611 Walker, 3rd Floor � Houston, tX 77002 7 1 3 . 5 2 2 . Ho m E www.houstonhopehomes.org www.facebook.com/houstonhope www.twitter.com/houstonhope