Tenant Self-Sufficiency Programs in St. Louis

“EHPC started back in 1979 over breakfast at Howard Johnson’s,” recalls Lynn Broeder, founder of the Ecumenical Housing Production Corporation in St. Louis. It brought together a group of experts, including architects, contractors, lawyers, and community leaders, to direct policy and provide practical expertise. “We had one thing in common: our concern about the shortage of safe, affordable housing for low-income families, especially in the county. We also had a strong desire to do something about it.”

Since then, EHPC has built or rehabilitated 170 scattered-site, single-family homes in safe, integrated neighborhoods throughout St. Louis County. Along with its affordable rental housing, EHPC provides a range of services – including job training, money management and home care courses, summer daycare for children, and computer training for adolescents – to help its tenants become self-sufficient.

EHPC’s job training, self-sufficiency programs, counseling, and other programs are specifically tailored for each family’s needs, according to EHPC executive director Christopher Krehmeyer. Krehmeyer says this individualized case management begins with the application process, during which each family is carefully interviewed. When tenants sign their leases, they get a Family Management Plan covering job training, educational opportunities, counseling, and community involvement. EHPC’s property managers supervise each family.

EHPC funds its housing and programs through a variety of means. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) has been in the past, but like so many nonprofit housers, EHPC has become expert at building pyramids of creative financing, using HUD Rental Rehab, Moderate Rehab, and Section 8 tenant assistance programs. EHPC was also the first organization to partner with the St. Louis Equity Fund, which draws investors from area businesses and financial institutions, and it pioneered bond financing through the Missouri Housing Development Commission and the Department of Economic Development’s tax credit program. EHPC owns 120 houses outright, and the St. Louis Equity Fund owns the rest.

EHPC is also establishing a for-profit subsidiary that will manage rental property for homeowners. EHPC Property Management Co. initially will manage about 30 rental properties in north St. Louis County’s Castlepoint neighborhood, Krehmeyer told the St. Louis Business Journal.

“In the first full year, we’ll generate about $20,000, but the hope is we start laying the seeds of making money with the skills that we’ve garnered over the last 15 years,” Krehmeyer said.

With this first for-profit venture for the organization, EHPC aims to boost funding for its support services, which run about $2,000 for each of the approximately 170 families served. About 97 percent of the families in EHPC’s housing are headed by African-American women in their 30’s; about one-third of the tenants were homeless before becoming EHPC tenants. Of the 650 people living in EHPC housing, 500 are children. The typical EHPC family has an average annual income of less than $5,500 and receives a Section 8 housing subsidy. As the organization adds new families, it has to find new revenue sources, such as the property management company.

EHPC is one of 12 organizations taking advantage of an effort by St. Louis County that has moved 70 percent of its participating welfare recipients off welfare and into jobs. The county assesses a $3 fee on every recorded deed and puts the money into a pool called Partners in Self-Sufficiency, which funds child care, transportation to work, and other support programs.

In EHPC’s own housing and programs, nearly 75 percent of the heads of households have received their General Education Diplomas and/or graduated from community colleges or job training programs, according to EHPC. Over one-third have also graduated from the housing within three to five years, moving off welfare into jobs. Another third have become stabilized families whose children have begun to make real progress in school, according to the organization. The remaining one-third of families are either still in crisis or have disabled members, which makes self-sufficiency more difficult.

Looking ahead, EHPC has begun a program to teach tenants construction skills by involving them in the construction/rehab process. Through HUD’s Youth Build program, EHPC plans to construct two houses for a new lease-purchase program with the Housing Authority of St. Louis County.

EHPC has also begun discussions with other nonprofit agencies in its area to coordinate and target services for a particular neighborhood. Krehmeyer said his organization is extremely excited about the potential of this project.

For more information, contact Chris Krehmeyer, Ecumenical Housing Production Corporation, 7477 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63130-4000; 314-862-8130.
NeighborTeam Mini Grant Program Fosters Resident Participation

Fair Haven Housing Initiative, Inc., in New Haven, Connecticut, has devised a novel way to foster resident involvement in community activities in the city’s low-income, increasingly Hispanic Fair Haven neighborhood. Block associations, youth organizations, and event committees in the HUD-designated Enterprise Community section of Fair Haven can apply for $25 “NeighborGrants” for such activities as sports teams, youth groups, cleanups, block parties, and newsletters – whatever the organizer’s imagination can dream up is a candidate for the modest stipend.

The premise of the NeighborGrant, that a small incentive can yield large dividends, is seen as NeighborTeams learn that relationships, time, and talent can be the most enabling resources, according to Fair Haven Initiative. Each NeighborTeam determines who and what to sponsor, although the program encourages skills-building and resource generation as major objectives. A lead organizer must secure the necessities for an activity, recruit participants and at least one volunteer, conduct the activity, and complete a form in order to receive a $25 stipend, which may be used to reimburse direct expenses.

During the first year of the program, more than 200 NeighborGrants will have been awarded to at least 50 organizers that have participated in six NeighborTeams. In summer 1997, FHI expects to be working with 10 groups, and hopes to reach 16 groups by fall.

Fair Haven Housing Initiative, Inc., has raised $18,500 for the project from five sources: Unitarian Universalist Funding Program, Haymarket Peoples Fund, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, City Mission Association of New Haven, and First & Summerfield United Methodist Church. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has made an AmeriCorps Member available to work with the project.

Fair Haven Initiative has developed a list of guidelines for activities eligible for NeighborGrants. Among these guidelines are:

  • Activities should involve at least six participants, but may involve more.
  • Activities should last at least an hour, but may last longer and occur more than once a week.
  • Activities may be sponsored jointly with another group and may include outreach projects or co-sponsored services with agencies, city departments, or other service providers.
  • Canceled or poorly attended activities; activities benefiting mostly one’s own family; and political, unsafe, indecent or illegal activities will not qualify for NeighborGrant stipends.

Responsible youths at least 15 years old may be organizers or volunteers if a mature adult is present. The advisor must approve in advance of a youth under age 21 receiving a stipend or being the only volunteer. Agency personnel may replace volunteers in outreach or co-sponsored activities.

For more information, contact Bret Bissell, Executive Director, 203-389-4492.

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