Illinois Housing Groups Band Together to Survive New HUD Regs

Community development leaders took a grim view on some impending changes to HUD HOME regulations, telling Shelterforce in 2012 that the new rules would hurt community housing development organizations (CHDOs) rather than make the program better.
Under the new regs, CHDOs would need permanent staff to qualify for funds to do work many of them had been using volunteers and consultants for, further stressing stretched coffers.
“The initial reaction that people had when they saw the new rules is that it's going to severely limit the activity or types of activities that they can undertake,” said David Young, director of technical assistance with Housing Action Illinois.
Young saw that having permanent development staff would be “next to impossible” for smaller organizations and so, now that the new regulations have passed, Housing Action Illinois is helping CHDOs work together, establishing collaboratives that do have that staff capacity to get funding for projects. These collaboratives develop their own process for selecting projects from individual members to seek funding for in a given year.
“[The new regs] might be an obstacle, but we don't see them as completely killing off the activities that community development organizations want to do,” Young said.
In the field as a whole, Young said, there is an overall need for organizations to develop a “larger regional focus.”
“It's not just about the redevelopment of one particular neighborhood, but really about the redevelopment of a city,” he said.
Here is Young's take on the challenges and benefits of forming CHDO collaboratives, and their potential for the field: How did you bring the different groups together?
In Rockford, [Ill.], we provided a Memorandum of Understanding that organizations could use to establish a CHDO collaborative. We decided to take a step back and let them work out changes to the memorandum [including] what type of scoring mechanisms to use for [selecting] projects. It was important that it come form the ground up as opposed to top down so that all of the organizations were actively engaged in how scoring was going to work.
What are the some of the challenges of a collaborative approach?
There is going to be a time when one organization has a project that they really, really want to do that doesn't score high enough in order for the CHDO collaborative to undertake it. When that happens that is going to certainly impact how the organizations work together.
In order for all of this to work and work well it means there has to be trust and compromise and there is the potential of both of those things being tested in putting together a process like this.
What are the benefits?
We all know that resources for doing development, especially affordable housing, become more and more scarce every year. If you have a lot of organizations in the same city competing, you have the potential of knocking all of the organizations out of funding and that community ending up not getting any funding at all. If you're coming together and are agreeing, this is our strongest development application and this is what were all going to work together to push forward, you're going to be that much more competitive and more likely to actually do something.
It also means that the individual organizations get to know the missions and visions of their silo partners.
When I was a CDC executive director, it was probably the thing I lamented the most [that] there really weren’t opportunities for our fellow organizations to work together and have a greater impact.
These new rules really force you to think about how to do things differently and how to do things more effectively. If you can have five or six organizations sharing one team of skilled developers, than you have more universal reach and can be more competitive. I would hope that other organizations in Illinois and other parts of the country would take a look at pursuing this type of strategy.
(Photo by Pete Zarria CC BY-NC-SA)

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