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Four innovative strategies to house low-income families are honored

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 7/7/2016, 6 a.m.

Several nonprofits recently received a financial boost for innovative ideas that could shield some of the city’s poorest families from homelessness.

The Home Funders, a collaborative focused on addressing housing needs of families with very low incomes — zero to 30 percent of the area median — debuted its Innovation Competition to honor “innovative, feasible and sustainable,” scalable solutions to provide or retain housing for extremely-low income families.

The competition is a first-of-its kind for the Home Funders, which presented Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc., the Coalition for Occupied Homes in Foreclosure, Inc. and Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association with monetary prizes and the affordable housing fellows at Kuehn Foundation with an honorable mention.

The money is secondary to the official recognition, Sonia Gupta, executive director of Home Funders, said. The prizes were awarded without stipulating timeline requirements, a deliberate incentive to encourage submission of creative ideas that may only be in their early stages, Gupta said. Even though it is not obligatory, Home Funders hopes the innovative ideas will be implemented.

“Part of the reason we conceived of giving out prizes instead of implementation grants is we wanted people to come forward with ideas that may not be actual projects yet, but are conceptual,” Gupta told the Banner. “To advance thinking, so people would feel confident coming forward with ideas that are really in early stages, but still hold some promise.”

The competition launched in November 2015 and prizewinners were celebrated last month.

POAH’s Donation Tax Credit

POAH received $20,000 for its proposal to develop a new state tax credit. The credit would be offered as an incentive for property owners to donate existing housing to nonprofits for development.

An eligible nonprofit would create a financial plan that included the cost of purchasing the property. Then, the nonprofit would use the cost savings of donated land and buildings to underwrite the creation of more long-term housing units or deepen the affordability of existing units, Andrew Spofford, POAH’s chief of staff, said. POAH estimates that, with the so-called Donation Tax Credit in place, nonprofits could afford to make 15 percent to 30 percent of the units extremely-low-income-affordable without having to seek other operating subsidies, according to the project description posted on the Home Funders’ site.

Implementing this tax credit hinges on winning over members of the legislature and getting it passed as part of a bill. While such work does not require money, Spofford said, the Home Funders prize has boosted POAH’s cause by bringing greater awareness to it and certifying that others involved in the housing world endorse it as a worthy idea.

“It’s useful to be able to say to legislators that not only are we saying this is a good idea and the other folks that we’re working with on it [saying it’s a good idea] ... but that it has the blessing of this competition. That helps people to take a hard look at it,” he told the Banner.

POAH hopes to get the tax credit introduced as an amendment in the next few days, Spofford said last Thursday. But POAH also recognizes that legislative action could be a slow process. In the meantime, the organization is directing the prize money to support its housing residents with stabilization and eviction prevention services.