Paths to power : resident empowerment through CED

Sanabria, Eddie
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Southern New Hampshire University
As stated in the thesis project, "At the start of my CED project in September of 1989 I was apprehensive regarding the outcome of my endeavor at the Lawrence Neighborhood Housing Services. My position involved the coordination and resource building of the expansion from two service neighborhoods into three additional ones for a total of five. The completion of this project would include one of the most comprehensive organizing efforts and unique mortgage pools possibly in the United States. The history of the Lawrence Neighborhood Housing Services (LNHS) has been one of facilitating the process for working class families to obtain mortgages for properties within the LNHS designated service areas. Since 1980, when the LNHS was incorporated, and up to 1989 over 160 families have been assisted in this manner. This averaged to just about sixteen conversions from absentee owned to owner occupied every year. The expansion which the LNHS was undertaking at the time involved different components: developing a mortgage pool which is sensitive to the credit needs of the community of north central Lawrence, a ten year focus, the reorganization of the LNHS, community organizing in the five areas, and the re-enforcement of the existing partnership. The outcome would be the stabilization of five neighborhoods through homeownership. The strategy is to find, develop, prospect and assist 100 new homeowners each year for the next ten years. The expansion process began in March of 1 989 when Neighborhood Reinvestment conducted an assessment of the LNHS to explore the feasibility of expanding into three additional areas. Normally Neighborhood Housing Services (there are over 150 located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico) are challenged every five years to expand into other areas where their services are needed. This is based upon the assumption that the NHS' areas should achieve a degree of self-sufficiency within a five year period and the established base of capital investments can be expanded into other areas. Self-sufficiency is achieved when enough capital investment is channeled into a neighborhood through homeownership with an element of self-perpetuation. The LNHS assessment revealed that an expansion was necessary to offset the decline that Lawrence was experiencing as a result of many external (the economy - local and regional, the ramifications of the 1980's Reaganomics, and the decline of the "Massachusetts Miracle") and internal (long term disinvestment on the part of lending institutions, high unemployment, white flight, teen-age pregnancy, among others) factors. Also revealed was the fact that the owner occupancy rate for the north central area of Lawrence was 18% as opposed to 36% in South Lawrence. This in itself was seen as a major contributor to the high incidence of crime and drug trafficking in these neighborhoods. In order to reverse the owner occupancy rate in north central Lawrence and stabilize the neighborhoods five things had to take place. One, a mortgage pool had to be developed which was sensitive to the credit needs of the community in these neighborhoods. Two, the community had to participate in developing- the mortgage pool . Three , the Working Partnership that the LNHS has operated with over the last ten years hat? to expand and reflect the composition of the community. Four, the LNHS had to find a way to continually capitalize its revolving loan fund to achieve the ten year goal. Five, a comprehensive approach had to be undertaken whereby the residents would be able to participate in the redefinition of the own neighborhoods resulting in a more stabilized environment." (Library-derived description)