Houston, Atlanta and Portland have been chosen to participate in a three-year project aimed at converting deteriorated, vacant properties into affordable housing in emerging neighborhoods.
The national “Catalytic Access to & Use of Land for Lasting Affordability” initiative was launched by Grounded Solutions Network and the Center for Community Progress through a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, according to a press release from the three organizations.
Houston was chosen because of the city’s documented potential for establishing affordable housing at scale. The initiative specifically focuses on communities of color facing involuntary displacement.
Dr. Akilah Watkins-Butler, president and CEO of Community Progress highlighted her organization’s track record when it comes to these types of projects. “Community Progress has helped hundreds of communities across the country design and implement groundbreaking strategies, policies, and tools — like land banks — to tackle vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties,” she said in the press release.
The $700,000 in funding for the first year will be split between the three cities to engage community stakeholders; expand relationships between community development experts, peer communities and experienced practitioners; and leverage distressed property portfolios with Community Land Trust programs offering affordability.
For Wells Fargo, the initiative is a small part of a six-year plan to spend $1 billion to “to create scalable solutions to reduce the cost burden of housing,” according to Connie Wright, senior vice president, Wells Fargo Foundation housing philanthropy. “This collaboration builds on Wells Fargo’s evolution of our philanthropy strategy,” she added.
The initiative will be launched next month at the 2019 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Atlanta, starting on Oct. 2 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.