Owner Occupancy through #UrbanSweat

Overview by Richard A Gordon, CEO CIPOA

The main objective of this initiative is to return owner occupancy to blighted areas and encourage local planning departments to support the renovation of inner-city residential properties by individual owner/builders.

If you are a first time homebuyer you face plenty of challenges, but when you get through that process your future financial security takes a huge jump. Like many, you’re often forced to lower expectation and accept that remodeling is a DIY necessity. It may not be your dream home, but, on a very basic level, provides secure shelter for you and your family. Knowing that you are no longer subject to the oversight of a landlord is a major change for families who have only ever rented, possibly for generations. Realizing you are now a property owner in your community, is a source of pride. The American dream. With that home ownership stability you start looking more toward the future possibilities for your family.

This group of once stately homes should be renovated and occupied by owner/builders. The Urbansweat initiative groups these owner/builders into an owners association to tackle the renovation

The Common Interest Property Owners Association has formed a special interest group for this initiative- we are looking for individuals, groups, or urban renewal professionals to join our forum. Please register as a Visitor and select the Urban Sweat special interest group. Thanks

I would like to see this initiative expand the American dream to the inner city resident, and the CIPOA is prepared to help guide them. However, my personal vision is focused on the development of master planned inner city villages, all based on owner occupancy, from the individual home to the businesses that support the community.

When a neighborhood starts losing it’s owner occupants, it’s on it’s way down hill and owners move out, sometimes forcibly, during the typical urban renewal project. Many examples of inner city neighborhoods, once vibrant and architecturally significant, are now in decay. Rather than tear down and replace with a shopping center, let’s try something different, owner occupancy, in mass.

Last year, I started researching urban renewal projects that have occurred over the years and involved residential neighborhoods. Most that I found were part of a master planned urban renewal project, but it was just the land the planners and developers wanted. From a developer’s standpoint it is simply less expensive to tear down and build something new. To do otherwise would require gutting buildings first and bringing it up to code. If a city urban renewal plan priority is to remove blight as quickly as possible, say good by to residential owner occupancy. As well as the commercial buildings that often accompany these older neighborhoods. These buildings and homes are acquired from existing owners and sold under eminent domain. Developers get the land (at low or no cost), tax breaks and other incentives. They are taking a risk and these projects need to be attractive to developers. My contention is that with the level of incentives available, we can attract owner/builders to the inner city.

It may not be the highest and best use of inner city land, but refurbishing older neighborhoods brings back it’s architecture, and owner occupants add character and stability. To do this, you first need lots of motivated people who want home ownership, and are willing to contribute their labor to get it. These people need to target a neighborhood, and gather enough like people to form a basic owners association. it is this association that the funding sources work with. This association applies for non profit status, and begins the process of collecting grants and other donations.

In my search I found examples of individuals who used urban renewal funding to refurbish an individual property. This may be available in every city in the US, I don’t know, but in the examples I found, the owner/builder received property tax breaks when completed, a very low purchase price for the fixer upper and some funding for materials. There are other incentives offered locally. VA probably has something, as well, if not, it is worth lobbying for. But it seems that HUD would be on board.

Our UrbanSweat initiative is the grouping of people like those owner/builders I found and help them get organized, educated on the reality of the challenge and the tools to make it happen. Scaling this solution is the key to having an impact in all inner cities across the country. I don’t believe we have a shortage of people who would like to be homeowners. Doing this as a group will be less expensive, in some regards, than the individual owner/builder. Material purchases in particular, but all aspects of the project can be scaled.

I found several resources for applying for US grants, that cover most of the major components in most home projects. Hud even has grants for first time buyers. So there seems to be plenty of funding sources. The most expensive element for any particular project will be hiring expertise, but doing so as a group, should make it more affordable. In any case, we shall see as this forum grows.

This initiative was created by the Common Interest Property Owners Association to explore the subject of owner-occupancy when considering urban renewal priorities. I hope that the combined effort of those who share this vision, can return owner occupants to our inner cities. We all win.

Here is a list of some of the success stories I found;

Others stories can be easily found. What I would like to see from this initiative, is an accumulation of “success” stories from owner/builders in the US. And with the effort of those of you who join this inititative, we can reach them.

The history of urban renewal in the US is dominated primarily by tear down and rebuilding areas in towns and cities across the country. This approach has resulted in the elimination of architecturally valuable neighborhoods, but has more critically displaced residents, mostly out of the city. And those who stay live in the replacement housing, rental housing.

The question is whether these urban areas, impacted by the tear down approach, have improved the lives of the residents and slowed or stopped additional decline. The answer is probably available, so we are looking for city planners and others who provide direct funding and track improvements. If it has improved conditions, we need to do more tear down projects. But we feel there should be a healthy portion directed at owner occupancy which will help balance the renewal project and provide the residents with a sense of pride in their community.

However, we contend that retaining these neighborhoods, populated primarily by owner occupants, will thrive rather than decline. The challenge has always been convincing local municipalities (who plan the use of available funding), to direct more funding to help individuals purchase and renovate individual homes or apartment buildings. We hope to make Urbansweat a tool for planners to fight the inner city blight.

The CIPOA represents common interest property owners, so we look at this challenge from the perspective of community associations. Common Interest Developments are designed to pool the resources of the owners to accomplish whatever their goals are. In new communities, these resources are used to maintain existing common elements of the community. There is a formalized structure for this type of association, which we will replicate in the UrbanSweat community association.

For what we are proposing, this initiative designs a system for forming prospective owners associations, planning the project, applying for funding and help find and hire construction management expertise. This might be a group of residents in a neighborhood, dominated by rentals, who would be willing to contribute their own labor to the renovations. We need these motivated individuals, everything else seems to be available.

The inspiration for applying sweat equity to a community of people, we refer to as Urban equity comes from and interview that Milton Friedman (economist) conducted with a young man named Robert Foster, regarding his Banana Kelly Sweat Equity project in the South Bronx. Mr. Foster recognized the value of property ownership and the difference it would make in his community and did something about it.

In thousands of low income communities in the US, neighbors ban together to organize and maintain community gardens. These same individuals possess a sense of community, like Mr. Foster, that could direct that labor to home ownership.

If you have an interest in following the development of this concept, please register as a visitor and select the Urban Sweat Group. Please use #urbansweat in your tweets or other social media posts.

We look forward to working with you.

Thank you for your support

Richard Gordon, CEO CIPOA

Leave a Reply