• 27 Apr 2018 11:38 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)
    On Wednesday, April 25, the Trump Administration proposed a new plan to raise rents on millions of low-income families and individuals receiving federal housing assistance. It's a plan that jeopardizes housing stability for households who, absent this housing support, could very well become homeless as Prosperity Indiana's Policy Director, Kathleen Lara shared with Fox 59 news.  

    Specifics:

    Just how many households would be affected in Indiana? According to research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 79,100 Hoosier households would be affected, with an average annual budget increase of $760, draining $59,445,000 from the most economically strained households throughout the state.

    The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson, told reporters that the proposal was needed because "The way we calculate the level of assistance to our families is convoluted and creates perverse consequences, such as discouraging these families from earning more income and becoming self-sufficient."

    Unfortunately, the data does not support claims that these households will become more self-sufficient under this plan.  The legislation crafted around this proposal would require:

    • most HUD-assisted households currently paying 30% of their adjusted income towards rent to instead have to pay 35% of their gross income or 35% of the amount earned by working at least 15 hours a week for four weeks at the federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. That would essentially set a new minimum mandatory rent of $150 (three times higher than the current minimum that may apply to families

    • The bill would also increase rents for households with high medical or child care expenses by eliminating income deductions for those expenses, the impact of which would disproportionately fall on seniors, people with disabilities, and families with young children.

    • The bill provides the HUD secretary with the authority to impose even higher rents through alternative rent structures and de facto time limits. And the proposal allows housing providers to broadly impose work requirements, without any resources to help people gain the skills they need for well-paying jobs.

    This is not a plan that lifts Hoosiers in poverty, it sets them on a course for housing crisis, particularly single mothers and the disabled.

    What's Next?

    Advocacy. 
    Prosperity Indiana is proud to advocate on behalf of our member network and how this measure would impact our communities, so please contact Kathleen Lara at klara@prosperityindiana.org for questions and stories from clients who will be impacted so we can share those specifics with policymakers.

    Raise your voice! Let both Senators as well as your Member of Congress know that this move would make it harder for low-income Hoosiers trying to become economically sufficient and could increase evictions and homelessness throughout our state. 
    To call your Member of Congress:
    US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

    To look up your Member of Congress, visit our Advocacy Action Center and enter your address.

    Prosperity Indiana is also proud to be the state partner for the National Low Income Housing Coalition and hope you read their resources on the Administration's proposal:


  • 20 Apr 2018 2:57 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    On Thursday, April 19, Gov. Eric J. Holcomb announced the 156 census tract Opportunity Zone nominations Indiana submitted to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.  Contained within the 2017 tax reform legislation passed last December, Opportunity Zones offer tax incentives to spark investment in low-income communities.  Essentially, each state nominates census tracts that meet certain criteria, such as having a poverty rate of at least 20 percent and a median family income of no greater than 80 percent of the area median. (see this link for further details:  https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/resources/policy-focus-opportunity-zone-program). 

    The program only allows states to nominate up to 25 percent of eligible tracts, so the Governor’s Office noted that it worked several state agencies, an external advisory group and took into account thousands of tract recommendations from several hundred local officials, stakeholders and citizens in coming up with the selections.

    “This new program provides one more tool to attract investment and help more of our Hoosier communities succeed,” Gov. Holcomb said.

    According to the Governor’s office’s announcement, “The 156 nominated census tracts are located in 58 counties covering all or portions of 83 cities and towns throughout the state. Upon approval of the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, these Opportunity Zones will cover over 1,000 square miles and the residences of over 500,000 Hoosiers. The average poverty rate in these census tracts is 31 percent.

    The full list of nominated census tracts can be found here.

    As this program has great potential to support and generate new community development activities in economically divested areas throughout Indiana, Prosperity Indiana submitted the following feedback during the input process to help inform our state’s approach in determining which tracts to nominate.

    On behalf of our members working hard to revitalize and strengthen communities statewide, we are pleased the state has decided to capitalize on this important tool that could have a catalytic impact on low-income neighborhoods throughout Indiana. We recognize it is a significant challenge to identify which census tracts should ultimately receive the designation as our state can only nominate up to 25 percent of eligible tracts. In order to maximize the impact of the opportunity zone investment and its ability to improve lives and boost local economies, we offer the following suggestions for evaluation criteria.

    1)      Local context and conversations are key. In states that have selected tracts already, selection appears – in some instances – to be based on data only, ignoring local context. For example, some areas meet low-income eligibility thresholds due to student populations; however, investors are already capitalizing companies, commercial developments, or housing projects in those areas, and no incentive is needed. The context, in those cases, was not considered, and the impact of investing there would be to the detriment of communities that truly need the establishment of zones to spark investment. Data, while essential in helping evaluate need, is not a complete picture in and of itself. Conversations, community plans and resident engagement is key to achieving social and economic inclusion, as well as investments that yield long-term economic prosperity.

    2)      We urge the state to apply the New Market Tax Credit’s definition for “severe economic distress” in selecting zones to drive resources to the areas of highest need. Then, once that criteria is applied, we suggest evaluating additional factors, such as an area’s capacity to capitalize on new investments, taking into account strong anchor institutions and support for small business.

    3)      We believe designated zones should show a preference for geographic diversity with a balance of rural and urban neighborhoods to diversify investment activity. This will ensure urban cores are thriving, while rural markets that have lost significant jobs and population are also revitalized.

    4)      We encourage Indiana to take advantage of a tool created by Enterprise Community Partners, called Opportunity360, that allows states to see how eligible tracts relate to other federal programs and designations. Importantly, the tool allows users to filter tracts using the Opportunity360 Outcome Indices to see how people living in these tracts are faring across five outcome dimensions, including housing stability, education, health and wellbeing, economic security, and mobility.  The tool can be accessed here: https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/opportunity360/opportunity-zone-eligibility-tool

    We appreciate the opportunity to discuss the importance of community engagement, strategic evaluation of needs and opportunities, and geographic diversity to achieve the catalytic community economic development results the program aims to accomplish.


  • 20 Apr 2018 9:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article about the miraculous economic recovery in Elkhart, Indiana. In March 2009, the unemployment rate in Elkhart was 20 percent, the highest in the nation; in January 2018, the unemployment rate was 2 percent, half the national average. (Moody’s Analytics ranked Elkhart’s local jobs rebound as the largest among 403 metro areas analyzed.) The recovery is largely attributed to the region’s concentration of RV manufacturing jobs, which offer great pay and benefits. In 2016, the average annual salary for a worker was $68,000 and pay continues to rise. Other job perks resemble those provided by firms in Silicon Valley, such as “dream managers”—counselors who help workers plan vacations or handle family problems. 

    The RV industry sets wages and standards to a level few competitors can match; yet, the picture of Elkhart’s economic recovery is not as rosy as first appears. WSJ describes Elkhart’s economy as “a Kuwait in the cornfields”—that is, operating like an oil economy, sensitive to booms and busts. And although some residents remain frugal during booms to weather the busts, systemic issues arise from lack of business diversity.

    The prospect of a factory job with great pay and benefits deters young people from attaining higher education or entering other industries. These trends cause two problems: workers’ skill levels remain low (they are not qualified for advanced jobs) and industries with comparatively lower pay (i.e. food service) cannot attract and retain employees, creating a mismatch between supply and demand. Case in point: "A McDonald’s failed to open for lunch last fall because managers couldn’t corral enough hands at $8 an hour to serve the lines waiting at the doors."

    Elkhart illustrates the importance of business diversity in terms of economic robustness, especially during economic downturns, and attending to the daily needs of neighborhood residents. Studies show that retail diversity—the availability of a wide array of necessary goods and services at a variety of price points—contributes significantly to a neighborhood’s economic health and that of its residents. In addition, retail diversity contributes to a neighborhood’s unique character (i.e. the cultural value of independent retailers as compared to chain stores).

    Yet the government’s role in preserving and encouraging retail diversity, affordability, and access is marked by “a history of fits and starts” when compared to the housing sector, for example, where government has consistently maintained a significant role. Historically, planning for neighborhood retail was often overlooked and/or outsourced to local organizations through Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). In an era when the public sector was in retreat, BIDs assumed the responsibility to stabilize physical conditions on important retail strips. Although the public sector can employ a number of strategies to preserve and encourage retail diversity (i.e. formula retail zoning), private funders also have a role to play.

    For example, funders may explore starting a neighborhood commercial development fund, a retail diversity fund, or incubator and entrepreneurship programs. A neighborhood commercial development fund would provide funding for local community developers to redevelop vacant or underutilized commercial spaces. Community development financial institutions in Indiana already fund similar types of projects. For example, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) operates the Small Business Façade and Property Improvement Program, which provides matching grants to property owners willing to renovate storefronts, such as adding new signage, windows, or painting.

    A retail diversity fund would establish a new competitive grant program targeted specifically at the objective of neighborhood retail diversity. The fund could be granted to a local organization to administer a participatory community process to determine a specific type of retail use that is needed in the neighborhood. The community organization could then use the rest of the grant to help identify and subsidize the location of such a business.

    Another approach is to develop and fund incubator and entrepreneurship programs. Recommended interventions include helping program graduates find affordable storefront space by subsidizing a short-term initial lease or offering low-interest loans. These programs can also be effective at diversifying local business markets. Marcus Owens, President and CEO at Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) in Minneapolis, MN, said there is saturation in the market of certain types of businesses—for example, beauty parlors and comfort food restaurants in NEON’s service area. NEON provides training and funding opportunities to diversify aspiring entrepreneurs’ skills sets thereby diversifying local business markets.

    Supporting retail diversity through innovative funding strategies isn’t the silver bullet to addressing problems associated with the concentration of particular jobs, but it is part of a comprehensive solution to build workers’ skills sets, increase a region’s economic robustness, make neighborhoods desirable places to live and work, and attend to residents’ daily needs.

  • 19 Apr 2018 10:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    STATEHOUSE (April 19, 2018) – Today, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced six regions as finalists for the 2018 Stellar Communities Program. 

    Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities Program is a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment initiative led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which is overseen by Crouch. The program works with communities to develop their strategic community investment plans, promote local and regional partnerships and implement comprehensive solutions to challenges facing Indiana’s rural communities. 

    "The Stellar Communities Program has helped so many areas across our state, and I am inspired by the collaborative efforts of these six regions," Crouch said. "Working together, and heading towards a common goal will allow for a better, stronger Indiana."

    Representatives from the Stellar partner state agencies began examining the letters of intent following the April 6 deadline. 

    After a thorough review, the following regions have been chosen as finalists:

    • A Region Plus — comprised of the cities of Vincennes and Bicknell and Knox County;  
    • Health and Heritage Region —comprised of the city of Greenfield and the town of Fortville;
    • Eastern Indiana — comprised of the cities of Richmond, Rushville and Union City, and Randolph County;
    • Marshall County Crossroads – comprised of Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, Marshall County leaders and leadership from the towns of Argos, Bremen, Bourbon, Culver, LaPaz and Plymouth;
    • Mt. Comfort Road Corridor – comprised of the towns of Cumberland, McCordsville and New Palestine; and
    • New Allen Alliance – comprised of Allen County, the town of Grabill, Leo-Cedarville and Monroeville and the cities of New Haven and Woodburn. 

    “The responses we received demonstrates that our communities understand our vision for the program and the importance of regionalism,” said Jodi Golden, Executive Director of OCRA. “Communities are stronger when they partner with one another in planning for the future, determining economic development investments and improving the quality of life for residents.”

    As finalists, regions will receive a planning grant to build upon their regional plans. Each region will begin working with Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute to discuss project alignment and continued planning efforts. Final designees are selected at the end of the year.  

    Through the annual designation, the Stellar Communities program provides resources for transformative quality of place community improvements by utilizing previous planning efforts, leveraging existing assets, fostering regional investments and stimulating continued growth. Visit in.gov/ocra/stellar for more information. 


  • 17 Apr 2018 4:10 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    Princeton University launched a new database, Eviction Lab (evictionlab.org), which highlights alarming rates of individuals and families that are housing unstable due to evictions across the country.  From the collection of 83 million records, the Lab has found that 2.3 million evictions were filed in 2016.

    The Lab results show that three Indiana cities rank in the top 20 large city of eviction filings in the United States for 2016, the latest data available.  According to the data, Indianapolis had 11,570 evictions in 2016, which amounts to 31.7 households evicted every day and 7.27 in 100 renter homes evicted over the year.  Further, data shows Indiana's eviction rate of 4.07% in 2016 is 1.73% higher than the national average. (See end of post for Indiana eviction ratings by city size).


    The Lab is led by Sociologist Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, who cites roughly 20 years of flat income levels while housing costs have increased as a primary source of these issues. Desmond, speaking to Terry Gross, discussed the effects eviction has on individuals, “Eviction comes with a mark that goes on your record, and that can bar you from moving into a good house in a safe neighborhood, but could also prevent you from moving into public housing, because we often count that as a mark against your application. So we push families who get evicted into slum housing and dangerous neighborhoods.” He goes on to say that they have studies linking eviction to job loss due to stress and the mental and physical health impacts related to the event.

    "Eviction isn't just a condition of poverty; it's 

    a cause of poverty," Desmond says in the interview. "Eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it also is a cause of residential instability, school instability [and] community instability."

    For more: see this New York Times piece on the release of the database (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/07/upshot/millions-of-eviction-records-a-sweeping-new-look-at-housing-in-america.html) and this NPR Fresh Air interview with Desmond (https://www.npr.org/2018/04/12/601783346/first-ever-evictions-database-shows-were-in-the-middle-of-a-housing-crisis)

    Large Cities in Indiana:

    • 1.      Fort Wayne 7.39%
    • 2.      Indianapolis 7.27%
    • 3.      South Bend 6.71%
    • 4.      Evansville 0.5%

    Mid-Size Cities in Indiana:

    • 1.      Marion 8.52%
    • 2.      Elkhart 8.5%
    • 3.      Kokomo 7.95%
    • 4.      Lawrence 7.81%
    • 5.      Lafayette 6.86%
    • 6.      Gary 6.3%
    • 7.      Goshen 5.38%
    • 8.      Merrillville 4.7%
    • 9.      Hammond 3.8%
    • 10.   Michigan City 3.62%

    Small Cities and Rural Areas in Indiana:

    • 1.      Waterloo 24.4%
    • 2.      Cromwell 13.79%
    • 3.      Grabill 13.73%
    • 4.      New Chicago 13.69%
    • 5.      Bryant 12.5%
    • 6.      Griffith 11.27%
    • 7.      Howe 10.76%
    • 8.      Cumberland 10.49%
    • 9.      Speedway 9.79%
    • 10.   Garrett 9.01%
  • 16 Apr 2018 12:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apply for the AARP Community Challenge Grant

    The AARP Community Challenge funds projects that build momentum for local change to improve livability for all residents. In 2017, the AARP Community Challenge awarded 88 grants. These grants support actions that can spark longer-term progress. Grants can range from several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities to several thousand for larger projects. 

    Community Challenge grants can be used to create vibrant public places, physical improvement in the community or innovative programming or services. View last year's winning examples here. 

    The program is open to nonprofits, government entities, and other types of organizations, considered on a case-by-case basis. Applications must be submitted online by May 16 at 5 p.m. (ET). 

    The timeline is as follows:

    • March 21: Launch of the 2018 AARP Community Challenge
    • May 16: Applications are due by 5 p.m. (ET)
    • June 25: Winning applicants will be notified
    • November 5: All projects must be completed
    • December 3: After Action Reports due

    Lots of resources and guides are available to walk you through the application process. Visit this website to learn more. 


    OCRA accepting Quick Impact Placebased Grant Applications

    The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) has announced that the Quick Impact Placebased Grant Program (QuIP), a matching grant program designed to fund placemaking and transformational projects that spark community-wide conversations and creativity, is open for applications. 

    The project funding range is $2,500 to $5,000 and for every dollar in grant funds utilized, 50 cents must be matched, via cash or in-kind, by the applicant. Eligible applicants can include community or civic organizations, local units of government, or schools. 

    “Expensive, labor-intensive initiatives are not the only way to revitalize our rural cities and towns,” said Executive Director of OCRA, Jodi Golden. “QuIP is an opportunity for communities to be innovative and creative with ideas on how to transform a local gathering place or bring energy back into an underutilized community asset.”

    Golden said that eligible projects should be transformational and have a positive impact for the community, and existing and underutilized assets should include a new or additional use. Examples of eligible projects include but are not limited to:

    • alley activation;
    • pocket parks;
    • creative projects to showcase community identity;
    • enhancement of existing or underutilized public assets into a new or usable space;
    • interactive life-size games or public game sheds;
    • transformation or decoration of vacant store fronts; and
    • unique signage or identifiers, excluding standard electric signage or non-unique gateway signage.

    The Office of Community and Rural Affairs encourages these projects to be unique to each community and locally inspired. Successful applications will demonstrate community collaboration, partnership capacity and meaningful community benefits.

    An informational video will be released on Wednesday, April 25 that further explains the program and application process. Digital applications must be received by 4 p.m., Friday, June 1, 2018 to info@ocra.in.gov. Applications received after 4 p.m., or paper copies will not be accepted. For more information, visit in.gov/ocra/quipgrant.htm.

     


  • 16 Apr 2018 12:09 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    Please click here to join us this Thursday, April 19, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. EST at the Indiana Community Action Association for a screening of The Ordinance, a documentary that examines the payday and auto title industry while following a small Texas town fighting for change. After the screening, members of a coalition of consumer advocates will lead a discussion about the film and answer attendees' questions about the payday industry in Indiana. 

    This event is being hosted by the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network, which creates learning opportunities for community leaders, advocates on policies that affect low-to-moderate income families, and builds capacity for organizations aimed to increase financial stability. It is co-led by Prosperity Indiana and the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

    Register here in order to receive email updates about the event. Please download and share this flyer with colleagues who might be interested in joining! 


  • 11 Apr 2018 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Anderson’s Sweet 16 group, comprised of 17 community leaders in five groups, has spent the last 18 months working on a plan to revitalize the 46016 ZIP code. The group presented their plan at the “For the Love of Neighborhoods” event on Saturday, April 7. They introduced their goals for transportation and infrastructure, housing, health and safety, business development, and education and job training.

    Prosperity Indiana’s own Rose Scovel coordinated the effort. She told The Herald Bulletin, “Residents know what is best for their community, but they may not have access or be aware of the programs and things that are available to them.”

    Click here to read the full article and learn about the plan’s goals.


  • 05 Apr 2018 9:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Prosperity Indiana works to connect its members – to resources and to one another. One of the best ways to connect with Prosperity Indiana and other members in the network is to attend a Regional Member Meeting.

    Regional Member Meetings will be held at multiple locations across the state. Join us at a meeting near you to network with community development peers, share ideas, get the latest updates on what Prosperity Indiana is doing for you, and let us know how we can do better!

    The first regional member meeting is coming up on April 17, 2018 in Evansville. Meetings in the Northeast, Southeast, South Central, and Northwest regions will follow in the coming months. We encourage you to attend and engage to ensure you are getting the most out of your Prosperity Indiana membership!

    2017 Northeast and South Central Regional Member Meetings

  • 02 Apr 2018 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    INDIANAPOLIS, March 29, 2018 – Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Indianapolis Executive Director William (Bill) Taft was recently promoted to Senior Vice-President for Economic Development for LISC National. His role will include leading the expansion of LISC’s economic and workforce development efforts nationally.

    A search committee has been formed led by members of the LISC Indianapolis Local Advisory Board to conduct an internal and external search to fill this role. Taft will remain Executive Director of the Indianapolis office until a new director is named.  

    “I look forward to continuing this important work in this new role,” said Taft. “Indianapolis has been a leader in economic and workforce development and I am excited and committed to expanding these efforts into neighborhoods nationwide.”

    Since becoming a national LISC Program Vice-President in 2014, Taft had also overseen programs in Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Duluth Minnesota, and has led efforts to expand LISC’s economic development efforts nationally. In this new role, he will continue to work from the Indianapolis office and be engaged in expanding economic development work locally, as well as across the country.

    Taft was hired as the Indianapolis Executive Director for LISC in 2005. Since its inception in 1992, LISC Indianapolis has invested more than $260 Million to leverage almost $958 Million dollars of investment in the core urban neighborhoods of Indianapolis. These investments in comprehensive community development include affordable housing, small businesses, community facilities, charter schools, commercial corridor revitalization, and green spaces. These occurred through LISC leadership in the Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative, Fostering Commercial Urban Strategies, Centers for Working Families, and Great Places 2020. 

    He served as the president of Southeast Neighborhood Development, Inc. (SEND) from 1991-2005. Under his leadership SEND invested more than $35 Million into the early phases of revitalizing the Fountain Square Area of Indianapolis, created its cultural district, founded the SENSE Charter School, and formed partnerships with the University of Indianapolis. Before SEND, Bill was the Executive Director of Main Street Richmond, and he also served with the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, Senator Richard Lugar, and the National Park Service. 

    For those interested in applying for the open position of Executive Director of LISC Indianapolis, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/603502640/. The role provides the strategic direction and guidance for all aspects of LISC’s program in Indianapolis. The Executive Director is responsible for raising capital and resources locally that are leveraged by National LISC’s support. The position requires a strong commitment to the role of community-based non-profit organizations as agents of positive community change as well as an understanding of and appreciation for other key public and private partners who can offer additional resources to the work of community development in Indianapolis.


Policy News

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