Kent Attainable Housing Strategic Plan 2020-2022
Kent Attainable Housing is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization working to break the cycle of poverty by building or renovating affordable houses and partnering with low income, working families to prepare for and buy a home. There is a large pool of families who live or work in Kent County and earn less than 50% of Kent County median income. Many of the breadwinners in these families hold essential jobs. The urgency of our mission — making affordable housing available to families in poverty — is more acute than ever, as our applicants deal with the impact of Covid-19 on their lives, and instead of just surviving to meet basic needs are in danger of slipping into circumstances even more devastating. The challenges and impact of Covid-19 will be with us for a number of years to come. We are the only entity in Kent County, Maryland – public or private – fulfilling the mission end-to-end of making affordable housing available to the working poor: designing and constructing homes, renovating available homes, providing financial and homebuying classes, and mentoring and supporting families through the transition to first-time home ownership. Our goal over the next 10 years is to enable 4 families per year to be first-time homeowners. We estimate this will result in affordable housing for 40 families, including over 100 children.
Expanding home ownership to families in need builds foundations for healthier, happier and more productive families and a stronger community. It is well known that housing instability — including frequent moves, overcrowding, and the threat of eviction or foreclosure — creates stress, depression and hopelessness. Children in particular suffer when their housing is not secure. A recent survey by the Kent County Local Management Board determined that 300 children in Kent County live in housing insecurity, not knowing from day to day where they would be sleeping. When households spend too much of their income on rent they have to make impossible choices about which other necessities they cannot afford. Sound financial advice dictates that buyers spend no more than 30% of their income on housing, yet many of our families spend 50% of their income on rental housing. Kent Attainable Housing aims to build homes whose mortgages are within the 30% of income guideline, resulting in monthly payments for most of our applicants significantly less than they are currently paying for rent. This will enable these families to have a chance to begin saving and investing in their or their children’s education and future.
Home ownership is accompanied by additional responsibilities new to first- time homeowners. Preparation for these responsibilities is essential, and we require and connect our families with classes and resources in the areas of budgeting, credit, money management, and first-time homeownership. We partner with our applicant families from the beginning of the application process, and mentor them through their preparation and education classes and into the home ownership period.
Community support greatly strengthens our efforts and progress toward our goals. Partnerships with local organizations and individuals provide in-kind donations of professional services, including legal, architectural, accounting, web development, database creation, surveying, banking, computer applications, business, and landscaping services. Strong financial support from a growing donor base and labor and resources from dedicated volunteers contributes to the strength and resiliency of Kent Attainable Housing.
To break the cycle of poverty by building or renovating affordable houses and partnering with low income, working families to prepare for and buy a home.
To create healthier and happier families and stronger communities by expanding opportunities for home ownership for our low income, working families.
Innovation: We provide a model approach to designing, building and renovating well-built, energy efficient houses while assisting low income working families to purchase them. We bring together a broad base of partners to fund, educate potential home owners and the community, and complete these houses. We think “out of the box” to bring equity to the challenge of credit and conventional mortgage financing.
Collaboration: We partner with families, volunteers, and community organizations to leverage sweat equity, grants, donations, volunteer labor, and in-kind professional services to house working families in need.
Empowerment: We build applicants’ skills concerning budgeting, credit, money management and responsibilities of homeownership through workshops and mentoring so they make good decisions for themselves and their family.
Engagement: We build a better community as we strengthen families through home ownership and secure housing and as we expand the cadre of individuals, organizations, and local government officials who partner with us to support, volunteer, and contribute to making affordable housing a reality.
Equity: We believe inequity exists in housing for people of color and commit to work to house low-income families who traditionally have been left out of the possibility of owning a home. We raise the awareness of the critical need for low income housing and the systemic obstacles which limit fair and equitable housing in the county, state and country.
Accountability: We serve as stewards for our community investments and honor the charitable intentions of our donors to meet current and future needs. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethics, integrity, service and financial responsibility.
Covid-19 Impact. Since forming in April 2019 and acquiring 501(c)(3) status in July 2019, Kent Attainable Housing has labored diligently to reach out to low income working families interested in becoming homeowners, to design and construct its first house, and to select a family to buy the house. Progress was interrupted by Covid-19. Our original plan was for a bare-bones 2-story modular home produced by Beracah Homes and sold to us for $57,000 to be finished both inside and outside utilizing volunteer labor. Due to Covid-19, using our cadre of volunteers working in close quarters became unsafe. Thus we were forced to take our house out of the queue for production and then have Beracah Homes do more of the finishing work. Because of the additional work required and the additional cost of materials due to Covid-19, the cost is now $89,000 – a difference of $22,000. Covid-19 continues to impact our reliance on volunteers.
Financial Inequities. Although our applicants are employed, many of them in essential jobs, a number of them have no credit or poor credit and cannot qualify for a loan. Although they are working diligently through our required classes and through repayment of outstanding debt to improve their credit situation, their inability to obtain regular financing has disrupted our original model. If they cannot obtain a mortgage to buy the house, we cannot recoup our initial investment to repay our construction loan and to buy land for the next house. We are looking at alternative financial means to provide affordable housing for our applicant families, including rent to buy, supplying the mortgage ourselves, or structuring an investment opportunity for donors to provide financing.
Goals and Strategies
We aim to increase affordable home ownership opportunities and empower and prepare local families for home ownership while increasing awareness and commitment of the community and local government officials. Over the next 10 years, our goal is to raise sufficient funds to enable 4 families per year to be first-time homeowners, thus reaching 40 families, including approximately 100 children. Funds used to buy land for the first set of houses will be recouped when those houses are sold and rolled into the purchase of additional land and construction or renovation of additional houses. We will achieve these objectives by systematically addressing the following goals:
Goal 1: Develop a sustainable financial methodology to address the inequity of home ownership by utilizing a variety of financing models including commercial loans, providing mortgages ourselves, rent-to buy, or establishing a community donor financed investment fund.
We provide applicants the opportunity to enhance their financial management and homeownership skills through first-time homeownership classes and to assist them in applying for financing which would likely, in many cases, require monthly payments less than the rents they currently pay. However, many of our applicants lack a credit history or have poor credit and lack the ability to improve their credit because of the discriminatory nature of the credit system. Thus we are exploring alternative means of financing, including providing mortgages ourselves over the first 2-3 years of homeownership or rent to purchase arrangements, during which time the family could establish a history of payments and improve their credit.
Goal 2: Increase community involvement of donors, volunteers, and partners to scale up our efforts to house more families by securing grant funds, loans and major donations to fund land acquisition and operational costs, including staffing.
Kent County has a significant number of both proven and prospective donors who recognize the need for affordable housing and support Kent Attainable Housing’s mission. Start-up funding through donations and a private low interest construction loan has been augmented by a significant major donation, additional private loans, and grant funds. We will leverage these funding sources to capture additional donors and significant grants to fund land acquisition and operational costs.
Goal 3: Identify and implement appropriate staffing and succession planning to ensure the long term ability of Kent Attainable Housing to fulfill its mission.
Since its inception in April 2019, Kent Attainable Housing has been operated by its Executive Committee, supported by its Board of Directors, and assisted by volunteers. Although the Board of Directors is a dedicated, diverse and talented body with deep knowledge of the community and vital skills – including home design, construction, landscaping, grant writing, community outreach, public speaking, photography, marketing, administration, communications and mediation – it cannot do it all. As the organization grows and expands its reach, the need for staff is evident. A Program Director to mentor our population of applicant families, now numbering 24 and growing, would provide guidance, support and monitoring of progress toward completing required homeowner, credit, and financial management classes as well as support new homeowners. An Executive Director would manage day-to-day operations, maintain our donor and volunteer databases, engage the public through in person and virtual contacts, update our social media, and manage grant funds and reporting requirements, among other responsibilities. Additional staffing and a succession plan to carry the organization beyond the next few years would enable us to reach our ten year goal of housing 40 families.
Kent Attainable Housing is addressing the intergenerational cycle of poverty by making home ownership a possibility for working, low income families. We address the pressing need for affordable housing in Kent County by building or re-habilitating homes. We make home ownership possible by offering free classes and consultations designed to help heads of families be effective managers of their finances and develop credit scores that will qualify them for a mortgage. We believe that by partnering with these families as well as donors, volunteers, other agencies and local officials, we can build more equitable homeownership opportunities and create a stronger community.