By Robert Freedman, senior editor, REALTOR® Magazine
Watching the decline of a once vibrant neighborhood is always saddening but its particularly so when the decline is due to a rash of foreclosures that, with a little bit of foresight, could have been prevented. That’s why NAR’s new neighborhood stabilization project comes at an especially important time: it actually gives associations of REALTORS® some resources to help their members do something to restore a neighborhood facing decline before foreclosures turn it into a wasteland.
A couple of weeks ago I got a good look at how NAR’s program works when I spent the morning with Mabel Guzman, ABR, president-elect of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, who showed me around two neighorhoods that are teetering between success and failure. The neighborhoods are among about two dozen in Chicago that have seen a rise in foreclosures and vacancies, so they’re seeing more homes getting boarded up and at risk of vandalism.
But there’s hope for those neighborhoods because households and investors have a sense that they have a future. Here’s why: her association has been working with the city and the city’s nonprofit partner to plan how the city can purchase a critical mass of the foreclosed properties, fix them up, and, with the help of REALTORS®, get them back on the market before the neighborhoods get so downtrodden that households will no longer want to buy there.
Where is the city getting its program money?—from the federal government. Congress made $6 billion available to cities through economic recovery legislation for the sole purpose of buying, rehabbing, and reselling foreclosed properties.
The key point to this program, at least in Chicago, is that REALTORS® are involved both in the planning of the program and in the selling of the properties. All too often in the past, at least in many cities, programs like these have mixed success because REALTORS® aren’t brought in to play a role. As Brian Bernardoni, government affairs director of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, told me, cities and nonprofits understand how government programs work but they don’t know how to move property. REALTORS® know how to move property.
In Chicago, this involvement with the city didn’t come by accident; the association was aggressive in making sure it was at the table when the city and its nonprofit partner received the money and starterd planning the program.
NAR is hoping to replicate the success in Chicago and in other cities that are getting involved by providing assistance to state associations so that they can help local associations be at the table when the city government in their area is planning how to spend their federal neighborhood stabilization money and how to resell the homes.
NAR’s program isn’t intended to give every association intensive assistance. Rather, it’s intended to give intensive assistance to state associations that have some of the hardest-hit foreclosure areas in the country. For other assiociations, it has available a comprehensive online toolkit that should provide just about everything they need to take the first steps to getting involved.
The video above explains how NAR’s program works, where to get more information, and whom to contact. I think it’ll give you a good understanding of how NAR’s effort fits into the massive federal effort to shore up neighborhoods before they decline too far into blight.