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Leaders Convene at ‘Neighborhood Stabilization Boot Camp’

In an effort to develop new strategies for stabilizing neighborhoods that experience large numbers of foreclosures, dozens of local officials from 12 of the regions hit hardest by the housing crisis are meeting at Harvard University on Monday and Tuesday of this week for the ""Neighborhood Stabilization Boot Camp.""


The intensive, two-day session is sponsored by ""Living Cities"":http://www.livingcities.org/, together with the ""Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University"":http://ash.harvard.edu/ and ""HUD."":http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD Living Cities, an innovative philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world's largest foundation and financial institutions, hopes this meeting will result in a dramatic increase in the speed and scale of smarter, more sustainable neighborhood stabilization.

""Everyone, from government agencies and nonprofits to financial institutions and foundations, is frustrated by our collective inability to get stabilization efforts to scale,"" said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. ""This boot camp is a direct response to that frustration.""

Attendees include government officials, nonprofits, and real estate firms from Baltimore; Chicago; Cuyahoga


County, Ohio; Denver; Los Angeles; Michigan; Massachusetts; New Orleans, Louisiana; Philadelphia; Phoenix; South Florida; and the Twin Cities where promising approaches are taking hold, along with the largest national mortgage lenders and servicers such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank. In addition, senior officials from HUD, the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are in attendance.

These participants are being brought together in teams to help define new strategies that will have a material impact on targeted neighborhoods. Attendees are sharing ""game-changing"" practices that will accelerate both keeping units occupied and putting vacant units back into productive use, and officials are discussing how to significantly leverage the more than $6 billion in federal funds, with an emphasis on accessing larger and more flexible amounts of private capital.

The ""boot camp"" was created in response to the devastating neighborhood-level impacts of concentrated foreclosures, including blight, depressed property values, diminished property tax collections, and a reduction in municipal services--a negative feedback loop that repeats and worsens. In 2009 alone, foreclosures may have reduced values of nearby homes--most owned by families paying their mortgage on time--by more than $500 billion, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

""It's important that government at every level, along with the private sector and non-profit community, ramp up our collective effort to confront the foreclosure crisis head on,"" said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. ""The scale of this challenge demands that we redouble our efforts to stabilize neighborhoods and restore a real sense of sustainability to our American Dream.""

About Author: Brittany Dunn


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