Dismantling Barriers to Homeownership Through Innovative Programs and Policies

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

For many Americans, the dream of owning a home – often considered the best way to build wealth in this country – is increasingly out of reach and unaffordable. In Kansas City, for many residents, this is the reality. To adapt its housing and homeownership portfolio and better empower residents to become new homeowners, Kansas City will partner with FUSE Corps to design and institutionalize an action-oriented strategic plan for homeownership in the city.

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022.

PROJECT CONTEXT

For many Americans, the dream of owning a home – often considered the best way to build wealth in this country – is increasingly out of reach and unaffordable. In Kansas City, for many residents, this is the reality. The housing market in Kansas City has seen some of the most significant year-to-year declines in home affordability, with the median price for a home skyrocketing from $195,000 to $240,000 in just the last year. While over 50% of Kansas City residents own their homes, there is a prevalent gap between white and minority homeownership. Just 44% of minority households in the metro own a home, and Black homeownership over the last decade has dropped from 45% to 37%, among the highest decreases in the county. Past practices of redlining, blockbusting neighborhoods, and racial covenants have laid the groundwork for hyper-segregation in the city and lagging homeownership. The Covid-19 pandemic has added a new layer to this housing and homeownership crisis. The pandemic’s economic fallouts have increased economic insecurity for families already facing housing trouble and put the assets of many Black, low-to-middle income, and immigrant Kansas City homeowners at risk.

To address these housing needs, in 2018, the Kansas City Council passed a Five-Year Housing Policy that called for preserving 5,000 low-to-moderately priced homes by 2023 and a $75 million housing trust fund. Some progress has been made toward this goal, most recently with federal Covid-19 relief money utilized as a catalyst to initiate the build-out of the city’s first-ever housing trust fund. The city allocated $12.5 million to the trust fund to incentivize preserving and rehabbing existing homes. However, despite interest in homeownership remaining strong (almost half of renters in Kansas City say they are interested in becoming a homeowner), more than two-thirds of those who are interested say that they still face barriers to homeownership, including access to down payments and issues with access to credit. With this in mind, Kansas City seeks to adapt its housing and homeownership portfolio and better empower residents to become new homeowners, creating new avenues of access to purchasing a home.

The City of Kansas City will partner with FUSE Corps to design and institutionalize an action-oriented strategic plan for homeownership in the city. The FUSE Executive Fellow will work across providers to map all of Kansas City’s homeownership programs and resources; engage communities directly, primarily those in Black, low-to-middle-income, and immigrant neighborhoods, to assess their needs and desires; and detail the public-private partnerships and processes needed for scaling and piloting innovative renter-to-homeowner models. This comprehensive response by the city to provide sustainable homeownership options will enable Kansas City residents to gain opportunities for upward mobility through their housing.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders, including staff across city departments and elected officials; the Kansas City Housing Authority, Housing Trust Fund, Land Bank, and Homesteading Authority; Missouri Housing Development Commission and Missouri Housing Finance Agency; HUD; Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Greater Kansas City; local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and private mortgage lending and financial institutions; and local action-oriented non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity and other housing counseling agencies. The Executive Fellow will also conduct direct community engagement, focusing outreach in historically redlined, low-to-middle income, and immigrant neighborhoods.

Through this initial listening tour with stakeholders, the Executive Fellow will conduct a landscape assessment to map all of Kansas City’s homeownership/homebuyer education programs, policies, and resources. The Executive Fellow will collate community needs, identify gaps and barriers to accessing these programs and resources, and analyze the demand for homeownership in historically high rental and low-ownership neighborhoods. This community assessment will be vital in determining the city’s broader development strategy, centering typically underinvested communities’ voices in future innovation homeownership programs, financial incentives, or land-use policies. The Executive Fellow will also research national best practices and innovative transitional renter-to-homeowner models, exploring the applicability locally.

The Executive Fellow will work with internal and external stakeholders to develop an action-oriented strategic plan for homeownership in Kansas City, with the primary goal of expanding opportunities for residents to gain capital and upward mobility through homeownership. The plan will outline other short and long-term goals, timelines, and priority areas – keeping in mind any overarching regulatory constraints. The Executive Fellow will detail which existing programs and partnerships are most impactful, how those can equitably be scaled, the resources that should be phased out or merged, and which new programs, policies, and resources should be piloted. The plan will also include a financial feasibility study, determining how the city can utilize federal funds, competitive grants, and philanthropic investments to enhance capacity and outreach services.

The Executive Fellow will create a holistic implementation framework in the next phase. The framework will establish clear roles of internal and external stakeholders and strong partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors for service delivery. The Executive Fellow will initiate the most urgent activities and can be implemented quickly, supporting internal capacity building to manage the program. This will include piloting new or revamped services, such as educational programs or homeownership application tools, in targeted neighborhoods in Kansas City. This Executive Fellow will foster strong community feedback loops during implementation, ensuring any new programs or policies best meet the needs of residents.

By April 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the initial implementation of the strategic plan, making sure it is as efficient and effective as possible. This will include the following:

  • Participate in deep community engagement – Connect with individuals and community-based organizations in key neighborhoods to understand community needs, gaps in resources, and access issues; bring forward the community voice to articulate strategies and policies that will have the most community impact
  • Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape Conduct a deep landscape analysis, collating all relevant programming, policies, and processes; map gaps and identify cross-cutting themes; collect and analyze existing data; strengthen existing lines of communication between stakeholders
  • Develop recommendations and form a comprehensive strategic plan – Outline short and long-term goals, timelines, priority areas in close consultation with key stakeholders; scale or design programs and resources that will be most impactful; model out the financial implications of the strategy, preparing for potential expenditures of federal funds and applications to federal and private competitive grants; determine which new models to pilot or scale first
  • Engage stakeholders and catalyze buy-in – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders; solicit feedback from major stakeholders on strategic plan; identify barriers to implementing any recommendations; incorporate input from stakeholders to build consensus and ensure that the strategy is supported and successful
  • Develop implementation framework and roll out recommendations – Develop a shared vision and goal for the plan; establish a framework with clear roles of internal and external stakeholders, collate relevant data and metrics, setting benchmarks for tracking progress; develop processes for continued sharing of information among stakeholders
  • Support long-term implementation – Oversee implementation of strategies considered low-hanging fruit; work with leaders across the city to manage the initiative; measure and broadly share progress towards goals; create the necessary internal and external systems to ensure proposed strategies are sustainable and can successfully be implemented, including continued incorporation of feedback from the community

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Kimiko Gilmore, Deputy City Manager, City Manager’s Office
  • Project Supervisor – Jennifer Tidwell, Director, Housing and Community Development Department

QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 15 years of professional experience in housing finance or banking preferred
  • Robust record of success with project management, engaging a variety of cross-sector stakeholders and managing cross-functional teams
  • Some experience or knowledge of federal, state, and local housing subsidies/guidelines
  • Passion for supporting typically underinvested neighborhoods in the housing
  • Strategic decision-maker who is effective at mapping out program and policy impact
  • Community and stakeholder engagement experience essential
  • Cross-cultural agility, ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Proven cultivator of strategic partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Humility, flexibility, adaptability, persistence; someone who can act as a champion for this project and the city
  • Self-motivated, action-oriented, innovative thinker
  • Persistent in obtaining information and resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems
  • Ability to synthesize complex data into clear and concise recommendations
  • Ability to sustain progress and facilitate change management within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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