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AmeriCorps Member helps out residents looking for affordable housing

Volunteer Hannah Brockhaus helps Evelyn Santiago with an affordable-housing form in Watertown.
Evelyn Santiago sits in a community room in the Watertown Free Public Library, poring over a stack of papers as she munches on a muffin. She is filling out applications for a handful of affordable housing units soon becoming available, making her one of thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents who will apply this year.
Santiago, who lives with government aid in a basement apartment in Watertown, completed one form for herself and another for her son Ramon; he and his pregnant girlfriend are living with her for now.
“I’m here to help them out,” she said. “I pray that they can get a unit to live in with my healthy, happy, beautiful granddaughter.”
Santiago’s story is all too familiar to officials at Metro West Collaborative Development, a Newton-based nonprofit that recently hosted informational sessions in Watertown, Lexington, Natick, and Belmont. At each stop, Metro West representatives and local officials met with residents to explain what to expect in their hunt for an affordable place to live. 

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Mayor Walsh announces financial empowerment initiative

Mayor Martin Walsh has announced the opening of the Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment in Dudley Square as part of a new initiative to address income inequality and poverty in Boston.

The city-operated Roxbury center and a second financial opportunity center run by Jewish Vocational Services will provide not only job search and tax preparation assistance, but financial coaching to help individuals and families improve credit scores, accumulate savings and build wealth. The expanded and integrated services are meant to promote long-term financial stability.

“Too many Bostonians have not been able to build security,” Walsh said, addressing a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd last week inside the new center, formerly the Roxbury Resource Center, at 2201 Washington Street.

Bob Van Meter, executive director of Boston LISC, said that LISC has implemented an integrated service model in 30 cities around the U.S., and locally has partnered in Resilient Communities/Resilient Families initiatives in Roxbury, Mattapan and Codman Square.

“We view our funding of this center as part of a comprehensive neighborhood strategy that we have been supporting in Boston,” Van Meter said. “The Financial Empowerment Center is not only part of a financial empowerment strategy, but a neighborhood improvement strategy.” To read the complete article, click here.

   

Highlights from LISC/Bank of America’s Forum on Greening Affordable Housing

On October 3rd LISC and Bank of America hosted a forum in Boston on “Greening Affordable Housing” that was attended by over 70 people from across the state representing the private, non-profit, and public sectors. Bob Gallery from Bank of America and Bob Van Meter from LISC kicked off a lively session on opportunities in this sector.
The first panel focused on cross-sector perspectives and speakers discussed some of the biggest challenges Massachusetts will have to grapple with in the next few years to positively transform the fields of sustainability in our communities and efficiency in our affordable housing stock. Mariella Puerto, a Senior Program Officer at the Barr Foundation, said all new affordable housing projects should have a mandate to be net-zero. Ed Connelly from New Ecology focused on the big opportunity to reduce maintenance costs through improving the efficiency of affordable housing projects. Deborah Goddard from MassHousing discussed the importance of predictability from utilities’ energy efficiency programs when owners are seeking to do retrofit projects at the time of refinance. It was really interesting to hear Clark Ziegler’s, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, input on how conservatively financing agencies underwrite loans- he conveyed that 12 of 13 projects they examined had seriously overestimated energy costs in project underwriting. Amy Brusiloff discussed some her work at Bank of America on sustainability and her experience developing and implementing their $60 Million energy efficiency finance program for CDFIs.

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“El Barrio Tours” Screening - Rebecca Schofield

On Monday, August 18th, a group of over 60 Boston area residents came together to watch “El Barrio Tours: Gentrification in East Harlem” at Villa Victoria in Boston’s South End. The event, organized by Inquilinos Boriquas en Accion (IBA), City Life/Vida Urbana (CL/VU), Right to the City, and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), focused on the dynamics of gentrification in our city and how we could grow and strengthen the movement to prevent displacement.
The people at the El Barrio film screening were from a range of neighborhoods, backgrounds, and organizations. They came from East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Lynn, Dorchester, Somerville, the South End, Malden, Roslindale, Roxbury, Chelsea, Cambridge, Brockton, and Newton. Many community-based organizations, including the Chelsea Collaborative, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE), Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA),the Brazilian Immigrant Center, Roslindale Village Main Street, and the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) were represented by staff, members, and volunteers.
Eliza Parad, a Community Organizer with DSNI, and Darnell Johnson, the Right to the City Boston Coordinator, introduced Andrew J. Padilla and his “El Barrio Tour” project. Andrew, a photographer and independent journalist, made this award-winning film in 2011 to tell the story of gentrification in his East Harlem neighborhood. The film was intended to kick off the evening, but some technical difficulties sidelined the screening and led to our first discussion of gentrification in Boston. While tech-savvy event organizers worked to play the movie, Eliza and Andrew asked the group how we recognized gentrification and what it meant to us.
A man stood up in the back to talk about the signs of gentrification in his East Boston neighborhood; “now people are talking about how there are families living in East Boston, there are people pushing strollers and raising kids. There were always families here, just not white families. It’s like we weren’t real families.” This striking comment kicked off a string of stories and questions about how the processes of gentrification made people feel like they weren’t “real.” A woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut described how highways were built through her city, around working class neighborhoods so that folks traveling from the suburbs or New York wouldn’t see the vacant homes and dilapidated storefronts.

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Mattapan United Walking Tour: Highlights - Rebecca Schofield

On July 23rd, Mattapan United led a walking tour of Mattapan for the Social Justice Funder’s Network and Associated Grant Maker’s summer outing. Mattapan, where poverty rates are higher and incomes are lower than the Boston average, has been overlooked by funders for far too long. The Mattapan United walking tour was an opportunity to bridge that divide between over 20 funders and the Mattapan community.

Mattapan Unitedis a four year old coalition, funded by Boston LISC, with a mission to organize the community and identify priorities for the future of development and quality of life improvements in the neighborhood. A core group of over a dozen community leaders has led the local coalition, engaging hundreds of others in community meetings, surveys, and data analysis to identify Mattapan’s 6 priorities. The coalition’s convening agency, ABCD’s Mattapan Family Service Center, provides leadership, space, and a full time staff person to coordinate the initiative.

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AmeriCorps Spotlight - Raul Jusino

Raul Jusino - I have been serving at the Allston Brighton CDC, as the LISC AmeriCorps Bilingual Homeownership Specialist. During this time, I have been able to help potential homeowners become more confident and better prepared for a huge step in their life. It has been a very rewarding experience to know that I have been able to play a positive role in this process, due to the great training and support I have gained through my team, The Homebuying Mentors. In my role I have not only taught Home buying classes in both Spanish and English, but I have also played a vital role in growing The Homebuying Mentors presence on Social Media. After my term ends, I look forward to continuing in Community Development and will also continue to work towards my goal of growing my DJ service company.  For more information on LISC's AmeriCorps program click here.

   

AmeriCorps Spotlight - Emma Walters

Emma Walters serves as the LISC AmeriCorps Community Engagement Coordinator at the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation (ABCDC). She works with neighborhood residents to identify issues and problems within their communities and collaborates with them to find solutions. A resident of Allston herself, Emma has developed a deeper and more defined understanding of her community by engaging a wide range of residents and community activists throughout Allston Brighton. Emma has been inspired by community development work and hopes to continue in the field. She has a BA in International Relations and Religion from Boston University.  For more information on LISC's AmeriCorps program, click here.

   

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From the Boston LISC staff

Boston LISC Staff Blog

Boston LISC Staff members share their perspective on LISC's work, the community development world. and many other topics.

LISC Hosts LEED Green Associate Training Steve Griffith - April 3, 2014 On March 18th, LISC partnered with the Massachusetts Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC-MA) to host an ...
Intern Update: Writing a Master's Thesis Steve Griffith - March 26, 2014   As a final stepping-stone to the achievement of my master's degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Plan...
Reflections on the NESEA Building Energy ’14 Conference Steve Griffith - March 12, 2014 Last week, I attended my first Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) Building Energy conference. The annua...
LISC Visits the White House - Bob Van Meter Affordable healthcare coverage available through the Affordable Care Act can improve the lives of low and moderate income residents in affordable hous...

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