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Madelyn Lazorchak, Communications Writer01/09/2023

Dwelling Place has taken a variety of approaches to increase the availability of affordable homes in West Michigan over the years, most recently in shared equity housing development. The NeighborWorks network organization has a new 42-unit single-family community land trust in the works, as well as a townhome development in partnership with The Habitat Company in Chicago. The organization is also working to convert 45 existing rental homes into shared equity condominiums.

"Rising property values in recent years have moved homeownership out of the reach of so many working families, especially households of color," says Jeremy DeRoo, CEO of Dwelling Place. "This is a huge shift for Grand Rapids, where the possibility of ownership has always been part of our culture. Shared equity housing is a way to keep that tradition alive and ensure that wealth creation and mixed income neighborhoods remain a part of our community."

NeighborWorks has spent the last three years exploring shared equity housing, supporting NeighborWorks network organizations engaging in these models and more, as an important resource in tackling the affordability crisis. NeighborWorks brought its case studies, data and findings together in a report summarizing experience and outcomes of the shared equity housing initiative in its first three years. The report, "Advancing the Promise of Shared Equity Housing Models," was released this week. Dwelling Place, which received grants from NeighborWorks, including a $50,000 planning grant and a $10,000 peer exchange grant, was included as one of the case studies.

According to NeighborWorks' paper, shared equity housing can assist communities by establishing

A shared equity home in Montana.
"lasting affordability that serves multiple families over time." The solutions also help preserve communities threatened by gentrification and displacement.

"I think one of the simplest ways to talk about shared equity is to talk about balancing the benefits between the community and the individual family," says Jenee Gaynor, director of Shared Equity Housing at NeighborWorks. "Shared equity models help make a home affordable for not just one family, but for future owners too. A lot of shared equity homeowners talk about their vision of paying it forward to others in their community."

Gaynor says the paper, part of an effort to raise awareness about shared equity housing, can help community development organizations as they seek technical knowledge to begin implementing their own programs. The report also shares results: The 29 NeighborWorks network organizations that received grants to work on shared equity have brought 465 new shared equity homes into the development pipeline. They’ve also developed new approaches to financing and preserving these homes and helping build wealth for the families who own them.

Through the initiative, NeighborWorks has provided:
  • Early-stage feasibility grants for grantees who are deciding whether to pursue a shared equity program.
  • Mid-stage planning grants for organizations planning and expanding their shared equity work.
  • Innovation grants that support experienced organizations as they scale up or try new shared equity models.

Resident Owned Communities are another type of shared equity.
NeighborWorks also provided grantees with technical assistance and support from experienced consultants. Gaynor says some of the grantees decided against the shared equity model they explored. "That’s why we designed it the way we designed it," she says. "We wanted to help organizations figure out the best way for them. We wanted them to be able to share lessons and engage in conversation with others doing this hard work together."

And network organizations like Urban Edge agree that this support has helped. "The technical assistance and feasibility work that was done would not have been supported by anyone but [NeighborWorks]," says Urban Edge. "Having NeighborWorks make such investments for us to think bigger and more collaboratively has once again compelled us to think ‘big picture’ and work with others to advance equity here in Boston."

When considering grantees, NeighborWorks prioritized organizations serving rural communities,
A rendering of a shared equity community in Blackstone River Valley.
communities of color and communities that were historically under-resourced and vulnerable to displacement. NeighborWorks funded $1.37 million in grants in the initial period, Gaynor says, adding that additional Congressional appropriations will allow this work to continue for several more years. NeighborWorks findings "show that we’re doing good work so far," she says. "And that we have more work to do."

That work will continue in February when NeighborWorks hosts its Winter Virtual Training Institute. Among the courses offered to affordable housing professionals across the country are those focused on shared equity, such as Shared Equity: More Than One Way to Own a Home and Shared Equity Housing: Introduction to Stewardship.

Andre T. Butler, senior relationship manager, contributed to this story.

Learn more about the impact of shared equity housing models: 


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