Piece-by-Piece Regional Foreclosure Initiative

The Atlanta Regional Commission was a partner in kicking off a regional foreclosure initiative known as Piece by Piece on November 30, 2010.  Planned by a leadership team that includes the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP), the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), CredAbility, Enterprise Community Partners, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, The Home Depot Foundation, the National Housing Conference and NeighborWorks America, “Piece by Piece” is a coordinated effort designed to spur strategic action from the many regional stakeholders who care passionately about protecting the long-term future of our neighborhoods and communities.

More than 300 people were at the Carter Center kickoff event to learn about the severity of the foreclosure crisis in metro Atlanta, hear about best practices on a national and local level and engage with panelists, experts and other partners. Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros delivered an inspiring keynote address that commended metro Atlanta for being the “first in the country” to tackle foreclosures with a coordinated, region-wide approach.  He warned that the problem is complex and the solutions are difficult, but he highlighted the region’s unique opportunity to be a national model for combating the crisis.

But now the real work begins.  The Initiative includes the following key objectives:  (1) provide up-to-date status of metro Atlanta’s foreclosure crisis and ways to take action to help address it;  (2) offer opportunities for coordination and best practice sharing; and (3) encourage public commitments on goals and actions that will be taken over the next three to five years to address the crisis.

To date, more than 130 organizations have signed on to be a partner in this initiative, meaning these organizations have committed to taking the issue of foreclosure seriously and will be making a public commitment to take specific actions to reduce foreclosures and the effects of foreclosures in the region.  Public commitments will be published in a region-wide report that will be assembled by April 2011.

These commitments can take many forms.  Local governments, for example, may commit to more aggressive code enforcement measures or commission an inventory of all vacant/abandoned properties within their jurisdictional boundaries.  Local governments could also allocate portions of their HOME and CDBG commitments to address the foreclosure crisis.   Developers may commit to rehab and reoccupy a set number of units over a multi-year period.  A neighborhood association may plan to organize monthly clean-up weekends where neighbors volunteer to mow lawns, trim hedges and tidy-up vacant properties.  A real estate group may commit to offering classes in the marketing of REO properties to attract responsible owner-occupants and/or tenants.   A church may commit to opening its doors for targeted foreclosure prevention workshops.  The options are as unique and varied as the partners.

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), as a partner in the initiative, has committed to organizing a number of follow-up meetings with local government community development – housing staff and housing authorities.  The first of these meetings was held February 1 at ARC. The purpose of the meetings is to share current best practices among peer agencies and consider new strategies to meet the ongoing challenges of foreclosures.

In this February 1 meeting, representatives from the City of Atlanta, Clayton, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett  and Rockdale counties were at the table to discuss their successes and challenges experienced in NSP implementation, the importance of intergovernmental coordination and the role of public-private partnerships, and other strategies being employed around the region in dealing with the ongoing challenges of foreclosures.   HUD Regional Director Ed Jennings and HUD representative Mary Presley attended the meeting. A Georgia DCA representative and Enterprise Community Partners representative were also on hand to discuss best practices with the group. ARC will also facilitate a similar meeting among planning and zoning officials in the coming month.

The foreclosure crisis continues to threaten the health and vitality of our region.   Georgia ranks sixth nationwide in foreclosure filings and for the first two months of the New Year, foreclosure notices in Metro Atlanta increased 13 percent from the same time in 2010, which was a record year. As Secretary Cisneros said at the launch event, Piece by Piece offers a great potential for regional collaboration, but everyone has a role to play.

Please check the website at www.atlantaregionalhousing.org/pbp for more information on how you or your organization can aid in coordinating the region’s collective expertise, strengths and resources in a united response to curb foreclosures and reclaim our neighborhoods.

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