Local initiative to address foreclosure crisis receives national Housing Visionary Award

By David Pendered

Piece by Piece, a regional initiative to address metro Atlanta’s foreclosure crisis, received a national award Thursday for its comprehensive approach that brings together 155 public and private partners.

Piece by Piece speakers

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves (left) greets then HUD Secretary Shawn Donovan, as HUD Regional Administrator Ed Jennings observes, at a 2011 Piece by Piece event at The Carter Center. Credit: Michael A. Schwarz

The National Housing Conference presented its 2015 Housing Visionary Award to the program during NHC’s annual gala in Washington. Piece by Piece is staffed by the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc.

“NHC is pleased to recognize ANDP and Piece by Piece for their work in stabilizing metro Atlanta neighborhoods and for crafting a unique partnership that engages hundreds of organizations and neighborhood leaders in the effort,” NHC President Chris Estes said in a statement.

The group from Atlanta that attended the NHC event to accept the award included Marc Pollack, ANDP’s board chairman and CEO/chairman of Pollack Shores Real Estate Group; ANDP President/CEO John O’Callaghan, and Piece by Piece Coordinator Susan Adams; HUD Regional Administrator Ed Jennings; David Ellis, vice president of the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Assoc.; Pam Cross, Wells Fargo; Don Phoenix, NeighborWorks America; and Odetta MacLeish-White, Enterprise Community Partners.

“We are pleased to accept this recognition on behalf of 155 metro Atlanta partner organizations,” O’Callaghan said in a statement.

John O'Callaghan

John O’Callaghan, ANDP’s president/CEO, presents his perspective at a 2011 Piece by Piece event at The Carter Center. Credit: Michael A. Schwarz

“We also acknowledge the guidance and support of our leadership organizations,” O’Callaghan said. “Together, we’ve crafted a regional response to attack the crisis on multiple fronts to help stabilize families and neighborhoods hit hard by the lingering impacts of the crisis.”

Piece by Piece has its work cut out, even six years after the official end of the great recession.

According to a March 17 letter written by Adams, the foreclosure situation in metro Atlanta includes:

  • Nine of the nation’s top 10 hardest hit ZIP codes are in the Atlanta region;
  • Clayton County contains the hardest hit ZIP code in the country; 76 percent of homeowners are underwater.
  • Negative home equity disproportionately affected minority families. For a typical African American family, the house accounts for 92 percent of personal net worth.

Piece by Piece convened in 2010 with the goal of uniting the region’s entities that were working on the foreclosure crisis and its various impacts.

Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros delivered the keynote speech at the 2010 Piece by Piece conference, at The Carter Center. Credit: Michael  A. Schwarz

Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros delivered the keynote speech at the 2010 Piece by Piece conference, at The Carter Center. Credit: Michael A. Schwarz

Leadership is provided by ANDP, the Atlanta Regional Commission, Clearpoint Counseling, Enterprise Community Partners, the 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 has brought together entities that bring their unique perspective to the foreclosure crisis, including local government housing departments, housing counseling agencies, lenders and policy makers.

Leading private equity firms have attended events to Atlanta to discuss their acquisitions and impact on local neighborhoods.

Piece by Piece events have featured former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros and Shaun Donovan, and, in March, NeighborWorks America CEO Paul Weech.

Here are some examples of the topics the entities have discussed over time:

  • Douglas and Clayton counties discussed their strategies to combat the crisis;
  • The Center for Community Progress worked on the formation of land banks;
  • The Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Assoc., Georgia Watch and Georgia Conservancy teamed up on to monitor statewide legislation to protect tenant rights during eviction;
  • Union City’s Clean and Lien program was formed to apply a lien on vacant properties in order to help pay the cost of cleaning and securing vacant homes.

“By focusing on issues of property taxes, negative equity, code enforcement, housing counseling, loan modifications and more, Piece by Piece has helped metro Atlantans toward a path of greater neighborhood recovery,” Estes said.

In the interest of full disclosure: David Pendered is a member of ANDP’s Advisory Council.

Foreclosures 30313

Neighborhoods near the Atlanta University Center were targets for flipping during the recent real estate boom, and the 30313 ZIP code now ranks 59th in the nation in the proportion of foreclosures, according to the Haas Institute. File/Credit: David Pendered

Foreclosure, Smyrna area, 30008

Once viewed as a neighborhood of affordable homes, the 30008 ZIP code near Smyrna ranks 193rd in the nation for its proportion of foreclosures, according to the Haas Institute. File/Credit: David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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