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Five Cities Re-Convene To Compare Housing Success Stories.

"Government has really taken a stop around from behind our desks, and we are out on the street," said Council Member Patricia Lewis-West of Chester, Penn., at an affordable housing conference held on November 17, 1998, in Annapolis, Md.

West was referring to the proactive approach Chester's mayor and city council have taken toward their city's affordable housing issues. Council Member West was one of six local leaders from Chester who came as a team to the meeting, which was the second regional conference in NLC's "Strengthening Partnerships for Housing Opportunities" project for the Mid-Atlantic region.

The cities of Charleston, S.C., Chester, Pa., and Frederick, Rockville, and Salisbury, Md. each sent a team of elected city leaders, staff, and key stakeholders to the conference.

City teams were made up of cross-sections of local players in affordable housing and community development, and included ministors, city council members, mayors, housing authority directors, lenders, community developments directors, and non-profit administrators. The diversity of viewpoints fostored an increased capacity for collaborative decision-making for the city leaders involved.

West's observation about the way she and her colleagues in Chestor's local government `hit the streets' to address the affordable housing problems in their city illustrates the innovative way all of the cities at the conference have been utilizing this project, which is a pilot for NLC.

Other local governments working on the project implemented new approaches as well, including the city of Rockville, Md. Mayor Rose Krasnow described how she and several council members went on a walking tour of public housing units with administrators from the Rockville Housing Authority. Krasnow described the experience as extremely informative. "It was certainly the first time I had ever been inside a unit," she said.

Each city team had attended an opening conference for the project in May of 1998 in Baltimore, Md., where they developed a vision, goals, and an action plan for their city's affordable housing issues. The second conference on November 17 gave them a chance to hear the accomplishments of one another, share frustrations and search for creative solutions.

The city teams are being provided technical assistance with their projects by Washington-based housing expert, Stuart Hershey, and NLC staff to monitor task completion and provide guidance with specific issues that require intense support. Hershey was present at the Annapolis conference to lend support, along with former Omaha, Nebraska Housing Authority Director Robert Armstrong, and housing consultant Allan Borut (working through the National Affordable Housing Training Institute). Past NLC President Para Plumb, former mayor of Portland, Me., served as the conference's main facilitator.

All participants expressed enthusiasm about the opportunities that have come to light for their cities to make positive changes in their communities in terms of affordable housing strategies. Eddie Bines, deputy director of Charleston, S.C.'s Department of Housing and Community Development, said: "We've set the pace to do what we have to do to meet the needs of affordable housing."

Concurrent affordable housing projects are underway in two other regions, Colorado and Oregon. Additional project sites may be added in the future by NLC.

The "Strengthening Partnerships for Housing Opportunities" Project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), through the National Affordable Housing Training Institute (NAHTI), a consortium organization of eight public interest groups, including NLC.
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Title Annotation:affordable housing conference, Nov 17 98, Annapolis, Md
Author:Imgrund, Jill
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:Nov 30, 1998
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