AARP is providing grants for 501(C)(3) and 501(C)(4) nonprofits and government entities to enhance the quality of life for all people of all ages. The AARP Community Challenge will fund projects to help build momentum towards building and sustaining great communities. If your idea is big, no project is too small. Projects can range from short-term activities costing a few hundred dollars to sizable efforts that might need thousands.
Grant applications are due Saturday, July 15, 11:59 PM (ET). Proposed projects must be completed no later than Wednesday, November 1.
Follow this link for more details and the grant application: http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/about/info-2017/aarp-community-challenge.html
Need a little inspiration? Listen to this episode of Prosperity Indiana's Ways and Means to hear about short-term actions that can lead to long-term solutions.
Prosperity Indiana's members are diverse in their structure, geography and areas of practice, but they are united by a purpose to achieve prosperity in Hoosier communities. This includes efforts to ensure that those in need gain access to affordable, safe, accessible and stable housing. With that in mind, Prosperity Indiana engages our members in developing policy priorities and soliciting feedback on crucial community development plans such as the Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) which determines how Low Income Housing Tax Credits will be prioritized and allocated to achieve statewide community development goals.
These resources are more critical than ever for the populations our members serve. A new report from the Joint Center on Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard University found that, “even with multifamily construction at its highest level in two decades, additions to the rental supply have not kept pace with swelling demand. As a result, rents have climbed across the board.” Additionally, the report found that there is a “worsening mismatch of demand and supply, with the number of low-income renters far outstripping the number of available units.”
Using LIHTC resources to effectively respond to these considerable challenges is a tall order; and on behalf of our members, Prosperity Indiana staff appreciated the dialogue with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority staff regarding the approach to this drafting process prior to the release of the first draft of the 2018-2019 QAP. Additionally, we appreciated our members who participated in stakeholder meetings and our Connection Point monthly call where we solicited feedback on the current QAP. The comments contained in our feedback reflect the best summary of common themes and concerns expressed throughout those engagements.
Main Themes of Member Feedback include:
Click here to download our letter submitted to IHCDA.
Please direct any follow up comments to Kathleen Lara, Prosperity Indiana's Policy Director at email@example.com.
For those following our policy updates, you know that the 2017 session of the General Assembly ended with mixed results for Prosperity Indiana’s priorities. For a wrap up of how our priorities fared, click here for our blog post.
During the summer and early fall, state legislators follow up on topics assigned to study committees during session. Those committees often produce findings that result in legislation for the next session or investigate issues that were not given much, if any, time during the condensed session schedule.
In late May, the Legislative Council met to announce which topics that were assigned to study would be heard in interim committees this year. Their findings can be found here: https://iga.in.gov/documents/27badb77.
The following are of interest to our members:
Stay tuned to this post and our blog for updates on Prosperity Indiana's coverage of these meetings and policy issues. Click here for updates on interim study committee schedule.
How can Indiana communities benefit from solar energy?
Solar energy provides many economic, environmental, and health benefits, and harnessing the energy of the sun can be a strategy for developing thriving, sustainable, and resilient communities in our state. Community members play an important role in spreading solar technology. Prosperity Indiana’s new program, Solar Uniting Neighbors (SUN), intends to make use of the power of community influence to help promote adoption of solar panels.
Clean Air & Healthy Communities
Promoting healthy, livable communities is central to Prosperity Indiana’s mission. Solar energy provides a clean alternative to coal-fired power plants, which are currently the state’s largest source of electricity, accounting for 70 percent of electricity generation. In fact, Indiana is home to 4 of the country’s most harmful coal-fired power plants, deemed “super polluters”. These power plants exceed national averages, both in their release of carbon emissions, which accelerate climate change, and toxic air pollutants, which threaten public health. Sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants emitted from these power plants can cause cancer and exacerbate asthma and other serious health conditions. Polluted air is an inescapable threat to the health of Indiana communities, especially to those located within close proximity to coal-fired power plants. Moving away from dirty energy and accelerating adoption of renewable technologies is key to better protecting the health of Hoosiers.
Further, Indiana has the eighth highest levels of annual carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Our state’s large carbon footprint contributes to climate change, which is predicted to have negative social, ecological, and economic impacts on global, national, and local levels. Impacts, such as highly variable weather and more frequent temperature extremes, will have deleterious effects on the health and livelihood of many Hoosiers. In order to mitigate climate change and its worst consequences, converting to renewable energy sources such as solar is an imperative.
Economic Development & Energy Savings
Clean energy has obvious benefits for public and environmental health, but it also provides important economic opportunities for Indiana businesses and workers. The solar industry currently consists of 88 companies that employ 2700 workers in the state, and Indiana solar jobs are expected to grow by 14% in 2017. Promoting solar development in Indiana is a strategy for guaranteeing safe, well-paying jobs that benefit local economies. Attracting solar developers and installation companies to our state will help to lay a solid foundation for the inevitable transition to renewable energy and will make Indiana a strong competitor in the burgeoning renewable energy market.
Organizations and individuals can reduce their energy costs by purchasing solar panels. In the past decade, the costs of solar technology have decreased dramatically, resulting in per kilowatt-hour costs that are on par with or even below fossil fuel options. It is predicted that the costs of solar technology will continue to fall, passing the savings on to solar panel owners. Further, individuals and organizations in Indiana who install solar panels prior to the end of 2017 will be eligible for net metering, which is a billing mechanism that provides market rate compensation for solar energy that feeds back into the electricity grid. Individuals that purchase solar panels are also eligible for a federal investment tax credit that reduces taxes on solar technology by 30%. Additionally, solar panels increase the value of your property. All of these factors combine to make solar a cost-effective energy option.
The Role of Community in Solar Adoption
Solar is contagious. Multiple studies have confirmed that the most influential factor in an individual’s choice to install solar panels on their property is the presence and visibility of solar on the homes of their neighbors. One study found that “the installation of one additional solar photovoltaic rooftop project within the past six months in a given area increased the average number of installations within a half mile radius by .44, or almost one half.” Neighbors and community members, just by owning visible solar panels, act as catalysts for the spread of solar energy in their communities. It turns out that peer pressure can have positive outcomes!
Although solar panels are often thought to be cost-prohibitive, these studies, which have surveyed neighborhoods throughout America, confirm that there is no significant correlation between areas with strong solar panel presence and income levels or political affiliation. This is an important observation given solar’s reputation as energy source reserved for affluent environmentalists. Solar panels can provide the largest benefits to low income individuals who, on average, spend 7.2% of their incomes on utility bills--a significant portion compared to the 2.3% national average. The disproportionate burden of energy costs for low income residents can be offset by solar energy savings; however, affording the initial costs of solar technology is often an unfortunate barrier to its potential long-term savings, which is why SUN will help to finance solar installations for low income residents. Solar technology is a tool for reducing energy costs and promoting improved environmental and public health, which is something everyone can get behind.
To see how many of your neighbors have solar panels, check out Google’s Project Sunroof. This tool also allows you to enter your address to estimate how much energy your roof could harness and how much money you could save by going solar.
Solar Uniting Neighbors Program
Prosperity Indiana launched our Solar Uniting Neighbors (SUN) program on June 15. Limited funding for solar photovoltaic installations will be available for nonprofit organizations that serve low income residents and are customers of Duke Energy. In addition to funding projects, Prosperity Indiana and its partners will facilitate solarize programs in multiple communities to help spread solar technology and its benefits to Hoosiers. Part of the solarize program will include fundraising for the installation of solar panels on residencies of low income individuals. Allyson Mitchell, Prosperity Indiana’s Director of Sustainability, is spearheading the program and will be giving a presentation about SUN at the upcoming Southeast regional member meeting on Tuesday, June 27. For those who cannot attend but are interested in learning more, Allyson will host a webinar about SUN at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 28. Please register for the webinar here.
For more details about SUN, view our press release here and follow us on social media for program updates.
By Kristen Billings, Sustainability Intern
Today, Prosperity Indiana announces the first component of its Solar Uniting Neighbors (SUN) program, which is an effort to fund a total of $350,000 worth of solar projects for community organizations serving low income individuals in Duke Energy Indiana’s electric service territory.
The funding portion of this program is provided by a settlement agreement reached between Duke Energy Indiana, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley, Sierra Club, Valley Watch, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the Duke Industrial Group, and Nucor Steel. Indiana Association for Community Economic Development (IACED), dba Prosperity Indiana, was named in the settlement agreement as the administrator of the funds.
Funding is available, via the settlement, for the purchase and installation of solar installations of less than 0.5MW for community, educational, religious, and nonprofit organizations that serve low income individuals in the Duke Energy Indiana service territory. Organizations interested in applying for funding can download the Request For Project Applications (RFPA) on Prosperity Indiana’s website. Responses are due July 14, 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prosperity Indiana and its partners plan to provide access to solar energy technology in Indiana communities at highly competitive prices in a simple, easy process, while providing information and limited funding to qualifying community organizations who serve low income individuals within the Duke Energy Indiana electric service territory.
To make the settlement money go further and do more, Prosperity Indiana and its partners plan to negotiate discounted pricing for pre-evaluated solar products and installers through a transparent, competitive purchasing process (using a Request for Contractor Bids) so the community organizations will not have to burden themselves with becoming experts in solar, or lose time getting and evaluating multiple bids. Similar arrangements have resulted in installed costs that are 10 to 20 percent lower than the going market costs, with a much easier and faster process for new solar owners.
The SUN Program Administration team also plans to provide resources for technical assistance for the development and deployment of Community Solarize programs, the SUN For All Program aimed at increasing the availability of solar for low income households, and the release of a competitive bidding process to select the solar contractors that will evaluate and install the nonprofit solar projects, all of which will be coming soon. The SUN Program Administration Team includes the expertise of the Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network (SIREN) and Indiana Solar For All. Andy Fraizer, Executive Director of Prosperity Indiana, states “The Solar Uniting Neighbors Program has evolved from its creation in 2014 to better serve our members and the low-income residents they serve.”
Today, HUD released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 allocations for the Office of Community Planning and Development's (CPD) formula programs. Those include Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and the Housing Trust Fund (HTF).
The list for Indiana allocations is included below. The HUD release notes that these amounts reflect approved grant reductions and include any reallocated funds for the CDBG and HOME programs. It also notes that urban county amounts shown do not include the funds allocated to any metropolitan city. The metropolitan city and urban county amounts are shown separately.
Here is a link to the HUD CPD budget page: https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/about/budget/budget17
To afford a decent, two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in Indiana, Hoosiers working a 40-hour week need to earn $15.17 per hour. This is Indiana's 2017 housing wage, revealed in a national report released today.
The report, Out of Reach 2017, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization, and Prosperity Indiana. Out of Reach documents the gap between what workers earn and the cost of housing by calculating housing wage. This is the hourly wage a renter working 40 hours per week must earn to afford a modest apartment without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income on housing costs.
The housing wage of $15.17 is $7.92 higher than the Indiana minimum wage ($7.25). That means a renter earning minimum wage in Indiana would need to work 67 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent and 84 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom.
The least affordable counties for Hoosiers to access rental housing are Monroe, Newton, Lake and Porter counties. The housing wage in Monroe County is $17.77. In Lake, Newton, and Porter, $16.62 is needed to afford a Fair Market Rent two-bedroom rental. Also more expensive than the state average, Indianapolis’ housing wage is $16.35.
Prosperity Indiana Executive Director Andy Fraizer said, "Housing markets vary across Indiana based on local conditions. In all local markets, wages are not keeping pace with
housing costs, and those earning the least are struggling the most. The Out of Reach report illuminates this problem in every county with easily understood data."
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the Out of Reach 2017 data depicts why millions of low-income renters are struggling to afford their homes.
“The federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009 but the national Housing Wage has increased to $21.21 for a two-bedroom rental home, more than 2.9 times higher than the federal minimum wage and $4.83 higher than the average renter’s wage,” Yentel said. “We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis by realigning federal tax expenditures and reinvesting the savings in rental housing programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable. We lack only the political will to do so.”
The Prosperity Indiana 2017 state policy agenda outlines strategies to increase the supply of affordable rental housing and ease its development. This includes legislation to provide clarity and certainty around tax exemption for 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations that own and operate affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. Prosperity Indiana is working with leaders in the Indiana General Assembly to create a uniform, objective standard to ensure that nonprofit organizations receive property tax exemption throughout all of Indiana’s 92 counties.
“A uniform property tax system that values the charitable purpose of basic shelter for low-income families is essential to preserving and expanding quality affordable housing options, which our state currently lacks,” Fraizer said. “We can assist households who face the greatest challenges in finding decent, safe and affordable housing by providing fair tax treatment, rebalancing scarce federal housing resources and increasing investments in proven solutions, like the National Housing Trust Fund and rental assistance. America can afford to invest in programs for people with the greatest needs.”
For additional information, visit: www.nlihc.org/oor.
Secretary Carson testified today before the Senate Appropriations Transportation and HUD (THUD) Subcommittee on the administration's FY18 budget and he will appear on the Hill tomorrow before the House THUD Appropriations Subcommittee .
The budget proposal would eliminate funding entirely for the National Housing Trust Fund, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, and the Community Development Block Grants program in addition to severely underfunding key programs that promote affordable housing and combat homelessness.
Our blog posts regarding the draft and final proposals and offering details on the Administration’s proposed cuts to specific housing and community development programs across numerous federal agencies and the Indiana impact can be found by clicking here and here.
Senate Hearing Notes:
Secretary Carson emphasized the need to make difficult decisions like a family with limited resources when pressed about the size of the budget cuts to /elimination of for critical community development funding. Several Committee members pressed Carson to square his testimony during his confirmation process about the need for compassion and resources for safe, affordable housing with the budget figures contained in the President’s budget.
Carson noted that in one area, lead abatement, there was an increase in funding and in other areas, they were trying to increase efficiencies, reduce waste and use federal investments as seed money to support local efforts instead of serving as the sole funder of many of these efforts. Some Senators pointed out leverage and match requirements in most HUD programs being slashed, but Carson reasserted the need to reign in spending responsibly. Much of the discussion centered around a largely bipartisan concern for cuts to the CDBG program. When asked specifically about cuts to homeless programs, Carson said that this is one area, “where our humanity must be evident and our commitment steadfast,” but he asserted that the proposal was not counterproductive to that goal. He argued that the prioritization of funding and programming changes are essential to achieve budget restraint and reach compassionate housing goals.
You can watch Secretary Carson testify by following the links below:
This post will be updated
Serve Indiana is seeking qualified applications for their Communications and Training Manager open position. The purpose of this position is to oversee Serve Indiana’s communications including social media, newsletter and marketing needs. In addition, the Manager will organize and facilitate all Serve Indiana trainings and events alongside other team members. The position is overseen by the Assistant Director and requires some travel and outreach efforts.
Serve Indiana is a division of the Department of Workforce Development within the State of Indiana. The position is a “Program Director” position within the state and applicants can apply at http://www.in.gov/spd/careers/ . The application ID is 609189 and applications will be open until 06/19/2017. For more information about the position, please contact Elspeth Hilton at 317-233-0901 or email@example.com. For more information about Serve Indiana, visit www.serveindiana.gov.
The Office of Community Services (OCS) is seeking expert reviewers with a broad array of direct community economic development experience to help select grantees for the Community Economic Development (CED) program.
The grant review process is mutually beneficial for the Federal government and the reviewers. The Federal government and taxpayers benefit from expertise and knowledge of the reviewers, ensuring that OCS projects address relevant and emerging issues in the communities they serve. At the same time, reviewers obtain knowledge about the Federal grant award process and grant application requirements, which can be taken back to the community and applied when developing proposals.
If you or someone you know is interested in serving as a reviewer, please review this linked brochure or visit the Reviewer Recruitment website (direct link: www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/ced-reviewers) for more details and then contact OCS@reviewops.org.
To avoid conflict of interest, individuals from organizations that are applying for CED funding this year will not be accepted as reviewers.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email OCSRegistrar@icf.com.