UPDATE: March 2009
To keep our friends current on the Center’s activities, we will summarize a few new developments below. The headlines are:
Ø The Center now has 31 Founding Sponsors, and over $3,000 in donations, responding to our first fundraising letter (December 2008);
Ø The Center requests seed money from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and evaluates other prospective funders;
Ø Numerous exclusionary housing policies at the local and state levels in the Washington, DC, area are disclosed by the Center’s initial, independent investigation;
Ø The Center broadens its outreach for volunteers and hires its first volunteer assistant; and
Ø The first formal meeting of the Advisory Committee is held.
I. Center has 31 initial Founding Sponsors
Many of you already have responded to the Center’s first fundraising letter, in December. It has had more than a 10% response rate, resulting in 31 Founding Sponsors and donations of a little over $3,000. We are gratified by the strong response, especially in light of the current economic situation. The donations will reimburse some of the Center’s startup expenses.
Thanks very much to all of you – those who have been able to contribute financially, and those who have assisted the Center with expertise, hard work, and/or moral support! Should we mention that we still are accepting (additional) donations? If you are able, please just mail us a check at the address above or donate on our website (http://cswac.org).
II. Center makes first requests for foundation funding
In other fundraising news, the Center has submitted letters of inquiry to the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations about providing seed money or other possible funding for its programs. Foundation funding for new nonprofits such as the Center will be hard to get during the current economic downturn. In particular, funding for nonprofits engaged in legal services will be stretched very thin this year.
For example, established legal aid programs that already have gotten foundation funding have had one of their other major funding sources (interest earned on lawyers’ trust accounts (“IOLTA”)) all but eliminated by the reduction in interest rates. See, e.g., Erik Eckholm, Interest Rate Drop Has Dire Results for Legal Aid, N.Y. Times, January 19, 2009, available at
Corporate funding also has basically dried up due to the current economy. Nevertheless, the Center will continue to evaluate relevant funding sources and urge potential funders to help as soon as they are able.
III. Center finds numerous exclusionary housing policies in Washington area
Nonprofit affordable housing developers with decades of experience throughout the Washington, DC, region, have confirmed to the Center that they and their colleagues continue to suffer interference from exclusionary housing policies in many area jurisdictions. Based on its first interviews with affordable housing developers in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia, from January-March of this year, the Center also has found that:
- Maryland law ties the hands of state housing officials in local jurisdictions where the political leadership – as it often does – opposes needed affordable housing for unjustified motives (such as fiscal concerns or unwarranted NIMBY attitudes of local property owners). For any affordable housing development to receive state funding in Maryland, the development must:
- get political approval by the local jurisdiction; and
- secure some of its funding from the locality
Those laws go farther to tie the state’s hands than somewhat analogous local-participation provisions in other states.
Outer suburbs of Northern Virginia – where a large proportion of the newer jobs have been created -- continue to place unwarranted obstacles in the way of the needed affordable housing development. The Center has found that in Prince William County, affordable housing developments have not been granted discounts on impact fees (“proffers” by the developer), permit charges, and other costs. These costs have added tens of thousands of dollars to the price of an “affordable” unit.
Affordable housing developers generally are reluctant to confront local officials about exclusionary housing policies. However, those developers are essential to providing the necessary housing. The Center will increase its outreach to them in the near term.
Center President Tom Loftus has joined HAND (Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers), a very active and comprehensive group with membership throughout the Washington, DC, area. He attended its March seminar, and he also networked with affordable housing developers at a recent “green building” event, thanks to his sister, Julia Craighill -- a sustainable building consultant with Steven Winter Associates in Washington, DC.
IV. Center hires first volunteer assistant and receives other offers to help
Eduardo De La Torre, a recent graduate of the University of California at Davis, became the Center’s first volunteer assistant in February, when he moved to Washington, DC. He comes highly recommended.
Mr. De La Torre has been quite helpful in the Center’s evaluation of potential foundation funding, and he helped prepare its inquiries to the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations (of which, more below). He learned about the Center through its announcement of a case worker position on the leading national volunteer recruitment website, Volunteer Match. That announcement has drawn numerous other expressions of interest from young professionals across the United States. The Center will make it a priority to expand its outreach to potential volunteers.
V. Center holds first meeting of Advisory Committee
On January 31, the Center’s Board conducted a teleconference with Advisory Committee members and other friends of the Center from New England to California. The participants exchanged information and suggestions about matters such as:
- the Center’s mission and vision
- fundraising strategies
- documenting the extent of the problem of exclusionary housing policies (starting with the Washington, DC, area)
- website and e-mail development
- creating media interest in the Center and using compelling personal stories
- joining social networking sites (Linked-In, Facebook, etc.), and
- developing strong financial management.
The Center is most grateful to its Advisory Committee members for lending their expertise and pointing the way forward.
Thank you all very much once again for your support!