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Colorado and Massachusetts Introduce Bills in Support of Manufactured Housing

Posted by klawton on 02/10/2015

Lissette Flores, Program Manager-CFED

On Tuesday February 3, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee in Colorado voted against SB15-095, proposal that would have added protections for manufactured homeowners through a modernized dispute and oversight regime without compromising the rights of manufactured home community owners. Sponsored by State Senator John Kefalas and Representative Max Tyler, the bill would have renamed the Mobile Home Park Act to the Manufactured Home Communities Act (MHCA), reflecting the reality that that manufactured homes are not mobile, but typically remain in the same location once installed. The bill also would have enhanced the functions to the Division of Housing (DOH) within the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), further mainstreaming manufactured housing in the Colorado housing market.

MHCA would have allowed for the development of much needed resources for manufactured home communities. In addition, the bill would have required that DOH collect economic and demographic data on manufactured home communities, create and administer a dispute resolution program and maintain a list of community-based nonprofit organizations to mediate disputes. Finally, the proposal mandated the Manufactured Home Community Fund to assist community owners and homeowners, specifically identifying such uses as relocation costs, rent subsidies, community improvements and new development.

At the hearing on Tuesday, the Committee heard testimony from various stakeholders, including written testimony from Ishbel Dickens, Executive Director of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA). Though the bill did not pass, Senator Kefalas remains positive and will continue to work to make a compelling case for supporting the bill.

Last month in Massachusetts, State Senator James Eldridge introduced S.D. 1881, a bill that, through titling reform, could facilitate better financing options and spur greater interest in the use of manufactured homes as affordable housing. The bill, titled An Act Relative to the Titling of Certain Manufactured Homes, will modernize and improve the process for converting manufactured homes from personal property to real property. In essence, the bill would help put manufactured homeowners on equal footing as those of site-built homes. For example, the bill would provide owners of manufactured homes with many of the same legal protections as owners of site-built homes.

Though manufactured homes are often indistinguishable from site-built homes, they are typically titled as personal property, such as a car for example, rather than real estate In Massachusetts, many homes are not subject to any titling regime and the process for an owner to convert to a real property title is onerous. The Act Relative to the Titling of Certain Manufactured Homes will not only simplify and streamline the titling process, but also improve the inadequate and outdated existing titling law while improving access to safe and affordable mortgage financing options.

With over 250 manufactured home communities in Massachusetts—about a dozen on which are resident-owned communities—manufactured housing is a key component of the affordable housing solution. Senator Eldridge, who also serves as chair on the Joint Committee on Financial Services, represents a district that includes a resident-owned community in Shirley, and is working with advocates and homeowners who support the bill.

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New Study sows Nevada's Veterans Caught in High Cost Payday Loans

Posted by nbrown on 02/03/2015

Opportunity Alliance Nevada Brief of Veteran Study Survey February 4, 2015

Conducted by: UNLV School of Environmental and Public Affairs

Many Nevada veterans are struggling financially, and many are using payday lenders to pay their bills, resulting in increasing amounts of debt and interest payments that put the veteran and their family at financial risk. A new report by the School of Environmental and Public Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shows a troubling trend. The data is based on a survey created to assess the financial security of Nevada veterans. Survey goals were to research the major barriers veterans face as they work to build assets; access stable and high quality financial products and services; and assess veteran use of financial products and services. Objectives for this survey project were to identify patterns of financial literacy, management, and preparedness within the Nevada veteran community. A major focal area of the survey was centered on the use of payday lending and cash advance services by Nevada veterans.

In Nevada, the typical payday loan carries an annual interest rate of more than 400%.

The report shows Nevada’s active-duty members of the military and its veterans are falling into the debt trap of these high-interest, deceptively marketed payday loans. Payday loans are marketed as a one-time quick fix to consumers facing a cash crunch, but real consumer experiences and studies show payday loans create a long-term cycle of debt. Borrowers end up in the debt trap, taking out loan after loan and paying new fees each time, because they cannot pay off their previous loan and still cover their normal living expenses.

Payday lenders maybe illegally lending to active duty members of the military in Nevada, as veterans surveyed in Nevada acknowldged utilizing a payday loan or cash advance while on active duty. The Military Lending Act limits payday loans interest rates to troops and their families to a cap of 36% annual interest because the Department of Defense identifies these products as predatory and a threat to military readiness. Financial issues are now the number one issue causing soldiers to lose their security clearances and prevent them from serving overseas.

The report finds that an incredible 1 in 5 (20%) of Nevada veterans have used payday loans compared to a national rate of 5.5%. This is troubling. Of those who took out a payday loan, half still have payday lending debt, and for some the debt began while they were still enlisted. This raises concerns about the long-term nature of pay day loan debt, in addition to highlighting the need for strengthening protections for active duty service members in order to promote their financial security as veterans.

The report shows payday loans are often used by Nevada veterans who are already struggling with existing monthly expenses, such as difficulty paying for housing, monthly bills, and other debt like auto loans, student loans, or credit cards. Payday loans are not an appropriate substitute for meeting regular expenses, and actually compound existing financial stresses. Payday lenders make no attempt to determine if veterans will be able to repay their loan or whether borrowers are already overextended with existing debt obligations.

The report shows most veterans learn about payday loans through payday lender advertising (62%) and receive the loans from a payday loan storefront within walking or driving distance (84%). This is concerning because data from other studies consistently show that payday lenders’ engage in deceptive marketing. While payday loans are marketed as a one-time quick fix, 75% of payday lending fees are generated by borrowers taking out over 10 loans a year.

“The report is very troubling because it shows payday loans can result in spiraling debt for veterans and active duty members of the military, ensnaring them in a financial quagmire they cannot escape,” said Kat Miller, Department of Veterans Services. “While these loans are marketed as a one-time quick fix, borrowers are ending up in a long-term cycle of debt taking out loan after loan and incurring new fees every time.”

The report concludes that, “results from this survey clearly indicate the existence of a problem with pay day lenders and veterans in the State of Nevada.”

Opportunity Alliance Policy recommendations:

• Strengthen state and federal protections for active duty military personnel through enhancement and enforcement of the Military Lending Act’s 36% rate cap

• Urge the Nevada State Legislature and Congress to enact a rate cap of 36% APR for payday loans

• The CFPB should issue strong rules to ensure payday lenders only make loans borrowers can afford to repay when considering a borrower’s income and expenses.

Full report at: www.opportunityalliance.nv.org

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New CFED data showing state of family economic security in Arkansas

Posted by tedwards on 02/02/2015

Last week, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released its annual Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. The Scorecard provides a comprehensive look at Americans’ capacity to accumulate wealth by examining how well residents prosper in the 50 states and District of Columbia on both the ability of residents to achieve financial security and the state policies designed to make it possible. The Scorecard assesses state policies focused on helping people develop and protect assets across 67 outcome measures in five different issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care, and Education. The identified asset building policy triumphs, deficiencies, and recommendations for the state are of great interest to us at Southern as we serve as the Lead State Organization for the CFED Assets & Opportunity Network and our mission is to provide opportunities for increasing net worth and economic mobility.

That said, Arkansas fared poorly overall in 2015. In Education, Arkansas ranked among the worst states in the country in regards to residents with high school degrees (45th) and those with two-year and four-year college degrees (ranked 50th and 49th, respectively). The state’s poor performance in education uncovers significant inequalities. For example, Arkansas ranks last (51st) in four-year college degrees by income, with the top 20 percent of earners 6.4 times more likely to hold a degree than the bottom 20 percent. The Scorecard revealed Arkansas’s young adults are also not doing so well – the state ranked 42nd for the number of “disconnected youth,” meaning those aged 16-24 who are not in school and do not have a job. Without job skills or education, most have to work in low-paying jobs with few to no benefits. According to the Scorecard, 36.6 percent of Arkansas jobs are low-wage, ranking the state 49th in this category.

2015 Arkansas Scorecard Snapshot Issue Area Success Challenge Rank Grade Financial Assets & Income

Avg. Credit Card Debt Households w/ Savings Accounts 46 D Businesses & Jobs

Business Creation Rate Low Wage Jobs 44 D Housing & Homeownership

Affordability of Homes Delinquent Mortgage Loans 28 C Health Care

Uninsured Rate by Race Employer-Provided Insurance Coverage 17 B Education

Early Childhood Education Enrollment 4-year Degrees by Income

Source: CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, 2015.

The state received its worst ranking in Financial Assets & Income, ranking 46th and earning a “D.” This grade reflects persistently high rates of income poverty (18.8 percent) and unbanked households (12.3 percent), ranking the state 48th on both of these measures. Arkansas also received a “D” in Businesses & Jobs, partially due to a stark disparity in business ownership by race, with business ownership 2.4 times as high for white workers as for workers of color. The state’s ranking of 44th in Education is essentially due to residents’ low levels of math and reading proficiencies (ranked 42nd and 40th, respectively) and low rates of postsecondary degree attainment described above.

Interestingly enough, Arkansas has always and continues to fare considerably better on its policy measures than its outcomes, having adopted 29 of CFED’s 68 recommended policies and receiving an overall ranking of 14th among all states. Despite many entrenched problems placing pressure on low- and moderate-income families, the state ranked among the top in Health Care and Education policies, receiving rankings of 6th and 5th in these issue areas, respectively. But the dichotomy between Arkansas’ enacted policies and its policy outcomes is intriguing: although Arkansas ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of outcomes, the state places 14th in its aggregate policies. Hence, there is a weak relationship between Arkansas’s policies and outcomes; the state has strong policies yet still poor outcomes for families.

A reason behind the weak relationship between Arkansas’s policies and outcomes is while a policy may have been effective for a period of time, the policy was never extended or supplemented. For example, Arkansas passed legislation for a Housing Trust Fund but never fully funded it and the state left our matching 529 GIFT plan program (Aspiring Scholars) in pilot mode without a sustainable funding source for match money or marketing. Further, when payday lenders left Arkansas, no financial institution introduced a payday loan alterative product. For state policy to truly have a lasting, major impact on Arkansans, policies must be sustainable and comprehensive.

Over the years, Southern has supported a number of asset building policy changes focused on financial stability and independence of Arkansans, including a state match for Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), an increase in the state’s minimum wage, a statewide housing trust fund, matched savings for the state’s 529 GIFT plan, the termination of payday lending practices, and most recently, the expansion of our Medicaid program. However, the need for sound and effective asset building policy is still highly critical to ensuring a family’s economic security in Arkansas. Furthermore, support for implementation of the policies Arkansas has in place must also be secured.

The findings from the Scorecard highlight the need to better prepare Arkansas’s children for the future workforce through investments in education. Arkansas can make postsecondary education more affordable with a statewide Children’s Savings Account program that would encourage families to start saving early for college and promote a college-going mentality. Additionally, current workers can develop needed skills through expanded job training programs. Policymakers should also help low-income workers keep more of their hard-earned dollars through the adoption of a state Earned Income Tax Credit.

To learn more about what can be done at the state policy level to create economic opportunities for more Arkansans, please contact Nathan Pittman, Director of Communications, at Nathan.pittman@banksouthern.com.

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CFED Assets & Opportunities Scorecard released Thursday

Posted by rstoller on 02/02/2015

New Data Expose Income Inequality, Overall Financial Insecurity###

Despite signs of progress, economic recovery missing millions of Americans

Thursday morning marked the official release of its 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard which looks at 135 different measures to paint a picture of how residents are doing in their quest to achieve financial security, and what states are doing to help get them there.

The 2015 Scorecard finds that millions of Americans are seeing little evidence of economic recovery, despite the fact that several indicators suggest the economy is improving. The research finds substantial disparities between low-income households and their wealthier counterparts, as well as between white households and households of color. For example, while 72% of white households own their home, only 46% of households of color can say the same.

Produced annually, the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans' ability to save and build wealth, stay out of poverty and create a more prosperous future. It is designed to be a powerful tool that advocates can use to educate policymakers and other community leaders about the need for strategies that help individuals and families get ahead.

Features of this year's Scorecard include:

The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is made possible each year thanks to the many Assets & Opportunity Network Leaders who are committed to expanding the reach and deepening the impact of asset-based strategies that create economic opportunity. It is also possible thanks to the generosity of its funders, including the Ford Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation and Surdna Foundation.

Click here for a full list of news stories on the Scorecard, and click here to access the full 2015 Scorecard.

Psst! Hey you! Yes, YOU! Are you a huge data nerd or policy wonk? You're not alone!

Luckily, we've got today's to-do list covered:

  • Dig into the report. Tweet directly from the interactive report or share the report's infographics on Facebook. (Don't forget to use #CFEDScorecard in your social media updates!)
  • Start an interstate rivalry. Use dynamic data on 67 outcome measures and 68 policy measures to show how your state stacks up against your neighbors.
  • Impress your colleagues. Make your own charts, graphs and handouts, and then use them in your next presentation to lawmakers.
  • Silence your opponents. Next time you find yourself in a Facebook war with that crazy cousin of yours, use the Scorecard to arm yourself with the facts you need to declare victory!

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2014 EITC in North Dakota

Posted by rstoller on 02/02/2015

Click here to read about EITC in North Dakota

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Nevada State Treasurer Anounces Continued Support of Nevada Kick Start Saving Program

Posted by nbrown on 01/29/2015

Thank you Nevada State Treasurer Schwatz and the Nevada College Savings Board!

State Treasurer Schwartz proudly announced today that the Kick Start Savings will continue and that he plans to invest more dollars to market college savings programs: “Let’s Go to College”.

Today members from the Opportunity Alliance Nevada (OA) traveled to Carson City to welcome the new Nevada State Treasurer Schwartz. The group thanked the Nevada State Treasurer's Office and Board of Trustees during public comments for their continued support of the 1st state wide children's savings program in the Nation, Nevada Kick Start Savings Program. Members of OA along with others spoke about the positive impact the Kick Start Savings is having on Nevada families and the advancement of a Nevada college bound culture.

Special thanks to those that participated: Kelly George- United Federal Credit Union, Amy Nelson,-OA Youth Chair, Theresa Navarro,-Kick Start Navigator Program, Kristin McNeil – Washoe County School District, Representative of the United Way of Northern Nevada & Sierra Board, plus letters of appreciation and support from Community Services Agency, Walter Bracken Stem Academy, LV and Dale Erquiaga, Superintend of the State of Nevada Dept. of Education.

Nancy Brown, OA Chair

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MD Ranks #1 in Policies, 21st in Outcomes

Posted by rmckinney on 01/29/2015

2015 Scorecard shows Maryland ranks best for policies, but more work to be done to improve financial stability of Marylanders.

For a second year, Maryland ranks #1 among all states for its adoption of policies aimed at increasing the financial stability of residents. This ranking marks a great achievement that should be celebrated. Over the last few years, Maryland passed laws to:

  • Increase the Maryland Earned Income Tax Credit, providing more money in the pockets of almost 400,000 Marylanders.
  • Require paid tax preparers to be licensed, including competency testing and continuing education.
  • Eliminate asset limits for public benefit programs, which removes barriers for low-income residents to save money.
  • Protect residents from high cost, short-term loans like payday and refund anticipation loans.

Despite some good news, Maryland ranks poorly on several outcome measures critical to family financial security, earning an overall rank of 21 out of 50 states. Almost 35% of all Marylanders do not have sufficient savings readily available to weather a financial storm. It is almost 2.3 times higher for households of color. We can do better.

Maryland ranks:

  • 7th in liquid asset poverty (34.8% of households without liquid assets to live at the poverty level for three months)
  • 47th in average credit card debt ($12,311)
  • 40th in borrowers 90+ days overdue on payments (3.95%)
  • 30th in bankruptcy rate (3.8%)
  • 43rd in foreclosures (3.2%)
  • 45th in delinquent mortgage loans (3.1%)

We believe it takes a combination of innovative programs, safe products and effective policies to ensure ALL Marylanders achieve financial security. In 2015 legislative session, we will be supporting legislation that:

  • Ensures all eligible families receive the Maryland EITC
  • Ensures that all paid tax preparers are licensed
  • Ensures banks and credit unions can effectively offer new prize-linked savings products
  • Marylanders continue to be protected from expensive short-term loans
  • Ensures that parents and students can easily understand the true cost of attending college
  • Provides paid leave so parents don't have to choose between a sick child and a paycheck

Sign up today to stay in the loop and get involved!

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Payday Lending Bill in Kentucky introduced (SB32)

Posted by tlentz on 01/22/2015

A bill was introduced earlier in January 2015 in the Kentucky State Senate to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36%. For more information, click here.

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Build a Better Bay Area as a Lending Circles partner!

Posted by tararobinson on 01/16/2015

Are you a Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to helping hardworking families find economic opportunity?

Mission Asset Fund wants you to apply to become a Lending Circles partner!

The Better Bay Area initiative is a unique opportunity for up to 10 Bay Area nonprofits to join the Lending Circles partner network through a special application process.

With support from Google, Y&H Soda Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, selected organizations will be able to provide Lending Circles, the award-winning social lending program proven to build credit scores, pay off debt and increase access to affordable financing. Valued at $70,000, the partnership includes free technical assistance, training, and access to the online social loan platform.

Join Mission Asset Fund for an in-person info sessions or webinar to learn more about the partnership, application process and speak with MAF CEO Jose Quiñonez and staff.

Join Us

Check out the online RFP here

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Promoting Financial Capability in NC: Report from the Assets Learning Conference

Posted by dgallagher on 01/16/2015

North Carolina had a record number of representatives who attended the 2014 CFED Assets Learning Conference (ALC) in September 2014—all committed to building a nation and a state where every one of us has the opportunity to build a better financial future. If you were one of the lucky ones joining the group of 1200+ in attendance, you returned home with new ideas, new views of addressing community needs, new ways for low-to-moderate income households to build wealth, impressive policy wins, and informative, recent research on how best to create the platforms for prosperity in your community or state. You arrived home full of inspiration and motivation from the impressive plenary speakers, with many new contacts from around the country.

Our NC contingent connected ahead of the 2014 ALC to plan for both our Hill visits during the ALC, and also to plan for a post-ALC event coordinated by the United Way of Greater Greensboro and the North Carolina Assets Alliance. With sponsorship from JPMorgan Chase Bank, our state’s ALC delegation convened 70 professionals from around the state for a day of learning, networking with one another, and thinking through how to best move the assets indicators in our communities. Our event was held at NC A & T State University. This central, Greensboro location helped us divide the Murphy to Manteo span of 540 miles west to east across NC.

We learned from CFED that we were the only state formalizing a post-ALC event, and we were fortunate to have had Fran Rosebush from CFED join us as a speaker and to represent the Assets & Opportunity Network. Other speakers were ALC attendees and sponsors. The agenda for the day shared information from specific ALC sessions, new directions from the A & O Network, new developments in the asset-building field, and opportunities to build relationships with one another.

The NC Assets Alliance is the lead state organization for the A & O Network. Formed back in 2005, we published a research report in 2010, “A Prosperity Grid for North Carolina: Connecting Households and Communities to Economic Opportunity.” While the data is now outdated, the conclusions and aspirational goals for our state remain the foundation of our work here. Sadly, in spite of continuing and sustained efforts, we have seen our state slide nationally and we are currently 46th in outcomes according to the 2014 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. At the ALC our NC contingent of 35 people was able to attend a broad range of presentations and group meetings. By sharing that information with the network of 80+ agencies that are members of the NC Assets Alliance, we hope to use the learnings from the ALC to spark new activities and to build financial capability across the state.

As nonprofit workers and community builders, you are experts at organizing and hosting events. What did we learn from our post-ALC event that could be helpful to your state for hosting a post- 2016 ALC event?

  • Organize the ALC session attendance ahead of time—If your state or local organization is considering hosting a post ALC event, CFED can provide a listing of ALC registrants from your state to help you contact them and organize who is attending what, to broaden the coverage. The NC Assets Alliance conference organizing committee contacted the NC people who had registered for the ALC about one month ahead of the ALC. We could have used a little more time. We recommend six weeks out as the minimum, or as soon as the final ALC agenda has been published.
  • Make the difficult decisions on what sessions will appeal to the broadest audience. At the end of the day, we made decisions based on whether topics had been consistently included in the NC Asset Alliance’s legislative policy priorities, and whether both urban and rural populations could benefit. Of our state’s 100 counties, a large majority are considered rural.
  • Strike a balance between the length of the breakout sessions and the number of sessions offered. We had to decide whether to provide snapshots of ALC sessions and reduce the agenda time to 30 minutes to offer more sessions, or provide more in-depth coverage of the sessions at the ALC by allowing for longer breakout sessions, and thereby offering fewer of them. We opted for the latter, and used the postings on www.assetsconference.org to develop the individual sessions.
  • Have the professionals take care of technology—live streaming, audio recordings, and posting on the www.NCassets.org website all took special technological expertise. Include these functions in your budget (researching the costs well ahead of time) and relieve yourself of these responsibilities. The technology helps to reach the broadest audience possible, for those unable to attend in person, and hiring professionals allows the organizers to focus more on interacting with the attendees and conducting the presentations.
  • Share the work and share the revenue. The event budget covered lunch, audio-visuals and recording, facility rental, printing and supplies. Additionally, transportation stipends were available to attendees to cover the cost of gas to attend. Planning and contracting with the venue, technology support, finalizing speakers, laying out and printing the program, assembling attendee packets, and catering were all the responsibility of the United Way staff. Sending communications to potential attendees, loading the video and audio recordings to the NC Assets Alliance website, and managing registration were handled by The Collaborative.
  • Involve the community. An event like this is a great opportunity to recruit volunteers to assist with the event logistics. United Way had a volunteer event planner who assigned volunteer roles (greeters, runners, etc.), communicated with the facility staff, and took care of details so that the planning committee could focus on the conference content. Assign more than one volunteer to take photos and manage social media during the event. Ensure that sponsor logos show up in the photos and videos posted online.
  • Evaluate the effort. Separate surveys were provided to those who attended via live stream, and those who attended in person. The organizing committee was in agreement that we would do it all again, but we will review the results of the evaluations during our January, 2015 NC Assets Alliance membership meeting to gather additional information and begin to plan for 2016.

You can view and print the program and handouts, or watch and listen to our entire event by going to: http://ncassets.org/news-and-events.

-Donna Gallagher and Sarah Glover

Donna Gallagher (donna@cultureofsavings.org) is a member of the Steering Committee for the North Carolina Assets Alliance and Executive Director of The Collaborative of NC. Sarah Glover (sarah.glover@unitedwaygso.org) is a Community Impact Manager for the United Way of Greater Greensboro and a member of the Greensboro Asset-Building Coalition and the North Carolina Assets Alliance.

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