Preserving Rural Affordable Homes: Building Know-How and Networks Through the Texas Preservation Academy
Between January and September 2018, Enterprise conducted the first Texas Rural Rental Housing Preservation Academy, a series of no-cost training and peer learning sessions designed to help rural housing providers and nonprofits acquire and/or preserve USDA housing in their respective communities. Special thanks to Capital One Foundation and The Meadows Foundation whose generous support made this innovative effort possible. We also thank our key partners in this endeavor, The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation and Rural Rental Housing Association of Texas.
Tami Gardner, president of Community Outreach Housing in Texas, attended the Academy and shared her impressions of the experience below. Nonprofit Community Outreach Housing’s mission is to serve and host the community with exceptional outreach by providing multi-cultural, lower income housing to all who fairly qualify. COH assists families and students focused on their education or jobs by giving back to the community with exceptional housing at a reduced rate.
What was your overall impression of the Texas Preservation Academy?
Tami Gardner: It’s important to educate, inform, and help others understand the crisis going on with USDA Rural Development (RD) multifamily properties and the need to preserve them going forward. There were amazing speakers who helped the audience of new property owners really understand how Texas properties can be preserved.
What was a major takeaway for you from the experience?
TG: No question is too small and there is always someone who knows the answers, just keep digging and find them. Agencies are there to help nonprofits with questions, funding and community development. Texas offers amazing training and wants to help nonprofits and public companies learn more and do more for communities. The support agencies have been very helpful and have always taken my calls and answered my questions when I contact them. They want to set you up for success to cover all the basic needs of owning a property.
How will the Academy impact your organizations going forward?
TG: It is all about networking and building relationships to help each other achieve our goals. Enterprise left us with a better understanding of what Enterprise does and how we can stay connected with the right organizations to reach a higher standard in the world of affordable housing.
How did your organization engage with technical assistance offered as part of the Academy?
TG: We are just getting started in this area. But it is all about collaboration with the right people in the state to help us achieve greater success in affordable housing. Relationships are vital to taking the next step in being an RD property owner, and bringing clean, safe, affordable housing to our communities.
Was the Academy a valuable experience?
TG: Yes, it we extremely valuable in the way of networking, education and a better understanding of what RD does and how their properties operate. I greatly enjoyed meeting the different speakers and gained a great deal of knowledge from most of them.
What would you tell Enterprise to help inform future Academies?
TG: Part of the reason we signed up was the opportunity to receive a $50,000 grant, before we found out it was for technical assistance versus a cash grant to cover preservation expenses now. The grant is very helpful for research, capacity building and setting things in motion, but it does not cover expenses and hard costs we face now. You should explore incorporating cash grants as part of future academies.
What would you tell potential participants in future Academies?
TG: Keep an open mind. Go with the intent to learn. Have no personal agenda. Ask a lot of questions. Stay to the end of each session and finish the training.
Efforts are underway to expand the Preservation Academy to other parts of the Western United States. Find more information about upcoming Academies and Enterprise’s efforts to preserve housing in rural communities.