Home City Development, Inc. is taking part in the HUD sponsored Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program for the first time. This program specifically works to alleviate the pitfalls of the “cliff effect” (the sudden and often unexpected decrease in public benefits with a small increase in earnings), that many residents in affordable housing run into. Currently in place for Liberty Hill Town House residents, the FSS program launched in the spring of 2021, and we received Community Block Development funds from the City of Springfield in July 2021. The startup effort continues into 2022, enhanced by a recently awarded Urban Agenda Grant. Once residents are enrolled in FSS, the increase in rent that corresponds to increase in income will be put into a savings account for each participant. The account can be accessed for job or education related purchases at any time, and can be accessed in full in five years.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and for my daughters, to show them that ‘yes we can’,” Wilmarie Rodriguez, Liberty Hill Town Houses resident said. “Even though we live in [affordable housing developments] they can still help you step up to the next level, the next pathway.” Over the last few years the FSS program has expanded from public housing only, to include multi-family communities, and residents of Liberty Hill Town Houses and Twiggs Estates are eligible. 40 FSS slots have been approved for Liberty Hill Town Houses and the application for Twiggs Estates has been submitted. The FSS program is a major step forward in terms of bridging the racial disparity gap in wealth accumulation through opportunities like home ownership. “This is the vision,” Nancy Reno, VP of Marketing for Housing Management Resources, our property management partner, said. “This is why we’re all doing what we’re doing.”
In fact, HCDI is just now embarking on their first homeownership project in many years, Gemini Townhomes in the South End of Springfield. Construction is slated to start in late 2022. Gemini Townhomes will hopefully be the first of many such HCDI homeownership projects in Western Mass. In order to help the families enrolled in FSS reach their goals, a $100,000 Urban Agenda Grant was awarded to Springfield WORKS, to partner, primarily with HCDI along with many other partners. Springfield WORKS is a collaborative organization that creates pathways to economic opportunity and well-being for Springfield families. The funds will go towards a holistic, collaborative program geared toward the family system as a whole, that will help HCDI families access tools to foster career development and financial success for the whole family. This is a collaborative model where HCDI residents will be the recipients of the programs and services covered by the grant, and many other partners are involved as the service and program providers. “It’s all about the families’ goals and moving them toward self-sufficiency, what resources can we give them,” said Reno.
“I’m very excited about this program, it’s an opportunity for me to go forward on my path and change the life of my son,” Yerenys Nieves, resident of Liberty Hill Town Houses said. Nieves has a bachelor’s degree in nursing that does not transfer in Massachusetts. In order to get a job in nursing, she has to pass a rigorous certification course in English. She plans to take English classes as part of the FSS program. “I go to work at 5am, dropping off the children at that time is difficult.” She hopes to have a better paying job with more flexible hours once she can utilize her nursing degree. Similarly, Rodriguez has an accounting degree and a business law degree that she has not been able to utilize because of language barriers. She hopes to become more proficient in English so that she can embark on a more satisfying and lucrative career that leverages her degrees. Programs begin in February 2022 and will include career readiness, job training certificate programs, childcare resources, ESL and educational resources, credit repair and budget counseling, first time home buyer workshops, and family support services.
“It’s a win-win all around,” Anne Kandilis, Director of Springfield WORKS, said referring to the comprehensive programming with wrap around services, ensuring that families have what they need for career pathway success. There are a lot of great jobs available now that can lead to economic self-sufficiency. Zuleika Marquez has lived in the Liberty complex for 14 years. She said, “I’m happy that [HCDI] is bringing new programs for the residents here. I hope that this will be an opportunity that we can all take advantage of.”