Name: Alan Watkins
Title/Company: Houston area Community Development Officer, Wells Fargo
Please explain what the Leading the Way Home program entails. Why did Wells Fargo feel this program was important and necessary?
As a result of the recent foreclosure crisis, Wells Fargo initiated various programs to help respond to this national epidemic. One of the innovative programs that Wells Fargo developed to increase the availability of affordable housing while stabilizing and rebuilding distressed neighborhoods is called the Leading the Way Priority Markets initiative. As the country begins to work its way out of the housing and foreclosure crisis, Wells Fargo has made distressed neighborhoods a priority by devoting its resources to ensure that blighted neighborhoods have an opportunityto participate in the housing recovery as well. This ensures that all neighborhoods and communities across the country have equal opportunities to become healthy and thrive.
How were the nonprofit organizations who received grants selected?
Wells Fargo has a local approach in how it operates. A Wells Fargo committee of team members who know its local stakeholders comes together to discuss which nonprofit or government municipality it wants to invite to apply for the grant. For example, we may ask, “Does this organization have a reputation for keeping its promises and following through on its commitments?”
Once a consensus is reached, the nonprofit is invited to apply to the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation—who in turn makes a decision on all requests based on the viability of the organization and the strength of its application. It is important that the invited organization communicates its intended grant purpose clearly because the local committee of each participating city can only invite one entity to apply.
How can the funds from the grant be used?
The Leading the Way Home® Priority Markets Initiative provides grant support for neighborhood stabilization projects that are located in areas designated for revitalization to stimulate growth, stability and investment in distressed areas. Therefore, the funds of the grant can be used for costs associated with the development or redevelopment of the project, except advertising and marketing; homebuyer subsidies such as down payment/closing costs and homebuyer counseling; and renovation of foreclosed and/or abandoned properties for resale to low-to-moderate income (LMI) homebuyers.
Houston Habitat for Humanity was selected as a grant recipient; what will the funds mean to the organization?
In May 2012, our committee invited the Houston Habitat for Humanity to apply for The Leading the Way Home® Priority Markets Initiative and in September, they were awarded their requested amount of $250,000. Houston Habitat for Humanity has a three-year comprehensive plan to build 30 homes in Houston’s historic Fifth Ward neighborhood through the federally-funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The Leading the Way Home® Priority Markets Initiative grant will be used to support the project by providing down payment assistance and pre-homebuyer education and counseling services to the qualified families.
The funds will mean a great deal to Houston Habitat for Humanity so that they can continue their work in the Fifth Ward. Most importantly, the funds will help facilitate homeownership to qualified families and instill a sense of ownership and self-worth to grateful families. Also, the community benefits because the work that Houston Habitat for Humanity is doing will once again foster neighborhood pride to this area of Houston.