Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ECHO’s Communications and Coordination Action Items

Action Item
Identify communication processes between various organizations in ECHO
Action Steps
Communicate to local officials about ECHO.
Letter sent to all Municipalities and County Elected Officials. Sent 3/25/2010

Action Item
Utilize booths at the Builders Assc. Homeshow to promote respective ECHO organizations-April 8- 11
Action Steps
Available information regarding April Home Show at Family First Sports Park.
ECHO will provide a booth/table at Homeshow April 8 -11
Individual Groups to participate at Homeshow -Each Group will bring signs and brochures for their prospective organization.

Action Item
Develop a communication effort to the community e.g. ECHO website.
Action Steps
Develop website with bloging capability
Launched website

Action Item
Identify collaboration opportunities for ECHO organizations.
Peer to Peer projects between groups.
Contact/status-Groups Working together
Erie RDA and St. Martin Center (Lead Paint)
St. Martin Center and Weed and Seed (Lead Paint)
City of Erie & Healthy Home Programs (Lead Paint)

ECHO’s Maintenance and Rehabilitation Action Items

Action Item
Promote lead abatement and rehabilitation programs.
Action Steps
Make sure the general public, single family property owners and landlords are aware of the availability of funding to make units code compliant and lead safe.
Planning is underway to promote new ERA LHCD grant to the general public, landlord groups have been notified.
SMC is promoting the availability of rehab and lead programs through outreach efforts, classes, the HOME Program and during individual client counseling sessions.

Action Item
Assure on-going funding of lead abatement and rehabilitation programs.
Action Steps
Make sure current City LHC grant meets goals and is closed out on time.
The same for the new ERA LHCD grant.
Maintain a high level of use for rehabilitation programs to show / prove the need exists.
Explain the availability and criteria needed to secure lender financing.
Current City Lead Hazard Control Program will be complete in 10 months.
The new ERA Lead Hazard Control Demonstration Grant will begin operating in the County in the near term and when the current City Lead Program ends this program will also operate in the City.
NW Lead Consortium is also operating in the County.
Erie County HA does have limited rehab funds for use and does ERA.
SMC currently promotes lender financing.

Action Item
Seek judicial support for a Housing Court
Action Steps
Feel out district justices for their input and concerns.
Meet with Erie County president judge to review idea.
Travel to neighboring city that has an established Housing Court.
Contacted local district justice who has very serious concerns about the effectiveness of such a body.
-corruption, staff controlling the court, etc.
-we need to enforce what laws are already in place.

Action Item
Develop consistency in the application / design of enforceable codes along with actual code enforcement.
Action Steps
Model local codes after the new State mandated code requirements.
Get neighboring boroughs and municipalities to commit to code enforcement.
Re-establish a rent withholding program to work in conjunction with rental licensing and code enforcement.
New codes are mandated state-wide.
City of Erie has mandated rental unit inspections.

Action Item
Prioritize housing needs by community, area, etc.
Action Steps
Canvas borough, township and municipal elected officials for input into their localized needs.

Action Item
Secure tax claim and REO properties for recycling.
Action Steps
Locate properties for acquisition.

ECHO’s Planning for the Elderly Action Items

Action Item
Evaluate other options for elderly unable to sell current home. Investigate shared housing: placing 2 or more elderly in an individual’s home that cannot be successfully sold
Share article on ‘shared’ living arrangements for the elderly; new concepts and practices in senior housing.
Due Date 3/1/10

Action Item
Identify opportunities for housing to be built
Invite other groups to the table that are centered on the senior population and understand the elderly housing market.
Erie Center on Health and Aging, GECAC Senior Advocate, Millcreek Public Services Director,
Due Date 6/1/10

Action Item
Develop housing for non-low income or middle-income elderly
Needs further discussion and development by the committee
Due Date

ECHO’s New Housing Action Items

Action Item
Sponsorship of local training opportunities on sustainable building practices for individuals, developers, builders, etc.
Action Steps
HANDS – proposes to sponsor an event early in the year (2010) on energy and alternative sources of energy;
HANDS’ Villa Maria Energy Audit Presentation - The presentation is an overview of the energy audit process that we are completing at Villa Maria Apartments – Phase I. HANDS is using the process experienced at Villa Maria as a learning tool to analyze all properties under management to establish capital needs priorities, maintenance and management improvements, and design and development improvements to improve the energy efficiency of our entire portfolio.
Once the audit process is complete we would like to share this presentation to the community at large for any interested parties as a learning tool on how energy efficiency improvements can improve the over-all living environment for tenants and result in savings to owners and sustainability of properties as affordable housing.

Erie County Planning – Updates to Subdivision Ordinance:
The Subdivision Ordinance is making progress, but is behind schedule. It was recommended for approval by the Erie County Planning Commission at its December meeting, and is now undergoing a legal review by the County Solicitor's Office. Once we get the go ahead from the Solicitor's Office, the adoption process will begin. The ordinance will be subjected to a 45 day review by local municipalities, the public, etc; and a public hearing will be held. In my opinion, it would be best to wait for completion of the legal review before the proposed new ordinance is heavily promoted or any presentations are given. At this point, it is unclear as to when this may be completed. My best guess is that it may be another month or two.
Due Date HANDS presentation on energy efficiency and alternative energy 5/15/10
Erie Co. Planning presentation 4/15/10

Action Item
Pursue ECHO’S adoption and promotion of the Keystone Principles
Action Steps
HANDS presented to the Growth Partnership on 11/11/09 on the objectives of ECHO and to establish next steps in creating a linkage between the business community and housing organizations. This presentation followed initial meetings with Mary Bula, Vice President of the GP, and the GP’s review of ECHO’s objectives. Continued contact with the GP will occur.
Due Date Follow Up on 11/11/09 presentation 3/1/10

Action Item
Develop a communication conduit to the builders
Action Steps
Builder’s Association has a mailing list of over 1,000 contacts; ECHO events/information can be included in BA mailings or list can be utilized for special mailings. BA can offer administrative support.

Regular communication on training and expo opportunities continues from the Builder’s Association to ECHO members.
Due Date Ongoing

Action Item
Develop a communication process with employers to promote ECHO

Action Steps
HANDS presented to the Growth Partnership on 11/11/09 on the objectives of ECHO and to establish next steps in creating a linkage between the business community and housing organizations. This presentation followed initial meetings with Mary Bula, Vice President of the GP, and the GP’s review of ECHO’s objectives
Due Date Follow up 3/1/10

Action Item
Promote Erie to developers and vice versa
Action Steps
HANDS presented to the Growth Partnership on 11/11/09 on the objectives of ECHO and to establish next steps in creating a linkage between the business community and housing organizations. This presentation followed initial meetings with Mary Bula, Vice President of the GP, and the GP’s review of ECHO’s objectives.
Due Date Follow up 3/1/10

ECHO’s Affordable Housing Action Items

Action Item
Develop an education initiative & funding sources for life skills training at the high school level to improve financial responsibility.
Action Steps
1. Contact senior and junior high school principals throughout Erie County and propose to train high school students on financial planning and budgeting leading towards home ownership. (Training has been given to some high school students.)
2. Create a schedule of workshops for high school students in various high schools throughout Erie County. (Regular workshops have been conducted in Fort Leboeuf, East High, Iroquois High Schools.)
3. Arrange free personal finance education by GECAC’s financial literacy educator
4. Train the high school students on the following financial topics that would educate them on housing:
a. Setting goals, including goals for becoming a tenant or home owner
b. Budgeting, to include savings for a down payment on a house
c. The miracle of compound interest
d. Home loans and mortgage contracts
e. Tenants’ or homeowners’ rights and responsibilities
f. Zoning codes for single family homes
g. Homeowners’ insurance
h. Payments on household utilities
How to save money on home maintenance, repairs and improvements
1. High school principals in Erie County
2. GECAC Financial Literacy Educator
3. GECAC’s “Money Works for You Program” is in place and Workshops on Housing and other topics are being conducted; up to $500 savings is matched by GECAC, for a possible purchase of household appliances, etc.
4. GECAC’s Family Savings Account Program is in place and Workshops on Housing and other topics are now being conducted; up to $2,000 savings is matched by GECAC for a possible down payment on a house, etc.

Action Item
Urge legislators to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
Develop talking points for HB 60, the State Housing Trust Fund
Action Steps
1. Let legislators know that there are not enough affordable homes available for families, people with disabilities and seniors.
2. Work on points to get the public aware of dollars that Pennsylvania can get from the Housing Trust Fund
3. Contact PHFA to work with them in getting legislatures to
4. be accountable in passing HB 60.
5. Work more on getting voters to support a State Housing Trust Fund and look at recent polls of support from voters.
Inform the public that the State Housing Trust Fund is good for the economy and investment in affordable homes creates jobs and tax revenues.
1. The general public
2. Legislators:
a. Congresswoman Dahlkemper’s office
b. Representative Harkin’s office
c. Senator Specter’s office

Action Item
Prepare for the utility rate change & taxes with communication and “green” application

Action Steps
1. Rates are scheduled to go up regardless. The preparation at this point is either how to pay for higher utilities within your budget or how to avoid excessive usage.
2. Low income consumers have a safety net to have their utilities paid or discounted in the event that they don’t pay – often this is the last item in their budget and goes unpaid. In our education efforts in other sections of this group we ought to teach to put housing expenses first followed up by other nonessential material items.
3. Urge legislation to cap utility companies’ profitability.
4. Urge legislation to create tax credits for landlords of rental units who create more energy efficiency.
5. Urge utility companies that “fair” rates are more likely to provide paying customers.
6. “Green” applications for renters often do not apply (geo-thermal or solar panels VERY costly – even energy efficient windows a renter would not put into their rented space.). In our education we ought to stress importance of not leaving running water on, unplugging unused appliances, keeping thermostat lower when not at home, etc.
7. “Green” applications for homeowners in the area are hardly a reality. Additional costs to purchase a “green” house have become less obtainable in this economic climate.
8. We need to continuously be paying attention to both pending and passed legislation. In this climate there is a lot changing quickly.
Landlords, Homeowners, and Tenants

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

About ECHO

The Erie County Housing Organization (ECHO) was established to adopt and drive major housing improvement initiatives in Erie County. Various organizations and agencies with a vested interest in Erie County housing chose to collaborate and concentrate resources in an efficient and effective manner to address housing-related issues.
As a result ECHO has:
1. Revised the Erie County Housing Plan
2. Developed a Mission statement that serves to define ECHO's purpose.
Mission: ECHO is a diverse group of organizations with
focused resources collaborating to address the present
and future housing-related issues of Erie County.
3. Adopted the recommendations of the Erie County Housing Plan as six major initiatives to implement.
Maintenance & Rehabilitation
Promote sound maintenance and rehabilitation of existing housing
New Housing Development
Promote a diversity of housing options that meet a wide range of needs and income levels for county residents. Encourage environmentally friendly, "sustainable" development.
Affordable Housing
Support affordable housing activities within Erie County, including construction of affordable housing units, rehabilitation of existing homes, homeownership programs and training, and renter education programs.
Planning for Residents with Special Needs (Including Homeless)
Support housing assistance and a full range of housing choices for seniors.
Planning for the Elderly
Provide assistance and support for residents with special needs, including the homeless. Communication & Coordination
Improve communication, coordination and/or contact between governmental agencies and practitioners in the housing field.
4. Aligned volunteer participating organizations with specific initiatives to best capitalize on their individual strengths and purpose.
5. Created action plans for each initiative to positively impact and ultimately achieve the major initiatives. Respective teams meet regularly to move initiative forward.
6. Adopted a lead team to provide direction. Meet with entire participant group regularly to share progress and keep all participants informed.
Participating Organizations: (Open to other organizations & agencies interested in joining)
BA Builder's Association of Northwest PA
COE City of Erie
CSS Community Shelter Services
ECDHS Erie County Department of Human Services
ECHA Erie County Housing Authority
ECHRC Erie County Human Relations Commission
ECP Erie County Planning
ECRDA Erie County Redevelopment Authority
ED Erie Dawn
ERDA Erie Redevelopment Authority
GEBOR Greater Erie Board of Realtors
HANDS Housing And Neighborhood Development Service
HFH Habitat for Humanity
SMC St. Martin Center
VFI Voices for Independence

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Test Blog

This is a test of ECHO's blog.