Gone to the Birds Gala

On September 18, 2014, RCAP Solutions Celebrated its 45th Anniversary by going to the birds! Over 250 attendees, made up of artists, business professionals, RCAP Solutions supporters and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce members participated in a birdhouse auction, hosted by Skinner Auctions. Over 100 works of art were auctioned, raising over $16,000. 100% of the proceeds will support housing and homelessness prevention programs for Worcester County families.

We thank the many generous sponsors, talented artists, and the staff and volunteers who donated their time and talents and helped to make this event a great success!

Photos by Andrea Seward, Habakkuk Media Services.

 

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Federal Report on Housing, Transportation and Economic Growth

report coverRCAP Solutions staff provided Technical Assistance to one of these projects in Washington County, Maine through a small national sub-agreement. These types of collaboration efforts reduce duplication of services.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 7, 2014

Federal Report Highlights Five Years of Progress Providing Communities with Affordable Housing, Efficient Transportation and Economic Growth

WASHINGTON – In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released “Five Years of Learning from Communities and Coordinating Federal Investments,” a report demonstrating how the three agencies are cooperating to help communities provide more housing choices, make transportation systems more efficient and reliable, and create vibrant neighborhoods that attract business development and jobs while protecting the environment.

“The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is about achieving one goal: expanding opportunity for American families,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “These targeted investments are bringing more affordable housing and transportation options, and more economic resilience to regions that were hard hit by the economic crisis. In partnership with local leaders, I am convinced that the investments our agencies have made will enhance the health and wealth of communities for decades to come.”

“The Partnership is helping us align our transportation investments with the goals of providing affordable housing and preserving the environment,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Together with HUD and EPA, we are making fundamental changes in how we work together to benefit all Americans and provide new ladders of opportunity for many.”
“Communities know better than anyone else what they need,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, we at the federal level are organizing ourselves to give communities tools to address economic and environmental challenges in the way that works best for them.”

Since 2009, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities has been working to ensure that HUD, DOT, EPA and other federal agency investments better serve communities that were hard hit by the economic recession. Through its efforts, more than $4 billion has been awarded to 1,000 communities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. In addition to funding, many communities have also received technical assistance to help plan economic development and leverage private and other public resources to maximize the Partnership’s investments. For example:

  • Partnership-funded regional planning efforts in New York and New Jersey laid a strong foundation for recovery from Superstorm Sandy because communities in the region had already been collaborating on development issues.
  • Partnership grants helped Memphis, Tenn., create a master plan for redeveloping the area around its airport, as well as develop a plan to improve bike and pedestrian paths and spur revitalization in a midtown neighborhood.
  • Partnership funding helped the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota develop a regional plan to define the community’s future. It could be a model for other rural Native American communities as well.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities has also fundamentally changed the way that HUD, EPA and DOT evaluate and award competitive grants and technical assistance. The three agencies collaborate to review and select applications for many grants and technical assistance opportunities, such as DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grants, HUD’s Community Challenge Grants, and EPA’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grants. This collaboration ensures that federal investments maximize resources for communities.

To download the report: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/pdf/partnership-accomplishments-report-2014.pdf

Thank you!

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Thank you to all those who contributed to RCAP Solutions during the Greater Worcester GIVES 24 hour give-a-thon yesterday!

At the end of the day, RCAP Solutions ranked 46th out of 175 local non-profit organizations and received 10 gifts valuing $425!

This is the first time we have participated in an event like this one and are very happy with the results!

Once again, we thank those of you who made a contribution or passed our message along to help spread the word.

Every little bit counts and 100% of the profits will help to fund our programs and services to help support individuals, families and communities.

 

Four days until Greater Worcester Gives!

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RCAP Solutions is proud to be a non profit partner in Greater Worcester GIVES, a community-wide online giving challenge hosted by Greater Worcester Community Foundation which seeks to inspire as many people as possible to support local nonprofit organizations during a 24-hour period.

Please visit the RCAP Solutions Donation Page to make a donation on Tuesday, May 6, 2014: http://www.gwgives.org/#npo/rcap-solutions-inc

The goal is to raise unrestricted dollars for the nonprofit organizations that serve our communities.

For 24 hours, between 12:00am through 11:59pm on Tuesday, May 6, donors can make gifts of $25 or more to participating nonprofits that are located in or provide services in Worcester County.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the country’s first community foundation, we hope to shine a spotlight on the nonprofit community and make it fun and easy for individuals to support local nonprofit organizations.

USDA Rural Development Celebrates Earth Day by Supporting Water Quality Projects in 40 States and Puerto Rico

 

Of the USDA projects announced in the following release, RCAP Solutions provided technical assistance on 9 projects in CT, ME, MA, NY, and RI that were awarded funding over the past several years.  This resulted in $34,640,000  in USDA Loans and $59,111,872  in RD and Farm Bill grants for a total of $93,751,872 to small communities for water and wastewater system improvements.  

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WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated Earth Day by announcing record support for 116 projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment.

“Having reliable, clean and safe water is essential for any community to thrive and grow,” Vilsack said. “I am proud that USDA helps build rural communities from the ground up by supporting water infrastructure projects like these. I am especially proud that we can help communities that are struggling economically and those that have urgent health and safety concerns due to their failing water systems.”

Today’s announcement is USDA’s largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA’s Water and Environmental Program.

Also noteworthy this year are USDA’s accomplishments to help communities with the greatest needs. Sixteen of the Earth Day projects are in areas of persistent poverty. Twenty-nine are in communities served by USDA’s ” StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.” StrikeForce is a USDA initiative to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups that are working to combat poverty.

Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing fiscal strains on communities – causing them to make more frequent (and often more expensive) repairs and upgrades.

Among projects funded this year, the city of McCrory, Ark., is receiving $2.1 million to build a water treatment facility and two water supply wells, and refurbish its two water storage tanks. The improvements will reduce high manganese and iron levels in the water supply to provide safe drinking water to McCrory’s nearly 800 residents. McCrory is in Woodruff County, a persistent poverty area that is part of USDA’s “StrikeForce initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.”

Paintsville, Ky., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and $2.1 million grant to rehabilitate its sanitary and stormwater sewer systems. This is one of 10 projects funded by USDA that will improve water infrastructure in rural areas of Kentucky. The Paintsville project will serve nearly 2,300 residents and businesses and protect the ecosystems of Paint Creek and nearby lakes.

The city of San Joaquin, Calif., is receiving a $1 million loan/grant combination to replace a contaminated well. The city had to shut down one of its three wells due to high levels of bacteria. Once completed, this project will ensure San Joaquin residents have safe, clean drinking water.

In Ohio, the Erie County Commissioners will use $3 million in loans and nearly $3 million in grants to replace individual on-site waste treatment systems that discharge into and pollute the Sandusky Bay and surrounding areas. The commissioners also will build a wastewater collection system for the Village of Bay View and the neighboring Bay Bridge area. The Bay View peninsula is a vital ecological and economic area in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

American Renters Still Cannot Afford Rent Nationwide

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On March 24, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released Out of Reach 2014. This is the 25th anniversary of Out of Reach. The first Out of Reach was published in 1989.

This year, the national two-bedroom Housing Wage of $18.92. The Housing Wage represents the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn in order to afford a modest rental home while spending no more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. This means that nationally a household must have income of least $39,360 a year in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent (FMR) of $984 per month.

Wages of renters continue to fall short of housing costs. The average renter in the U.S. earns $14.64, $4.28 less than the national two-bedroom Housing Wage and fifty-one cents less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage of $15.15.

Extremely low income (ELI) households, those with incomes of 30% or less of the area median (AMI), comprise one out of every four renters, and fare even worse when seeking affordable housing. ELI renter households are only able to afford rents of $493 a month, far less than the two-bedroom FMR of $984 and the one-bedroom FMR of $788.

A full time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can afford just $377 per month in rent. A minimum wage earner would need to work 104 hours per week, or have 2.6 jobs earning the minimum wage, to afford a two-bedroom rental unit. While Congress and some states are considering raising the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over the next three-and-a-half years, this wage would still fall short of the Housing Wage of $18.92. Housing will still be out of reach for low wage workers in every state in the nation.

While the national data illustrate the gap between what people earn and what housing costs, the data that are the most useful for housing advocates are those that tell the state and local story. The five states with the highest two-bedroom Housing Wage are: Hawaii ($31.54); District of Columbia ($28.25); California ($26.04); Maryland ($24.94); and New Jersey ($24.92).

Massachusetts Numbers:

In Massachusetts, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,252. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities – without paying more than 30% of income on housing – a household must earn $4,174 monthly or $50,090 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $24.08.

In Massachusetts, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $8.00. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 120 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or a household must include 3.0 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

In Massachusetts, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $17.47. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 55 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, working 40 hours per week year-round, a household must include 1.4 workers earning the mean renter wage in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

The report was released in a press conference with NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley, NLIHC Research Analyst Althea Arnold, and Director of Housing Policy at Consumer Federation of America and former president of NLIHC, Barry Zigas. Mr. Zigas headed NLIHC in 1989 when the first Out of Reach was issued. He discussed the origins of the report. Ms. Crowley emphasized the importance of increasing the affordable housing stock for low income renters through an adequately funded National Housing Trust Fund.

As has been the case each year, Out of Reach attracts considerable media coverage. In the week of its release this year, the report was covered by the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, CNN, and dozens of state and local print, television, and radio outlets.

Out of Reach 2014 can be found at http://www.nlihc.org/oor/2014
To view NLIHC’s press release on the report, go to: http://nlihc.org/press/releases/4214

Massachusetts State Report: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/2014-OOR-MA.pdf

WaterSense celebrates Fix a Leak Week

L3_leaks_laundry_31114While Fix a leak week may be almost over, it’s always a good practice to check for leaks in your home!

Easy-to-fix household leaks account for more than one trillion gallons of water wasted each year across the United States, equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes. In the race against water waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging people to fix household water leaks during the sixth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 17 through 23, 2014.

Water leaking from dripping faucets, showerheads and worn toilet flappers in one average American home can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, or the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry. These types of leaks are often easily correctable, in many cases requiring only a few tools and hardware that can pay for themselves in water savings. Fixing household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.

“A household can waste thousands of gallons from leaky plumbing fixtures and sprinkler systems, which is especially bad news if your community is suffering from a drought,” said Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “Three simple steps—checking for leaks, twisting and tightening pipe connections, and replacing fixtures where needed can help people conserve water and save money on their utility bills.”

Finding and fixing leaks is simple to do in three easy steps:

  1. Check for leaks: Look for dripping faucets, showerheads and fixture connections. Check toilets for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank at the back of the toilet and wait 10 minutes before flushing to see if color shows up in the bowl. If there is color, the toilet flapper likely needs to be replaced, which is an easy repair to make. Check irrigation systems and spigots too.
  2. Twist and tighten pipe connections: If your showerhead is dripping, make sure there is a tight connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem. It may just need a twist to tighten or some pipe tape to secure it.
  3. Replace the fixture if necessary: If you’re in the mood for an upgrade, look for WaterSense-labeled models, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models.

To learn more about finding and fixing leaks, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak.

Cuba – A Changing Landscape

2013 - December - Cuba 11by Scott Andrew Bartley

Board member Drew Bartley had the opportunity to visit Cuba in December 2013 on a housing professional’s tour centered in Havana and arranged by the Mass. Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) of which RCAP Solutions is a member. Though Cuba is the forbidden exotic destination for Americans, it is a common stop for others around the world. It is a step back in time, 1959 to be exact, the date of the Revolution. The temperatures are tropical and the local people warm and friendly. That is the backdrop for this story about housing.

Remember that Cuba is a communist country. It has limited resources and access to outside material under the U.S. embargo that has been in effect since the early 1960s. One thing the government believes in is housing. Its mandate is that everyone deserves housing – owned, rented, or subsidized. Realize that their version differs dramatically from the U.S., but the underlying concept would serve us well here. Various housing and redevelopment groups are currently focused on Old Havana – the most densely populated area that is steeped in history and glorious architecture. In this part of the city, they have created a school to teach students the skills to rebuild or renovate these building that form one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sites inside the old 1519 city and its walls. The program helps provide jobs for the youth, carries on the tradition of skills to maintain this world treasure, and benefits those most in need by providing housing where they need it most.

Outside the city, Cubans have developed two styles of communal living to serve large numbers of citizens while focusing infrastructure such as water and power in centralized areas. East Havana is home to a housing project where the design creates the density for a sustainable community along with the larger and smaller commercial businesses to support itself for the long term with education systems and health care built in. Infrastructure is planned to keep the land as open as possible, with housing set away from busy streets, and a safe haven for children of all ages. The rural concept is to bring the local farmers into a small community where all central services can be provided with minimal cost. Food, water, utilities, health, and other services are provided in the community. Surrounding these communities is the farmers’ land where they grow crops and graze animals that can easily be brought into the system through the small community they support. In exchange, the farmers deed their old land to the government.

The benefit of the Cuban plan is a variety of options, a national vision, and a resolve to do right by all its citizens. Every plan has its pros and cons, but in Cuba, it is interwoven with the political machine. That said, the citizens benefit most if they agree with and support the Communist system there. A few at the top do get some housing perks, but the majority waits their turn. It goes for others things like food – which is rationed, but that does not mean there will be meat at the store when you want it.

The system tries to be fair to the extreme. Everyone knows what they will be paid when they try for a job. The pay scales are set for your life. No amount of exceptional work will better your situation.  The system breeds a lack of incentive and it shows. This structure creates little growth or surplus to fuel the economy for improvement. The government is now wondering if they can afford to continue the service it now provides for everyone. This includes housing to the point that the government is considering prioritizing certain needier populations to receive the subsidized housing first.

Change is afoot. Raoul Castro has allowed limited private and public partnerships for certain businesses, but it still maintains a strict control over most Cubans’ lives. This is a start, but the process is likely to be a very slow one. As one official told us, “Enjoy my country, but don’t try to understand it!”

IMG_2701Back row: David Koven (developer); Joe Krisberg (MACDC Director); Diane Gordon (housing consultant); Cuban colleague; Drew Bartley (RCAP Solutions); Marissa Guananja (Neighborhood Developers in Chelsea); Mickey Northcutt (North Shore CDC Director); Bruce Hampton (architect)

Middle row: Russ Tanner (Madison Park CDC); Four Cuban colleagues; Chris Norris (MBHP director); Richard Thal (J.P. CDC) [behind him] Mel Westlake (Historic Newton); Valeska Daley (consultant) Cuban colleague; Sue Hampton; Steve Farrell (MBHP) [in front of him] Cuban colleague

Front row: Cuban colleague; Shirronda Almeida (MACDC); Dr. Gina Rey (Cuban housing leader); Tom Davis (Recap Advisors consultant); Pam Bender (MACDC); Chrystal Kornegay (Urban Edge Director); Vanessa Calderon-Rosado (IBA CDC); Cuban colleague; Janelle Chan (Asian CDC)

Kneeling: Cuban colleague

Spring 2014 Watershed to Well

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The Spring Watershed to Well is now available!  

You may access it by clicking here.

If you are not currently on the email distribution list, but would like to be added, please contact Maegen McCaffrey at mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org.

 

Pine Hill Water District always looks forward to RCAP’s assistance

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Candace Balmer, Water Resource Specialist

The Town of Shandaken, located in southern New York, was named after the native phrase “land of rapid waters” and is home to Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskill Mountains. Shandaken is also home to The Pine Hill Water District, formed by the Town to take over an abandoned private water company serving over 200 mostly residential properties.

When  the Town initially took over the hamlet’s drinking water system, they had to make some improvements to comply with public health requirements.  This involved rehabilitating their water source, constructing a new storage reservoir, and replacing aging distribution mains.

RCAP Solutions helped the Town secure over $1.5 million in New York State Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and USDA Rural Development monies to upgrade the drinking water system.  RCAP Solutions also provided technical assistance to the Town on such issues as securing engineering and construction services, managing the project budget, providing documentation to funders, conducting a rate structure evaluation, and coordinating with primacy agencies and funders.

Most recently, RCAP Solutions has been assisting the Water District to evaluate the cost and funding options associated with several other system improvements, including remediating one of their wells, recently found to be under the direct influence of surface water (GWUDI); remediating their spring sources; and replacing several hundred feet of undersized distribution main that had not been part of the original upgrade project.

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RCAP Solutions is also helping them to develop a comprehensive asset management plan as well as a capital reserve strategy to assure funding for ongoing repair and replacement of critical components.

They also appreciate RCAP Solutions.  Mr. Clark said: “The Pine Hill Water District always looks forward to RCAP’s assistance.  With RCAP’s help, we have been able to move the Pine Hill Water District in a forward direction, both in terms of infrastructure and finances.”

Improving the water system has been deeply appreciated by the residents and businesses of this picturesque community, as has the diligence and professionalism of their Water Superintendent, Don Clark.

Photo: Don Clark, Pine Hill Water Superintendent beside the access door to one of the spring collection boxes.