1000 Friends of Florida presented its “Community Steward Award” to the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Consortium at the December 10 meeting of the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency. “Lake Worth is to be commended for its vision and creativity,” says 1000 Friends of Florida President Charles Pattison. “Thanks to a strong and effective partnership, Lake Worth has successfully leveraged federal, private and local funding and programs to provide affordable, sustainable housing in its redevelopment area.”
As with many Florida communities, Lake Worth was hit hard by the recent economic crisis with almost 40 percent of all downtown homes in foreclosure. In response, a group of 20 partners came together to form the Lake Worth CRA Consortium. The Consortium secured $23.2 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) funding in 2010 to rehabilitate and construct more than 130 properties in the target area while ensuring affordability and sustainability.
This program has enabled the City to revitalize an economically distressed neighborhood, one block at a time. Without neighborhood support and the assistance from all our valuable partners, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, we would not have been able to provide the much needed housing so many families and individuals need,” says Joan Oliva of the CRA. “This undertaking was not only about building much needed housing but also providing a holistic approach to community development that included the provision of educational and training opportunities, jobs and social services. “
Suzanne Cabrera, from the Housing Leadership Coalition stated, “It is so gratifying to drive down the streets of downtown Lake Worth and see the revitalization that has occurred in the residential neighborhoods. After decades of decline and neglect there is now housing that is safe, affordable, and energy efficient that are occupied by homeowners who are proud to call the City of Lake Worth their home.”
Adopt-A-Family (AFF) of the Palm Beaches provided approximately 20 new rental and 20 new home-ownership opportunities in the target area. AAF was successful in renting all of its units to those households making less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), thus fulfilling one of the goals of the program to house low and moderate income households. Housing Partnership offered homebuyer education and counseling for all homebuyers. Each homebuyer was also offered an Individual Development Account (IDA), a matched savings account which can turn $2,000 in savings into a $6,000 down payment.
Another Consortium member, Habitat for Humanity, built or rehabilitated 36 homes, with families investing “sweat equity” in return for a 30-year, no-interest loan on their homes. Other partners included Palm Beach State College, Housing Leadership Council, the Urban Group and many other educational and social service providers.
The Urban Arts Lofts, built by the Lake Worth CRA, consists of 12 townhomes designed so that artists can live upstairs and work in first floor studios. The development is built in the heart of the redevelopment area, within walking distance to downtown and will serve as a catalyst for future development in the new mixed-use area of the City.
The CRA recently completed a project with the Trust for Public Land and other partners to create a neighborhood park complete with exercise equipment. The CRA will soon offer children’s playground equipment at the Park with the help of Kaboom and other community partners.
1000 Friends’ Community Steward Award is presented annually to individuals, organizations, local governments, agencies, and public/private partnerships that have brought about positive and lasting change in the way their community manages growth. 1000 Friends of Florida has presented four other awards over the course of 2013. A statewide nonprofit organization, 1000 Friends was founded in 1986 to serve as Florida’s growth management watchdog. It has been presenting awards for innovative growth management efforts since 1990.