Gary Bachman is the program manager for the Pima Neighborhood Investment Partnership, a Pima County program that brings together the city of Tucson and seven area nonprofits to stabilize neighborhoods affected by the foreclosure crisis. The project is turning vacant and foreclosed properties into owner- or tenant-occupied, energy-efficient homes in areas that have been hardest-hit. For more information on the project, visit www.pnip.org, or call 295-2925.
Who started this project, and why?
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program was part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act under the Bush administration (in 2008) and handed out as an entitlement. Pima County and the city of Tucson both received allocations, but this particular project was funded through the stimulus. We formed a consortium with the city, the county and seven nonprofits in order to apply for the funds.
You received $22 million. What was the application process?
We had a number of community meetings where we looked at the application and discussed it, and hired a grant-writer. We threw ideas together before we even selected who would be the applicant. The county was asked to apply on behalf of the consortium. We were actually the highest-ranked application in the country out of 480 applications.
What are the different projects each nonprofit is working on as part of this grant?
Habitat for Humanity Tucson, Old Pueblo Community Services and Chicanos por la Causa are building 61 homes in three stalled subdivisions—Corazon del Pueblo, Sunnyside Pointe and what's now called Liberty Corners. The Primavera Foundation, Family Housing Resources, the Southern Arizona Land Trust and the Pima County Community Land Trust are buying and working on single-family homes and multi-family properties for sale or to rent to low-to-medium-income households.
Are there areas identified as a particular concern for the county?
Well, for instance, Primavera works in the city of South Tucson. That is an area that has a lot of issues with abandonment and foreclosure. In the grant, we've targeted neighborhoods most impacted by foreclosures—the hardest-hit neighborhoods. We looked at areas with the lowest-income neighborhoods, the highest number of foreclosures, and the largest number of folks with subprime loans.
What is the overall area this program covers in Pima County?
It goes from 22nd Street down to the (Tucson International Airport), then from Davis-Monthan (Air Force Base) to the Cardinal/Valencia area and 29th Street corridor.
To you, what is the overall purpose of the program?
It's about stabilizing neighborhoods. Earlier, we did a down-payment assistance program that provided $20,000 for folks to buy foreclosed homes, and we assisted 101 families in about seven or eight months. It ended last March. A lot of people who shopped smartly bought newer homes, because half of the homes out there that were foreclosed on were built after 2005 and were considered energy-efficient.
Any plans for new projects?
What we hope is that Congress passes Project Rebuild, which would allow us to expand the target area and be more flexible in our investments. Right now, we only do housing, but that would allow us to look at commercial investments and more land-banking opportunities. One thing we haven't pointed out here is that this project has created 20 jobs, which includes our staff and the contractors.
How many families, total, have been helped so far?
The Community Land Trust is starting to rent up some homes. There's an inventory of 30 to 40 homes. Habitat has done nine homes and has another 16 under construction. Old Pueblo, through Sunnyside Pointe, has done 23 homes.
Does the county now look at neighborhood improvement differently?
One thing I've tried to infuse is this: The government isn't known for being nimble, but when you work with nonprofits, we have to be nimble. It's important. We worked with the Drachman Institute. ... We learned that neighborhoods really support this, because they understand what it means to have vacant homes on their streets. ... We have also looked at what other communities are doing with this money. It's given us ideas on how to use our block-grant funds into the future, targeting investments and working with neighborhoods.