A Word About Why We Do This Work

Categories: ,

By Andrew DeFranza

The following is an excerpt of Andrew’s speech at the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce Leadership Series event on 4/2/2017.

Glad to be here with all of you in this excellent place. Special thanks to John Somes and the good folks at the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce, my long time friend and missional co conspirator Meg Kelley, and our host the ever affable and sometimes injured Thomas Holland, of A&B Burger, and our excellent sponsors the Haights of Prevare LLC.

Harborlight Community Partners:

  • Who are we?
    • HCP is a long standing non profit organization affiliated with the First Baptist Church across the street. In some form or other this group has been active for decades trying to find ways to make sure economically vulnerable people were included in our community.
  • What do we do?
    • We are engaged in four main activities.
      1. We manage or support affordable housing throughout the region. We are currently involved with 366 units on the North Shore in 8 communities. This is soon to be 392 in 9 communities as we embark on a new project in Salem later this year. These are homes for seniors, working families, people with disabilities or those who were homeless.  You may know Turtle Creek, Turtle Woods or Harborlight House in Beverly.
      2. We also develop affordable housing including the permitting, community engagement and financing of projects. Right now we are working on 5 projects including a new and exciting concept on Sohier/Tozer Road in Beverly. We expect this to include over 220 units over the next decade.
      3. We work with key partners like the North Shore YMCA, Montserrat College of Art,  Lifebridge, Senior Care, Element Care, and North Shore Elder Services to build unique service models for our residents. Harborlight House for example is a one of a kind integrated housing and services model for frail low income seniors that allows them to age in place and avoid the expensive and dehumanizing experience of being forced to accept skilled nursing as housing of last resort.
      4. Finally, we are increasingly more active with public education and advocacy for various affordable housing concepts and opportunities.
    • We are mainly social entrepreneurs. We work with financial, land use and public systems to create and operate a product for people who need it but cannot afford to purchase it. This is much like other public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water and education.  Mainly though we work with community building and community relationships….which I suppose in some ways is how we got here.
  • Why? So why do we do this? We get asked this….a lot and lately have been thinking about ways to communicate our answer.
    • There is a tremendous need right now and it is rooted in economics, specifically the volume of people that do jobs or have fixed sources which earn incomes less than 60% Area Median Income (AMI) ($60,000 family of four) or 80% AMI ($75,000) and the manner which we create land use policy.  We think it is important to meet this need.
    • There are many, many people who are doing jobs which we depend on as a society but whose incomes in those jobs are not sufficient to secure housing in the market. The people who cut our grass, care for our children and our elderly parents, work in retail establishments, pour our coffee and our beer…. it should be possible for people who are in community with us to live as a member of that community
    • Furthermore our land use laws have elevated single family housing such that the majority of developable land in the State can only be built with single family housing. This creates a fabricated shortage which cannot meet the demand. Therefore we have an increase in price. Think of an intentional sibling initiated  kink in a hose when as a child you desperately wanted a drink…..  We made this problem and we enforce it to the real harm of real people.  Thankfully problems we cause we can fix.
    •  By way of demand  HCP has a number of buildings for seniors in the region. In five of those buildings we have 247 units and 623 people slotted on the waiting list. 252%. Most people will die on that list.

If you want to elevate this discussion really we at HCP want to decrease pain and  increase opportunity. Housing is the means to those ends as it were.

We want to reduce pain for people who are afraid and economically vulnerable. We want to provide them a demonstrable sign of community good will by making sure there are safe, affordable places for them to live. People who struggle with disabilities that impact their income, seniors who have labored in the community for decades who in their later years struggle to find a place to make a home, those who are homeless and need a supported opportunity to regain their independence and find ways to contribute.

We want to provide opportunity for working families to build a life. Places where children can grow up with stability knowing the support structure of a great school community, of youth sports, of local places of faith and local businesses. We want those kids to know they are wanted and included so they have a chance to make better lives for themselves and their children. That part is about giving people a chance. So that is who we are, what we do and why we do it. Simple I guess?