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People Who Won’t Give Up on Housing

The federal government has been withdrawing from creating affordable housing for a long time. Housing for poor families, senior citizens and the homeless is sorely needed on a substantial scale--far beyond the capabilities of local governments.

So who will help?

In Los Angeles, at least, some people are trying. A new community development collaborative, formed by major philanthropic foundations, will invest in permanently affordable housing to be constructed or rehabilitated by neighborhood-based nonprofit developers. That commitment, a new experience for most of the charities involved, will provide as many as 750 affordable rental apartments in the first year alone.

The local effort follows the lead of a national program announced last month by some foundations. That National Community Development Initiative will provide $62.5 million in loans and grants to nonprofit housing developers in 20 cities.

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One of the national donors, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, earmarked half of its impressive $6-million investment for Los Angeles. The Los Angeles collaborative will also get $500,000 from the Ford Foundation and support from nine local foundations. All of these philanthropies deserve kudos for their far-sighted investment.

The honor roll for the local housing grants includes substantial contributions from the James Irvine Foundation, the California Community Foundation, the Local Initiatives Support Corp., the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the ARCO Foundation, Security Pacific Bank, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the Times Mirror Foundation and Great Western Bank.

All these grants are renewable, and could translate into a continuing commitment to decent housing for poor people sorely in need.

But charity alone cannot do the massive job. Local governments must continue to play a major role to counter the steep decline in federal support. That won’t be easy given the competing needs on the table at City Hall. But the Los Angeles Housing Commission has approved allocating $150,000 to the new collaborative. That amount wouldn’t even buy a house in most neighborhoods of the city, but the public dollars can be leveraged with private donations, tax credits and other housing support to do some real good.

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The Local Initiative Support Corp. will manage the collaborative’s significant investment to support community leadership and produce more housing for people in need. With the federal government out to lunch, it’s nice to know that there are still some people who care.


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