Below is a message from president David Snell regarding Government Funding for Fuller Center projects…
We are living in interesting times! As the government seeks to help get the economy back on track a number of initiatives have come forward, among them Weatherization, Neighborhood Stabilization (NSP) and Real Estate Owned (REO) foreclosure sales. These programs present us with some opportunities, but they also carry risks. As we study them and their adaptability to our work we need to remain mindful of our foundational principle governing the use of government funds:
The Fuller Center does not seek and will not accept government funds for the construction of houses. The Fuller Center welcomes partnerships with governments that include accepting funds to help set the stage for construction, provided that doing so does not limit our ability to proclaim our Christian witness, and does not create dependency or undue control on the Covenant Partner. Setting the stage means the donation of land and/or houses for rehabilitation, providing infrastructure for streets, walks and utilities, and assistance with administrative expenses. These limitations do not apply to government funds coming from third parties who have sole discretion over their use. (cit. Partnership Covenant)
An additional discussion on the use of Government Funds can be found in our online Operations Manual. The Weatherization Program is a case in point. The analyses we’ve seen indicate that some 70% of that money is designated for Direct Weatherization Services, which would be ‘construction’ according to our definition. This, then, would be money that we would not accept according to our government funds policy unless those funds come through third parties and they do not continue to carry restrictions on our Christian foundation or create undue control. The other line items, for training, administration and support expenses would be acceptable.
In Americus, we are modeling an alternative weatherization. Instead of competing for this money against local programs that traditionally accept government funding, we are building collaborations with them, partnering with the local Community Action Agency which has a Weatherization program and professionally performs blower door tests and carbon monoxide testing and then applies appropriate remedies to houses by installing insulation and energy efficient HVAC systems. There are limitations to the types of work that Weatherization funds can be used for and our Fuller Center can pick up at this point, making the accessible housing modifications, providing roof repairs and painting. Through this collaboration we stretch our dollars and do not violate our history of not working for homeowners who have access funding through existing programs. So the challenge is not "how do we get the Weatherization money," but rather becomes "how can we collaborate with existing Weatherization programs?"
With regard to REO foreclosure properties we need to assure that any properties we acquire under this program meet our criteria of being simple and decent; that they are located in neighborhoods that we can have a positive impact on; and that we have qualified families to put into them. There are philosophical, and perhaps legal, issues that argue against acquiring larger REO properties, using volunteers to renovate them, and then selling them on the open market, even with the assurance that the profits would benefit the covenant partner. We encourage your board to think creatively about how these new funding opportunities might be used in ways that affirm our principles and advance your work. As opportunities arise feel free to discuss them with Kirk Lyman-Barner, our Director of US Field Operations. He is staying on top of developments as can be helpful to you in thinking the issues through. Thank you for all that you are doing to advance the mission and vision of the Fuller Center. May the good Lord continue to bless your efforts.
In Christian partnership,
David Snell President
The Fuller Center for Housing