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Analysis of Community Builder Program Report
This report represents the results of our consulting project conducted for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) under Task Order T04, Contract C-OPC-18531. Pursuant to the task order statement of work, this report gives HUD our analysis of the Community Builder Program (“Program”). The report summarizes the findings of our work, which included reviewing selected case studies and conducting various interviews related to the Program.
We appreciate the opportunity to assist HUD on this important project.
ERNST & YOUNG LLP
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This report is provided pursuant to our consulting services to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD” or the “Department”) related to an assessment of the effectiveness of HUD’s Community Builder Program (the “Program”). The Program is one of the centerpieces of HUD’s 2020 Management Reform effort.
HUD’s Community Builders perform outreach to their communities and provide information and technical assistance to HUD’s customers. They are comprised of both career HUD employees and “Community Builder Fellows” hired for limited terms and work primarily for other civil service managers throughout HUD’s 81 field offices. HUD’s career Community Builders assumed their new positions within the Department from March to August of 1998. HUD hired its first class of external Community Builder Fellows in September and October of 1998 and its second class in March of 1999. While it is too soon to perform a complete review of the Program because of its newness, Community Builders have been in the field long enough for us to make some initial observations and analyses based on the procedures we performed as described later in this report.
This report summarizes our findings and observations from our reviews of sampled case studies, which were drawn solely from the population of 718 case studies provided by HUD, and related interviews. Overall, Community Builders were viewed by most interviewees to be responsive, resourceful and effective community partners. In addition, our reviews of the cases and interviews indicate that the Community Builders’ work can be characterized as supporting each of the Department’s six strategic objectives. Most interviewees indicated that Community Builders have improved the working relationship between HUD and the communities they serve. Many interviewees indicated that Community Builders are proactive and a good source of knowledge concerning HUD programs for the community. The comments and observations made to us by HUD’s customers and other stakeholders interviewed for the selected case studies have been grouped into the following key findings which are summarized in this report:
Some interviewees were high in their praise noting:
B. Key Findings and Other Observations
1. Community Builders Are Providing Increased Customer Service and Responsiveness to Community Needs and Requests
Most interviewees found Community Builders to be responsive to their needs and requests, and timely in addressing them. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of respondents stated they were favorably impressed with the Community Builder and would call them again. In addition, ninety-two percent (92%) said they were pleased with the Community Builder’s performance. Many interviewees gave high praise when asked about the work of Community Builders. For example, various customers indicated that Community Builders:
2. Community Builders Are Expanding Outreach to New and in Some Cases Previously Under Served Partners
Based on the selected case studies and interviews, one of the most significant aspects of Community Builders’ performance is their ability to bring people together to form partnerships. The new partnerships fostered by Community Builders included many groups that had no prior relationship with HUD. These partnerships demonstrate that Community Builders are meeting one of their key goals – community outreach and liaison. Our findings indicate that Community Builders are reaching out to a diverse group of community organizations in order to form these partnerships including:
Sixty-five percent (65%) of respondents indicated that the Community Builders were actively involved in outreach efforts to the community. Sixty-five percent (65%) of customers affirmed an increased awareness of HUD’s programs and offices as a result of their interaction with the Community Builder. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the interviewees’ organizations could be categorized as “new partners” of HUD. A number of interviewees also found the Community Builders to be effective sources of information for non-HUD related programs.
3. Community Builders Are Facilitating Working Partnerships - Furthering the Department’s Mission of Providing Economic Development and Affordable Housing
As envisioned by HUD’s 2020 Management Reform Plan, the selected case studies and interviews indicated Community Builders are forming new working partnerships with HUD customers. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of interviewees stated the HUD Community Builder was an effective facilitator of partnerships, bringing one or more parties together to address community issues. Eighty-four percent (84%) of case studies reviewed indicated that Community Builders are working towards restoring or improving public trust in HUD. Examples of this included Community Builders initiating contact with partners who have had no previous experience with HUD, facilitating the exchange of information about HUD’s programs, or providing information on various HUD programs.
4. Community Builders Are Utilizing Valuable Private Sector Experience and Skills to Benefit the Public Sector
Another significant aspect of Community Builders' performance indicated by the selected case studies and interviews has been their ability to add value to their current positions by using skills and contacts from past professional experiences. Various Community Builders have also used their professional contacts to facilitate programs and activities. The case studies and interviews showed Community Builders combining private and public sector experience with a knowledge of HUD programs to better serve HUD’s clients.
One example of the positive impact of private sector skills and knowledge occurred in Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation Housing Authority (“CNHA”) approached HUD for assistance. CNHA needed technical assistance in structuring and evaluating a proposed issue of tax exempt securities to finance the construction of additional low income housing for the Cherokee Nation. After helping the CNHA determine that the bond issue was not economically feasible, the local Community Builder was able to bring several alternative financing options to the attention of CNHA officials. According to the case study and interviews, this was possible because the Community Builder had an extensive private sector financial background gained prior to working for HUD. Not only was CNHA a satisfied customer, it noted that in the past HUD was merely a Federal agency to which it reported, but now the Community Builder has established HUD as a partner in its community development efforts.
5. Community Builders Are Furthering the Department’s Strategic Objectives
HUD’s Annual Performance Plan establishes six strategic objectives for the Department. Every case study reviewed demonstrated progress toward at least one strategic objective. The majority of the case studies addressed multiple objectives. The strategic objectives that selected Community Builders most frequently helped address were restoring the public trust (84%), through their efforts to reach out to new HUD customers and facilitate the exchange of information regarding HUD programs, and empowering communities (68%) as these terms are defined later in this report.
Interviewees noted various ways in which Community Builders were restoring the public trust in HUD. For example, one HUD customer, an employee of a federal bank regulator, said that she previously avoided using HUD programs because dealing with the Department was difficult and cumbersome. Now that she has worked with a Community Builder she is more inclined to use HUD programs.
6. Other Observations - Interviewees’ Concerns and Recommendations
Interviewee comments regarding concerns and recommendations were relatively few compared to their positive comments and were provided to give HUD opportunities to improve the Program. Some respondents indicated a desire for more information and clarification of the Community Builders’ roles and responsibilities. For example, one interviewee noted that a Community Builder played a significant role in an enforcement action, a role the interviewee thought may be more appropriate for a Public Trust Officer. In addition, another interviewee voiced a concern that the Community Builder Program may be diverting resources away from enforcement activities. Others noted that the Program needed to be in place longer to see results. One interviewee hoped that Community Builders could focus on systemic change in their community rather than focusing on individual casework. Some interviewees expressed a concern that their Community Builders needed additional experience and familiarity with their particular community and its housing issues.
C. Recommendations for Future Program Evaluation
As part of our engagement, HUD asked us to recommend methods for future evaluation of the Community Builder Program. We understand from HUD that it is currently piloting a document database system know as the Community Builder Information System. We recommend HUD use this system to facilitate continuous program evaluation and maintain a centralized repository for case specific activities. We also suggest that HUD consider developing a customer satisfaction questionnaire to periodically assess customer and stakeholder satisfaction. In addition, the Department should also ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the Program are clearly understood by other HUD employees and provide training where needed. The Department may wish to study other government agencies and businesses to review their methods for determining effectiveness of similar programs.
D. Engagement Parameters
Under the terms of our engagement, which commenced September 2, 1999, we selected and reviewed a sample of 25 representative case studies (out of a population of 718 case studies provided) prepared by Community Builders. These case studies described specific examples of work performed under the Program. In addition, we interviewed over 51 external HUD stakeholders identified in the selected case studies, including government officials, nonprofit organizations, public housing authorities, and other HUD customers and partners involved in the selected case studies. Interviews focused primarily on how HUD’s Community Builders worked to further the Department’s mission in terms of:
Our sample of case studies was drawn solely from the population of case studies provided by HUD. The terms and scope of our engagement did not provide for us to independently verify or otherwise test the completeness of the overall case study population provided. Further, this report is based solely on information submitted by the Community Builders, HUD, and individuals interviewed. In addition, all case study interview sources were individuals whom the Community Builders identified as references in their individual selected case studies. Our findings and observations relate solely to the selected case studies. The scope of our engagement did not provide for us to interview HUD employees regarding the Community Builder Program. These and other engagement parameters are described in more detail in Section V of our report. This project was considered a consulting engagement under standards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
II. OVERVIEW OF THE COMMUNITY BUILDER PROGRAM
A. Development of the Community Builder Program
The Community Builder Program was conceived in the HUD 2020 Management Reform Plan. HUD 2020 Management Reform #4 called for the Department to “[r]efocus and retrain HUD’s workforce to carry out our revitalized mission.” As part of this reform, HUD proposed the creation of two distinct functions for HUD employees:
1. Community Builders (f/k/a Community Resource Representatives)
Community Builders serve as HUD's “front door," helping HUD’s customers effectively gain access to HUD programs. These employees cut across HUD's traditional program cylinders, providing technical knowledge about finance, housing, economic development, other HUD programs and other resources.
2. Public Trust Officers
The Public Trust Officer position grew out of the Department’s zero tolerance for waste, fraud, and abuse. Public Trust Officers are front line monitors who ensure that federal funds are used appropriately and in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and rules.
Previously all these functions were performed by the same employees. Community Builders work closely with HUD’s Public Trust Officers to link back office operations and the communities HUD serves, resolving policy and regulatory issues and ensuring effective program participation.
HUD separated these two critical functions to give employees more defined roles and to decrease confusion when dealing with customers and partners, as well as to enhance performance and improve customer service. The Department drew upon talent from both inside and outside the agency to fill the ranks of Community Builders. The new HUD employees – known as Community Builder Fellows – contracted with HUD to serve two year terms as Community Builders in their localities.
B. Community Builder Role and Responsibilities
The Community Builder Program was designed as HUD’s “front door” or “face” to the community, serving as the access point to HUD programs and services. Based on our understanding of the Program from the sampled case studies and interviews and assuming the recommendations in this report are implemented, we believe the Community Builder Program can prove to be a model of government management innovation and reinvention success. Community Builders are facilitators in cross-program planning and dispute resolution in local communities. They provide information about HUD programs, and educate customers about how to leverage HUD resources and how HUD programs work in conjunction with other federal, state, and local programs. Community Builders' responsibilities include:
Various interviewees recognized and appreciated the Community Builders’ ability to access multiple programs within HUD or other resources to help HUD partners develop approaches to their communities’ needs such as housing, economic development, or disaster relief initiatives. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of interviewees also indicated that they would call upon the Community Builder again. Ninety-two percent (92%) of interviewees indicated that they were pleased with the Community Builders’ performance. These results, along with our understanding of the Program and considering the recommendations in this report, support our belief that the Community Builder Program may serve as an innovative government model of improved customer service for government institutions at all levels.
Through the development of HUD field offices’ annual Business and Operating Plans (“BOPs”), Community Builders play an important role along with Public Trust Officers in developing objectives and action items to help field offices meet their BOP goals. Community Builders help identify the strategies, community needs, key actions, and resources needed to achieve each goal in the BOP. Each Community Builder’s planned activities in the BOP are tailored to meet the needs of that community.
Seven key functions are considered when developing the field office BOP. The BOP-related functions for which Community Builders are responsible include:
These functions support HUD’s mission and each of the Department’s six strategic objectives.
C. The First Year of the Community Builder Program
Community Builder positions are filled from two sources — HUD and the general public. To date, 381 career HUD employees have become Community Builders through an internal competitive selection process. HUD also established the Community Builders Fellowship to attract qualified candidates from the private sector for temporary appointments. This infusion of new talent gives HUD skills and expertise drawn from Fellows’ prior experience and professional expertise. Once Community Builder Fellows exit the program, HUD expects they will remain active in community housing and development issues. HUD received nearly 9,000 applications for the 230 positions in the inaugural Community Builder Fellows class. Over 1,400 interviews were conducted during a rigorous selection process run by the Department’s civil servants. As of the date of this report, there are currently 406 Community Builder Fellows of a total 787 Community Builders, throughout HUD’s 81 field offices.
D. Training for Community Builders
HUD gives all Community Builders two weeks of orientation training at HUD’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Three additional weeks of training at the Kennedy School supplements this HUD training. Of the three weeks at the Kennedy School, Community Builders receive two weeks at the beginning of their tenure, and one week of training after their first year.
The combination of HUD training and Kennedy School training gives Community Builders both a practical introduction to HUD as well as an overview of community development issues, leadership approaches, and change management theories. The HUD Community Builders Executive Education Training Program, introduces the Community Builder to HUD’s internal structure, policies, and programs. HUD employees from all program areas and specialties train the Community Builders and give them a comprehensive foundation in the Department’s mission and initiatives. The training program also provides practical guidance on ethics and other administrative issues of employment. The training provided to Community Builders gives them a strong foundation for addressing the needs of their communities. The training program helps ensure that Community Builders have requisite knowledge of HUD programs.
The Kennedy School’s training emphasizes community development strategies and the problem solving and leadership skills that Community Builders can use to effectively carry out their duties. The faculty uses case study methodology to develop analytical reasoning skills and to generate discussion among class participants. These sessions are held at Harvard and are taught by Kennedy School faculty. The Kennedy School training was designed with three goals in mind:
Community Builders also receive ongoing training on current issues facing communities and the department via live satellite broadcast. Previous seminars have included welfare-to-work, public housing, elderly continuum of care and Brownfields.
III. SUMMARY OF RESULTS FROM CASE STUDY REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
In an August 16, 1999 written request from HUD’s Office of Field Policy and Management, Community Builders were asked to prepare case studies to summarize their achievements to fulfill information requests received by the Department from certain Members of Congress. On September 7, 1999, HUD provided us 718 such case studies. After selecting and reviewing a representative sample of 25 case studies, as discussed in more detail in Section V of this report, we interviewed 51 contacts listed in the case studies as having knowledge of the Community Builder activities described. Interview respondents were asked about their experiences with the Community Builders and the activities identified in the selected case studies. We compiled over 800 interviewee observations regarding various aspects of the Community Builders’ performance and effectiveness to date. While some of the Community Builder activities described in the case studies were complete, others are ongoing; the full effectiveness of these continuing activities may not be known until a later date.
In addition, all interviewees were asked if they had any concerns and recommendations regarding the Community Builders. The following summarizes the results of our case study reviews and interviews.
Based on the individual case studies reviewed, Community Builders engaged in a variety of activities including:
B. Community Builders are Providing Increased Customer Service and Responsiveness to Community Needs and Requests
The Community Builder’s goal is to act as a single point of contact for HUD customers and provide easier access to the full range of HUD programs and services. Most interviewees stated that the Community Builders responded in a timely manner to requests for assistance from the community. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of respondents stated that they were favorably impressed with the Community Builder and would contact them again. In addition, ninety two percent (92%) of respondents were pleased with the Community Builders’ performance. Community Builders were described as:
For example, in one case study from Nevada, a Community Builder provided timely response and anticipated the communities' needs regarding community development planning. One interviewee, the director of community development in a small town, told us that he contacted the Community Builder after having been referred to HUD by the Small Business Administration. The Community Builder arranged for a HUD team to travel 170 miles to visit this community and work with local officials to assess the economic development needs of the community and help devise a comprehensive strategy to meet those needs. Another interviewee, a town board chairperson in another small town in Nevada, received an unsolicited call from the Community Builder to see if that locality needed any assistance with its community development planning. This call led to a visit from a Community Builder and a Public Trust Officer.
In both instances, the interviewees indicated that the HUD team identified areas of need within each town and presented several strategies for addressing them. The Community Builder not only identified potential sources of HUD funding, but provided technical assistance in community development planning as well.
In a case study from Milwaukee, a local Community Development Corporation (“CDC”) requested that a Community Builder assist with a crime mapping initiative, which would allow the CDC to highlight crime trends and hot spots. According to the case studies and interviews the Community Builder, equipped with HUD’s Community 2020 Geographic Information System (GIS) software, was able to help the CDC develop crime maps, graphs, and tables to illustrate the community’s crime statistics. The Community Builder formed a partnership between the CDC, HUD, and a local high school, engaging the school’s students in entering crime data into the GIS system. The Community Builder assessed the data and created timely reporting mechanisms. This was apparently not a one-time effort. Through the help of the Community Builder, the crime data will be updated weekly with the results posted on a community web site, giving the whole community access to the information. Within six months of starting this project, HUD and the CDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding for one year to enable the Community Builder to continue to commit time to this project.
C. Community Builders Are Expanding Outreach to New and in Some Cases Previously Under Served Partners
Our findings indicate that HUD is forming new partnerships with customers due to the work of Community Builders. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of interviewees could be characterized as new partners of HUD. Sixty-five percent (65%) of interviewees affirmed an increased awareness of HUD’s programs and offices after interacting with the Community Builders. Some interviewees also utilized the Community Builders as effective sources of information for non-HUD related programs. Examples of new partners included:
In many case studies, the new partner was working with HUD for the first time. In some other cases the partner may already have had an existing relationship with HUD but only within a specific program area. For example, a local government entity that receives Community Development Block Grant funding from HUD is now accessing another source of HUD funding for the first time, based on the efforts of a Community Builder.
Sixty-five percent (65%) of the respondents indicated that the Community Builders were actively involved in outreach efforts to diverse sectors of the community. These efforts ranged from holding seminars in the community about federal resources and initiatives to speaking with public housing residents to better understand their needs and concerns.
For example, in Southeast Fresno, a Community Builder became involved in the “Weed and Seed” Program to reach out to several new partners in the local community. The Department of Justice provides grants for the Weed and Seed Program, which aims to deter criminal activities in neighborhoods and encourage positive community building. The Community Builder also persuaded the United Way to become involved with the program. With the program underway, the Community Builder provides ongoing economic development guidance to the area’s community groups and regularly walks through the neighborhood talking to local residents about their ideas and concerns regarding the program. In this case, the interviewees’ Community Builder identified resources and facilitated the participation of other government programs and funding sources to meet community needs.
In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority (“CNHA”) approached HUD for assistance. CNHA needed technical assistance in the structuring and evaluating of a proposed issue of tax exempt securities to finance the construction of additional low income housing for the Cherokee Nation. After helping the CNHA determine that the bond issue was not economically feasible the local Community Builder was able to bring several alternative financing options to the attention of CNHA officials. This was made possible, according to the interviewee , because the Community Builder had financial analysis skills developed in the private sector prior to working for HUD. Not only was CNHA a satisfied customer, the interviewee noted that in the past HUD was merely a Federal agency to which it reported, but now the Community Builder has established HUD as an partner in its community housing efforts.
D. Community Builders Are Facilitating Working Partnerships - Furthering the Department’s Mission of Providing Economic Development and Affordable Housing
Most of the interviewees indicated that Community Builders are facilitating working partnerships to solve problems in the community. Sixty seven percent (67%) of interviewees stated that a HUD Community Builder was an effective facilitator of partnerships, bringing one or more parties together on community issues. Examples of new partners involved in successful collaboration described in the selected case studies include:
In one Massachusetts case study, a Community Builder brought together a group of tenants and their landlord to resolve their disputes. A low-income housing resident wrote to HUD with a complaint about maintenance and safety issues at her apartment building. The tenant was concerned that neither HUD nor the building management was fulfilling its responsibilities. The Community Builder met with the property’s management and residents to discuss these concerns. After several meetings with all parties, the tenants and management were able to agree to a workable solution. As a result of the Community Builder’s involvement, the tenants and management of the property were able to establish a continuing dialogue in order to address future issues before they become problems.
In a case study from Fresno, a Community Builder led a collaborative effort in response to freezing weather that destroyed local crops and, along with them, an important part of the local economy. The economic dislocation could have resulted in numerous families losing their homes due to their inability to make rent or mortgage payments. As head of the local housing committee of the Freeze Disaster Response Effort, the Community Builder persuaded several local organizations to provide assistance. Area families affected by the freeze were able to keep their homes by using the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mortgage and rental assistance programs. Not only was the Community Builder able to help the families, he was also able to help one of the participating agencies secure additional funding through a non-HUD grant program. As in the Massachusetts example, the Community Builder’s involvement has led to continuing efforts that will help the community take preventive measures to head-off future problems. According to an interviewee, the housing committee currently is making plans for a coordinated rapid response to similar crises that may arise in the future.
E. Community Builders Are Utilizing Valuable Private Sector Experience and Skills to Benefit the Public Sector
Interviewees used various descriptors of the Community Builders, including: innovative, facilitator, responsive, proactive, and thorough. Additionally, various interviewees commented that:
Community Builders used their past experience and contacts to aid the community; and
Many Community Builders brought specific expertise and contact networks in both the public and private sectors to their jobs at HUD. Using this expertise and contact base appears to have produced examples of significant results based our reviews of the selected case studies and interviews. As mentioned in an example above, a Community Builder’s financial background and investment banking contacts contributed to the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority’s plans to expand their low income housing using non-government financing. In Galveston, Texas a local non-profit organization was trying to organize and find funding for a training program for young inter-city entrepreneurs. This community need was fulfilled by a Community Builder who was a university professor. According to an interviewee, not only did the Community Builder assist the organization in finding non-government funding for the program, he is teaching the young entrepreneurs each Saturday morning until the class is completed.
The Community Builders' ability to provide a “new face” for HUD was lauded by many interviewees. Most interviewees reported a more favorable impression of HUD based on their interaction with the Community Builder. Several interviewees indicated that they no longer perceived HUD as simply a regulatory agency and source of funding, but rather, as an involved and proactive partner helping to address the needs of the community.
One long-term city employee who focuses on housing described the Community Builder Program as a “novel and refreshing idea” that leverages capabilities developed in both the public and private sector to help communities. Another interviewee stated emphatically that the Community Builder Program is the most significant and innovative model for delivering government programs in over twenty years.
F. Community Builders Are Furthering the Department’s Strategic Objectives
HUD’s Annual Performance Plan lays out six strategic objectives, as defined below, indicating where the Department intends to focus its resources. Each of the case studies we reviewed described progress toward at least one strategic objective. Most of the case studies addressed multiple objectives. The Department’s six strategic objectives are:
In Community Builders’ efforts to provide better customer service, our findings indicate for the selected case studies, that their activities most frequently worked to empower communities (68%) and restore the public trust (84%) as defined below. These findings indicate that Community Builders are producing positive results in the field. Community Builders were considered by many interviewees to be a valuable resource for HUD customers. Each of the Department’s six strategic objectives and examples of the Community Builders’ work to achieve them, are discussed in more detail below.
1. Fighting for Fair Housing
To achieve this objective, HUD expects a Community Builder to work with: Fair Housing Initiative Program grantees; Fair Housing Assistance Program Contract Agencies; and local civil rights, immigrant rights, and fair housing groups to develop and implement strategies that will support enforcement of fair housing laws. HUD is particularly interested in expanding partnerships to include groups that have not traditionally been part of HUD’s fair housing efforts. In pursuit of this objective, Community Builders also accept housing complaints for referral to HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), conduct educational programs, and negotiate best practices with housing industry groups.
We noted HUD’s Community Builders and Public Trust Officers were able to work together in a collaborative fashion to help the Department fight for fair housing. For example, in Nebraska, a Community Builder became involved with a town in which a racially motivated hate crime occurred. In that case, 30 to 50 young men marched on and vandalized the home of an interracial couple. The Community Builder and Public Trust Officer worked together with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, a HUD Fair Housing Assistance Program Grantee, to assess whether Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been violated. The Community Builder also assisted in local outreach efforts, including information-gathering and witness identification, and learned that many people within the community felt threatened or harmed by the perpetrators of the hate crime incident. A total of 127 Title VIII complaints were filed with the FHEO as a result of these efforts, many of which were referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Currently, the FBI and the DOJ are investigating this incident.
In Wyoming, a Community Builder provided assistance to an apartment resident with multiple sclerosis who had received an eviction notice after she complained about her building’s lack of proper access for the disabled. The Community Builder educated the resident about the fair housing complaint procedures and also located a disabled-accessible apartment for her.
2. Increasing Affordable Housing and Home Ownership
This objective focuses on developing and implementing marketing plans for FHA single family home programs; increasing housing counseling capacities in local communities; working on Section 8 issues; providing education about Public and Indian Housing programs; and sharing best practices and a variety of other affordable housing issues. We found examples where Community Builders played an important part in the Department’s efforts to increase affordable housing and home ownership.
In Puerto Rico, a Community Builder worked with a local non-profit housing development organization to help it become a designated Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) through HUD. According to an interviewee, the technical assistance provided by the Community Builder was critical to the organization’s efforts to develop affordable housing.
In Washington State, a local community faced a possible shortage of housing units due to landlords opting out of the Section 8 program. According to the case study and interview, the local Community Builder provided a housing coalition with the information and technical assistance it needed to support the coalition's efforts to preserve the State’s Section 8 contracts and to provide incentives for owners to remain in the program.
Another case study involved HUD training for mortgage companies. The Community Builder initially met with two local lenders who were interested in targeting the community’s under-served minority first-time home buyer population. As a result of the Community Builders’ efforts, five local lenders attended HUD’s home ownership training. According to the case study, the lenders, in turn, now provide training for first-time home buyers in the community. One lender even conducted bilingual training to help reach out to under served minority clients. Based in part on these efforts, 55% of the initial class of trainees have homes under contract.
3. Reducing Homelessness
This objective includes efforts to: develop "continuum of care" strategies; and to arrange, market, and inform state and local agencies, the business community, and non-profit organizations of ways to coordinate and leverage HOME Funds, Community Development Block Grant monies, (CDBG), and special needs housing programs to address the problems of homelessness in their areas.
In Alabama, a Community Builder worked with the AIDS Task Force to address housing issues faced by people with AIDS. The Community Builder presented information on HUD’s housing programs, including eligibility requirements and rent calculations, to the staff of the AIDS Task Force to help them educate their clients. The presentation helped connect those in need of housing with their local housing providers and HUD offices to get the housing they need.
4. Empowering People and Communities
Under this objective, Community Builders are asked to coordinate office-wide Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community and Brownfields initiatives; serve as a contact for technical assistance requests; inform local governments, assist housing tenants, property management agents and owners, and community groups of Drug Elimination and Safe Neighborhood for use in the support of public safety efforts; inform state and local agencies, community organizations, and non-profit agencies of ways to coordinate and leverage HOME, CDBG, and special needs housing programs; and work with public housing residents to ensure the most effective use of HUD resident initiative grant programs. The selected case studies and interviews indicate that Community Builders were very successful in their efforts to help empower people and communities. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of the case studies we reviewed supported one or more of these types of community empowerment responsibilities
In Philadelphia, a selected case study describes how a Community Builder is involved in a major "Welfare-to-work" initiative. The Community Builder is working with the local housing authority to inform public and assisted housing residents about new "Welfare-to-work" reform rules and regulations. The Community Builder is giving residents the information they need to help themselves deal with welfare reform. Also the Community Builder formed collaborative partnerships with numerous organizations including resident councils, housing authorities, universities and the school district to bring a computer center into one of the housing authority’s complexes for residents' use.
5. Restoring the Public Trust
According to HUD management, restoring the public trust, through improved perceptions of HUD, is one of the top priorities of the Department’s 2020 Management Reform. Restoring the Public Trust is a critical role of Public Trust Officers. However, Community Builders also play an important role in helping to restore the public’s trust in the Department through improved perceptions of HUD. Under this objective, Community Builders are to work as consultants to the Enforcement, Real Estate Assessment, and Troubled Agency Recovery Centers and act to improve the public’s experience with and perceptions of the Department.
Eighty four percent (84%) of the case studies we reviewed indicated that the Community Builders are working toward restoring the public trust in some form such as improved perceptions of HUD. Examples of this include Community Builders initiating contact with partners who have had no previous experience with HUD, facilitating the exchange of information about HUD’s programs, and providing information on various HUD programs. One respondent indicated that she had previously avoided using HUD programs because dealing with the Department was too cumbersome. Now that she can work with a Community Builder, she indicated that she is more inclined to use HUD programs.
6. Promoting Jobs and Economic Opportunities
This objective calls for Community Builders to work with external partners to explain methods for using HUD grant funds to leverage other resources. It also involves working with community leaders to develop local and regional community building and economic development strategies that improve distressed areas and increase employment opportunities for low-income individuals. Other goals include working with partners to achieve objectives such as the successful implementation of welfare reform and convening and facilitating meetings with partners on consolidated plan issues.
In the selected case studies we reviewed, we noted various instances where Community Builders were involved in different aspects of job creation and economic development. For example, in a case study from Nevada, a Community Builder was working with “frontier” towns to identify economic development opportunities and to create plans to address them. According to a town manager, these remote communities previously were not served well by the Department. By reaching out to these previously under served rural areas, the Community Builder created a plan for greater economic opportunities for residents and helped the Department make progress toward multiple goals.
In Galveston, Texas, a Community Builder has worked with a wide variety of community members to create a neighborhood revitalization initiative. As part of this initiative, the Community Builder helped secure non-government funding for a program to educate young inner-city entrepreneurs. His commitment to this program included teaching entrepreneurship classes every Saturday.
G. Other Observations - Interviewees’ Recommendations and Concerns
Every interviewee was asked whether he or she had any concerns or recommendations regarding the Program. Compared to the positive comments received regarding Community Builders, there were relatively few negative concerns expressed. In fact, many of the stated concerns reflected positively on the Community Builder Program. For example, several interviewees were concerned that the Program would be terminated. Other interviewees recommended that the Department hire more Community Builders and inject the Program with additional resources.
Some respondents indicated a desire for more information and clarification of the Community Builders’ role and responsibilities. For example, one interviewee noted that a Community Builder played a significant role in an enforcement action, a role the interviewee thought may be more appropriate for a Public Trust Officer. In addition, another interviewee voiced a concern that the Community Builder program may be diverting resources away from enforcement activities. Others interviewees noted that the Program needed to be in place longer to see results. One interviewee hoped that Community Builders could focus on systemic change in their community rather than focusing on individual casework. Some interviewees expressed a concern that their Community Builders needed additional experience and familiarity with their particular community.
IV. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE PROGRAM EVALUATION
Our project represents one of HUD's first efforts to formally evaluate the Community Builder Program which has only been in place for about a year (the total compliment of Community Builders have only been in place since March 1999). To more thoroughly assess Program effectiveness, we recommend that the Department undertake further evaluation efforts. Several program evaluation suggestions are outlined below.
B. Further Develop and Utilize Internal Community Builder Data Base
Community Builders typically work independently in the field on their projects. This work environment makes centralized program oversight and management a challenge. To allow the Department to better monitor and evaluate the Program, we recommend that an internal information and document database for Community Builders be used to monitor their activities. We understand HUD is currently piloting such a system – the Community Builder Information System. Using this database, each Community Builder in the 12 pilot offices will document his or her activities and progress to date on individual projects. This system will allow HUD management to review progress remotely to determine whether the program objectives are fulfilled. The database also allows management to perform periodic project evaluations and maintain a centralized repository for project-specific program information. The system will also give all Community Builders access to this database as a reference. Using Lotus Notes technology, the system will allow sorts and searches to be performed on different types of Community Builder activities. Community Builders can share best practices and lessons learned through this database. We understand that HUD plans to implement this management tool nationwide during the first quarter of fiscal year 2000.
We recommend that HUD utilize the Community Builder Information System to keep track of the Community Builders’ activities on individual projects and periodically evaluate Community Builder performance. By comparing Community Builder activity with the BOP objective, management will be able to assess with greater precision Community Builder progress toward reaching these goals.
C. Measure Customer Satisfaction
Given the nature of the Community Builder program, the Department needs to have innovative methods to measure the impact of a program like the Community Builders. For government programs which target outreach and communication, customer and stakeholder satisfaction often provide a measure of program success. We suggest that the Department develop a customer satisfaction questionnaire to systematically assess customer and other stakeholder satisfaction with the Community Builder Program. We understand that HUD has developed a customer service survey and plans to use it in all of its storefront offices.
We recommend that such customer satisfaction questionnaires be distributed to Community Builder customers and partners to request feedback on the Community Builder Program. Ratings by customers and partners regarding their interaction with the Community Builder should use measures such as: responsiveness; timeliness; efficiency; outreach efforts; facilitation of working relationships; motivation and initiative to launch projects; follow-up efforts; and communication skills. Additionally, respondents should be requested to offer feedback regarding their overall interaction with the Community Builder Program and the Department in general.
D. Assess HUD’s Internal Awareness
HUD should formally assess the current level of awareness of its own employees regarding the Community Builder Program. Based on such assessment, HUD should determine the need for additional efforts to further clarify the role of the Community Builder. The Department should continue to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the Program are clearly understood by other HUD employees. Ultimately, this type of training and understanding could lead to increased referrals to Community Builders as well as increased awareness of the Program within the Department.
E. Study Other Agencies and Businesses
We understand that when developing the Community Builder Program, HUD consulted with several organizations that had successfully implemented similar outreach programs. We understand HUD researched the model of a large financial institution related to customer service centers with consolidated back office operations while developing the HUD 2020 Management Reform Plan. We also understand that the Department looked at the Peace Corps and White House Fellows program to learn about different implementation methods. As a natural complement to these efforts, HUD should consider reviewing program evaluation methods used by these and other government agencies and private sector businesses. This review could give HUD management a range of methods employed by other federal, state, and local governments as well as private businesses, to evaluate the effectiveness of similar outreach programs. If undertaken, HUD should focus its efforts in three areas:
The first area would be those agencies and businesses that specialize in “front-line” public interest efforts. These organizations may include government departments and non-profit organizations.
The second area would be those agencies and businesses that specialize in multiple product lines and whose personnel have experience working in environments with cross-cutting goals and objectives. These organizations may include military services.
The third area would be agencies and businesses whose focus on customer satisfaction and feedback is noteworthy within their respective industries. These organizations include government entities, retailers, and service organizations.
HUD could also research how other federal agencies are establishing performance measures under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) for similar initiatives.
VI. OUR ENGAGEMENT
This report is provided pursuant to our consulting services to HUD related to an independent assessment of the Community Builder Program.
Under the terms of our engagement, which commenced September 2, 1999, we selected and reviewed a sample of 25 representative case studies, from a total population of 718 cases prepared by the Community Builders and provided to us by HUD. These case studies described specific examples of work performed under the Program.
We interviewed 51 external HUD stakeholders identified in the selected case studies, including public officials, nonprofit organizations, public housing authorities, and other HUD customers and partners involved in the selected case studies. Our interviews focused primarily on how HUD’s Community Builders worked to further the Department’s mission in terms of:
We also asked interviewees about any concerns or recommendations for improvement they wished to share. In addition, we interviewed representatives from the Kennedy School who provided training to Community Builders. Also, we compared the activities described in the case studies to the Department’s Strategic Objectives. This report summarizes our findings and observations from these interviews and our review of the selected case studies.
B. Sampling Methodology
We were provided with 718 case studies from HUD, from which our sample was selected. These included case studies from 10 regions plus headquarters and 10 program areas (including a category for which no program was designated). A sample size of 25 was agreed upon with HUD. Our sample was designed to select at least one case study from each of the 10 regions and headquarters, with each of the 10 programs being represented. The sample of 25 case studies was not designed as a statistical sample to estimate the results for the entire population of case studies provided. In addition, the case studies provided may not describe all activities and projects performed by the Community Builders to date.
Our initial analysis of the case study population indicated that there were six or fewer case studies submitted for each of the following four programs: Office of General Counsel; Office of Multifamily Housing Assistance Restructuring; Policy Development and Research; and Real Estate Assessment Center. Since the case studies representing these four programs constituted only 1.5% of the total number of case studies, they were grouped together as a single program called “Other” for the purpose of sampling.
To represent all regions and programs, we initially organized the case studies by region-program combinations — those case studies which had both the region and program in common were grouped together. These region-program combinations were further consolidated into three groups based on the number of case studies in each combination:
These three groups were established to select a sample that represented the region-program combinations that occurred frequently, without under-representing the less frequently occurring combinations.
The first stage in the selection of the sample was to determine the number of the region-program combinations to include from each of the three consolidated groupings. The result of this sampling was the selection of:
The final stage in selecting the sample was to select a single case study from each of the 25 region-program combinations selected in the first stage. This selection was performed using a random number process.
The final sample of 25 case studies contained at least one case study from every region and major program in order to achieve representation of the different types of case studies submitted. Appendix 2 describes the attributes of the population of 718 case studies provided and the sample.
C. Other Information Reviewed
Several other sources of information were provided in order to obtain a more thorough understanding of the Community Builder Program and its objectives including:
D. Engagement Parameters
Our procedures were based on the Statement of Work, dated September 2, 1999, issued by HUD. Our work and this report are based solely on the information derived from the case studies provided by HUD, interviews of individuals identified by Community Builders in the case studies, interviews of Kennedy School personnel and review of the other information listed above. Our sample of case studies was made solely from the population of case studies provided by HUD. The terms and scope of our engagement did not provide for us to independently verify or otherwise test the completeness of the entire population of case studies HUD provided.
All case study interview sources were individuals whom the Community Builders identified as individuals with knowledge of their case studies. Within this scope, we were not called upon to identify and interview additional customers or other stakeholders who were not listed in the case studies. The scope of our engagement did not provide for us to interview HUD employees regarding the Community Builder Program. The scope of our engagement also did not provide for us to perform a workload analysis or cost benefit analysis of the Community Builder Program. These statements are provided to give the reader an understanding of the procedures and methodologies used in developing this report. This project was considered a consulting engagement under standards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009