A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Powering With Community: The Greenlining Fund

 community meeting with people

By creating the Greenlining Fund and intentionally sharing power with community members impacted by redlining in Omaha, Front Porch Investments demonstrates how transformative change can come from authentic relationships and ceding power.

 

At Front Porch Investments, we have been following the continued rise in interest with the movement of participatory grantmaking and trust-based philanthropy. Our team regularly shares articles and podcast episode links back and forth, often with an aspirational vibe of “wouldn’t this be great?”  We dream of a day when our entire Omaha community is committed to ensuring everyone has a home where they can thrive. We want to see bold decisions about housing being made at every level, and effective innovation and solutions being utilized to support housing as a human right. We strive to accomplish our mission by living into our four organizational values, incorporating them into our decisions and work: 

Getting the right work done, in the right way. 

We explore what work needs to be done when and how, based on our framework, goals, and the needed impact. We consistently ask: “Is this ours to do, or should we collaborate?”   

Leveraging resources to test bold innovation. 

We use the word “braid" a lot, and it’s not accidental. Multiple strands of braided material are not only stronger but are easier to carry. When we braid funding sources together, and leverage resources already available in the community, we lighten the load and increase our impact. Our desire to be truly innovative means that we focus on the right solutions in our community 

Prioritizing equitable access to power. 

‘Power with’ provides for more meaningful decisions, more sustainable solutions, and brings a community together in ways that often cannot be measured. To power with the community, we prioritize and seek out ways to disrupt the notion of ‘power over’ and take every opportunity to offer our work with an open hand, with many seats pulled up to the table. 

Fostering a collaborative environment where transformative change happens. 

Collaboration requires accountability, consistency, and a certain level of shared vision. Part of our work is to foster and create environments where true collaboration can exist, even when it is sometimes messy, and may take longer than if we’d done it ourselves. 

Values In Action: The Greenlining Fund 

In 1935, the Omaha Home Owner Loan Corporation created a map that designated neighborhoods red, yellow, blue, or green—with red corresponding to “high risk” and green corresponding to “low risk.” Mortgage lenders based the level of home loan “risk” in each neighborhood on factors such as race and/or immigration status. Despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968 — which broadly prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing — the red lines drawn around certain neighborhoods in Omaha continue to leave long-lasting effects on communities today.  

Our team acknowledges the systemic racism embedded within financial systems, practices, and policies, and we are committed to exposing and eradicating these structural barriers. 

From this acknowledgement, the concept of the Greenlining Fund was formed. The purpose of the Greenlining Fund is to provide intentional reinvestment and direct resources to create or maintain homeownership in areas that have experienced historical disinvestment, especially in Black communities. It also aims to proactively prevent future displacement of BIPOC residents due to rising property valuations as a result of current and future investments and development in communities of color. 

In the development process of the Greenlining Fund, when we stated our core value of prioritizing equitable access to power, we knew we needed to actually DO that work. Our commitment to the community began in November 2022, with the launch of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) made up of 14 community members who have been impacted by the practice of redlining, or currently live in an area previously impacted. An open application process brought 28 candidates from the Greater Omaha area, and the final CAC members were selected by a review committee, based on applicants answers to questions about how redlining has impacted their lives, and their commitment to the community.  

20221006_Red_Lining__Ryan_Soderlin_19.jpg

(Photo Credit: Ryan Soderlin)

Together, the CAC is learning about the history of redlining and the current reality of lending and the credit industry, homeownership, prevention of foreclosure, and displacement policies. Our team participates in the meetings by acting as a liaison to the committee, providing extensive pre-read and education materials. The committee will soon vote on their governance and voting structure, and everyone is offered a stipend to honor their time – based on the local living housing wage. Even though the CAC has only met a handful of times as of writing this article, the committee members are already playing an important decision-making role in where and how funds will be invested in the community. 

The CAC shares an equal vote to our Board of Directors, which is an important power shift and pivot. It is exciting to say those words and we are looking forward to Spring of 2023, when we officially launch the Greenlining Fund, and see this shared power in action. The launch will consist of a pilot program to reinvest the first amount of $1M, and the program may be low interest mortgage products, displacement prevention through property tax relief, down payment assistance, or zero-to-low interest home equity loans for home repair or debt consolidation. The Committee will be making decisions on which programs to offer to the community, what parameters will envelop the eligibility of those programs, and which partners will collaborate for the implementation. 

We look forward to the future of the Greenlining Fund and sharing updates on its impact and lessons learned soon!

 
Commit to Learning While Acting 

The Greenlining Fund and our Community Advisory Committee is an important step in achieving housing justice in Omaha. But we know, the work doesn’t end there. Our team continues our learning journey and is constantly inspired by others who push to cede power by trusting the communities we are meant to serve and follow their expertise and knowledge. We are leaning in with more opportunities to give our community the autonomy and access to truly lead this work by making decisions that benefit them in the most impactful ways. This is the way of power shifting and sharing. 

Funders Together to End Homelessness and their Foundations for Racial Equity cohort support and bolster our team’s courage and dedication to the work of sharing and shifting power. Our next effort will come in partnership with our board, as we navigate inviting representation from our community to serve on our Board of Directors. With this additional shift in power, we will walk through a deep dive on implicit bias and removing barriers. Our organization claims that #WeArePartOfTheSolution, and we hope you will also take an opportunity to examine how you can shift and share power in your own work and grantmaking.  

When we are all truly part of the solution, taking bold and courageous action together, our vision of housing as a human right comes closer into view. 

(Cover Photo Credit: Front Porch Investment website)


Naomi Hattaway is the Communications and Community Initiatives Director for Front Porch Investments. Naomi is passionate about community building, diversity, and accessibility in online and physical spaces. Naomi previously served in executive leadership at Habitat Omaha and consults with leaders and organizations on inclusive program design, board effectiveness, and housing solutions. Naomi serves on the Board of Directors for RISE and Nebraska Appleseed, and recently was the President of the Women’s Fund Circles. 

 

 

Front Porch Investments was created in 2021, to serve as an intermediary seeking and supporting solutions to house our community, with a focus on four key areas:  

  • affordable housing development 
  • housing justice and racial equity 
  • ending homelessness, and  
  • advocacy, policy & organizing. 

Front Porch Investments’ primary goal is to increase funding, innovation, and strategic partnerships in support of affordable housing across the Greater Omaha metro area. Front Porch creates opportunities to implement successful housing solutions to strengthen the urban housing ecosystem, by maximizing public and private resources, convening community partners, new stakeholders, and historically excluded voices, including all these perspectives in a shared vision for the future. 


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