My little artist IDA program that could is still huffing and puffing up the mountain toward sustainability: I think I can. I think I can. (If you don’t have young kids, this classic children’s book reference is probably lost on you and I just sound weird.)
State funding for IDAs is looking precarious for next year (this has been my program’s main funding source so far), but even with that door closing another may be opening. A municipality in my region is kind of enamored with this concept of serving low-income artists through matched savings accounts. They’re also working aggressively on a consortium proposal for a massive grant (by the standards of our region) from the National Stabilization Program, a HUD initiative responding to the foreclosure crisis.
Putting two and two together, they reached out to me to discuss how my matched savings program for artists could somehow be simultaneously scaled up and geographically targeted to support artists in the re-use of land-banked property. My head is spinning with the possibilities and complications, but I’m intrigued and I do think there would be a way to make it work. Such a tight geographic focus on a specific set of properties would probably require sweetening the match, loosening the financial eligibility criteria somewhat, and implementing a distance-learning curriculum for the financial education so as to be able to cast a wide net for low- to moderate-income artists who may be living outside of our region but would be interested in this opportunity to move here (with appropriate preparation beforehand) thanks to the combination of a generous savings match, financial education, and related assistance. Ideally, it would not just target first-time homebuyers, but could also be open to renters who will make business-related investments that benefit the productive re-use of the land-banked properties.
I’d love to find out if others are contemplating how to incorporate matched savings and other asset-building tools into National Stabilization Program funding streams.