In the nation’s capital, new housing and bigger stores are going up — all meant to fight crime and boost the economy.

But some Washington residents say the redevelopments are making the city too expensive.

“It just makes me almost want to cry  — to think about what they’re trying to do to us, and do to me in particular, and throughout the city,” says DC resident Ruth Tyler.

To watch the entire video, click here.

For the past two weeks, Nicaragua immigrant Melissa Vivas has arrived home to her newly purchased two-story Washington home feeling like she has achieved part of her American Dream. The $210,000 four-bedroom with a patio, hardwood floors, and beige walls is the type of home she dreamed of providing for her two young U.S.-born children.

“I feel like, wow, I did it,” said the 31-year-old administrative assistant at a local charter school.

And if she wants to paint the walls a brighter hue, she said, she can do it without needing someone’s approval first. Her kids also get their own room, something they didn’t have when she was living temporarily with her mother. “I wanted a place for them to grow up, to have their own space, and to run freely,” Vivas said.

To read the full article profiling the success story of LEDC Homeownership client Melissa Vivas and the importance of Latino homeownership, click here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        
August 22, 2012  

Contact: Julian Teixeira, Ash Kosiewicz
(202) 776-1812, (202) 425-1303,

Program to enhance access to financial knowledge and vital banking services for Latinos

Washington, D.C.—In order to manage their finances successfully, families need not only access to banking services but the information and education to understand them.  Latinos are one of the most un- and underbanked communities in the nation, often experiencing barriers to a range of financial services—from something as basic as opening a checking account to understanding how to apply for a home mortgage.  To help bridge this gap, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) are joining together to launch the Effective Money Management program to provide one-on-one financial coaching and information about banking products to qualified low- and moderate-income individuals in the Washington, D.C. area.

“Latino families have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, which has depleted their savings and knocked them out of the banking system,” said Lot Diaz, Vice President of Housing and Community Development at NCLR.  “One of the first steps toward recovery is to become financially stable by reducing debt levels and building a cash reserve.  However, many in our community can’t do this because it requires not only financial tools but education and guidance.  We created the Effective Money Management program to help Hispanic families access the proper tools to promote financial decisions that not only build wealth but improve their lives overall.”

Participants in the Effective Money Management program will enroll in a five-week course and meet one-on-one with financial coaches provided through LEDC.  The course and coaching will focus on increasing knowledge and developing skills in budgeting, banking services, establishing and maintaining credit, savings, insurance, and protecting one’s assets.  Counselors will work with participants to assess their current financial situations, help tailor a financial action plan to both short- and long-term financial goals, and track progress over a 12-month period.

“We are very excited to partner with NCLR on the Effective Money Management program,” said Manny Hidalgo, LEDC Executive Director.  “Participants in our programs will greatly benefit from this initiative given that many lack access to basic banking services and the knowledge of how to build emergency savings.  We believe that the program is an important step in helping Washington, D.C.–area Latino families better manage their money, a critical step on the road to achieving financial independence.”

As a 14-year-old in El Salvador during its brutal civil war, José Wilfredo Flores faced a choice: Join the guerrillas or join the army.

“The guerrillas would come to our house,” says Flores. “We had to hide. You couldn’t say no because then they would think you were on the army’s side and shoot you. A few hours later, the army guys would come and say, ‘We want food. We want to take you.’ If you said no, they’d think you were with the guerrillas.”

In 1984, Flores’s mother made her own painful choice. She paid $1,400 to a smuggler, or coyote, to help guide her son to Washington, D.C., where his uncle and his 18-year-old brother lived.

To read the full article referencing LEDC’s work with immigrants who want to start small businesses, click here.

June 22, 2012                 

Contact: Ash Kosiewicz, Communications and Advocacy Director
Farah Fosse, Affordable Housing Preservation Program Director
(202) 425-1303; (202) 590-4369 ;

WHAT: 5th Annual Citywide Tenant Town Hall
WHERE: National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle NW
WHEN: Saturday, June 23rd, 2012; 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WHO (confirmed): Ward 1 Councilmember  Jim Graham; Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh; Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser; At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange; Renters from across the city (250 attendees expected); Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Nicholas Majett; DC Housing Authority Director Adrianne Todman; DC Housing Finance Agency Director Harry Sewell; Department of Housing and Community Development Deputy Director Jessica Franklin; Office of the Tenant Advocate Director Johanna Shreve; Office on Latino Affairs Director Roxana Olivas; Office on African Affairs Director Ngozi Nmezi; Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs; AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly; CARECEN; Mi Casa; Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center; ONE DC; Legal Aid DC; Bread for the City; CNHED Housing for All Campaign; Empower DC; Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless; We Are Family; Many Languages, One Voice; Ethiopian Community Center; Latino Economic Development Center.

WASHINGTON – In the wake of successful efforts to restore $18 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund in the FY13 budget and the release of new data showing a dramatic loss of low-cost rental units since 2000, the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) is organizing the 5th Annual Tenant Town Hall with more than 250 renters and community-based organizations from across the city.

Having identified affordable housing as the #1 issue of concern at DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s One City Summit in February, residents will follow-up with Council members and directors of DC housing agencies by presenting their housing priorities and solutions on a range of critical issues. These include the pressing need to help more tenants buy their apartment buildings using the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) and public funds from the Trust Fund to prevent their displacement from communities undergoing significant revitalization.

“DC residents have been very clear – affordable housing is their #1 issue,” said Farah Fosse, director of LEDC’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program. “Renters across the city are organized and ready for the Gray Administration and Council members to stop the dramatic loss of affordable housing by making funding for key programs a continuing priority.”

Today’s blog is the second in a series of stories previewing this Saturday’s 5th Annual Citywide Tenant Town Hall. The town hall will be held from 1-4 pm at the National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle NW.

DC resident Sharon Lewis can see the writing on her apartment walls, and she doesn’t like it one bit.

One year ago, she and her neighbors received letters stating that their building – less than one block away from the Georgia/Petworth metro station in Ward 4 – had been put up for sale. Sharon, who retired from her job at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009, has called the building home for 35 years.

Although she admits the building could use some improvements – new windows, better security, and more appliances – the building’s location and reasonable rents are two reasons why she has enjoyed living in Petworth.

“We were all in a panic,” she recalls. “We had no info – we had no idea what to do.”

More than 100 representatives from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors came together Tuesday morning for LEDC’s First Banking on Change Breakfast at the Pavilion Room at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

The event, which broadly explored how to increase the participation of low-to moderate-income communities in the financial services industry, featured a keynote speech from Stuart Ishimaru, the new Director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Ishimaru, known for his decades of work in the civil rights arena, challenged members of the traditional banking sector to see their nonprofit partners as allies in helping to diversify access to critical financial products that help families prosper.

“You’re not doing this alone,” Ishimaru said. “There are plenty of civil society groups like LEDC that can serve as a bridge to understand what the language and cultural needs [are of low- to moderate-income communities.]”


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