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News June 19, 2016

The MVA as a Vehicle of Community and Governmental Engagement: Jessie Ball duPont Fund’s Experiences in Jacksonville, FL

Topic Housing

While I don’t know this for certain, I would guess that most communities use Reinvestment Fund’s Market Value Analysis (MVA) as a strategic tool to guide community development. In Jacksonville, Florida, we have found the MVA to be equally important as a tool to start conversation and grow awareness about our housing and community development needs.

We were introduced to the MVA in 2013-14, as the Jessie Ball duPont Fund began taking a more proactive role in advocating for thoughtful housing development in its home community of Jacksonville. The Fund has a long history of responding to housing-related grant requests. But the Great Recession’s devastating impact on the housing market in Florida, coupled with a local government that did not make housing a priority, prompted the Fund to develop a strategy to, as our president, Sherry Magill, said: “get housing back on the radar in this community.”

The MVA has been critical to that strategy. We treated the MVA as a project and brought people together around the work. Even before the Jacksonville research began, we held a series of meetings with bankers (hosted by our Federal Reserve Bank) and community stakeholders to explain the research, show examples from other communities and build “excitement” about doing the work in Jacksonville. This provided a natural platform to discuss why Jacksonville needed such a study — the challenges we were facing.

During the research period, we had an active advisory committee. We stayed in touch with stakeholders via email and social media and encouraged them to participate in “ride-alongs” as the researchers validated their findings in the field. Many did.

We made a host of “sneak preview” presentations of the MVA-in-progress with key constituents. This not only helped us get their feedback, it further engaged them in the issue.

By the time we unveiled the finished MVA — which we relabeled the Block by Block Report — in October 2015, we had more than 200 people who were aware of the project, including key members of the new mayoral administration, several of whom attended the Community of Practice meeting in Milwaukee in late 2015.

To keep the report accessible, we created an online version of the report as well as an easy-to-follow print version that incorporates the narrative that typically accompanied an in-person presentation. Both can be found here.

Jacksonville still has a long way to go. Our community faces a daunting pension-related financial crisis that, at present, is an obstacle to all other civic issues. But we are using the Block by Block report to continue the conversation about housing needs while the pension issue is (hopefully) resolved.

Using the MVA to Start Conversations and Build Knowledge in Jacksonville, FL. Specifically:

  • As the City restructures its housing and neighborhoods departments, the Block by Block research provides a baseline of current data for a city that has done no study of its housing market since 2007.
  • The mayor’s office is using the Block by Block research to help address public safety issues in key neighborhoods as we have experiences a renewed wave of violent crime.
  • Our community foundation — which attended all of the gatherings around the research — has adopted a new focus on neighborhoods work and is using the Block by Block report as a tool to guide its philanthropic investments.
  • Our local LISC chapter is incorporating the Block by Block findings into its community development plans.

It is too early to know where the research will lead us, or what Jacksonville ultimately will do with its Block by Block study. But we do know that without this work, we would not be having the conversations that we now have. And good things seldom happen in communities without good conversation and good data. The MVA/Block by Block has provided both.

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