- Door-to-door campaign launches in conjunction with five Cleveland CDCs, and will connect residents to digital resources and housing interventions
- $1.35 million joint commitment between Rocket Community Fund and Cleveland Foundation to support, underwrite Cleveland Neighborhood Progress positions
DETROIT, October 20 2021 – The Rocket Community Fund, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Cleveland Foundation today announced the launch of “Neighbor to Neighbor,” the flagship Rocket Community Fund program that will help bridge Cleveland’s digital divide and connect residents to critical housing resources that will support lasting housing stability.
The philanthropic arm of Rocket Companies (NYSE: RKT) and its affiliated companies, the Rocket Community Fund’s mission is to support inclusive, thriving and resilient communities by making data-driven investments in housing, employment, and public life. Today’s announcement, which comes on the heels of the city of Cleveland and Bedrock’s press conference about the riverfront development proposal in pursuit of the Vision for the Valley, is a continuation of the organization’s commitment to invest in every aspect of Cleveland, including, and especially, its residents.
“Neighbor to Neighbor is a program as well as a promise to Cleveland that we are committed to providing residents with the future they deserve, a future of digital connectivity and housing stability that will enable them to grow their wealth and well-being,” said Laura Grannemann, the Vice President of the Rocket Community Fund and founder of Neighbor to Neighbor. “Digital connectivity and lasting housing stability are the twin pillars that provide physical and economic security, as well as the ability to access job training, education, telemedicine, employment and more. We are excited to work alongside our friends at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cleveland Foundation and local organizations for years to come.”
Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, an advocate for building equity and opportunity for all Clevelanders in all neighborhoods throughout his more than thirty years in public service (including the last 16 as mayor), welcomed today’s announcement.
“I appreciate Rocket Community Fund, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Cleveland Foundation for their efforts to address systemic disparities,” said Mayor Jackson. “The Neighbor to Neighbor program is one way to help bridge the digital divide, improve housing stability in our community and improve quality of life for current and future generations.”
Neighbor to Neighbor
At its core, Neighbor to Neighbor is a door-to-door canvassing effort that helps deepen connections between local Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and their neighbors – the residents they serve. Canvassers from neighborhood CDCs educate residents on programs they may be eligible for, as well as ask questions to understand the gaps that exist due to a lack of resources or programming that is symptom-based and not solution-based. Based on these conversations, Neighbor to Neighbor partners and residents will work toward co-developing lasting, sustainable programs that provide long-term solutions to intractable issues.
First launching with five pilot CDCs, the program will expand to 11 CDCs in 2022. The joint $1.35 million commitment between the Cleveland Foundation and Rocket Community Fund will enable Cleveland Neighborhood Progress – a community development intermediary – to begin the process of assembling a team of nearly 50 individuals to implement the Neighbor to Neighbor program.
“Neighbor to Neighbor will allow us to scale our impact in new and innovative ways by allowing us to reach and collaborate with the residents of our communities to bridge the digital divide and address housing inequities,” said Tania Menesse, President and CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. “We are grateful to the Rocket Community Fund and Cleveland Foundation for investing in us, our residents and our futures.”
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress recently hired a Manager for Organizing and Community Engagement, who will facilitate and manage partnerships with local CDCs and Community Ambassadors, and oversee the Neighbor to Neighbor program in its entirety.
The five pilot CDCs that will be involved with the launch of the program include Bellaire-Puritas Development Corporation, Famicos Foundation, Greater Collinwood Development Corporation, Midtown Cleveland Inc. and Slavic Village Development. Each organization is in process of adding Community Engagement Specialists to their staff as well as identifying candidates for the position of Community Ambassador.
Growing Digital Equity and Bridging the Digital Divide
Today’s announcement aims to shine a light on the digital divide that exists in Cleveland, and provide a path forward over the coming years through existing programs and future initiatives. Cleveland is the only city of more than 100,000 households where more than 30% lack broadband of any type, including cellular data plans. Removing cellular data plans, nearly 46% of Cleveland households lack broadband internet – second to only Detroit.
Canvassers will immediately begin connecting residents to the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a federal program that subsidizes the cost of internet and technological devices for eligible households. The EBB provides a monthly $50 discount for internet access and a one-time $100 subsidy for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. More than one-third of Cleveland households – at least 125,000 in total – are expected qualify for the initiative that has been the single-best digital connectivity intervention nationwide.
The Cleveland Foundation works to build community endowment, address needs through grantmaking and provide leadership on key community issues, including digital literacy and racial equity.
“The digital divide prevents Cleveland residents from accessing meaningful programs, jobs and opportunities – and disproportionately affects our residents of color,” said Leon Wilson, Chief of Digital Innovation and Chief Information Officer for the Cleveland Foundation. “Through Neighbor to Neighbor, we can connect residents to the Emergency Broadband Benefit and develop programs that will provide access to the internet, technology and digital literacy programming that is essential for the jobs of the future.”
Resident feedback will also allow Neighbor to Neighbor partners to understand the needs for broadband infrastructure, neighborhood tech hubs, digital literacy programming and more. The EBB and future programs developed alongside residents will aim to transition Cleveland from one of the least-connected cities in the country to an example of how the power of partnerships and programming can address systemic issues.
Addressing Housing Instability
Property tax delinquency and tax foreclosure has resulted in displacement, blight, a stagnant real estate market, as well as the erosion of generational wealth in Cleveland. In predominately Black neighborhoods, especially in Cleveland’s east side, this is also a racial equity and justice issue.
In Ohio, once a tax delinquent property is foreclosed upon and brought to sheriff’s sale twice with no bidders, the property is then forfeited to the state. However, many neighborhoods have forfeited properties that are still occupied, creating a precarious situation for renters who are still paying rent as well as low-income occupants who have a relationship to the property and are unable to improve its condition. In some neighborhoods, up to 50% of the forfeited homes are occupied.
Neighbor to Neighbor Detroit helped achieve a 94% reduction in the number of occupied homes entering property tax foreclosure. It also helped spin off a related program, Make It Home, which has enabled more than 1,150 renters and other occupants at risk of displacement to become owners of their home.
Cleveland Neighbor to Neighbor partners will provide valuable information about existing programs to assist residents in achieving more stable housing outcomes through their door-to-door outreach efforts. As information is gathered and connections made, partners will work toward designing additional solutions to prevent tax foreclosure, renter evictions and other situations of housing instability.
Today’s $1.35 million commitment is in addition to the Rocket Community Fund’s previous $1 million investment into Cleveland Neighborhood Progress to increase home rehabilitation efforts to mitigate blight and rehab vacant residential units.
Historically, the Rocket Community Fund has invested more than $2 million into Cleveland’s Habitat for Humanity as well as partnered with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to develop a parcel-by-parcel analysis of all of Cleveland’s 158,000 parcels. In the past decade, Cleveland-based team members of Rocket Companies and its affiliated companies comprising the Rocket Family of Companies have completed more than 18,000 volunteer hours through the Rocket Community Fund, which coordinates volunteerism for the organization.
About Rocket Community Fund
The Rocket Community Fund is a partner company of Rocket Companies, which includes Rocket Mortgage – the nation’s largest mortgage lender. It also coordinates team member volunteerism for Bedrock and other affiliated companies who comprise the Rock Family of Companies. Its strategy aims to support thriving, resilient and inclusive communities through data-driven investments in housing, employment and public life.
Through its For-More-Than-Profit model, the Rocket Community Fund recognizes that business and community are inextricably linked, and it purposefully brings together all of the assets of the Rocket Mortgage and Rock Family of Companies business – team member talent, technology, policy advocacy, and philanthropic resources – to invest in comprehensive community development in Detroit, Cleveland and across the country.
For more information, visit RocketCommunityFund.org.
About Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress is a local community development intermediary with over thirty years of experience investing in community revitalization work in Greater Cleveland. Our missions is to foster inclusive communities of choice and opportunity throughout Cleveland. CNP supports and works in partnership with Cleveland’s network of community development corporations, which collectively provide community and economic development services to all 34 neighborhoods across the city.
About Cleveland Foundation
The Cleveland Foundation’s mission is to enhance the lives of all residents of Greater Cleveland, now and for generations to come, by working together with our donors to build community endowment, address needs through grantmaking, and provide leadership on key community issues.
For more information on the Cleveland Foundation, please visit ClevelandFoundation.org.