Changed funding structure boosts Whittier’s housing initiatives

Six new board members elected, new strategic plan adopted at annual meeting

The Whittier Alliance has six new board members, an updated strategic plan and a modified funding system that will direct more funding to housing initiatives.

During its annual meeting on March 26, the neighborhood organization voted to modify its Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funding contract, a move that requires community approval. Whittier Alliance executive director Kaley Brown said it will allow the organization to access $1.1 million in uncontracted funds that were formally allocated through the Center for Energy and Environment. The program dollars have remained with the city since the CEE stopped providing the neighborhood program in 2017, and have been unavailable for Whittier Alliance to use.

About half of the newly accessible $1.1 million will go toward housing issues, with housing getting a budget boost from $107,042 to $767,031 under the modification.

The modification narrowed the group’s funding into five categories: housing, youth activities, business, community building and organizational stability.

Whittier Alliance Board chair David Bagley said housing and community outreach were the two issues community members told the board they wanted to prioritize.

The NRP contract is a set amount of funding neighborhood groups receive from the city and is separate from the organization’s ongoing operational budget. Much of uncontracted funds are dollars repaid from loans given to homes and businesses in decades past.

“We’re trying to honor the legacy of the people who came before us and use it judiciously,” Bagley said.

Brown said the move will save time for staff and give the organization more flexibility in the future to respond to the needs of the community.

“Approving the modification will allow us to work a lot more efficiently moving forward,” Brown said.

New plan, new board

The neighborhood board had six candidates running for six open seats, which eliminated the need for a contested election. The new board members are Nate Rastetter, Jesse Oyervides, Brigid Higgins, Nate Broadbridge and Abigail Speller. Christine Popowski was re-elected to the board.

Those new board members will help try to implement the new strategic plan for Whittier, which the neighborhood organization has approved and will run through 2024. The new strategic plan emphasizes four priorities for the next five years: community engagement, housing, businesses, institutions and organizational stability.

Whittier Alliance is seeking to increase its influence on neighborhood housing, with goals of increasing diversity and affordability of housing in the area, becoming a resource hub for local renters and property owners and establishing design guidelines to influence new development.

Some community members questioned how much power the board will be able to exert on issues it can’t control surrounding rent increases and design guidelines. Whittier Alliance leaders said the more organized they are, the louder their voice will be heard.

“The questions that keep you up at night are the ones that we can organize around as a community,” said Board vice-chair Scott Melamed.