Gramlich Fellows present summer research

On August 18th, Rob Wellburn and Matt Furman (both MUP ’15) presented the findings of summer-long community development research projects at a training institute for nonprofit professionals in Orlando, Florida. Wellburn and Furman spoke at the conference as the Edward M. Gramlich Fellows in Community and Economic Development for 2014.

The Gramlich Fellowship is sponsored by the HU Joint Center for Housing Studies and NeighborWorks America. The Joint Center assists government, business, and civic leaders by producing research related to the role of housing in the American economy. NeighborWorks is a national nonprofit that works to create affordable housing and strong, sustainable communities. On behalf of these organizations, Gramlich fellows undertake analytical research projects that culminate in publication and a series of presentations to policymakers.

Wellburn’s research focuses on aging in place, the range of living arrangements that preserve elders’ personal independence as long as possible, for example by combining supportive services and housing or modifying homes for navigation by individuals with physical limitations. Wellburn suggests that recent health care reform offers strategic opportunities for funding and experimenting with aging in place. “The Affordable Care Act acknowledges how health and housing are interconnected, especially for older individuals. Policymakers, however, will need to convince Medicare to fund aging in place and determine whether successful aging in place programs can be scaled to the national level.”

For his Fellowship, Furman investigated government and nonprofit programs that seek to replace substandard manufactured housing with new homes. Among the best practices he identified is program flexibility. Furman said, “Nonprofits establish eligibility criteria for programs in order to ensure that their funds are being used wisely. At the same time, programs need to have an element of flexibility so that if a client doesn’t qualify due to bad credit or some other problem there are still ways that an organization can improve their housing situation.”

The Gramlich Fellows agree that the program has offered them a valuable chance to learn about community development. Wellburn said, “When you are doing frontline community development work every day, it’s easy to lose sight of how interconnected many of the issues facing society are. The Fellowship has really reacquainted me with ths fact and encouraged me to think about how public and nonprofit policies can be comprehensive.”