Community Neighborhood Housing Services
Community NHS is a NeighborWorks America HomeOwnership Center located in Saint Paul and serving Saint Paul and the entire 7-county metropolitan area. Now in our 30th year, we were founded by a group of West Side residents as a 501(c)3 nonprofit lender. We have grown in that time to provide a full range of homeownership services all under one roof. Community NHS is has two major lines of business related to homeownership: counseling/education and lending. We are a HUD approved counseling agency as well as a licensed loan originator. We have been providing excellent services for decades at Community NHS but we have been slow to adapt to the shift to web based marketing and outreach. We are in dire need of a web-page face-lift in order to communicate the information regarding these vital services to the next generation of computer savvy households that need homeownership services.
Our staff of 10 includes counselors who provide guidance in pre-purchase, credit and debt management, homeownership management, and foreclosure prevention. We also have lending staff who assist in providing home improvement and repair financing, and a construction manager who oversees our loan projects to ensure that homeowners are comfortable with the process and receive quality work.
In 2011, Community NHS:
-Graduated 395 households from our homebuyer education workshops
-Created 207 new homeowners
-Provided financing and construction management services to 44 households for repairs or improvements to their home
-Prevented foreclosure of 14 homes through our counseling program
What new functionality we are looking for
Our current site is an organizational mess and difficult to navigate, with links to valuable information hidden within pages most people don't visit. (Want to learn about recycling? No, don't click the recycling menu: the recycling information is in a sidebar on our homebuyer education workshop registration page - if you can even find that.) We are in need of a much cleaner structure and thoughtful organization. Community NHS can offer tremendous resources for homeowners and those wishing to become homeowners someday, but not if nobody can find the information on our site.
2. MULTIPLE-LANGUAGE CAPABILITIES
We are currently the only organization providing homeownership services in Hmong, but our site offers very little information in Hmong. Having the ability to view the site in Hmong would improve our ability to serve this community.
3. FAST-LOADING, EASY TO MANAGE PLATFORM
The site is currently built in/hosted by Moonfruit and runs (I think) in Flash. This makes it relatively easy for our staff members to update individual pages... but it adds to the disorganization. It is also slow to load and does not translate well to mobile devices. (see below)
4. OPTIMIZED FOR MOBILE DEVICES
Ultimately, we feel that our target clients are more and more likely to access information via a mobile device and we want to make sure that our site is optimized for mobile users
5. BETTER SERVICE ONLINE
Giving clients the opportunity to complete pre-applications and register for programs online would provide greater value to them and help our staff to work more efficiently.
We are establishing regular use of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and would like to produce YouTube videos and a blog. Integrating these with our current site would maximize the impact of all channels.
7. PRETTY, PLEASE?
Finally, it would be really nice if it had some curb appeal. It's a bit of a fixer-upper.
How the new functionality will help
As a metropolitan region, the Twin Cities has been hit disproportionately hard by the recent â€œhousing crisisâ€ and we are experiencing a tremendous need for foreclosure prevention and affordable housing services. The rental market is tight, with low vacancy rates and increasing rents - making homeownership a better option for many renters. Those who already own homes are finding it difficult to finance repairs and necessary improvements due to changes in the lending market.
We wish to reach renters who wish to become homeowners, current homeowners with repair and improvement needs, and those facing foreclosure. Our previous clients are primarily under 40 years old, with incomes under 50% of area median income. 50% are ethnic or cultural minorities. We are aware of the likely shift in demographics for the clients we serve to a younger, more technologically savvy consumer. We envision households in need of the services that we provide will increasingly look to the internet to find these services. As a small staff, we are only able to answer phones and provide live customer support during regular office hours. This highlights the critical importance of our web presence. For many clients, our website will be the first contact with our agency, often outside of regular business hours. If clients have trouble navigating the site, they will likely move on. In addition, the content and functionality of our current website is questionable (at best). How nice would it be for a potential homebuyer or foreclosure client to be able to come to our website and locate useful and up to date information on these topics? And, even better, what if they were able to schedule an appointment with us? These would be a reality if we were granted this opportunity.
A new website that is mobile-optimized, well-organized, fast-loading (easy to view for those who lack broadband access), and easy to navigate will help us reach those who can most benefit from our services. Using the website as an information clearinghouse will also serve clients more efficiently and enable our staff to provide greater service to those who need our assistance.
As we are a small non-profit, we do not have an IT department or even an IT person. We just hope that someone on staff can answer basic computer questions. If we were fortunate enough to receive this opportunity, we would ideally have an easy to navigate, functional, information website that we could then maintain for years to come. We have been providing vital services to the community for decades and it is imperative that we adapt to the changing marketing and outreach forums to be able to reach consumers in the future. At this time, we do not have the internal staff skills to create such a website, nor the funds available to pay for such as site. If we were granted this opportunity, Community NHS would be able to bring our web-site into the 21st century and allow us to get the information about the important services we offer to the next generation of consumers.
How our organization will use the technology
Who will use the technology
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