Bolding Advocates For Underserved Market

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

Some people get up early to look at the sports pages or comics in the local newspaper, but Tim Bolding wakes up early to look at foreclosure notices.

BOLDING

Bolding, executive director of United Housing Inc., has long been an advocate for West Tennessee homeowners and families that are underserved by traditional lenders. While the housing recovery has taken root in some areas of the nation, Bolding remains concerned about Memphis.

“It’s slowed down and maybe leveled off, but it isn’t going away just yet,” he said. “We’re still in the two pages a day range in terms of foreclosures and until we get in the half a page range, it isn’t going to be over.”

Bolding estimates that the Memphis area has dropped from about 17,000 foreclosures per year at the height of the foreclosure crisis to 12,000 foreclosures per year today.

“Even in the best of times, when real estate is ginning like nobody’s business, Memphis still has about 5,000 a year,” he said.

Bolding’s background in community development and housing advocacy dates to his days as an intern with Shelby County where he helped secure grant proposals. He helped secure the county’s first $175,000 community development grant and also landed his first job. By 1994, he had secured a $1 million federal grant to rehabilitate 50 homes in high foreclosure areas for the United Way.

Today, that effort has grown to nearly 3,000 homes and also includes homebuyer education and counseling, secondary financing and lending, and home construction and rehabilitation.

Bolding, who recently was honored by the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence for his leadership, says United Housing is uniquely positioned to help Memphis-area homeowners because of the organization’s background in foreclosures.

Throughout the housing crisis, the nonprofit organization has helped homeowners, utilizing funds from The Memphis-Shelby County Helping Homebuyers program, the City of Memphis Stabilization Program, the Home Affordable Refinance Program and a variety of other grants, public-private partnerships and entrepreneurial efforts.

While United Housing historically has focused on single-family housing, the organization recently branched into providing housing development for other nonprofits like SRVS, a United Way partner agency that helps people with disabilities. SRVS provides job training and placement, community participation, family support, residential living and occupational support.

“We built seven houses and we had a ribbon cutting and we were feeling pretty good,” Bolding said. “I leaned over to Tyler (Hampton, executive director of SRVS) and said, ‘We ought to do some more of these. How many do you have on your waiting list?”

When Hampton explained SRVS had a waiting list of more than 1,800, Bolding got to work securing funding. United Housing recently landed another $3 million to build and rehabilitate more handicap-accessible homes for SRVS.

“I know he has an unlimited supply of folks who need these houses,” Bolding said. “I like the creative stuff – doing things that nobody else has yet figured out to do. Everyone knows someone who has a disability.”

He’d also like to build homes for children who age out of the foster care system, those who need extra medical attention and the elderly.

An anthropologist by training, Bolding says he loves finding unique ways to provide people with housing, improve communities and maximize impact. As local, state and federal governments scale back housing funding, he has turned to the private sector to help homebuyers and owners.

“Our goal is to create private partnerships that leverage private sector dollars with minimal government dollars,” he said. “We are looking for private sector investors who are interested in having a double bottom line; they want to have a return and a social impact.”

Already, United Housing is working on a pilot project with a private investor to renovate 50 foreclosures. Bolding says buyers will be helped on a case-by-case basis using a variety of private and public funding structures.

When Bolding isn’t busy with United Housing, he loves escaping to his family farm in northwestern Alabama with his wife, children and grandchildren.

The farm has been in his family for generations. He loves collecting fossils and hunting for old treasures that range from potbelly stoves to Indian artifacts. Bolding has created what he describes as a family museum.

“It’s just unreal what I’ve found,” he said. “We are really lucky to be able to take care of this place for a while. People have been in this area for thousands of years.”