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ACORN Housing Becomes Affordable Housing Centers of America

March 23, 2010
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According to a recent story in The Baltimore Sun, the embattled organization ACORN—Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now—has closed up shop for good in Maryland. Former co-chair of the state chapter of the national grassroots organization—the name of which was tarnished in September 2009 when two right-wing activists went undercover as a pimp and prostitute and filmed ACORN employees counseling them on various ways to evade the law—told the Sun that the organization hadn’t held a board meeting since November and had no plans to reform under a new name, as ACORN chapters in some other states have done.

But what of ACORN Housing, the nonprofit formed to assist low- and moderate-income households obtain affordable housing? The Chicago-based organization had chapters in 34 cities in the United States, according to data obtained from information filed with guidestar.org, which compiles information on all 501(c)3 charities registered with the IRS. ACORN Housing’s financial forms filed with the IRS for fiscal year 2007 indicate that it had revenues that year of more then $13 million and spent $9,811,410 providing its clients with loan counseling, homeownership education, and down-payment assistance, and “to construct and rehabilitate low and moderate income housing.”

ACORN Housing did some of that work in Baltimore, and it had an office at 16 W. 25th St., a building owned by Baltimore Organizing and Support Center, a Louisiana-based corporation (which, according to documents filed with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation, shared the same corporate address as ACORN and ACORN Housing: 1024 Elysian Fields, New Orleans, La.).

In mid September 2009, Congress voted to cut off funding for ACORN and its subsidiaries, affiliates, and allies. That included ACORN Housing, which, although it operated under its own certificate of status in Maryland and was registered with the IRS as its own nonprofit organization, was construed as an ally of the organization. Congress’ decision to cut off funding to ACORN was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge on March 11, but the organization announced on March 22 that it was suffering from serious financial difficulties and planned to cease operations, effective April 1.

Apparently that decision doesn’t apply to ACORN Housing—well, not exactly. In February the organization shed the moniker ACORN altogether and now calls itself Affordable Housing Centers of America. The board of directors remains the same, and its corporate headquarters are now listed as Chicago, rather than at the old ACORN address in New Orleans. And Affordable Housing Centers of America—or AHCOA, for short—does plan to operate in Baltimore.

At the moment, the address for its Baltimore office is listed as 5640 Midwood Ave.

According to Alyson Chadwick, communications director for AHCOA, ACORN Housing was never a subsidiary of the larger ACORN organization and had begun reorganizing a new identity for itself in 2008.

That process “was accelerated” after the 2009 video scandal and its ensuing funding bans. “We were affected by the funding ban, which had pretty broad language in it,” says Chadwick. At the moment, she says, the organization in Maryland is only serving clients it was working with before that funding ban was put in place. “We had to stop taking in new clients, but we’re hopeful that [funding] can be restored and that we can help more people keep their homes.”

She says AHCOA has also stopped trying to build and rehabilitate new affordable housing; instead, it focuses on “housing counseling and foreclosure prevention.”

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