Better Community Neighborhoods, Inc. (BCNI) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization recently created as the result of a merger between two well-established not-for-profits based in the City of Schenectady, Better Neighborhoods Inc. and the Community Land Trust of Schenectady. BCNI has a critical role in Schenectady’s citywide and comprehensive smart growth plan as the lead organization focused on neighborhood renewal, capital development and related services including housing counseling and financial literacy. BCNI originated in response to expanding opportunities arising from the rapid economic resurgence of the downtown Schenectady’s central business district. In 2017, community leaders from existing development organizations, government, and philanthropy convened to design strategies to bolster and leverage the existing strengths of neighborhood based development efforts. A merger was carefully planned and executed resulting in the formation of a single stronger, strategically positioned organization serving the entire City of Schenectady, a rejuvenated Board of Directors, and financial commitments from local foundations.
The Merger that created Better Community Neighborhoods, Inc. The Better Community Neighborhoods, Inc. merger was initiated by two Schenectady-based philanthropic organizations focused on investing in the benefit and improvement of Schenectady neighborhoods, Wright Family Foundation and Little Family Foundation (the Foundations). In order to preserve and leverage the strengths and assets of Better Neighborhoods Inc. and Community Land Trust of Schenectady, the Foundations funded the costs of exploratory meetings and research and the eventual execution of a merger plan to create a single organization stronger than the sum of its two parts. Additionally, the Foundations committed to providing several years of financial support to the newly merged organization to enable it to expand its capacity to take on new initiatives. Both existing organizations are members of New York State’s Neighborhood Preservation Program, and this merger takes full advantage of a New York State incentive program for such mergers. New York State has multiple well-funded programs, as a result of the Governor’s initiative, and this organization is strategically positioned to fully capitalize on those opportunities. A key partner in the venture is Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority (Metroplex), a primary driver of the remarkable economic growth in the area through targeted grants and low-interest loans. Created by Schenectady County Government in the 1980’s following the departure of GE’s power systems division headquarters, Metroplex is limited by statutory mandate to support of business economic development. Recognizing that sustainable revitalization requires stable housing supports for the local workforce and families, a principal objective of the BCNI merger is to create an organization with the Better Community Neighborhoods. BCNI enjoys ideal conditions for implementing the ambitious goals of the Board of Directors as a leader in strengthening Schenectady neighborhoods, based on the strengths of their organizational synergies, consolidated fundraising strategies, support of key players in the Schenectady revitalization movement, and increased organizational capacity.
Board Of Directors BCNI’s Board of Directors is composed of community, neighborhood and not-for-profit leaders with expertise in policy, development, banking and financial services, education and other areas related to conceiving and executing programs for community benefit. Members of the Board are selected based on their demonstrated leadership in the Schenectady community or a relevant profession.
Better Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI) was created in 1966, with a focus on the renovation of homes and multifamily properties, providing counseling and supports for first-time homebuyers and long-term homeowners, and other related services including a foreclosure prevention program. Since 1992, BNI has built or substantially renovated 128 units of housing. BNI recently partnered with housing developers to create over 55 units of affordable rental housing and oversaw a multi-business façade improvement program along Schenectady’s Crane Street business corridor.
Community Land Trust of Schenectady Since 1991, Community Land Trust of Schenectady (CLTS) has provided affordable housing services for low- moderate-income families. CLTS utilizes a community land trust model to help create a supplemental market of permanently affordable homes. The CLTS model creates a supplemental market of permanently affordable homes. The model stipulates that the home must remain owner occupied and leased for 99-years. The ownership of the land that the home occupies is retained by CLTS and the homeowner leases it under a 99-year one-time renewable lease which includes the stipulation that the home must remain owner-occupied. When land trust homeowners sell their homes, CLTS has the first right to buy, for the amount the homeowner invested plus a percentage of any equity. CLTS is then able to sell the house to another family at an affordable price. In 2006, CLTS broadened its scope of services to include the provision of repair and rehabilitation assistance to homeowners, utilizing a variety of funding and funding assistance mechanisms. Additional services CLTS has provided includes housing counseling, credit counseling, homebuyer and home maintenance education, resource referrals, and advocacy.