Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Blogger Todd Nedwick on "State Action Required to Ensure Multifamily Homes are Weatherized"

"We're creating jobs immediately by ...weatherizing 2 million homes...Why wouldn't we want to make that type of investment?" (President Barack Obama, Press Conference, February 9, 2009).

As Anne Marie Brady of SAHF pointed out in her recent post, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a dramatic increase in funding for Weatherization activities, with some states receiving as much as 10 times their previous allocation. While acknowledging that single family homes need and should be weatherized, the National Housing Trust (NHT) is urging states to ensure that low income families and seniors in multifamily housing have an opportunity to benefit from these investments.

One-third of households are renters. Energy efficient improvements in older multifamily properties would mean significant cost savings and healthier homes for extremely low and very low income families and seniors. Including multifamily housing is also key to helping states reach the goals set out by President Obama.

Right now, state administering agencies are developing plans to distribute these funds. State plans are due to the federal government by May 12. Many states are holding public forums. These forums are an opportunity to explain the critical need to make energy efficient improvements in multifamily housing and improve the lives of the low-income families who call it home.

Along with our partners, NHT is urging states to adopt a number of common sense policies as they develop their plans for implementing the ARRA Weatherization funds, including:

• Create a multifamily set aside. This would ensure that residents of multifamily housing have a fair shot at benefiting from these investments. Kansas has created a state multifamily program with 25% of their ARRA allocation. These funds will primarily be used for Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Section 8 and Section 515 rural development properties.

• Do not require landlord contributions. States decide how much, if any, a multifamily owner must pay to match Weatherization costs. With such significant resources at hand, states should no longer require landlords to financially contribute. Virginia used to require landlords to match 15% of Weatherization costs, but has waived this requirement, thereby reducing a significant obstacle to weatherizing multifamily buildings.

NHT has prepared a short policy brief with more information on best practices in weatherization policies for use in multifamily housing.

Todd Nedwick is Assistant Director of NHT’s National Preservation Initiative. NHT is a national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to the preservation and improvement of affordable multifamily housing. NHT have preserved and improved more than 22,000 affordable apartments throughout the country through public policy advocacy, real estate development, and lending.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

News Update: Treasury Announces Additional Details on Homeowner Assistance Program

Yesterday, the Treasury Department unveiled plans to include homeowners who have second mortgages or those who are "underwater" and owe more than the value of their home in its Making Home Affordable Program.

In doing so, the Treasury anticipates that it will be able to assist up to 1.5 million homeowners.

The Administration publicized this press release in regards to the program's expansion. Eligibility guidelines have also been posted on this Web-site.

This article in the Washington Post outlines the guidelines included in the Treasury Department's plan.

Meanwhile, online journal Smart Money features an article that features NHC Policy Director, Sharon Price.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NHC and Center for Housing Policy Honored With "2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Instiutions"

Today, NHC and its research affiliate the Center for Housing Policy were honored with the “2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions” as part of an international announcement made by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. As co-recipients of the award, NHC and the Center for Housing Policy are among only a handful of organizations worldwide selected to receive the honor, which is part of the Foundation’s tradition of encouraging creativity and building effective institutions in order to help address some of the world’s most challenging problems.

According to the Foundation, NHC and the Center for Housing Policy were chosen because, together, they make a case for coherent, cost-effective housing policy and legislation that are interlinked with other important investments in transportation, schools, healthcare and the environment.

Additional recipients of the “2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions” include: Access to Justice in Lagos, Nigeria; Caribbean Natural Resource Institute in Port of Spain, Trinidad; Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, Illinois; Centre for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg, Russia; Chicago Community Loan Fund, Chicago, Illinois; Mahila SEWA Trust in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; and Women of the Don Region in Novocherkassk, Russia.

To learn more about this announcement, please visit NHC and Center for Housing Policy Honored With "2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions."

Guest Blogger Anne Marie Brady on "Breaking Down the Silos: The HUD-DOE Partnership In Action"

Since taking office, President Obama has created a number of “historic partnerships” between agencies, transforming conventional perceptions about how a department, and government in general, operates. The partnership between HUD and DOE, announced February 27, 2009, represents an opportunity for affordable housing to “go green”—a process previously perceived as too costly for many affordable housing owners and developers. Seizing upon this interagency mandate, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) and its members have focused on how the affordable housing industry can effectively obtain DOE funds through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to retrofit the affordable housing stock in the United States.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), many DOE programs experienced significant funding increases, and in the case of the State Energy Program and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) first time funding, thereby creating the opportunity for program expansion beyond the typical areas served. Historically, WAP has funded small-scale weatherization efforts of low-income, single-family homes, with little recourse for multi-family residents drastically in need of energy cost relief. SAHF and its members have urged the States to use these programs to provide for the retrofitting of HUD assisted affordable multi-family dwellings on a statewide scale, enabling not only energy cost relief, but the creation of hundreds of new “green” jobs to implement such a program.

Whether these interagency partnerships will produce tangible results for the effective funding of affordable housing under ARRA and future budgets remains unclear. Behind much of the political ‘talk’ though is a real impetus for change in how low-income housing is built, sustained and provided for as evidenced by the $250 million allocated in ARRA to the Office of Affordable Housing Preservation (OAHP) within HUD to energy retrofit the HUD multifamily assisted housing stock. Further, the confluence of housing and energy hopefully represents the beginning of many more examples of strategic partnership working and cross-department collaboration that has become an early hallmark of the Obama administration.

SAHF completed this document that provides an analysis of energy efficiency related provisions included in ARRA.

Anne Marie Brady is the Policy Associate at SAHF. Launched in 2003, SAHF has eight sophisticated not-for-profit members who acquire, preserve and are committed to long-term, sustainable ownership and continued affordability of multifamily rental properties for low-income families, seniors, and disabled individuals. Together, SAHF members own and operate housing in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—providing homes to approximately 80,000 low-income households.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guest Blogger Dana Bourland on "This Earth Day: An Opportunity for Affordable Housing Advocates"

In addition to delivering health, economic and environmental benefits to low-income families and communities, green housing creates new opportunities for advocates of affordable housing.

The first opportunity is to secure additional funds through traditional housing policies and programs. In 2008, the House of Representatives passed the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods Act (The GREEN Act, H.R. 6078), sponsored by Representative Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. The GREEN Act’s major provisions would: 1) Increase green building and energy efficiency requirements in federally assisted housing; 2) Authorize block grants, loan funds and rental subsidies for green residential development and rehabilitation; 3) Encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to finance more energy efficient mortgages; 4) Direct the Federal Housing Administration to insure $1 billion worth of energy efficient homes; and 5) Provide resources for community-based organizations to create green affordable developments.

The second opportunity is to leverage funds included in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The federal economic stimulus package contained substantial new investments for green development, especially to make existing properties more energy efficient.

Third, the Obama Administration and Congress are expected to make a major effort to revamp the nation’s energy policy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years. These policy priorities have huge stakes for low-income families. Hundreds of billions of dollars of public investments will be made, much of which will be directed to the built environment.

Finally, Congress will rewrite the highway and transit bill this year or next. Transportation is the largest discretionary spending program at $48 billion a year. How and where these funds are spent at the local level has huge impacts on housing affordability.

What Advocates Can Do
  • Support the Green Act.
  • Ensure investments in green affordable homes are a priority in energy and climate change policy.
  • Secure funding for affordable homes near transit in the transportation bill.
  • Reach out to environmental, energy and transit advocates to find common ground to create a stronger progressive coalition for green communities for all

As Vice President of Green Initiatives at Enterprise Community Partners, Dana directs all aspects of Green Communities, including strategic planning and program development; planning and construction grants; technical assistance and training support; research and evaluation; and public policy advocacy. Dana works with Enterprise’s financial affiliates to package and integrate the delivery of various forms of project financing to Green Communities developments, including equity investments and redevelopment loans. She also co-leads environmental strategy for the national nonprofit organization and serves as managing director of the Green Communities Offset Fund™.

NHC and the Center for Housing Policy Celebrate 39th Annual Earth Day

On April 22, 1970, America celebrated its first-ever Earth Day. The day, which was created to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment, was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI).

The creation of this day had a wide impact on programs created thereafter by President Richard Nixon. That same year, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And, by the end of 1974, the Clean Water Act, the Pesticide Control Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act had all became law.

While some Americans may see the environment as an issue that has been put on the backburner since that time, initiatives addressing energy use and the preservation of our planet have once again gained momentum in the past decade. These issues are a high priority for President Obama as the Administration, along with members of Congress, work to create a sustainable future for our nation using green technology and other initiatives.

Monday, April 20, 2009

D.C. Property Re-Opening Aligns with Energy Efficiency Goals for the 21st Century

On April 17 a multi-family rental property located in Washington, D.C.'s trendy Logan Circle neighborhood was preserved and rehabilitated to become more energy-efficient.

This effort was made possible because the property received a Green Communities Grant from Enterprise Community Partners. The Green Communities program provides grants, financing, tax-credit equity and technical assistance to developers for creating low-income housing according to specific Green criteria.

Moreover, this property is located in an extremely walkable neighborhood with great access to transit.

The Washington Post published this article announcing the property re-opening.

To learn more, check out the news clip below, which was posted by the National Housing Trust.

Creating "Livable" Cities Requires An Open Mind

A recent article in the Washington Post by Roger K. Lewis highlights the challenges associated with changing anti-urban development mentalities in areas that wish to remain suburban – even when the area’s zip code is associated with a major city. Specifically, Lewis sheds light on some of the District’s residents in the Tenleytown area who are “cling[ing] to a suburban mentality” by opting for low-density commercial development instead of transit-oriented development – an approach from which the area and surrounding neighborhoods could benefit.

While the article discusses the politics behind the debate in this particular neighborhood, regarding livable communities in general, Lewis contends:

“Much suburban fabric is relatively static. Much urban fabric is relatively dynamic, changing as circumstances change. Living in cities means accepting and even embracing change. Living in America's capital city should be no exception.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interagency Coordination Provides Promise for Livable Communities

The beginning of a unique partnership, Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), are promising to work together to create more livable communities that incorporate both affordable housing and viable transit options, among other amenities.

As part of this effort, the secretaries are launching a "Sustainable Communities Initiative” – a joint fund to encourage metro regions to develop integrated housing, land use and transportation plans, focused also on energy-saving initiatives and greenhouse gas reduction.

Historically, the departments have done little to coordinate their efforts. However, secretaries Donovan and LaHood recognize the need to work together to help cities across the U.S. create and foster sustainable communities for generations to come.

The new initiative has many supporters, including Representative John Olver (D-MA), who notes that a “livable community” reflects today’s popular concept of “transit-oriented development” by linking “the transportation mobility of the old and young alike with affordable housing, shopping, job opportunities, and green infrastructure.” Olver, who is head of the House Appropriations subcommittee controlling both the HUD and DOT budgets, has long-been championing closer housing-transportation collaboration.

While many are eagerly anticipating the implementation of these initiatives, Kent Watkins – a fellow advocate and chairman and CEO of Housing Innovations, Inc. – notes that critical tests loom on how quickly the new approaches are grasped and implemented through the ranks of the HUD and DOT bureaucracies. These are obstacles that the Administration will have overcome in order to implement their goals.

To learn more about these efforts, please read this recent Citiwire.com piece by Neal Pierce.

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City Webinar Discussed Ways to Use Shared Equity to Promote Economic Development

Last Wednesday, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City hosted a Webinar entitled, "Discovering Opportunity: Using the Foreclosure Crisis to Address Challenges in Inner City Economic Development," which focused on shared equity. The event was the third in a series of Webinars focusing on opportunities that can be developed out of the foreclosure crisis.

During the event, panelists George McCarthy, program officer, Asset Building and Economic Development, Ford Foundation; Rick Jacobus, partner, Burlington Associates in Community Development; and Jim Gray, vice president, NCB Capital Impact, shared how civic and business leaders might use shared equity and other affordable housing strategies leverage the foreclosure crisis to address other critical issues in inner city economic development.

To learn more about their presentations, please view the transcript.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Solutions for Working Families" Learning Conference Discusses Strategies to Create Energy-Efficient and Green Housing Near Transit and Jobs

Over the past few years, the green movement has significantly shaped the way many Americans feel about nearly every aspect of their lives. For those in the housing industry, this movement has re-conceptualized how and where we build housing – encouraging many developers to build new homes with energy-saving appliances and retrofit older properties to make them more energy-efficient. These initiatives conserve energy, thereby lowering utility costs, and also improve the overall health of the people who reside there.

As policymakers continue to focus on forward-thinking housing solutions, many cities are now working to create and preserve energy-efficient housing near centers of transit and employment in order to improve the livability of their communities and help ensure their economic futures.

While combining and implementing these initiatives may seem challenging, NHC and the Center for Housing Policy’s Solutions for Working Families:2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy offers solutions for state and local officials who wish to develop these strategies in their own communities.

While Solutions for Working Families will focus on a diverse array of topics – including rental preservation, along with foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization – there will be a pre-conference training workshop on Saturday, June 27, 2009 entitled, “Green Affordable Homes,” which will explore the ways in which policymakers can create energy-efficient homes near centers of transit and employment in their communities. Additionally, on Monday, June 29, there will be a mobile workshop entitled “Cutting-Edge Green Developments,” which will highlight Chicago’s role as a leader in the development of innovative green affordable homes, as it strives to be the “greenest city in America.”

To learn more about these and other workshops, please visit Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy.

If you would like to attend the Learning Conference, you may Register Here, or contact Lynn Ross, NHC and Center for Housing Policy Director of State and Local Initiatives, for more information.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NHC and T4 America Host Housing, Transportation and Development Webinar This Thursday

With the current economic crisis, Americans are facing greater challenges in finding affordable housing with good transportation options. As a result, we need federal leadership to bridge housing and transportation policies and to create revitalized and sustainable communities.

This Thursday, April 16, NHC will partner with Transportation for America to host a Webinar entitled, "Exploring the Linkages Between Housing, Transportation and Development" at 4 p.m. EDT.

Webinar panelists include:
  • Christopher Leinberger, visiting fellow at NHC Member Partner The Brookings Institution, partner of Arcadia Land Company and director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan;
  • John McIlwain, chairman of NHC's research affiliate the Center for Housing Policy, senior resident fellow at NHC Member Partner the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the ULI J. Ronald Terwilliger Chair for Housing;
  • Ann Norton, senior staff attorney at the Housing Preservation Project; and
  • Shelley Poticha, president and CEO of Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit Oriented Development.
Participation in this discussion is free and open to the general public. To better understand these connections, as well as explore national efforts to create livable communities, please Register for the Webinar.

If you have further questions please contact NHC Policy Associate Megan Richardson.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

HUD Secretary Donovan Emphasizes the Need to "Get Back to Basics" as He Tackles the Nation's Housing Challenges

Lois Romano of the Washington Post recently interviewed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan as part of their "Voices of Power" series about his critical leadership role, specifically at time when the housing woes of our nation are impacting nearly every facet of our lives.

In the interview, Romano notes the importance of rental housing, saying, "part of the reason we got into this mess is because bankers were telling some people that they could own a home and offering them these unreasonable rates."

When Romano asks Donovan if he thinks every American should be a homeowner, the Secretary stresses the importance of getting back to basics and says, "Not every American wants to be, nor should be, a homeowner. We shouldn't make loans to people when we know they can't afford them. We shouldn't set people up for failure by having rates that increase dramatically."

To view this interview in its entirety, please watch the video below.



If you would like to read the transcript from this interview, please Click Here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Guest Blogger Danilo Pelletiere: A Three Step Process for Seeing Renters in the Recovery

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has been tracking the issue of renters in foreclosure closely for the past three years. From this observation, NLIHC now sees that policy makers, from the local to the federal level, both public and private, appear to be moving through three stages, not unlike the stages of grief, as they come to accept the role of rental housing in the recovery and in their communities.

In Stage 1, denial tinged perhaps with some anger, renters are seen as part of the problem. When the housing market shows initial signs of deterioration, assistance is often limited to “owner-occupants,” existing homeowners or prospective buyers. These efforts are often coupled with efforts to fight what is perceived to be localized blight. Renters and landlords become the targets of stepped up enforcement and harassment, along with other perceived threats to home values such as growing immigrant populations (often assumed to be illegal).

In Stage 2, which has elements of bargaining and depression, there is a forced recognition that the problem is broad and that renters are oftentimes in trouble through no fault of their own, facing either eviction and loss of their security deposit due to foreclosure or, short of eviction, utility shut offs, poor maintenance, and harassment. In Stage 2, which has expanded rapidly across communities, the policy response most often remains fairly ad hoc, such as a well publicized Sheriff’s strike in Chicago, or limited to individual cases. In a few states and localities, new renter protections are enacted as a result.

In Stage 3, acceptance sets in, as renters and rentals become a recognized part of the solution. Policy makers move beyond promoting homeownership and just protecting existing tenants to actively including renters and rental units in their plans. In this stage, communities often begin or repurpose rental inspection programs in a way that seeks to protect communities without discouraging landlords who are operating in good faith. They may also welcome policies that allow owners to become renters but also allow renters to move in with the option to buy in the future. Finally, they may accept new multifamily and single family rental as needed economic activity and a necessary housing option for many Americans.

While advocates for a balanced housing policy and a speedy recovery can work, wait and pray for this process to occur city-by-city, county-by-county, and state-by-state, we also need to take steps at the national level to assist this transformation.

Danilo currently serves as the research director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, where he is responsible for directing the Coalition’s data analysis, public opinion, and rapid response research efforts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Report Examines the Experience of Renters During the Foreclosure Crisis

Tenants Together, a California-based organization, recently published a report on the staggering number of tenants in California struggling in the ongoing foreclosure crisis. According to this study, entitled "Hidden Impact: California Renters in the Foreclosure Crisis," approximately one third of residential units in foreclosure in California are rental units.

The report also includes a list of policy proposals that would better serve the tenant population during these troubling times including a call for stronger eviction protections and notification requirements.

Administration Seeks to Combat Loan Modification Scams

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced an initiative to fight loan modification scams that are preying on troubled homeowners searching for help.

As foreclosures continue to mount, opportunistic companies with official-sounding names have taken root across the U.S., making false claims that they can assist borrowers facing foreclosure. Many of these companies are charging distressed homeowners with fees of $1,000 to $3,000 for loan modification help that rarely pays off.

In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently discovered approximately 71 companies running suspicious home rescue plans. The FTC has already filed new cases against several of these companies to halt illegal practices of individuals and companies promoting loan-modification or foreclosure scams.

Consumers who are seeking to modify home loans can speak to a counselor for free through the government's "Making Home Affordable" program. For more information about that program, please visit www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City Invites You to Participate in a Webinar Focused on Foreclosure Prevention & Shared Equity Homeownership

On April 8, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City will host a Webinar entitled, "Discovering Opportunity: Using the Foreclosure Crisis to Address Challenges in Inner City Economic Development," from 3 - 4 p.m. EDT. The event – which will focus on "shared equity" – is the third in a series of Webinars focusing on opportunities that can be developed out of the foreclosure crisis, discussing how civic and business leaders might leverage this crisis to address other critical issues in inner city economic development.

Shared equity is a housing ownership structure that straddles rental and traditional homeownership by offering an alternative model of affordability that may be well-suited to inner city communities. The strategy is used to build a bridge between the current options of rental housing and traditional ownership and can be used to generate real wealth for families and preserve the affordability of ownership for generations of new homeowners.

Panelists for the event include:
George McCarthy, program officer, Asset Building and Economic Development, Ford Foundation;
Rick Jacobus, partner, Burlington Associates in Community Development; and
Jim Gray, vice president, NCB Capital Impact

To register for the event, please visit this lnk: http://www.icic.org/Forum/ConfCall/RSVP

***
In the meantime, don't forget to sign up for the "Shared Equity Homeownership" and "Foreclosure Prevention" Discussion Groups on the HousingPolicy.org Discussion Forum to exchange ideas with your peers on these topics and more.

Weekly Policy Updates

Weekly Policy Updates
This section will be updated weekly with additional news, events, and resources related to Foreclosure Prevention and Neighborhood Stabilization Initiatives.

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