Notes from GHI’s Sep 18th Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) Meeting

Note: The Long-Range Planning Committee is next scheduled to meet on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. in the Administration Building boardroom.

Committee co-chair Paul Kapfer opened the meeting with a review of the evening’s agenda.

The LRPC, Audit Committee, and attending members completed a round of introductions. Attending member Patricia Novinski volunteered to join the LRPC so her name will be forwarded to GHI Board President Steve Skolnik for consideration.

Kapfer noted that he and co-chair Cynthia Newcomer will take turns leading the meetings and the meeting format is generally split between matters involving data gathering/organization and considering potential initiatives.

LRPC co-secretary Anna Socrates read minutes from the committee’s August meeting. Highlights from those minutes include:

Neron Adams-Escalera (Director of Member Services) introduced the LRPC listserv which all GHI members can join here

Work continues on the LRPC’s charter;

Individual LRPC members will spearhead data gathering and analysis on specific topics: Cynthia Newcomer = member outreach/participation; Paul Kapfer = member-fee trends; Anna Socrates = legislative and public policy issues; Bill Jones = GHI infrastructure.

The meeting then moved to discussion of the updated draft charter. The group agreed to remove “to the extent they impact the committee’s charge” and add “on issues such as the following:” to foster a broad scope of exploration and collaboration across committees. The revised charter was approved and will go to the Board for approval.

Discussion moved to data collection projects. Paul Kapfer wants to gather data on:

1) The total amount of member fees compared with the rate of inflation

2) Unit sale prices as compared with member fees

3) Unit sale prices compared with homes in other local communities.

Chuck Hess wants to include the quantity of homes sold to get a sense of performance compared with market. The committee discussed which time range would provide good insight into member-fee trends. Hess thinks the time period should begin with 1990 to reflect periods with and without large expenditures such as HIP, etc.

Bill Jones questioned the value of comparing the rate of member-fee changes with the inflation rate because a portion of the fee depends on factors that do not change with inflation such as real estate taxes. Group conversation noted that fees for masonry/frame homes were previously increased to make up a $500,000 shortfall in Replacement Reserves collections because the previous saving calculations were too low.

Anna Socrates observed that the home-value gain that some members now enjoy may not be realized by those members who bought during the most recent real estate bubble. Newcomer asked if it is possible to determine how many members are currently underwater or recently saw their home values turn positive. Hess noted that there’s currently no way to document that. He said that data are generally available for the loan terms at time of purchase but doesn’t know of any database with that information.

Newcomer asked what data should GHI start collecting now in advance of the next strategic planning initiative. Only staff can see the member files so the LRPC will summarize its data needs in an email and staff liaison Maesha McNeill will advise the committee regarding what is possible.

Audit Committee chair Molly Lester noted that the Finance Department provides the Board with sales/share-loan financing data that includes member income which may be informative when discussing the definition and perception of GHI as “affordable”.

Hess suggested that the LRPC work to get the 2030 federal census configured to the smallest possible area to capture GHI-only data. Lester noted that the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey has lots of data at the GHI-only level with a few single family homes co-mingled.

Kapfer commented that the inflation rate matters as it affects the payout for people on fixed incomes which affects members’ ability to pay their monthly fee. Socrates also noted that real estate tax data may help members challenge their assessments and lower valuation.

Regarding data on GHI’s inventory of housing stock and land, member Ben Fischler is working to gather information from Buildings Committee and Historic Preservation Task Force records to clarify what GHI owns. Ways in which the LRPC will use the data include informing decisions about replacing buildings, etc.

Kapfer asked the group if there are data that LRPC needs to gather that isn’t already available through other sources. Jones noted that GHI staff know many details about the cooperative that members don’t and this is an opportunity to gather and record that knowledge.

Socrates and the group listed several data points of interest regarding legislative/public policy such as tracking state, county, city government activity on zoning, roads, and transit plans (maglev, BW Parkway, etc); organizational governance; affordable housing initiatives, taxes, historic preservation, mortgages, finance, co-op access to housing programs such as HARP and FEMA disaster aid, and more.

Newcomer listed a data wish list regarding member trends, participation, demographics such as voting turnout, how many members volunteer to run for office or serve on a committee or task force, etc.

In group conversation, the LRPC expressed the need for volunteers to facilitate the data-gathering effort. The committee’s first output could be in the shape of a “This is Your GHI” report which offers a detailed data portrait of GHI. Jones will analyze buyer financial data sheets going back three years with focus on current prices, share loan size, buyer demographics, etc.

At the request of an attending member, the LRPC described four areas on which to focus the committee’s initial data-gathering efforts:

  • Member Fee Trends
  • Housing Stock and Land Inventory
  • Legislative and Policy Trends
  • Member Demographics and Participation

Hess clarified that these four areas are a starting point as their work will also include making recommendations about what to do with the housing stock and what kind of services to provide.

The committee turned its attention to data collection methods. Perhaps the upcoming Member Outreach Committee’s survey can include a question from the LRPC apart from a separate LRPC survey if the Board approved.

The group discussed the probable response rate to demographic questions and what would constitute a statistically significant response. Member and former Board President Wayne Williams noted that a previous member survey effort required a lot of formal measures to get 500 replies – GHI hired a firm to write, conduct, and analyze survey data circa 1975 in relation to long-range planning. Williams considered GHI’s 1957 long-range planning report to be a model; those who read it will see that some issues were resolved but other issues persist.

The committee will use a variety of outreach methods to survey members and recruit members for volunteer roles such as strategic planning facilitation, communications, data collection, and data analysis. The LRPC’s 2019 budget request will ask for funds to cover data gathering and reporting activities.

The Board’s 2018 strategic planning report includes a section titled “Desired Changes at GHI” which has ideas the LRPC can use to inspire its own choices for initiatives to undertake.

Member Wayne Williams encouraged the LRPC to consult the Replacement Reserves study for planning and recruit committee members/friends from among the cohort of GHI members who will be here in 30 years.

The next LRPC meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 16th in the Administration Building boardroom.

Author: Mo Hamilton

Mo Hamilton joined GHI in 2013 after living in the Washington area for 18 years. She lives in large yard that was sold with a block honeymoon cottage attached. Contact Mo at

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