Ekstrom receives national award

National NeighborWorks America Association honors Brent Ekstrom for his leadership in addressing affordable housing and community development throughout N.D.

Lewis & Clark Development Group Executive Director Brent Ekstrom was honored last month by the National NeighborWorks Association (NNA) as one of three outstanding national leaders in the field of housing and community development.

Ekstrom received NNA’s Emerging Network Leader Award. The award recognizesan executive director who has led a NeighborWorks America organization for less than five years and whose leadership has improved the value of his or her organization and the NeighborWorks Network.

NeighborWorks’ mission is to strengthen communities and expand affordable housing through a network of 240 community development organizations throughout the United States. Lewis & Clark Development Group is North Dakota’s only chartered NeighborWorks America member.

A panel of experts selected Ekstrom for the award, which he received at the 14th Annual Excellence Awards held at NeighborWorks’ annual Executive Directors Symposium in Washington, DC.

“It is always a great honor to be recognized for one’s work,” said Ekstrom. “I view this award as a reflection of the hard work and dedication of a staff that works every day to expand affordable housing and develop communities throughout our state. I’m just the most conspicuous member of an outstanding team.”

Recognized for Statewide Impact. Ekstrom’s nomination specifically citied his work to expand Lewis & Clark Development Group’s statewide impact through a series of innovative partnerships and programs. One of the most notable examples is the group’s partnership with Lutheran Social Services (LSS).

Last year, USDA Rural Development approved a pilot program allowing the two groups to enter into a partnership to acquire USDA Rural Development Section 515 subsidized rental properties for their remaining debt. The properties are then rehabilitated and continue in the Section 515 Program as low-income housing under the ownership-management of Lewis & Clark Development Group and LSS. This creative partnership is addressing a real and persistent need for low-income housing in North Dakota’s rural communities and is viewed as a model for other NeighborWorks organizations serving rural populations throughout the nation.

Meeting the Challenge of Affordable Housing. Another new program launched in 2017 by Lewis & Clark Development Group is the Essential Public Employees Program (EP2), which is a down payment and closing cost assistance program for individuals employed by a city, county, school district, medical or long-term care facility, or the state. This program was created to address the ongoing critical need to provide affordable housing to essential employees throughout the state, especially in rural areas.

“There is an affordable housing crisis in North Dakota and the only way we are going to be able to address it is through collaborative relationships between nonprofits, banks, and local, state, and federal governments,” adds Ekstrom. “Lewis & Clark Development Group is in the unique position to bring these groups together to develop best strategies and practices to make an impact on this issue.”