Editor’s Note #116 Mar/Apr 2001

Everything Old is New Again

It’s déjà vu at every turn these days. Colin Powell is visiting the Middle East. Airline workers are not allowed to strike. The economy is getting bumpy, and the administration […]

It’s déjà vu at every turn these days. Colin Powell is visiting the Middle East. Airline workers are not allowed to strike. The economy is getting bumpy, and the administration promises that tax cuts to the wealthy will help give it a boost. We’re hearing about how HUD has “too many” programs, and despite the administration’s fondness for nonprofits and faith-based initiatives, everyone down to local CDCs is worried about funding cuts.

In fact, their worries are already starting to come true: Bush’s budget blueprint, for example, contains serious cuts to many key HUD programs, including public housing. With HUD no longer on the GAO’s high risk list, there’s no easy excuse for cutting housing programs like this; it’s just baldly slashing programs for the poor to pay for a tax cut that will benefit only the wealthy.

Leaving Many Children Behind
Despite claims that it is an “across the board” tax cut, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) 31.5 percent of all families with children nationwide would not receive any tax reduction from the Bush proposal. Researchers at the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy have reached similar conclusions. The vast majority of the excluded families include workers who are in fact paying taxes: payroll taxes and others not reduced by Bush’s tax cut.

Meanwhile, another CBPP analysis, based on the Bush budget document and using methodology favorable to the administration, finds the richest 1 percent would receive more in tax cuts over the next decade than all initiatives in the budget combined — including the prescription drug proposal for seniors, education, health research and defense.

So what are neighborhood activists and community developers to do? In this issue, some key leaders and organizers give us suggestions for building a progressive response to the new political landscape. They vary in what they expect from the new administration and Congress, but none of their recommendations are mutually exclusive. Michael Rubinger of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) sees opportunity in the administration’s focus on nonprofits to promote and expand community development. Maude Hurd of ACORN doesn’t expect anything from the Republicans, but calls for an organizing effort that can pull Democrats back to progressive issues. We can – and should – do both. All our commentators agree that no matter what the outlook, we cannot stop raising the issues of the communities we work in to those in Washington; the stakes are too high.

Red Lines Fade Slowly
Of course many of the challenges we face are far older than even the first Bush administration. Housing discrimination based on race is one of the most persistent, even though it was outlawed by the Fair Housing Act in 1968. Why does segregation persist? Eleanor Novek shows us the subtle (and some not-so-subtle) ways that the real estate industry influences homebuying through indirect communication about race. Systematic discrimination and steering by brokers, as well as questionable advertising and data marketing practices, are formidable obstacles to housing justice, she says.

Good Design By Another Name
Not everything old is bad. In Pittsburgh, four inner city communities that have suffered decades of various forms of urban renewal and attempts to transplant suburbia have organized community planning processes to support projects based on traditional neighborhood design. Sabrina Deitrick and Cliff Ellis explore how these communities, with the help of architects and designers versed in the principles of “New Urbanism,” have started a move back toward pedestrian-oriented, higher density, mixed-income urban design that fits within the character of its neighborhood.

Stories from the Ground
With all this looking to the past, we can never forget that the work of community-based organizations is building the future. In this issue we bring you the story of two inspiring CBOs, one founded during the first Bush administration and one long before that. Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute has grown tremendously in its ten years, combining successful affordable housing development with outspoken advocacy and grappling with what it means to do both. Boston’s 28-year-old Fenway CDC is also balancing development and organizing in a neighborhood that has gone through rapid gentrification and may soon be home to a new baseball stadium.


  • From the Puritans to the Projects

    March 1, 2001

    From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Publlic Neighbors, by Lawrence J. Vale. Howard University Press , 2000 392 pp. Exclusionary zoning, middle class flight, housing discrimination, segregation, […]

  • You Wouldn’t Fit Here

    March 1, 2001

    Let’s define segregation as a social harm rather than an inconvenient byproduct of individual preferences. We need alternatives for viable communities.

  • Be Pragmatic and Persistent

    March 1, 2001

    In the midst of the recent presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal declared, “Despite Sky-High Rents and Prices, Housing Is the Forgotten Issue in Race.” “People don’t expect the federal […]