Don’t Put All The Dollars Into a Few Streets?

In a new, substantial post on, Charles Buki suggests that the foreclosure crisis presents an opportunity for community developers to re-assess where they allocate their limited resources. He says we should be fighting to protect the gains made in neighborhoods in the middle of the economic spectrum – the ones that have, say, one foreclosure every couple of blocks – rather than pouring all our dollars into the ones at the bottom, where there are as many as two foreclosures on a single block.

Buki compares the stable but fragile neighborhoods to a hospital patient that is sick but would probably recover with an organ implant. The worst-off patient, even with the implant, might very well still die. Given this choice, policymakers have for years opted to try to save the sickest patient, despite pessimism about that neighborhood’s chances.

While the recent wave of foreclosures has hit the very lowest-income areas of our cities especially hard, it has become a problem in other, more moderate-income areas as well. It’s also affected many suburbs, not just the central cities. One conclusion to draw from this is that resources to fight foreclosure should be distributed more broadly to have an impact on cities and regions as a whole. For the same amount of money, government might be able to accomplish a lot more for local economies that appear to be sinking like stones.

David Holtzman is a planner for Louisa County, Virginia, a freelance writer, and a former Shelterforce editor.


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