The Week in Community Development—June 7

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: Police Officers' Disturbing Facebook Posts | Bakery Becomes Affordable Houser | NJ Awards $13M Tax Credits to Predatory Lender | CLTs Build Equity, and more

lights on a police car
Photo by Scott Davidson via flickr, CC BY 2.0

A review of police behavior on Facebook shows seriously disturbing conduct from those tasked with serving and protecting. The public Facebook accounts of almost 3,000 officers from eight departments across the county, as well as 600 retired officers, were reviewed in The Plain View Project. What the review found was unacceptable. “About 1 in 5 of the current officers, and 2 in 5 of the retired officers, made public posts or comments that [were] displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language,” according to Injustice Watch. We’re angered by the pushback from some police unions, but glad there are cities that have launched investigations into their respective officers’ conduct.

Creating a secure environment for employees: Staff from a Bay Area bakery found themselves facing eviction due to high rent costs, or driving long distances because they couldn’t afford to live closer to work. So the bakery, a worker cooperative, decided to go in the housing business and build granny, or in-law suites for them. “We thought, what if we could just come to a homeowner and say, ‘You’ve got some underutilized space in your backyard, how about we build affordable housing here,’” said Tim Huet, a founding worker-owner of Arizmendi bakery. “They get a part of the rent, and the rest of the rent goes toward building new affordable housing.” This is such a cool story, and a great model that should be emulated wherever possible.

Irresponsible use of taxpayer funds: There’s been lots of talk of overhauling a corporate tax incentive program in New Jersey after it was alleged that paperwork was falsified to give an almost $17 million tax credit to a predatory lending group. “What’s shameful is that the Economic Development Authority (EDA) even considered an application from the company, which exemplifies the worst of fintech predatory lenders. How could EDA leadership approve an application from a company that profits by destroying other companies?” says Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. After the business—World Business Lenders—received the credit, it laid off its entire department and sold the credit to a third party, according to Salowe-Kaye. You really can’t make this stuff up. Shame on New Jersey, and members of the economic development authority who approved this deal.

Building Equity: In 2004 a funder asked us if there was any research done to show that community land trust (CLT) homeowners build equity. We’d written about CLT—a form of shared-equity homeownership—before but hadn’t come across any solid research on the question. Since then, we’ve published many articles on the good, solid research (some of it our own) showing the benefits of CLTs and other forms of shared-equity homeownership. And now we have more. An important new study published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy shows that 95 percent of shared-equity home mortgages are priced affordably (under 30 percent of monthly income) for lower-income families, the median shared-equity household accumulates $14,000 in earned equity (compared to a median initial investment of $1,875), and nearly 6 out of 10 shared-equity homeowners use their earned equity to eventually purchase a traditional market rate home. So now we have our answer.

What else we’re reading:

Gentrification Got GentrifiedSlate

In Chicago, Access to Capital Depends on Your Neighborhood – Urban Institute

Nearly 8 Months After Hurricane Michael, Florida Panhandle Feels Left Behind – NPR

Rent cap bill approved in California AssemblyCurbed 

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