John Emmeus Davis

24 Posts

John Emmeus Davis is a partner and co-founder of Burlington Associates in Community Development, a national consulting cooperative specializing in the development of policies and programs promoting permanently affordable, owner-occupied housing. He was the housing director for Burlington, Vermont, in the mayoral administrations of Bernie Sanders and Peter Clavelle. Davis has taught housing policy and neighborhood planning at Tufts University, New Hampshire College, the University of Vermont, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Photo by charlene mcbride via flickr, CC BY 2.0
Community Development Field

Industry versus Movement – Redux

Three years ago, I posted a blog in which I wrestled with the question of whether community development is an “industry” or a “movement.” That was the sort of insiders’ […]

Housing Advocacy

Plugging the Leaky Bucket: It’s About Time

“A society grows great when old people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” If that Greek proverb is true, what does it say about a society where most of our policies for affordable housing and community development look more like the mono-cropping of field corn than the patient cultivation of […]


Covered Bridge: A Program That Keeps the Elderly in Their Homes

Nonprofit housers need to think gray in a new way. It has long been predicted that a demographic wave of retirement-age Americans would soon be breaking upon the shores of our communities. It has now arrived. Despite being forewarned, most communities are poorly prepared to meet the housing needs of this cohort. That is especially […]


Mamas, Don’t Let Your Organizers Grow Up To Be Developers

When a community-based developer of affordable housing incorporates community organizing into its programmatic repertoire, there is almost always added value—for the persons housed, for residents of the area served, for […]


You Must Remember This: Uses of the Past in Community Development

“History is bunk,” declared Henry Ford to a newspaper reporter in 1916.  “The only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”  Although widely derided […]


The Impossible Takes a Little Longer

Housers catch flak from every side. Public funders wonder when nonprofit organizations that build housing for families too poor to buy or to rent on the open market are ever […]


Ground Leasing Without Tears

Editor’s note: There are two major legal mechanisms out there for making a privately owned housing unit permanently affordable: (1) a stewarding organization can keep ownership of the land and […]

Community Development Field

Is Community Development an Industry–or a Movement?

Anyone like me who’s spent more than a few years doing community development is likely to have been force-fed this sticky question more than once, despite its dubious nutritional value. […]


Mobility Still Matters

Security is the holy grail of housing policy. Wherever people are perched on the housing tenure ladder, be they renters or homeowners, they are better off when they are able […]


A New Kind of Redlining: Punishing Success

During the worst years of the Great American Mortgage Meltdown, shared equity homes represented an island of stability in a turbulent sea of market failure. Whether community land trusts (CLTs); limited […]

Community Control

Braided Lives: Habitat–Land Trust Partnerships Bring Each Back to Their Roots

Though they started at the same place around the same time, community land trusts and Habitat for Humanity soon went their separate ways.  In recent years, however, inventive practitioners have […]

Community Development Field

Precarious Values and Permeable Edges in Community Development

It has been said there are only two lasting bequests we can leave our children. One is roots. The other is wings. This lovely adage applies equally to the rearing […]