Miriam Axel-Lute

Miriam Axel-Lute
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Miriam Axel-Lute is editor of Shelterforce and associate director of the National Housing Institute. She lives in Albany, New York, where she serves on the Community Development Alliance board.
bus

Taking the Bus: Nonprofit Conferences and Integrity of Purpose

Nonprofits advocate for local transit spending, but annual conference logistics don't typically include bus route information for attendees.
The cover of the Winter 2018 edition of Shelterforce magazine.

There’s Opportunity in Vacancy

Thinking of abandoned properties as merely problems we wish would go away feeds into some of the less productive ways vacant properties have been handled.
State policies on everything from taxation to land bank funding can make the difference between a vacant property and a well-care-for property like this one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

State Policies Play a Central Role in the Fight Against Vacant Property

Abandoned and vacant properties seem like a quintessentially local problem. But state policies have a huge effect on how well municipalities can fight it.
home with for sale sign in foreground

Is the Housing Market the Answer to the Racial Wealth Gap?

In discussions around closing the racial wealth gap, we should be reminded that a very large portion of wealth gained by white Americans should be seen as ill-gotten.
senator elizabeth warren

Can Housers Unite Around the Warren Proposal?

Every once in a while someone says: "What would it look like if we came together and were united on a federal policy for housing?" It seems like the answer to "who would actually do it?" might currently be Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Shelterforce cover for issue 191 focusing on renters rising. Articles focus on rent regulations, discrimination against voucher holders, rent control, and more.

Renters Rise Again

Rent regulation is no longer being discussed as a vestigial holdover from a previous age, but actively debated and organized for by renters and activists.
This woman says Four-County employees assaulted her. She did not want her face shown.

Taking Sexual Harassment Seriously: Tips for Nonprofits

Sexual harassment is a topic that’s not often addressed in the community development field, but it should be.
block party

Loneliness Kills; Community Developers Can Help

Some social determinants of health are concrete and physical. A substandard house with mold and pests, for example, will lead to more asthma and...
ladders

Measuring the Right Things: “Mobility from Poverty” Is More than Finances

How would you measure someone making progress toward escaping poverty? If you've been tuned in to the asset-building movement you might look at their accumulation of assets and preparation for a financial emergency. You might also want to look at cash flow. But can poverty-fighting be solely measured by money?
2093 mission street

Preserving Affordability in San Francisco—A Look at the Housing Accelerator Fund’s First Year

An interview with Bob Annibale of Citi Community Development and Rebecca Foster of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, which aims to to preserve or develop 1,500 affordable housing units in its first five years. 

Democrats Propose Actually Meaningful Public Housing Funding

Whether it’s the need to recapture some momentum in the 2018 election season, or the growing effect of the housing crisis on a wider range of people, the Democratic Party has proposed investing $70 billion in public housing.

What Does “Community Control of Land” Mean?

When we put out a call for essays about the meaning of community control of land, we expected we might get a handful of responses. Instead we got dozens and dozens, coming from all different parts of the country, from residents and researchers, activists and advocates. We clearly touched a nerve.
A view of a community in Oregon, with an American flag framing the left hand side. Lots of trees in the area.

The State of Permanent Affordability

In the face of accelerating gentrification, along with ongoing speculation and eviction, the idea of putting a substantial number of homes outside of the reach of the speculative market has been gaining momentum across the country.
home with solar panel on roof

New Program Aims to Help Community Land Trusts Get to Scale

A new program invests in the belief that community land trusts can become more than a boutique housing solution.
Black Panther newsletter from 1969

What Black Panther-inspired Gift to Oakland Should Have Looked Like

Disney's Black Panther-inspired gift to Oakland children is great, but there is a way it could be better.
Michael Bodaken

Interview with Michael Bodaken, retiring director of the National Housing Trust

Shelterforce took the occasion of Michael Bodaken's retiring from the National Housing Trust to speak with him about how he got into housing, some of his favorite projects, and his recommendations for the field going forward.
Jeanne Fekade-Selassie

New Money on the Block: Funders for Housing and Opportunity

A new funding collaborative, Funders for Housing and Opportunity, has just launched. The collaborative, officially a project of the New Ventures Fund, involves (so far) nine large and well-known foundations.

Why Do We Care About Health Equity?

The fight for health equity—for everyone to have a roughly equal shot at the potential and choice that good health offers—is of course, similar to the fight for economic justice and the work of community development.
The view of downtown Richmond, Virginia, as seen from Jefferson Park.

Interview with Mark D. Constantine, president and CEO of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation

Mark Constantine gives us a view of one foundation’s attempt to learn to walk the walk and how that commitment can influence the work one organization does to create a culture of health in its community.
Nikole Hannah-Jones

We’re All Enforcing “Separate But Unequal” Schools—An Interview With Nikole Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur “Genius”

Shelterforce spoke with MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award" recipient Nikole Hannah-Jones about her research into the persistence of racial segregation, and how without government intervention, average Americans have done an excellent job of enforcing "separate but unequal" schools.
Nine African-American women stand in a park with their fists raised.

Walking Warriors

When it comes to neighborhood-based health activity interventions, how they are carried out is often as important as what is offered.
Men in topcoats and hats with rent increase protest signs.

Could Rent Control Come Back?

It was only two and a half years ago that Jake Blumgart opened his article, "In Defense of Rent Control," by saying: "Rent control...
Child showing a story book to another child.

How This Museum Supports Community Integration and Trauma Recovery

Using artistic expression to de-stigmatize and treat trauma.
Aerial view of roofs

Adding Housing Doesn’t Overcrowd Schools

Adding housing doesn't correlate with increased school enrollment, according to a new study. But will housing advocates be able to make use of this information?
The front cover of the Fall 2017 edition of Shelterforce magazine.

Community Development Potpourri

This issue represents a great cross-section of what community development is. We have stories of organizing, housing, health, and arts. Stories of affordable housing challenges in strong and weak markets; we have pieces on policy, program, and resistance; and more.
A historical photo of a burned cross with the word "Freedom" in white across it.

“You’re Not Colored”: The Story of Two Civil Rights Activists of Japanese Descent

We heard about Ed Nakawatase and Tamio Wakayama's experiences as volunteers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the American civil rights movement, and the extraordinariness of their witness to the history happening at the time compelled us to pursue a conversation.
Members of Boston Liberation Health hold a banner that reads, "Capitalism, racism, and heteropatriachy are making us sick. Join Liberation Health."

How Organizing for Justice Helps Your Mental Health

How do social justice, organizing, and mental health interact? Shelterforce chats with clinical social worker Dawn Belkin Martinez to find out.
tiny homes

Tiny Homes for the Homeless—Would You Host a Village?

Imagine if hosting a transitional tiny home village became the norm for all suitable vacant land—dare I say even an expectation?
NYC skyline painted on brick wall.

New York City Becomes a Hotbed of Community Land Trust Innovation

New York seems poised to move the concept of community land trusts in new and exciting directions.
Upside-down image of a faucet dripping.

Trickle Up Housing: Filtering Does Go Both Ways

Here's something we don't talk about enough: developing affordable housing in a tight, high-cost market also increases overall affordability through filtering! Just in the other direction—it trickles up.
Smoke over California hills.

Not If But When: A Disaster Preparedness Conversation

Against the back drop of 2017's California wildfires, a quickly organized session took place to discuss disaster response and recovery from the perspective of being a housing organization.
Boarded window with "Resist Immigration Raids" sprayed.

What to Do When ICE Comes to Your Buildings

If you own and/or manage affordable housing, do you know what to do if ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shows up on your doorstep looking for someone? If you haven’t thought it through yet, now’s the time.
Black and white photo of a row of police cars.

The Problem with “We Have to Do Something”

This summer, Eve Ewing, a sociologist of race and education at the University of Chicago, wrote an article called “The Chicago Negro and the...
A dark-skinned woman in the foreground and two light-skinned men are wearing neon yellow T-shirts reading "City Life Vida Urbana, No Nos Moveran, We Shall Not Be Moved" and marching with a black banner with "City Life Vida Urbana" in red letters.

Housing Justice Organizers March Against White Supremacy

Housing is on the radar of racial justice activists.
The cover of the Summer 2017 edition of Shelterforce magazine, which focuses on racial justice. Topics include character loans, policing, gentrification ...

Editor’s Note: Racial Justice — Beyond Good Intentions

Race affects everything in American society. Working to fight racial injustice is a large part of what the community development field does. And yet, that doesn’t get us off the hook.

Who Will Lead Community Development Corporations?

Community development corporations are surprisingly short on executives of color. Why? And how can the field do better?
A street is covered with flowers and photos of Heather Heyer, as people look on the background

Terrorism in Charlottesville — And Possibly Your Town Next

The Trump-era increase widespread racial terror, as was on display in Charlottesville, is going to affect community developers' work at least as much as as his legislative and funding agenda.
Public art in Pittsfield, Massachusetts: A utility box on a sidewalk is covered with interlocking hands in all the colors of the rainbow.

Could Public Art on Utility Boxes Displace Communication?

What's not to like about colorful art on utility boxes? Well, in some places that drab infrastructure might be performing informal community functions...
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, speaking and holding a microphone.

Facebook Dips Its Toe Into Funding Housing

There was much speculation last year about whether and how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would enter the affordable housing space. We got our first peek today . . .
Dr. Kelly Kelleher and the Rev. John Edgar walk down a street in Columbus, Ohio.

How a Risk-Averse Hospital and a Risk-Taking CDC Built a Functional Partnership

Shelterforce recently spoke with Angela Mingo of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Rev. John Edgar of Community Development for All People to learn more about their health/housing partnership and how it came to be.
Close-up image of links in a chain.

Look Outside the Box with Health and Housing Partnerships

Though it seems the connection between health and community development is on everyone’s lips these days, the two sectors are really still at the beginning stages of learning how to work together.

4 Reasons to Retire the Phrase “Inner City”

On a recent trip to Seattle, I picked up a copy of the weekly paper The Stranger. As I...

High Cost of Affordable Housing Is Not CDCs’ Fault

You know what doesn’t help lower the cost of affordable housing? Spuriously blaming some of the organizations that are working hardest to create it in the most difficult situations.
A calculator and black pen lie upon a double ruled notebook.

After Paying for Housing, How Much is Enough for Basic Necessities?

We need some standards to explain what “enough” means. Here's a breakdown of the Family Budget Calculator, the Self-Sufficiency Standard, and the Housing Poverty Measure.

Doctors Join the Fight Against Speculators

Housing crises are health crises. Toxic mold causes asthma. Lack of heat weakens immune systems. Unaffordability causes stress. Forced choices between paying the rent and paying for medical care or food lead to poor health. Around the country, health care institutions that recognize this have started to employ lawyers onsite to help patients fight landlords for better housing conditions or qualify for housing subsidies (plus a range of other legal supports that will generally have direct effect on their health).
A white hand puts a silver colored key into a door lock.

How Should We Measure Housing Affordability?

The simplicity of the 30 percent standard is also its downfall. We don’t expect people of differing incomes or family sizes to pay the same percentage of their income in taxes—why would the same percentage work for housing costs?

Vision, Not Just Critique

In the Spring 2017 issue of Shelterforce, we talk about something that comes up daily for many people working in the community development field—what does housing affordability mean? Crafting practical policies to back up our vision requires that we be thoughtful about all of the pieces.

Lawn Sign Liberalism

If you live anywhere with a substantial resistance to the current administration's attacks on immigrants, you may have seen...

Local Contracting–Cost Cutting, Economic Development, Or Both?

We recently published both an article and an Answer column that shows how one group in Philadelphia, WPRE/NR, is...
From top left, Ingrid Gould Ellen of the Furman Center at New York University; Jamaal Green of Portland State University; Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions; and Rick Jacobus of Street Level Advisors. From bottom left, Greg Maher of the Leviticus Alternative Fund; Alan Mallach of the Center for Community Progress and a National Housing Institute senior fellow; and Charlie Wilkins, a consultant and co-author of the AEI paper.

Regulation and Housing Supply: Where the Left & Right Agree (Sort Of)

We gathered some people who have done a lot of thinking and studying on regulation to discuss what it might look like to actually remove obstacles that get in the way of developing less expensive housing options responsibly. What's possible? What are the trade-offs?

Preliminary HUD Budget Shows Carson Lied in His Confirmation Hearing Too

The Washington Post reported today that a preliminary HUD budget cuts $6 billion—eliminating Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and...

Carson Confirmed. So About Those Other HUD Jobs…

Ben Carson has been confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the weak...

Nonprofits–Yes You Can Advocate. And Now’s The Time

Amidst the chaos of the past couple weeks there has been at least one positive change—a lot more people...

Interview with Rinku Sen, president and executive director of Race Forward & publisher of...

In those exhausting and frightening days right after the election in November, I had the good fortune to catch Rinku Sen for a few minutes at the end of a long day of her organization’s biannual Facing Race conference. Though she must have been running on next to no sleep by that point, Sen was insightful, earnest, and eager to talk about the road ahead.

Carson Tries to Please Everyone in Confirmation Hearing, Mostly Succeeds

Triage is in effect among those opposed to the incoming administration and the president-elect's cabinet picks. This morning’s Senate...

GOP Tax Plan Takes Mortgage Interest Deduction Unfairness Off the Charts

Let's raise the standard deduction and lower tax rates to give everyone a tax cut!It should not surprise you that since this is a...

Bringing Together Arts and Community Development

Who has been behind the large increase in financial support for and attention to what has been termed "creative placemaking" over the past couple years, and why?

A Tale of Two Murals in Albany

Having had the experience of public art with no public involvement, a community organization set out to show there could be another way.

Art Just Became Even More Essential

Coming mere days after the election, the reference to the famous Audre Lorde declaration, “Art gives us tools other than the master’s tools,” felt apropos. The people in the room were ready to hear any message of hope. I was no exception.
Kresge president Rip Rapson

Interview with Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation

If you look at what Rip Rapson has accomplished and the insight he brings to his current work, you'll get a much better picture of who he is and the challenging work he spearheads at the Kresge Foundation.

Airbnb, Test Your Hosts for Bias

Airbnb, as with some other of its fellow peer-to-peer “disruptive” tech solutions, has come under fire from a few...

Some HUD Secretary Possibilities Are Serious–Others Laughable

Attention has been rightly focused this past week on the fact that the...

Interview with Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA

At the Opportunity Finance Network conference in October, I finally got a chance to sit down and talk with...

Top Racial Justice Leaders Give Post-Election Thoughts

Nearly to a person, the 2,300 attendees at last week’s Facing Race conference—and most of the speakers—said, at some...

CDFIs “Rethink” Systems, But (Hopefully) Not Identity

Last week I attended the Opportunity Finance Network conference, the annual gathering of Community Development Financial Institutions and those who work with them. As usual,...

What If a Community Art Project Were Never Done?

Last week, while in Atlanta for the Opportunity Finance Network conference, I caught a glimpse on a bus tour...

New Lenses on Economic Development

Billions of taxpayer dollars are spent every year to stimulate economic development. Is it going where we think it’s going?

The Danger of Middle-Income People Feeling the Affordability Crisis

The housing affordability crunch is being felt by ever more people. As this year's State of the Nation's Housing...

Cleveland–East Cleveland Merger Plan Overlooks Main Issue

East Cleveland, a struggling suburb of Cleveland, has ended up in so much fiscal distress that it is considering allowing...

Earned Income Should Not Replace Public Funding for Community Development

The second article in our New Frontiers series, “Getting Beyond the Developer Fee“ has spurred some discussion. ...
A high school graduate who saved for college with the help of FUEL Education, now called Inversant.

In Which a Skeptic Is Won Over to Child Savings Accounts

While I am a firm believer in equal access to higher education for all, it’s over-emphasized in our individualistic culture as a solution to society’s woes.

Could an Anti-Homelessness Program Also Stabilize Affordable Housing Supply?

Periodically in the affordable housing world, a few of us acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of low-income people live in unsubsidized rental...
From left, Andrea Levere, Andrea Luquetta-Kern, Woody Widrow, and Holly Frindell.

In Pursuit of Financial Well-Being: A Conversation on Fairness, Accessibility, and Empowerment

In a world of growing financial complexity, predatory products, stagnating wages, and escalating inequality, financial insecurity is a dramatic problem. We gathered a group of leaders who are combating financial insecurity for a conversation on how it all relates.
The summer 2016 cover of Shelterforce magazine, an illustration of a man climbing up orange colored stairs.

Being “Well,” Financially

What does it take to achieve financial security for the millions of American households without it? Clearly full employment, higher wages, and a more robust safety net would be some major components. But as important as those are, they aren’t the full picture. Assets are an important counterweight to income.
Young students wearing red shirts laugh as they participate in a college-bound program in Indiana.

College Bound: A Look at Children’s Savings Accounts

Children's savings accounts for higher education, even those that have accumulated only small amounts of money, can change expectations for low-income students and they might also provide a vehicle for larger wealth transfers.
Sheila Crowley speaks from a podium as she holds a piece of paper.

Interview with Sheila Crowley, past president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Crowley has led the organization through dramatic times, keeping a focus on those with the most pressing housing need when many wanted to just talk homeownership.
Members of an organization install pavement on a sidewalk in Buffalo, New York.

Getting Beyond the Developer Fee

In tough financial times, community developers are hanging on to their developer fees despite competition, but many are also diversifying their programs and revenue streams.

A New Way to Do Affirmative Action?

I was prepared to dislike Sheryll Cashin’s Place, Not Race, just based on the title. However, the author largely won me over.

Housing for Which Artists?

One of the many roles for arts and culture in the community development world is catalyzing interest, vitality, and...

Why Should “Community Development” Only Be Urban?

“I'm tired of feeling rural America is so alone,” said Lisa Mensah, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development to...

Mixing It Up

Compared to the worst examples of urban design that have physically isolated low-income families, mixed-income housing seems like an intuitively healthier, more equitable way to go about designing neighborhoods.

Two Presidential Affordable Housing Platforms!

“There’s still time to get the nation’s housing and urban crisis on the presidential campaign radar,” wrote Randy Shaw...

Harvard Planners Talk Race, Design, and St. Louis

In our recent interview with long-time urban planner and racial equity advocate Chester Hartman, he told us he thought...

Two Sneaky Reasons Why Building More Housing Isn’t Helping

The discussion about how much building more housing will help with affordability, and the nuances of the neighborhood and regional effects and what to...

Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted” Supports, Challenges Housing Field

With Evicted, Desmond is taking a powerful argument that housing matters beyond the usually circles where that is discussed.

So, About That Anti-Inclusionary “Study”

Last week, I submitted the following letter to the editor of the LA Times in response to a vicious, and...

Community Development and the School Reform Fight

In the community development field there are innumerable conversations about improving a struggling neighborhood or moving toward economic equity that have been ended abruptly...
Dripping faucet.

Attitudes Toward Exploited Cities Helped Poison Flint

Flint’s water crisis started long before corrosive river water starting running through its pipes. Though there’s no question that those who signed off on...
Cars on downtown New York City street.

Rich Neighborhood in NYC Actually Gets a “Noxious” Use

A core environmental justice fight has long been the fair distribution of necessary nuisance uses throughout a city. Poor neighborhoods tend to be over-burdened...

Uber-noxious

At the PolicyLink Equity Summit the last week of October, Orson Aguilar of the Greenlining Institute was taking a...

Place Matters, But Place Changes

“Place matters, but place changes,” Univ. of Southern Calif. professor Manuel Pastor observed at the opening plenary at PolicyLink’s...

Is Rags to Riches the Right Measure?

Comparative income quintiles don’t tell us very much about the material conditions of people’s lives. When someone rises into the top fifth, someone else falls into the bottom fifth.

Land Trust Conference Models Better Ways to Get People’s Attention

People are not made to sit in windowless rooms breathing recycled air and squinting at tiny writing on screens for days on end. If...

The Best Thing I Didn’t Hear All Week

I'm in Lexington, Ky., this week for the National Community Land Trust Network conference, hosted by the Lexington Community Land Trust.The Lexington CLT had...

On Beyond Anniversaries

When I visited New Orleans last June for the NeighborWorks Comeback Cities event, many of the people I spoke with were ambivalent about the...

Organizing and the Community Land Trust Model

What happens when organizers win a campaign for community control of land? That depends a lot on the choices they make about how to exercise that control.

Dispatches from Whose City?

City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis, edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb. N + 1. 2015, 496pp, $18 (paper). Purchase here.

Community Development and School Reform: Odd Bedfellows?

In my couple decades hanging around the community development field, I can’t count the number of times conversations about...

Leveling the Information Playing Field Between Advocates and Developers

Inclusionary housing has been around for decades. It encompasses a range of policies that call on developers to contribute...

Unfriend Your Neighbor to Get a Loan?

Want to be that one person who bootstraps themselves out of poverty and makes it, against all odds? Not...