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.

Suing the Suburbs

Fights against the displacement caused by rapid gentrification tend to focus on the gentrifying neighborhoods themselves. But some housing...

Can’t Be in the Gulf for the Katrina Anniversary? Watch These Films Instead

Tomorrow is the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, leading to all sorts of reflections on how far the city has...

Segregation Conversation Goes National

The conversation about balancing placed-based revitalization and expanding access to high-opportunity areas has been edging onto the national radar...

It’s Not Actually About Ownership

Private Property and Public Power: Eminent Domain in Philadelphia, by Debbie Becher. Oxford University Press, 2014. 334pp. $30.50 (paper) Purchase here.
A woman in a red Cause Justa/Just Cause T-shirt holds a hand-lettered sign reading "Black and Brown for Tenant Protections Now"

Tenant Solidarity in Oakland

Q&A with Kitzia Esteva-Martinez, Causa Justa/Just Cause

A Nation—and Neighborhoods—of Immigrants

The story of neighborhood populations changing with waves of migrants is a classic part of the history of American cities. We are, as most...

Seattle Eyes Zoning’s Third Rail–Single Family Neighborhoods

My city of Albany, N.Y., is currently going through a rezoning process. Mostly this entails cleaning up a fragmented,...

We Know Whose Fault Poverty Is–So Why Do Our Terms Blame the Poor?

Shelterforce began, 40 years ago, as a newspaper for tenant organizers. They were legal aid lawyers and similar rabble...

How *Not* to Connect Health and Community Development

A few months ago as I walked to a board meeting of my local CDFI, I passed a memorial to a young man who...
A woman in a red Cause Justa/Just Cause T-shirt holds a hand-lettered sign reading "Black and Brown for Tenant Protections Now"

Tenant Solidarity in Oakland

   Q&A with Kitzia Esteva-Martinez, Causa Justa/Just CauseLast October, Oakland, Calif., passed a Tenant Protection Ordinance. This strong measure defending...

Should We Want Home Prices to Rise?

Over on the media watchdog site FAIR, economist Dean Baker takes Boston Community Capital director Elyse Cherry to task for...

Seeking Solidarity Between Place-Based and Economic Justice Work

Last week, Brentin Mock over at CityLab had an incisive response to Peter Dreier’s Shelterforce article, The Revitalization Trap....

Thinking Gray—And Positive

When I think about all the boards and committees I’ve served on, the clean-up days and neighborhood association events and protests I’ve attended, I...
Ai-jen Poo speaking.

Interview with Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-Jen Poo has been organizing with domestic workers for over 15 years, helping in New York to win some of the first statewide labor protections for occupations often exempt from labor laws, and expanding this campaign to a nationwide vision for a strong caregiving workforce and infrastructure for elder care. In 2014 she became a MacArthur Fellow, but this was hardly her first award.

Transportation More Important than Schools, Crime, in Escaping Poverty

The New York Times recently reported on a finding from the large social mobility study out of Harvard that found that access to good,...

Community Development and #BlackLivesMatter: What’s Our Role?

There is a lot to be processed and mourned, celebrated and condemned about what has happened in Baltimore recently,...

Is DC Really Affordable?

 I'm glad to see I'm not the only one thinking about the limits of the “30 percent of your...

Immigration Is a Community Development Issue

The story of neighborhood populations changing with waves of migrants is a classic part of the history of American cities. We are, as most...

Solar for the People

So this story started off sounding so promising.An affordable housing complex put solar panels on its roof!Also, it's affordable...

Chattanooga Is Densifying Its Downtown–Will It Diversify Too?

Chattanooga, Tenn., has done some impressive things over the past few decades, being forward looking first in terms of...

People and Places 2015: Not Your Average Community Development Conference

I go to a lot of conferences. I enjoy them, generally, as places to get to talk to all...

Community Fears About Shelters, Section 8 Don’t Materialize

NIMBY fights are a big obstacle to allowing lower-income households access to opportunity. Truth is, voucher holders don't increase crime in a neighborhood.

“Women- and Minority-Owned Businesses” Is a Meaningless Category

How many times have you seen the phrase “women- and minority-owned businesses” or seen an organization list a single...

Close to Home

I keep a running list of non-fiction books that have opened my mind and changed my perspective on the world in some significant and...
Albany, New York

Funding the City

Property taxes were set up at a time when cities were regional centers of wealth. Times have changed. We need to another look at how we're funding cities.

Economic Security First

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. Times Books, 2013

We May Be Small, But…

Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, by Catherine Tumber. MIT Press, 2012

Interview with George McCarthy, President of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

After 14 years at the Ford Foundation, most recently as the director of the Metropolitan Opportunities Unit, George "Mac" McCarthy became the fifth president of the 41-year-old Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, trading in his long daily commute to New York City and returning to Boston, where he grew up. McCarthy brings to the job that critical and nuanced eye for detail that comes with being an accomplished housing economist with the mission of bringing social justice to those denied it around the world. Well-known for his blunt and honest views and his ability to challenge as well as inspire those he works with, McCarthy has long seen land use policy as a means to reach the equity goals he's worked for in his roles as a teacher, researcher, and funder.

Time to Learn from Europe on Housing?

Since we recently had bloggers squaring off on the question of whether expanding homeownership really is an important policy priority in and of itself (Alan Mallach: Yes, Tony Roshan Samara: No), I thought it was interesting to throw this New Yorker article into the mix—a reminder that many of our tax subsidies ($200 billion a […]

Would Just Letting the Hot Markets Build More Help Affordability?

As people move back into the cities, and rental housing demand goes up, it's been an interesting time for people wrestling with the problems of highly unaffordable areas to live. Some people are arguing that limits on development—whether it's density restrictions like Washington, D.C.'s height limits, or the kinds of geographical, historical, or quality of […]

Maybe We Should Call Them Trailers

It is an article of faith among advocates for residents of manufactured housing that one of the most important things we can do to get over the stigma that this form of housing carries is to stop using the term “mobile homes” (they aren't really mobile) or “trailers/trailer parks” (ditto). Shelterforce has used “manufactured housing” […]

How Much Money Is Your City or State Losing to “Economic Development?”

Have you ever wondered how much money your city or state is actually losing when it gives a 20-year tax break to a developer in exchange for a handful of jobs? You might soon be able to find out. As Shawn Escoffery of the Surdna Foundation and Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First explain in […]

On Beyond Income: Asset Building and Union Organizing Go Together

I wrote earlier this week about how the current increase in labor organizing among service workers calls for a conscious choice by other nonprofits who work with low-income households to offer our solidarity to those campaigns. Beyond the fact of supporting workers in their struggle for self-determination, there are some other opportunities for cross-pollination there. […]

On Progressives and Picket Lines

The story was very different, depending who told it. To the organizers of the I'M HOME and National Manufactured Homeowners' Assocation conferences, news that the Seattle Olive 8 hotel, which they had booked for their annual conferences this past November, was under boycott by the hotel workers union UNITE HERE for refusing to allow workers […]

A RADical Change for Public Housing?

Earler this month, we published an op-ed from HUD in which the authors declared the Rental Assistance Demonstration project a success, calling for a lifting of the cap on the number of units that could go through the process. The idea behind RAD is to address the massive backlog in capital improvements in public housing by […]

After a Long Impasse, A Win for Dudley Street?

In the film Gaining Ground, about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a powerful community planning and organizing group in Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, one of the major story lines involves the Kroc Community Center. In a nutshell, the Salvation Army got a huge amount of money to build community centers around the country, and wanted […]

A Look in the Mirror: Do CDFIs (and CDCs) Reflect Their Communities?

Last year, I wrote about the teeming conference of the Opportunity Finance Network, the trade group for community development financial institutions, with a little bit of awe at how different it was from the rest of the community development world in its growth and optimism, worrying about mission creep rather than survival. This year the […]

“Workforce Housing” Is an Insulting Term

So folks, we need to have a chat about this whole “workforce housing” thing. It's a problem. Or rather, the way it is often being used these days is a problem, which is as shorthand for housing for people who aren't really low-income, but are still having trouble affording housing in a hot market. Moderate […]
Shelterforce spoke with (from left) former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros, who worked under President Clinton, and Mel Martinez, who worked under President Bush.

Interview with Former HUD Secretaries Senator Mel Martinez and Mayor Henry Cisneros

At the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Summit on Sept. 15 and 16, five former HUD secretaries joined a panel discussing their time at the...

Put Your Spending Where Your Goals Are

Local procurement policies take money already being spent and direct it to local businesses to get more economic development benefit for the buck.

Let’s Talk About Jobs—And Ownership

In theory, the recession has been over since 2009. But that theory means little for most workers in this country, who have only seen...

Interview With Tom Szaky, Founder, Terracycle

We spoke with Tom Szaky, TerraCycle's founder and CEO, about social enterprise, locating in a distressed community, and what he as an employer would want out of workforce development programs.

On Board

How do you make a community development organization's board welcoming to residents and low-income members, and ensure that once there, they are more than window dressing?

Bonus: Diversifying the Public Sector

CDC boards can be a first stop for preparing resident leaders for roles on public authorities or boards, or elected office. “A lot of...

How to Respond When Someone Screams “But We’ll Get Sued!”

There are not a ton of things I read on the Internet that instantly make me want to hunt down the author and send him or her flowers. But Charles Marohn's post “On Liability“ on the Strong Towns blog was definitely one of them. “Liability” is increasingly sucking the joy out of life. Everywhere you […]

Ferguson on My Mind

Outside my house, two young African-American boys, maybe 9 or 10, scoot by on skateboards. One is carrying something on a leaf and stops to show me a giant slug. We chat about it a bit; I tell him that I looked up what kind of slug that was recently but now don’t remember. He […]

Keeping Justice in Mind as We Talk Asset-Building

I attended my first ever Assets Learning Conference, put on by CFED last week, and I have to say it was mighty impressive. And I was particularly pleased to see that economic justice and things like reforming the tax code to be less regressive and reward savings by low- and middle-income Americans, rather than mostly […]

Government Works Badly–If We Refuse to Invest in It

At the Bipartisan Policy Center's Housing Summit earlier this week, Shelterforce got to interview former HUD secretaries Mel Martinez and Henry Cisneros (we'll publish that interview here next week). One of the questions we asked was how to handle the fact that the American electorate often seems to have a bias, not so much against […]

Regions Can’t Live By Oxygen Alone

Jack Jensen, an affordable housing and green builder in Ithaca, N.Y., is grumpy about Smart Growth.Specifically, he's pissed off...

Income for Everyone?

If you wanted to come up with a totally cockamamie idea to attribute to someone to smear them as unrealistic...

The Dangerous Rhetoric of Escaping to Opportunity

At the Philly Federal Reserve conference last spring, in the “Future of CDCs“ discussion our own Harold Simon moderated, Joe...

So About that Deconcentrating Poverty Thing…

Land of Opportunity Interactive has a marvelous interactive video (click here for description of what that means) called “Bricks and Sticks: Public...

Is the News on Homelessness Good or Bad?

So there's bad news and good news, it seems, on the topic of homelessness these past few months....

What Happens Once the Artists Arrive?

Conventional wisdom says that artists and gay people are tend to be pioneers in distressed neighborhoods, signs that change is...

Turns Out Innovation Is Officially Overrated

Many nonprofits and social enterprises face constant pressure to be “innovative,” whether from funders or charitable business leaders who want...

Beware the Scammers

This weekend I encountered a representative of an energy service company on my porch. He was flashing a badge at...

Actually United States

Americans are a people hopelessly divided by culture wars and fundamental disagreements about the role and appropriate size of government....

Poor Folk Are All Cost Burdened, No Matter What Their Housing Cost

Today the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard releases its annual State of the Nation's Housing report. As always,...

Planned Shrinkage by Thirst?

Even the much beleagured CEO of Nestle, who has been accused of trying to privatize the water resources of poor communities...

Who Owns the Land?

When I was a 20-something my family received a copy of the board game Monopoly as a gift. Being all varying levels of anti-capitalists,...

CDFI Certification Helps Credit Unions Perform Better

The Credit Union National Association and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions released a report last week...

If Affordable Housing Were Stylish Would We Build More of It?

In response to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's new housing plan goal of 200,000 units “created or preserved,” Justin...

Is Housing the Homeless a Success?

Randy Shaw at Beyond Chron has a great take down of some newspaper columnists' inconsistent and illogical arguments against spending...

Is Gentrification Different When It’s Not in a Booming Metro?

Interesting research that adds a wrinkle to the gentrification conversation: Todd Swanstrom writes about “rebound” neighborhoods in St. Louis and...

What Are Advocates Saying About Johnson-Crapo?

What is the affordable housing world making of the Johnson-Crapo housing finance reform? So far here on Rooflines, Dan...

Who Is a Gentrifier, and What Should They Do?

As people with choices move back into (some) urban areas that were abandoned/systematically disinvested from decades ago, gentrification is...

Casinos are Parasites

It is not news that communities desperate for jobs and economic development often make terrible long-term decisions, welcoming in...

Land Banks Are Not a Silver Bullet

We were very excited to hear that after many years of organizing, Philadelphia succeeded in winning a municipal land...

You May Not Realize How Poverty Works

We've been having a ongoing conversation here on Rooflines marking the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty about...

Layers of Opportunity

Land of Opportunity Interactive, landofopportunityinteractive.com

“Money Must Serve, not Rule!”

In November 2013, Morgan Stanley launched its Institute for Sustainable Investing and announced that within five years it was aiming to manage $10 billion...

Finally! A Concrete Proposal to Address Gentrification-Driven Displacement

I, and others, have sometimes felt that the fair housing community can be too focused on opening up the...

Easing into Investment?

Joe Kriesberg of Mass. Assoc. of CDCs recently took a trip to Cuba with a group of community development colleagues....

Boston Squanders Opportunity to Keep Itself Affordable

This, my friends, is exhibit A in why we still need good old-fashioned investigative journalism—and journalists who will not just...

Educate, Motivate, Organize

An Interview with Chokwe Lumumba, mayor of Jackson, Mississippi

Eds and Meds and the Three-Legged Stool of Economic Development

My first reactions to Richard Florida's recent attempt to tip the sacred cow of “eds and meds” (universities and hospitals)...

Will Newly Residential Downtowns Become Luxury Enclaves?

I was traveling a lot this fall, as usual. Back in September, I attended a pre-conference strategizing session on inclusionary...

CDFIs: The Boom Sector in the Community Development Field?

Three weeks ago I went to Philadelphia to attend the annual conference of the Opportunity Finance Network, the trade association...

AirBnB: Way to Make Ends Meet or Destroyer of Affordable Housing?

Confession time: Despite the work that I do, when I began using AirBnB as a business traveler, I didn't...

Tenants’ Return to Rehabbed, Preserved Birthplace of Hip Hop

1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx was not your average building purchased by a speculative real estate investor in the...

Don’t Assume

If you work in any field for a substantial amount of time, you will hear certain story lines and beliefs repeated over and over....

Role-Playing for Energy Efficiency

Connecticut experiments with a “megacommunity strategic simulation” to move the needle on residential energy efficiency—providing a look at a tool that could also apply to other community development challenges.

Who’s After the Park?

Edge of Albany: A Warren Crow Mystery, by Kirby White. Fox Creek Press, 2012. 218pp. $20 (paper).

Joyful Journey

Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted Out Cities, by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D. New Village Press, 2013, 333pp. $19.95 (paper).

Inside the Affordable Housing “Big Tent”

I had an interesting chat over lunch on the train home from National Housing Conference's Solutions 2013 in Atlanta last...

From “Knucklehead Kid” to Boston Mayor?

There are several teenagers featured in Holding Ground, a film about the launch of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. DSNI...

Shared Equity for the Rich?

One of the common arguments from those who are skeptical of shared-equity homeownership is that it's unfair to ask low-income...

Portland Gets Proactive on Gentrification

We've been talking about gentrification and displacement a bunch here on Rooflines recently. One of the perennial problems in dealing with...

“Mixed” Income Housing: With Segregated Entrances?

Here's exhibit A on how not to convince skeptical housing justice advocates (or anyone else) that mixed-income housing developments represent...

On the Cover: Transformation

So you may be wondering, what is that amazing mural on the cover of the latest issue of Shelterforce?It's...

Reactions to the President’s Housing Address

Yesterday, President Barack Obama gave a housing policy speech in Phoenix, Ariz., and this afternoon he answered questions submitted...

Is Community Development Failing or Succeeding?

Massive change tends to lead to massive introspection. And changed circumstances tend to lead to a need for changed tools....

Who Owns That Vacant Building? Scan the Art to Find Out

In a brilliant mash up of classic protest/beautifying strategies and state-of-the-art data management, artists are painting murals on abandoned Baltimore...

An Urban School Reduces Violence . . . With Nonviolence

When students feel like they are in jail when at school and the adults around them consider them all potential...
Miriam Axel-Lute, the editor of Shelterforce magazine, drinks from a white mug as she stares out to the left. She is wearing glasses and sitting next to a window.

Many Goals, One Field

What is a CDC? Many a meeting among those in the field has descended into argument about what is inside and outside the line....

What Is Community Development?

Over the following pages, our authors explore many aspects of the community development field, and especially the role of community development corporations in it. But we know you have opinions too. To set the stage, last year we invited our readers to take a survey about how they understood the community development field and community development corporations. The survey was promoted through our weekly newsletter and social media. We got about a hundred responses.

Too Big To Jail Redux: It’s Worse Than You Suspected

Anyone who worked with homeowners seeking mortgage modifications over the past years has made or heard some joke about the...

Losses and Wins in Supreme Court: How Does It Affect You?

All eyes have been on the Supreme Court  this week, as it handed down decisions on the Voting Rights Act,...

Texas Tenants Win Protections

Way back in 1999 we asked what happened to the tenants' movement? Well, it never quite died, and it might...

Tenant Jujitsu: Renters Fight Back in San Francisco, And Win

Shelterforce, as many of you know, began as a tenant organizing newspaper. Though we've evolved to cover a much...