Blog

The Shelterforce blog (formerly known as Rooflines) is a forum for voices in the community development, affordable housing, community organizing, neighborhood revitalization, and related fields to challenge each other and other stakeholders; share ideas, successes, and failures; and pose questions to one another. Learn how you or your organization can submit a post.

People at a rent-reform rally in New York City, 2015

Rent Control Is at a Turning Point

Advocates around the country now have a tool that provides current data on what rent control expansion would do to help low-income, cost-burdened renters.
men making guitar

Arts, Culture, and Community Mental Health

Examples of projects around the country that are infusing community development with creativity and collaboration and stimulating the potential for unique mental health benefits.

Can Investing in a Community’s Growth Boost Health Outcomes?

ProMedica and LISC team up to fund place-based investments in the hope of improving health outcomes for residents. How do they do it?
group lobby day photo

The Collaboration Behind California’s Successful Statewide Ballot Campaign for Housing

As housing becomes ever more urgent an issue, California's model for running a statewide ballot campaign offers insights to organizations around the nation.
The cover of The One-Way Street of Integration by Edward Goetz.

Fair Housing Policy Approaches Exacerbate Inequality

A review of The One-Way Street of Integration: Fair Housing and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in American Cities, by Edward G. Goetz.
An emergency entrance of a hospital.

Meeting Individual Social Needs Falls Short of Addressing Social Determinants of Health

While individual-level interventions are beneficial, characterizing them as efforts to address social determinants of health conveys a false sense of progress.
lightbulb as a small terrarium with plant growing inside it

A Hole in our Vision: Race, Gender, and Justice in Community Development

In years past, the community development field imagined how to change the world. So, what would it take to change anew? Nancy O. Andrews argues that it takes asking ourselves the right questions.
home with for sale sign in foreground

Time to Delink Homeownership from Asset Building

Using homeownership as an asset-building mechanism and retirement plan might not be a great thing for our society.
remix graffiti

Can We Ditch Tax Incentives and Support True Economic Development?

Because recent advocacy has succeeded in achieving a change in government accounting standards that led many cities and states to disclose the total costs of the tax abatements they provided last year for the very first time, we now are gaining a better sense of just how much these abatements take away from education and other public services.
detroit skyline

Organizing for Water Security in Detroit

A coalition's comprehensive study on the Detroit region’s water ills also acts as a road map to organizers' work around water justice.
Women hold up signs that read "No RAD at Elliot Twins" and others.

Fearing Privatization: Public Housing Activists Push Back Against RAD Plans

As their city rapidly gentrifies, a group of public housing residents are anxious about potential RAD and Section 18 conversions and battling the public housing authority to resist them.
seattle houses in hillside

Fixing a Regressive Tax Structure that Perpetuates Inequity

In Washington state, the dilemma for advocates is how to ask city and county elected officials to significantly increase public resources for housing when their only current choices are regressive tax tools.
Six tiny houses share a common deck.

Tiny House Villages in Seattle: An Efficient Response to Our Homelessness Crisis

Over the past three years, Seattle has led the country in piloting tiny house villages as a response to the homelessness crisis. Here's how they're doing it, and the lessons they're learning.
Woman construction worker carrying wood

The Paradox of Prevailing Wage

The complicated relationship between the Davis-Bacon Act, Black construction workers, and Black-owned construction businesses in Boston.
A painting that reads "Walsh Community Grocery: Pulling Together We All Win."

Entrepreneurship as a Path to Health?

New partnerships between health funders and small-business lenders highlight another possible way to influence health.
voters in booths

Ignore the Myth—Voters *Do* Rally for Housing

When it comes to whether voters support building more housing as one key strategy for expanding affordability, election outcomes show the case is closed.
houses

Can Estate Planning be Used to Help Preserve Economic Assets in Low-Income Communities?

Estate planning should be employed as part of a broader plan of preservation of wealth and assets in communities of color. 
facing segregation book cover

Facing Down Segregation—Half-heartedly or With Steely Determination?

A new book explores the history, impact, and policy solutions to racial segregation.
neon home loan sign

After Redlining: Part 2

Headrights and redlining were parts of a systemic structure designed to aid some and debilitate others. Their repercussions are still felt.
Land sale poster c. 1910

Long Before Redlining: Racial Disparities in Homeownership Need Intentional Policies

The wealth gap is probably best illustrated in the way our country has, and has not, provided access to the single most important determinant of wealth for the majority of people in the United States—home and land ownership.
new york city skyline

The Fight for Stronger Rent Regulation in New York Is Beginning

New York’s rent regulation laws, which protect over 1 million renter households in New York City and Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland counties, are up for renewal this year.
Aerial view of San Francisco

Joining Loans and Policy Grants to Get More Affordable Housing in the Bay Area

A pair of funds backed by philanthropic heavy hitters tries to take advantage of a moment when all eyes are on housing.
line drawing of a hand

CDFIs Stepped Up During the Shutdown

CDFIs across the country were trying to do what they could to ease the effects of the recent government shutdown. Here is just a partial list.
bridge watercolor

Mental Health and Community Development

The community development and mental health fields have a critical opportunity to work together in supporting the mental health of low-income communities.
multifamily building

We Need State Law that Allows Multifamily Housing

The New Jersey Legislature should seriously consider adopting a statewide law that defines “single family” zoning as permitting one or two units on one lot.
four people on a stage

Expanding Community Benefits Agreements to Events

Shelterforce spoke with Race Forward’s Leslie Grant-Spann to find out what it means to have a community benefits agreement for an event, and why it’s important to think about the local impacts of large events.
CFPB exterior

A Message for CFPB’s Kathy Kraninger: Stand with People, Not Profits

The CFPB's new head must unequivocally stand with low-income communities of color and restore public trust.
people painting

Working Through Growing Pains in Artist/Community Developer Collaborations

At their roots, both the arts and community development amplify a people’s voice. And while this connection makes sense on paper, it can look a lot different in practice. We would like to share three insights from our work together that speak to the promise, and peril, of such collaboration.
skyline of Long Island City

Will Amazon’s HQ2 Threaten Fair Housing?

If Amazon is going to be a good neighbor, it must do the following, at the very least, to mitigate against impediments to fair housing.
Sol2Sol banner at the climate march

It Takes Strong Roots to Achieve Climate Justice

Throughout 2018's six day Sol-2-Sol climate justice convening, indigenous people from the occupied U.S. territories and lands from around the world led many of the actions and activities, especially those directly impacted.
multifamily buildings

Hey YIMBYs, Thanks for Listening

The path to winning a pro-equity, pro-growth majority involves more (not less) investment in fighting displacement.
chain link fence skyline

Decommodifying Housing Without Reproducing American Apartheid

Though the idea of social housing is gaining traction among advocates and policy experts, the path of least resistance for its production in the U.S. is also the path of the perpetuation of residential racial segregation.
yellow arrows painted on sidewalk

Where Banks and the Public Agree on CRA . . . and Disagree

Despite a CRA exam pass rate of 98 percent, the major thrust of bank comments is that they want easier exams with fewer moving parts and less uncertainty.
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.
graduation

Small Investments Can Yield Big Returns. Review of A Few Thousand Dollars

Over a dozen stories of how Americans from all different backgrounds have managed to leverage a few thousand dollars to lead lives that have helped thousands of other people, and strategies to reinvigorate a movement to influence asset building policy nationally.
housing justice for all rally

What the Fight for Universal Rent Control in New York Can Learn from Prop...

Voters have set up an unprecedented fight between progressive housing groups and real estate interests. It will be a brutal fight. For proof of this, housing advocates in New York need only to look at California.
drawing of homes in a tree

A Community-Centered Perspective on Displacement

In some communities, diverse economic networks have been and remain critical to the ability of community members to survive and thrive.

Five Ways to Strengthen Local Housing Strategies

Local policies play a role in addressing the growing problem of high housing costs. This guide can help simplify the complex landscape of housing policy.
ballot drop

Affordable Housing Was On the Ballot, Here Are Some Election Results

A majority of voters nationwide supported funding for affordable housing as state and local governments try to address the problem in the absence of an adequate federal response.
Image name: Lucy Corr Caption: Oral health practitioners at the Lucy Corr Dental Clinic in Virginia specialize in serving older adults. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Lucy Corr Dental Clinic

Seniors Cannot Age in Place Without Access to Oral Health Services

Maintaining good health—including good oral health—as long as possible is a critical component of aging in place.
books stack

Here’s What We Actually Know About Market-Rate Housing Development and Displacement

For-profit housing cannot meet most renters’ needs, and that’s by design. So when you talk about market-rate construction and displacement, use the following literature review as reference.
house drawing

How L.A.’s Housing Crisis Makes Family Reunification Much Harder

The increased risk of family separation is a lesser-known consequence of the affordable housing crisis.
voters in booths

Dear Presidential Hopefuls: The People Want to Talk to You About Housing

Before we celebrate its resurgence as a national political issue, and certainly before we set out to solve for housing injustice, we should understand why America has overlooked housing.
California homes aerial

Tackling Exclusionary Housing Policy in California

Diving into the issue of exclusionary practices that have exacerbated the housing crisis and offering some policy solutions.
ICE OUT poster

Signaling A Strong Message of Support For Immigrant Neighbors

In today’s climate, the first and often most important barrier between vulnerable residents and deportation is simply their front door.
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.
vote sign on boarded window

Bold Political Leadership on Housing Policy? In 2018? You Heard Right

Local elected officials are having to re-examine the risks and rewards of making housing and housing affordability a political priority. Could one mayor's bold steps on housing policy be a national bellwether?
segregation

Fair Housing at 50: At the Root, It’s Still Race Over Place

We should have known better. The Kerner Commission taught us that race matters most, not place. But it also embedded in our psyches the equation of Black = central city and the similarly absolute equation of white = suburbs.
speech conversation balloons

Starting Conversations with Public Art

An arts collaboration comes up with a creative spark to facilitate discussions about neighborhood change.
rosewood courts

The Most Important Housing Law Passed in 1968 Wasn’t the Fair Housing Act

At the Aug. 1, 1968 signing ceremony, President Johnson proclaimed “Today, we are going to put on the books of American law what I genuinely believe is the most farsighted, the most comprehensive, the most massive housing program in all American history.” He was right. 
peeling paint windowsill

Is a Home with Lead Hazards Really “Affordable”?

The cost of housing is not simply the mortgage, rent, and utilities, but the individual and community health, education, and social costs associated with low-quality, unstable, and unhealthy housing.
anti-eviction mural

Eviction Lab Misses the Mark

As housing activists and academics who conduct research on issues of housing and displacement, we have encountered major problems with Eviction Lab’s practices.
running on hamster wheel

The Jobs-Housing Hamster Wheel

A deeper dive into the cause of high housing prices reveals that it is not the price of lumber, bricks, or labor that accounts for high or low housing prices—the controlling factor most often is the price of land.
Jeremy Nowak

In Memoriam: Jeremy Nowak

Jeremy Nowak, a founder of Reinvestment Fund and founding board member of the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), passed away on July 28. Nowak was,...
housing sign

Housing Advocates—Seize This Moment!

I’ve been working to address housing affordability since the late 1970s. There has never been this much media and public focus on the issue.
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...
flow chart describing land value

How to Kill Land Speculation

  People live in communities because natural and human-made resources make them productive places to live, work, and play. Because geographically based resources are gifts...
building rendering

Shared-Equity Homeownership With No Public Subsidy

What if the future of shared equity homeownership was not dependent on government subsidies? Vivacité - Société immobilière solidaire, a Quebec-based non-profit organization, designed a shared equity program based on a social economy model that leverages impact investors to ensure perpetual affordability and scales its impact.
construction

We Can Totally Build Our Way Out of This Problem

Here's a list of possible translations to the statement, "We can't build our way out of the housing crisis," and a handy response to each.
women sitting in chairs on grass

Practical Ideas for Addressing Micro-Segregation in Mixed Income Communities

Practical lessons from long time community builders on promoting integration and interaction among residents of mixed income communities.
johns hopkins medical library

In Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Seeks to Be a Good Neighbor

The current HopkinsLocal effort, a three-year program launched in September 2015, is also clearly a response to the death of Freddie Gray and the events that followed.
video in window

Regrets of an Accidental Placemaker

Had I unintentionally contributed to the gentrification of my neighborhood and other neighborhoods around Washington, D.C.?
rent control

Here’s Why Costa-Hawkins Repeal Would Be Revolutionary for Housing in California

Rent control is one of the foremost demands of grassroots movements organizing around housing justice today. To activists across the country, from Los Angeles...
participatory budgeting fliers

Participatory Budgeting: Why Not Fix Everyone’s Sink?

Participatory budgeting offers a glimpse of how a more civically engaged society might work, but it’s also a distraction.
grand rapids skyline

Smaller Cities Are Laboratories for Change

In smaller cities it is typically much easier to engage high levels of leadership, get traction for strategies that are more visible, engage the wider community, build trust, and scale solutions more quickly than in larger areas. Here are a few examples.
A San Francisco neighborhood with the Oakland Bay Bridge in the center.

Why San Francisco Outdoes New York City on Tenant Rights

New York City has been outpaced by San Francisco in protecting tenants since the latter adopted rent control in 1979. While protections for the city's tenants have steadily weakened and even disappeared since the 1990s, San Francisco’s rent control and eviction protection laws have expanded and strengthened.
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. 
rusty door knock

Panacea or Problem? The Possibilities in Opportunity Zones

With Opportunity Zones, the potential is there for great benefit, but it is not yet clear where, how, and to whom any benefits will accrue. People who care about connecting residents and businesses in distressed communities with opportunities need to act now so they fulfill their promise.
wall of stones

Poem: ms. margaret on her landline phone with ruth, talking about her new neighbors...

A poem engaging equity for the author's godmother and other women who begin their sentences with the word "chile."

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.
california construction site

California’s Endless Housing “Crisis”

In many ways, the recognition of the current “crisis” stems from middle- and upper-income Californians finally being impacted, and using their power to push for solutions that would address their situation. But their solutions ignore another population.
A building in East Oakland with colorful murals painted on the wall. A graffitied fence is to the right of the building.

Why Tenants Should Be Given the Opportunity to Purchase Their Buildings

Unlike so many owners who are quickly selling their properties to the highest bidder amidst rising real estate values, an East Oakland landlord was intent on giving the existing tenants a fair shot to purchase the property.
old and new buildings in Harlem

New York City Needs to Stop Negotiating Rezonings From an Uneven Playing Field

What is the underlying dynamic that leads so many council members in low-income communities of color to approve neighborhood rezonings, despite community opposition and the likelihood of increased displacement pressure on existing residents?
A lightbulb is on in a dark room. The utility company has kept the lights on.

When Domestic Violence and Utility Bill Debt Intersect

In Pennsylvania, domestic violence survivors are often not afforded the protections they are entitled to because many people are often unaware of the Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act and its provisions. A three-year pilot program aimed to change that.
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.
San Francisco homes

Homeowners Reap Profits While Fueling Housing Crisis

The widespread critique of California's SB 827 got me thinking about why nobody talks about those really profiting from land use decisions that inflate their property values: homeowners.
young men playing horn instruments

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 13

Really, YIMBYs? | TOD Without Displacement | Tracking 80 Million Evictions | MLK's Campaign, Revitalized | Airbnb Hastening Demise of NOLA Culture? | Bike "Borrowing" for Equity | More
person holding Amazon delivery box

The Amazon Opportunity to Revitalize Urban Communities

It's not too late for cities competing to be the next home to Amazon to raise the issue of employer-assisted workforce housing.
burlap with screenprinted words

The $9 Jar of Artisanal Pickles: Equity and Local Food

Sustainability is about thriving, not just surviving. We will not thrive if we are poorly paid martyrs to a good cause, and thus, in a healthy, diverse and vital food system, some of our efforts might need to be directed to those who can pay nine dollars for a jar of pickles.
A family of four sit outside their home in Portland. Portland's preference policy gives priority for homeownership opportunities funded by the city’s housing bureau to residents who were displaced.

Displaced Portland Residents Given Priority for Homeownership

A Portland policy gives priority for housing funded by the city’s housing bureau to residents who were displaced, are at risk of displacement, or are the descendants of families who were displaced due to urban renewal in North and Northeast Portland neighborhoods.
computer keyboard

Data Drives the Movement for Economic Justice

A government report concludes that residents of low- and moderate-income Census tracts have as much access to bank branches as residents in middle- and upper-income tracts in rural areas and large metropolitan areas. Yet access to bank services for low- and moderate-income consumers is still being lost. Why is that?
Men in topcoats and hats with rent increase protest signs.

Ask Yourself: Who Do Anti-Rent Control Policies Serve?

Whenever you hear (or read) anti-rent control arguments, ask the question: who benefits from banning rent control? And who is hurt?
medical marijuana business

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, March 30

Helping Cannabis Entrepreneurs of Color | The "Business" of Homelessness | Housing Is a Mental Health Issue | Justice for Wage Theft Victims | 2020 Census Already Off to a Bad Start?
rent control

Dear Business School Professors: You’re Wrong, Rent Control Works

A university study on rent control makes three crucial mistakes in its assessment of the policy's effect on San Francisco's housing market. Housing advocacy organization Tenants Together sets the record straight on rent control's role, and who is actually to blame for the city's unaffordability.
The spires and statue atop an old bank building.

CRA “Reform” Under Trump Threatens Communities of Color and the 99 Percent

Banks enjoy consumer and taxpayer-funded privileges, such as deposit insurance, and not too long ago, subsidized trillion-dollar bailouts. It’s not too much to insist that they invest a fair share of those dollars back into all of our communities.
police car

What—and Who—Is a “Nuisance”?

Why are nuisance ordinances proliferating nationwide, and who is disproportionately affected?
dilapidated Detroit building 2009

The Important Deadline Coming Up for All Governors

States have a deadline to submit their Opportunity Zones nominations. What factors will be weighed in the decision process, and what will federal designation mean to distressed neighborhoods?
drawing of homes in a tree

Believe in CLTs? Make Them Sustainable

Though much fanfare is showered on the CLT model, land trusts often struggle to get off the ground because very little support is available for those trying to create one or for existing CLTs looking to expand.

The Gentrification Will Be Televised

The North Pole opens discussion between residents of gentrifying neighborhoods and elevates the personal stories and memories of those being displaced.
car with private property sign

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, March 9

LGBT Lawsuit Against HUD | Saving the Bees, and Detroit | Affordable Housing, Trade War Victim | Thinking About What's Possible in Housing for All | A Dual Housing Crisis for Native People
Photo credit: National Fair Housing Alliance

How Poorly Maintained Bank-owned Homes Harm Black and Latino Communities

Bank-seized properties in these communities of color have higher rates of neglect, and the situation has prompted a lawsuit.
several mural images

Generating Civic Power in North Philadelphia

An organization embarks on a community-driven design process to transform two vacant row homes into a site for residents, artists, and law enforcement to collaborate on new public safety strategies rooted in care rather than control.
polling place

Housing Advocacy Needs Housing Voters

Methods from a successful organizing campaign from the past can inform the basis of a new electoral constituency around housing.
girl and boy symbols painted on a wall.

Could Gentrification Be Changing D.C. Schools for the Better?

While gentrification's benefits and drawbacks have been discussed at length, one aspect has been largely overlooked: its effect on neighborhood schools.
vampire squid illustration

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, Feb. 23

Unreformed Vampire Squid | Facebook to Investigate Inequality | When Algorithms Fail the Poor | A Mortgage Fraud Scheme that Targeted Minorities | Puerto Rico's Brewing Housing Crisis
sidewalk

Where Were All the Sidewalks Built?

A health and community development partnership leads to a revelation for a city transportation department.
red herring

The Big Red Herring: The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) Will Help Predators Identify...

HMDA is the key to preventing predatory behavior, not the cause of it, so how can an economics professor from George Washington University claim that HMDA can facilitate large-scale identity theft?
lobby with construction materials and plastic sheeting

A Case of Construction Eviction in Queens

How tenant and rent protections failed the residents of eight rent-stabilized buildings in Queens.
store closing

The Displacement Crisis of Immigrant-Owned Small Businesses

Growth of new business is a sign of a robust economy, but New York City’s true success hinges on ensuring that all residents have access to opportunity and community resources.
dilapidated home

Bringing “Zombies” Back to Life

With funds from a settlement between the New York State Attorney General and major banks, 76 New York state municipalities are working to get abandoned and deteriorating homes back into productive use.