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.

Canada Is Looking Better and Better (The Regent Park Story)

High-density public housing may seem like an idea whose time has come and gone, buried along with the ruins of notorious projects like St....

Developing Economic, Along with Physical, Health

Sue Joss and Jason Barbosa might seem to be unlikely economic development partners. She is the veteran CEO of a major nonprofit health care...

A Gem for New Jersey Neighborhood Revitalization

'A dollar and a dream,' was the phrase I read in a brochure about the starting point for revitalizing neighborhoods through the Neighborhood Revitalization...

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.

Scoring Homeownership: Looking at the Long Game

Today’s economic climate offers little hope to many struggling families. Family incomes still lag in comparison, for example, to rising housing costs in many markets.

Response to Darren Walker’s New Gospel of Wealth

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker recently circulated a thought-provoking piece declaring the foundation’s commitment to tackling the worldwide problem of inequality. In the piece, Walker...

How the Community Reinvestment Act Can Help Flint

The audacious and callous decisions leading to the tragedy in Flint, Michigan are cruel and beyond comprehension. What is needed is an all-out effort...

Using the Wrong Tools to Build Affordable Housing

Along with most Rooflines readers, I believe that having some portion of a community’s housing as long term or permanently affordable is a desirable...

Stop Talking About Displacement

A well informed community organizing effort with a targeted purpose should be the first line of defense in protecting opportunities for wealth building and access to opportunities for upward mobility in working class communities as they experience inevitable changes.

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...

From Food Pantries to Food Justice

Is it possible for a family to be truly self-sufficient and provide all of its own food?This is a...

Health Care Confronts Challenge to Shift from “Volume to Value”

Health care, as we all know, is a big business. U.S. hospitals alone have $782 billion in total annual expenditures, which is roughly five...

The Urban, Dystopian Blame Game

Like any number of small- and big-screen thrillers, the film’s engagement with 9/11 is diffuse, more a matter of inference and ideas (chaos, fear,...

You Don’t Have to Go Home — You Just Can’t Stay Here

The wags at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — a.k.a the U.S. immigration agency — launched a pilot program last week that would allow...

We Must Find the Legacies of Racism Within Our Own Organizations, Too

We can’t begin to disentangle the racial dynamics of the institutions we want to fix if we are unwilling to get to the root of the same dynamics in our own organizations.

Administration Claims Homelessness has Dropped Dramatically. Really?

On July 29, 2008, the White House issued a statement that “chronic homelessness decreased an average of 15 percent per year between 2005 –...

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 […]
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...

Memphis’s Unwelcome News

Hanna Rosin has caused quite a stir with her dramatically titled Atlantic Monthly article American Murder Mystery. (For the record, we writers rarely get...

Address Merger Concerns Before the Merger

The Virginia Housing Coalition (VHC) and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH) both began in the early 1980’s as grassroots statewide advocacy organizations....

Doubling Down on Community Resilience

Last month here in Rooflines, I argued that place-based community development can make low-income neighborhoods more resilient to climate...

Are the Kids All Right? Austin Is Asking

Recently here on Rooflines, Tiffany Eng wrote about Oakland’s challenges in “family friendly” planning. Here in Austin, we're facing...

How *to* Connect Health and Community Development

A recent Rooflines post explored how not to connect community development and health, urging practitioners to not fall into the trap of “moralizing public...
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...

Carrots, Sticks, and Economic Justice

Once upon a time, I saw the problem of providing responsible financial services as purely a policy problem. We...

What Have We Learned a Decade after the Gulf Coast Hurricanes?

As the housing community reflects in August on the tenth anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, what are the...

Can Community Wealth Building Redefine City Economic Development?

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Front of Wanda's Hair Salon in DC's Shaw neighborhood

Equitable Development in Shaw

A recent New York Times article on the revitalization of Washington, DC’s Shaw neighborhood highlighted how real estate developers have rebranded the area to...

Social Innovation and Civic Participation

We have some insight from Sonal Shah, the head of the new White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, who is advocating...

Think Globally, Act Regionally

Several other Rooflines bloggers have speculated about the impact of a new emphasis on metropolitan areas coming from the federal level. This past Friday,...

In Making Home Affordable, Banks that Helped Create the Foreclosure Crisis Continue to Profit

In February, the Obama administration launched the Home Affordable Modification Program, an ambitious program that will use up to $75 billion dollars to prevent...
Warehouse-style buildings.

For Cities, Industrial Land Matters

In a recent blog post, Tarry Hum, a professor of urban studies at Queens College, profiled the failure of the De Blasio administration to...

Demolishing Buildings, and Political Communities

Signs like the one above went up at Chicago's Lathrop Homes a few Fridays ago. In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority, in step with other...

The Next Step in Supportive Housing

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, individual-focused healthy lifestyles—regardless of socioeconomic status—became an increased topic of discussion. Along with clear correlations between...

The New Rent Control Wars

On November 4, a near riot broke out in the usually quiet city of Alameda, Ca. The reason? A...

Four Lessons Learned from Collaboration

We’ve seen a renewed interest in non-profit collaboration (see articles in Shelterforce here, here, and here) but effective and successful collaboration takes more than...

Gentrification Is More Widespread Than We Think

In Miriam Axel-Lute’s recent post here, “Place Matters But Place Changes,” she references “a study done by Governing magazine...

In Schools, Eliminating Poverty Stigma Could End Child Hunger

More Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods than ever before, according to a recent Century Foundation report, and many 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...

The Governor’s Budget Non-strategy

It wouldn’t be surprising to see non-Californians still do a double-take when the title “Governor” is applied to former on-screen cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was...

Building Codes: The Good and the Bad

Recently, Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions argued here on Rooflines that outdated building codes—including things like minimum sizes and parking...

Why the Presidential Race Ignores Urban America

Despite overwhelming media coverage, the 2016 presidential race has ignored the housing and economic crises impacting urban America. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton has...

The FHA Refinancing Option for Troubled Loans—Doing it Right

Now that the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act has been signed by the president, let us examine one of its key provisions....

Tackling Uncomfortable Issues, With Enthusiasm

We've written about the fissures that can appear when community developers and organizers of different ages, gender, or ethnic...

Health and the Spaces Inbetween

Last year, we published a focus issue on health and community development. We called the package “Are Our Neighborhoods...

“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...

Foreclosure Mitigation, Abandoned Properties, What’s Missing?

At an upcoming housing summit in New Jersey, there are promising presentations for anyone who sees the grave danger associated with the foreclosure crisis...

CDFIs: Bridging the Poverty Gap

Each year, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday prompts people to reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy. By achieving passage of civil rights and voting rights legislation, the actions of King and others compelled a sharp decline in the blatant discrimination and wanton violence that had permeated the nation for generations. However, today, five […]

Homelessness Is Falling Despite Worsening Conditions. Why?

Editor’s Note: The following are excerpts from the keynote speech given by Nan Roman, the executive director of the National...

“Inequality Happens?” Hopefully Not

In a recent Rooflines post, Sarah Treuhaft holds up new, reputable data that finds that inequality is not a circumstance of economic success, after all, but that it actually has a dampening effect. Specifically, the widening gap between the poor and lower middle class (households in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution) and […]

Housing Microfinance: So Little Changes So Much

Housing in the developing world is a process. Families may replace a dirt floor with a clean, hard surface. They might reinforce the walls or the roof to prevent water from seeping through the cracks when it rains. They may build an additional room after welcoming a new child into the world or build a […]

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 […]
Neon "Hands Up-Don't Shoot" sign displayed on highway overpass.

Police and Communities: Conversations Continue, Solutions Appear

Community development corporations play an important role in community safety. As such, they are often at conflict with themselves over their relationships with the police and the communities they serve.
Large group photo, black and white.

Empowering Human Development Across the Globe, Locally

One blessing of my job as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) is being able to tap into the wealth of human...
The now vacated Robert Mueller Municipal Airport in Austin, Texas. An old sign pointed to the direction for arrival pick-up in the foreground while an old tower stands in the back.

What If We Didn’t Have to Beg for Community Benefits?

Perhaps publicly owned land should be developed for the community first—and market-rate developers should be asking us for access to part of it.
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."
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.
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.

Signs of the End Times

The end of attack politics, that is. Could it be? Ask Mark McKinnon, who resigned from the McCain campaign Tuesday, fulfilling a vow he’d made...

Transit-Oriented, But Affordable?

Planning and community development blogs are aglow with talk of transit-oriented development (TOD), which is just that: development clustered around bus and train stations....

Sounding the Death Knell for Public Financing, Or a New Era of Grass-roots Fund-Raising?

Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to forgo public financing for the 2008 general election appears to be steeped more in pragmatism than it is in...

It’s an Affordable Housing Victory, But How Do We Win Over the Towns?

Let’s get one thing clear: at least in New Jersey, we’re having the affordable-housing-as-mandate discussion. The fact that so many taxpayers, elected officials, and...

Stop the Foreclosures. Save the Economy

It is true that the economic well-being of our nation is in jeopardy and that consumer confidence and liquidity is badly needed in order...

Reading the Tea Leaves: How Obama’s HUD Transition Team Might Reshape Housing Policy

Through Change.gov, the public is being offered a first-ever opportunity to peek inside and offer opinion on nearly the entire transition process. A large...

An Inconvenient Greed (AIG)

It was hard to pick a winner in The Chicago Sun-Times’ March 20, 2009 Acronym Test, “What Should AIG Really Stand For?” I’m casting...

Labor Day, Chris Christie, and the Employee Free Choice Act

It’s labor-day weekend so let’s think about unions, Republicans, and politics. Unions are a potent reality check as well as a counterforce to the power...

What You Need To Know About Financial Reform

Is the public in favor of regulating Wall Street? A national survey conducted in March by the nonpartisan Pew Economic Policy Group found that 68...

Rent Regulation in the Great Recession

Over at the Gotham Gazette, David King walks us through the latest round of politics over New York City’s rent regulation laws, which have...

Greater Equality is a Must in Reviving the Economy

Adopting a more equitable housing policy goes beyond a moral imperative. It is critical to our economic success. Highlights from the 2011 Equity Summit.

Catalysts Turned Stalemates

All too often in cities around the country, a once-clear vision of a “catalytic development project” is easily blurred...

Peoria LISC

What does it mean when the country's largest community development intermediary opens its first new office in 15 years in...

Get Specific on the Homeownership Crisis

Now that the presidential tickets are set, it’s time for the candidates to get specific about problems and solutions critical...

Thoughts on the Trailer

The trailer is the vilified and estranged cousin of the housing world. It's all but banned in many communities, for...
January 2013 calendar

8 New Year’s Resolutions (Wishes?) for the Places Where We Live

It’s almost New Year’s Day, and that means it’s time for everyone to write down their resolutions for 2013. I’d like to make resolutions...

We Should Be Running This Place: Electing More Community Developers

I hosted a meet-and-greet recently for first-time candidate Lynette McElhaney (pictured), who was newly elected to the City of Oakland...

NJ’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery Plan Needs ‘Significant Improvement’

The aftermath of October's Hurricane Sandy brought attention from the nation to New York and New Jersey where the superstorm caused devastation to homes...

What Creating a ‘Stable Neighborhood’ Really Means

Last month I wrote about why Project Rebuild is basically a bad idea, and why the Obama administration is making...

Back in a Bubble?

It’s been less than four years since the end of the Great Recession, yet signs point to another potential...

Have CDCs Created a Dependent Poor Population?

Michael McQuarrie’s article, “What Mumbai’s Slums Do Right, And Why We Should Emulate Them,“ in the new issue of...

What’s Wrong With Milwaukee’s Hiring Practices? Almost Everything

When the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee announced back in 2011 that they would be conducting an $82...

Explore Post-Crisis Rebuilding Beyond the Linear Narrative

Luisa Dantas and Micheal Boedigheimer When I first came to New Orleans with my video camera in the months after Hurricane Katrina, it was already...

If You Build It: A Story of Transformation Through Education

“If You Build It,” a new film directed by Patrick Creadon, explores what happens when teachers urge students to...

Rethinking Community Economic Development Beyond “Rent or Own”

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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...

Julian Castro “Outstanding Pick” to Lead HUD

President Obama's nomination of Julián Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, to serve as the secretary of the U.S. Department...

After HUD: Seeking New Answers to Old Questions

Three years at HUD gives you quite the perspective. Ask anyone who has worked in the esteemed Weaver Building—affectionately known as 12 floors of...

What If Community Developers Held a Congress and Everyone Showed Up?

The question we pose captures some of the feeling emanating from the People & Places conference, which took place in Washington, D.C. earlier this...

The Revitalization Trap

The community development movement began in the 1960s as part of a crusade against social injustice,...

The Gentrification Vaccine

Can a neighborhood be immune to gentrification? If so, can local governments and community organizations work together to build...

CRA Exams Aren’t Cutting It For Communities in Need

In 1977, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and required the federal banking agencies to assess a bank’s record of helping to meet...

California: Fear & Loathing at the Ballot Box

Everybody likes to go all schadenfreude on California, jealous of the wonderful weather, fabled coastline, and our claim to Yorba Linda, birthplace of Richard...

Washington, D.C., and the Future of Equitable Development

For three consecutive years, ONE DC and George Washington University have come together to examine and respond to the various trajectories of uneven development...

How the Major Party Platforms Approach Housing

The major political party platforms take different approaches to federal housing assistance and related topics. The Republican and Democratic platforms...

A Presidential Agenda Requires a Racial Equity Lens

This post is part of a Shelterforce series called Letters to the Next President. ...

Time for a Job Guarantee

In various economic pundit conversations on Twitter, the new target of scorn is Universal Basic Income (UBI). Supporters of...

Book Review: How to Do Creative Placemaking

How to Do Creative Placemaking is billed as “an action-oriented guide for making places better.” The book was recently published...

Financial Incentives Encourage New Partnerships in Housing and Health

If you watch Downton Abbey, as I do, you know that Lord Grantham is becoming an affordable housing developer—much to his consternation. He’s been called on to help build a slate of new homes on a piece of his property in the wake of The Great War. But it was his answer to a question […]

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” […]

Advancing Economic Opportunity Through Diversity

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an important and powerful conversation about the importance of diversity and inclusion in achieving economic equity at the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) conference in Denver, Colorado. This is a topic that hits close to home for me. Before I joined JPMorgan Chase, I spent 10 years at […]

Shelter Shorts / Short Takes

Rent War Rages in New York City A pitched battle is underway in New York State, as landlord and tenant advocates square off over the expiration of rent regulations this June 15. Republican State Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno has vowed to let rent protections “sunset” if leadership reaches no deal with Assembly Democrats. But […]