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...

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.

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...

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...
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...

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 –...

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,...

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....

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 […]

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...

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...

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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

“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...

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...

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...

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 […]

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...

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...

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...

Carrots, Sticks, and Economic Justice

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

Health and the Spaces Inbetween

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

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....

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...
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...

Katrina: A Political Disaster

The handling of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath underscores the human disaster resulting from the ascendancy of right-wing ideas and corporate domination of the federal government, which extols market forces, individualism and private charity over public responsibility and the common good.

Follow your counter-intuition?

Builders have not responded as aggressively as they have in the past. There hasn’t been the oversupply that is typical in this kind...

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...

Does HUD’s “Hope” Float?

Today’s New York Times editorial titled “Show Us the Hope” slams the inadequacies of both the Bush administration’s and Congress’s attention to the plight...

Obama’s Challenge: Encourage Social Movements and Other Lessons From FDR and the Great Depression

As Obama prepared his economic recovery plan, he read Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment, (Simon and Shuster, 2006) about FDR’s rise to the presidency...

Donovan Touts Administration’s Housing Policies, Though Acknowledges “Daunting Set of Challenges”

WASHINGTON — Addressing a crowd of low income housing advocates, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan promoted the Obama administration’s housing policy here, but acknowledged that...

The “Real Threat” of ACORN

We’ve long said here that the right-wing attacks on ACORN are rooted in fear: fear of voter registration, fear of increased wages for working...

In Chicago, a Partial Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis?

This week Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, at the request of Action Now, the former Illinois chapter of Acorn, which broke away in 2008, and...

What are your thoughts on proposed changes to HARP to help out underwater borrowers?

Last week, we asked readers “What are your thoughts on proposed changes to HARP to help out underwater borrowers?” Here’s how you responded: You said: “While...

Fracking, Organizing, and the Good Jobs Message

  This past Monday, I attended a large anti-fracking rally here in Albany, NY, aimed at convincing...

Reconnecting Shared Visions to Investment Opportunities

Recently, over two sizable cups of locally-roasted coffee, a colleague and I mulled over a simple question: “How can...

Olympic Redevelopment in London: Displacement or Empowerment?

The Olympics are filled with fascinating storylines that illustrate an athlete's life-long goal of competing at the games—often overcoming...

Philanthropy Needs to Step Up and Fund Democracy

Ascertaining how much foundation money supports civic engagement, voter registration and mobilization, and related community organizing activities is damn near...

Thinking About a Second Term Federal Housing and Urban Agenda: Part I

President Obama has been re-elected, and hope springs eternal. I’ve started to think about a second term housing and urban...

Businessweek Cover Points to Us All

All the criticism that the recent BusinessWeek cover is getting is well deserved. It deserves even more. ...

Rural Housing Budget Disappointing, But Not Surprising

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Obama administration’s rural housing budget continues trends that were evident in the last several...

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...

Could Transportation Policy Transform Affordable Housing?

Ask affordable housing practitioners what keeps them up at night and you’re bound to hear about these two major...

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...

Building a 40-Year Vision for Community Development

With this month marking the 50th anniversary of the “War on Poverty,” we have seen a number of retrospectives....

Tiny Homes, Big Solutions

A couple years ago I wrote on this blog about the burgeoning tiny house movement. Individuals across America are...

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,...

The False Choice Between Mobility and Community Development

What is it about community development that it constantly seems to be posited in a binary set of choices that...

Article Reveals Manufactured Housing Industry’s Greed

Earlier this month, the Center for Public Integrity and The Seattle Times released an investigative article examining the business...

Community Development of Tomorrow

Community development is when people join together to improve conditions and create change at the community level. It can...

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...

Beyond the Cover Lines: Affordable Housing & TOD

Transit-oriented development has long been a buzz-worthy concept in planning and community development circles, and while there have been real successes in creating affordable...

Did Amazon Really Just Create a Pop-up Homeless Shelter?

As cities around the U.S. scramble to figure out how to address the housing affordability crisis, one of them...

A Non-Profit Housing Acquisition Program Could Protect The Displaced

In a recent post on my website, I wrote about the need for a new affordable housing policy—one that...

To Move or to Improve?

During a recent national housing conference, a senior HOPE colleague, along with an architect and the mayor of a...

Not Your Average Community Garden

A good community garden is a space that nurtures hope, natural abundance, and growth, and eventually moves beyond food and into the realm of relationship-building that can help sustain healthy communities.

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...
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.

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” […]

Reclaiming America on Columbus Day

As a college sophomore in October of 1968, I marched as part of the ROTC color guard at the front of the Columbus Day parade in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Those were challenging times for our country. I chose to leave ROTC less than a year later as protests against the Vietnam War called our […]
A black and white photograph from 1942 of a sign that read "We want white tenants in our white community."

Just as I Suspected, Paying Rent Is Racist

Every month millions of Black Americans hand over half of our livelihood to the descendants of those who forcefully brought our ancestors here to work for free. Essentially, America is in the business of charging its captives rent.
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.

The Mysterious Art of Collaboration

Five housing organizations' effort to merge reveals both pitfalls and practical possibilities for bringing community development groups together.
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.
speech conversation balloons

Starting Conversations with Public Art

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

Stirring Up Change in the Steel Belt

The steel belt, once famous for its smoky cities, is capitalizing on a renewed public awareness of the environment to achieve tangible neighborhood change....

Obama Talks Up Metropolitanism

Metropolitanism, or regionalism, was back in the news this morning as Barack Obama trumpeted the concept at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference...

Rationale for Obama’s Tax Policy

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama was asked a question about his increasing taxes for those making more than a quarter million a year....

Fighting Wage Theft

Monday brought the announcement of a record 70,000-plus jobs lost worldwide, from drug companies to automakers and everything in between. Meanwhile each year millions of...

National Work Among Community Organizing Groups Is Growing

Editor’s Note: This is in response to Randy Stoecker’s earlier post on community organizing on the national level. ACORN, PICO, and US Action are...

Court Rules That Congress Unfairly Singled Out ACORN

A federal judge blocked U.S. officials from enforcing a funding ban on ACORN, one of America’s most effective anti-poverty groups. Congress cut off funding...

Bank Protests and Making Wall Street Pay

This is some great film of National People’s Action holding a protest in DC to raise awareness of the possible deal brokered between 50...

Study: NJ Land-Use Patterns Increase Exclusionary Zoning and Sprawl

All too often, we hear how sprawl development continues to eat up the last remaining open spaces across New Jersey,...

Interpreting Segregation

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council has received a number of inquiries on the widely publicized report from the...

Peoria LISC

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

Shared Equity Homeownership for Geeks

I was proofreading our second installment of The Answer earlier this week, which happens to be on whether shared-equity homeownership builds...

Homeownership Is Not Necessarily a Great Investment

The pushers of homeownership often try to convince people that they cannot lose by owning a home. They often use...