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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 –...
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...

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...

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...

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...

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.
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...

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 […]

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...

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,...

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...

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...

Carrots, Sticks, and Economic Justice

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

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,...

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...

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 […]

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...

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...
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 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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

“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 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...

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...

Lifting the Voices of Housing Voucher Holders

My organization, the Maryland ACLU, recently helped launch a new website, www.housingmobility.org. Who needs another housing website? In fact,...

Japan’s Unintentional Social Experiment

Having just come back from two weeks in Japan, my brain is still overflowing with sensations and images from that fascinating, exciting, and intermittently...

Local Leaders Just Gained a New Tool to Address Inequality

A new Brookings Institution analysis confirms what we are feeling: inequality continues to climb in cities, and large income...

Seizing the Moment to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

Housing and community development issues do not get the attention they deserve in the national media, but our field is having a moment. Last...

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,...

A Disastrous Week for Housing

In the United States, millions of people live in unaffordable and/or unhealthy homes or lack housing at all. If...

Dr. King and The Poor People’s Campaign

Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1968 while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. Up until that time, he'd spoken about the dignity...

Housing Advocate, Minnesota State Representative Karen Clark

Mention the word "housing" in the Minnesota state legislature, and you're likely to be referred to the office of Representative Karen Clark. Clark, a...

4 Groups That Need to Change to Make Mixed-Income Communities Work

As long time affordable housing developers and community builders now working in the area of public housing transformation, we...

Does the Disability Rights Movement Offer A Model for Housing Activists?

The Republican and Democratic National Conventions are over, and the nation’s affordable housing crisis has struck out. Not a...

4 Ways a President Clinton Could Help Cities Thrive in Her First 100 Days

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

Worker Co-ops: Hope in the Desert

“Political democracy requires economic democracy.” I spent Election Day in—of all places—Las Vegas, Nevada....

Preliminary HUD Budget Shows Carson Lied in His Confirmation Hearing Too

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

4 Reasons to Retire the Phrase “Inner City”

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

Working in Partnership

[Editorial note: In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Rooflines has chosen to share an essay from the Shelterforce archives. Co-written by Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and John Taylor in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the decade-old essay shows us that the reality for millions of Americans in poverty has not changed very […]

Do Urban Neighborhoods Need Homeowners?

At a conference I attended last week, one of the speakers, a colleague whose judgment and knowledge I respect, offered his take on the future of urban single family neighborhoods. The lower income families who have the credit and can get together the down payment to become homeowners are buying in the suburbs. People working […]

When Will Attitudes Change Toward Solar?

It was a bright, sunny day in Chicago on September 24. Celebrants were singing, “You Are My Sunshine,” as the solar panels had already saved $64 since the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in the US had started them up just a few hours earlier. With 483 panels, each producing 310 watts, ICA’s 166,000 square […]
Man places strikeout symbols on baseball stadium wall.

The “Greeding Out” of Affordable Housing

There have been a number of stories in the papers over the last two months that, from my perspective, are connected. Unfortunately, their common denominator is the demise of affordable housing caused by the malignant neglect of government at all levels.
Football players kneel during national anthem.

#ThisIsNotUs. Except, It Is.

We are constantly faced with the decision of whether to #TakeAKnee in our work, and whether we meet this challenge or not either reinforces our racialized landscape or disrupts it. What is clear is that we cannot sit on the sidelines with a universalist perspective, claiming to do good work.
Navigating Community Development book cover

Honing the “Scale-Up” of Community Development Organizations

If specialization and regionalization are essential to being effective and getting to scale, how does the field execute a multi-pronged strategy needed to address the many factors that affect communities?
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.
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.

Make Lemonade from the Current Housing Crisis

When life serves you lemons, make lemonade. That seems to be the adage the Prince William County authorities are following with regard to the...

Californians Defend Rent Control

On Tuesday, California voters provided a tremendous victory for tenants’ rights. They defeated Proposition 98, which would have phased out rent control, by...

Going Green

The last week of June turned out to be Sustainable Development Week unofficially in Chicago as a convergence of events spread the word on...

Chicago Sheriff Stands up for Renters

Losing a home to foreclosure is a nightmare, causing at least one person — Carlene Balderrama of Massachusetts — to commit suicide in recent...

The Inauguration: View from a Chicago Diner

At the risk of sounding cliché, hope was in the air as thick as the smell of grilling bacon and the steam from oatmeal...

ACORN Turns Up The Volume

In September, when Congress voted to ban federal funds for ACORN, it was clear, if it hadn’t been already, that the organization had emerged...

Are Big-Box Stores a Good Measure of Equity?

It’s been cause for celebration here in the DC region, and rightfully so, that suburban Prince George’s County, Maryland, has a new, high-end Wegmans...

Creating a Level Playing Field in the Foreclosure Process

Congressional action is hard these days. Last year, Congress came close, but failed, to passing significant reforms to bankruptcy rules that would have allowed...

Dear Mom, Here’s What Crashed the Economy (Part III) – And How to Fix...

Happy New Year!  And what better time to talk about my favorite ideas for getting us out of this...

What Does an Affordable Rural Rental Housing Strategy Look Like?

Affordable housing advocates were happy recently to see the Senate Appropriations Committee tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get...

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...

It’s All About the Votes

With the news talking about close races in swing states, and voter intimidation in full swing, the importance of voter...

How Do You Respond? Section 8 and Crime

In 2008, a sensationalistic article in The Atlantic tried to draw a causal connection between tenants with housing assistance...

The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Community Development

Even if you have not tuned out of the long-running debate about the future of health care in the United States, you can be...

6 Reasons to Be Wary of Public-Private Partnerships

During his recent visit to Miami, President Obama praised Public Private Partnerships (“P3s”) and lifted up the idea of a...

More Voices on NYCHA Private Development Plans

We've had a good discussion here on Rooflines about NYCHA's plan to build things on the open space in its...

Rural Transit: A Matter of Life or Death, and in Danger

In the city, many working people and senior citizens rely on public transit to get to the office, doctor appointments,...

We Can’t Eliminate Poverty, And We Can’t Stop Fighting

“We have spent $15 trillion from the federal government fighting poverty, and look at where we are, the highest...

‘Gentrification’ is a Linguistic Weapon Hurting Us All

As the challenges of community development have evolved and become more complex especially over the last decade, the language used to frame and define...

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...

Is “Creating Community” Still the End Goal of Community Development?

This is the final part of my series on community organizing and community development. Click here for Part 1...

Justice in Delaware, Revisited

The following is an update to a 2012 Rooflines piece by Van Temple about the struggle of a mobile...

Embracing Affirmative Action, Imperfections And All

In a piece on my personal blog, I referenced a bigger politics of social and economic justice vs. a...

Activists Have Long Known That Donald Sterling Is Racist

I am a huge sports fan and  I grew up in and currently live in the San Francisco Bay...

Actually United States

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

Ferguson, Sanford and the Persistence of Violent Racism

“Wonder when I’ll find paradise // Somewhere there’s a home sweet and nice” –WAR, The World is a...

Police & Community Partnerships in L.A. Housing Projects

LA's Community Safety Partnership has been covered by a variety of media outlets including NPR and The New York Times Magazine. I happened upon...