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.

DeMarco Replacement Named, CBO Supports Principal Reductions

We've heard noises before that President Obama might nominate Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) to replace Ed DeMarco as director of...

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...

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...

Community Development and Hot Markets

At the People and Places Conference earlier this month, we organized a mini-track around “Community Control and Hot Markets.”...
Black computer enter key

SoFi, Not So Good: Is This Virtual Redlining?

SoFi is practicing product segregation. It wants to serve affluent people with its best products and shunt low- and moderate-income borrowers into inferior products that do not meaningfully serve credit needs.
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.

DeMarco Blocks Home Recovery, California Attorney General Harris Gets It Right

California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently subpoenaed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for information on their foreclosure proceedings in her state. While it is...

Keeping an Optimistic, Yet Watchful Eye on the Ball

It looks like President Obama and his administration kept most of the great ideas explored with the Grow America Act, last year's transportation initiative. The total investment is increased to $478 billion and expanded to six years in the latest iteration of the budget released yesterday. A few of the best pieces for low-income communities […]

How Hurricane Sandy Can Change Perceptions of Homelessness

Dramatic advances in medical treatments emerge in times of war. How might the housing crisis created by Hurricane Sandy advance...
People gathered outdoors around a table.

We Need the Data—But Can’t Forget the People—in Creative Placemaking

However difficult, altering one’s viewpoint of a community is a crucial step, because creative placemaking’s overarching goal is to reach everyone where they are, and you can’t do that if you begin with a well thought-out plan in hand.

Rangel’s Wrangle with Rent Control

Charlie Rangel, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been seen in recent months manicured and pressed, stumping for Hillary...

Businessweek Cover Points to Us All

All the criticism that the recent BusinessWeek cover is getting is well deserved. It deserves even more. ...
A street is covered with flowers and photos of Heather Heyer, as people look on the background

Terrorism in Charlottesville — And Possibly Your Town Next

The Trump-era increase widespread racial terror, as was on display in Charlottesville, is going to affect community developers' work at least as much as as his legislative and funding agenda.
Close-up of the back of a t-shirt that says "Because the rent won't wait."

Renter Week of Action in Pictures

This past week, renter advocacy groups staged coordinated demonstrations in over 45 states to disrupt business as usual, including stand-ins at the personal residences of corporate landlords, banner drops, neighborhood tours of the housing crisis, and creative actions at city halls. With the help of #RenterWeekofAction convener Right to the City, Shelterforce has compiled photos from several such demonstrations throughout the country to highlight their scope.

Cory Booker’s #Neighborhood

If there was some radio silence on Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker's Twitter feed on Tuesday, it was only because...

Seven Tips to Help You Forge Health and Housing Partnerships

About 80 percent of a person’s health status can be attributed to non-medical factors such as housing and income.

The Benefits of Having Everyone at the Table

How might we better engage the families we work with and provide them access to larger opportunities? Last month, CFED held their bi-annual Assets Learning Conference. It featured a range of topics that touched on an array of asset-building issues and included networking opportunities, mobilized conversations with policymakers, and celebrations of the progress of the […]
Brick apartment building

Newly-Suspended HUD Rule Would Have Expanded Access to Neighborhood Opportunity

After years-long notice and comment periods, a final rule on using small area Fair Market Rents to determine housing choice voucher payment levels was supposed to take effect. However, the Trump administration has recently announced a two-year suspension of the rule.

Why Has Palin Cooled Toward ARDOR?

Let’s take a closer look at GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s record on community organizing. It seems, as I said in my previous...

Cut the Red Tape – Local Hire Needed

Last month, USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a new, year long model program to test innovative local hire policies....

Could “Loft Home” Conversions Make Rust Belt Rehab Pencil Out?

A few weeks ago, Alan Mallach wrote on Rooflines about the mismatch between the buildings built for families of another...

Why CDFIs Should Go To College

              During three decades of working to close the financial gaps that confront a disproportionate number of low-income, minority...

Affordability at a Cost: What We Can Learn from Mobility Patterns

East New York has historically been one of the most affordable neighborhoods in New York City. But an influx of wealthier newcomers and rising prices citywide is beginning to change that.

How Should AG Settlement Funds Be Used?

If money from the national mortgage settlement is not used for principal reduction, how should it be spent? We posed that question to readers...

Job Quality & The Stimulus Package

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the Stimulus Package — passed by Congress in a painful process in February, proposes to create or...

McCain’s Nashville Flatline

John McCain’s newly unveiled idea — a buyout of “bad mortgages” to the tune of $300 million — left a lot of viewers bemused...

Bush Legacy: Unregulated Speculation Destroying Economy and Communities

After a week of crazy financial news, I always look forward to reading Gretchen Morgenson’s “Fair Game” column on the front page of the...

Supreme Court Argument Reaffirms the Case for Disparate Impact

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a very important fair housing case, and the Justices’ comments from the bench have had court watchers buzzing ever since. Here’s my take on what the legal back-and-forth in the case does and does not mean. It’s safe to say that the oral argument in […]

Can Calling Attention to Gentrification Make Things Worse?

In early march, when Austin was enduring the annual South-by-Southwest festival, Facebook user Briana Smith stunned the world by...

Will Your State Be Punished for Taking Foreclosures to Court?

In the near future, nearly half of the United States could experience increased mortgage fees. FHFA acting director Ed DeMarco...

McCain Hearts ACORN

Just picked this up from the Jed Report:

Countering the Lies

As a parent, I try to teach my children that “I told you so” is rude, and generally unhelpful in...

Another Day in the Lower Ninth Ward

Sweat pours down Reginald “Trigger” Smith’s face as he cleans out a storage unit squeezed next to three FEMA trailers on his lot in...

Will Our Universities Rekindle Their Public Purpose?

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With Rising Property Taxes, Should Non-Profits Now Pay Their “Fair Share”?

It’s tight here in New Jersey. And it’s because it’s crowded. With 8.7 million people, we are 11th in the country in population, but...
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.

The Invisible Poverty of the Suburbs

Our anti-poverty policies have failed the suburban poor, say Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube. Their new book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” highlights our country’s...

NLIHC Report: Rental Homes Remain Out of Reach

The gap between income and rent continues to widen, and “high unemployment, falling wages, and low rental vacancy rates driven by a post-recession return...

Take Note: Berlin Thrives with a Declining Population and Housing Surplus

A few months ago I wrote a piece for Shelterforce and a related piece for Rooflines on Mumbai.There I...

Watch Your Mouth!  Ten Phrases that Progressives Should Retire in 2013

Along with the usual New Year’s resolutions about exercising, getting more sleep, and being more patient with the kids, progressives...

Advocates, Have You Created A Judgment-Free Zone?

How did we get here? What’s to come? Should I be moving to another country??! The last question may seem...

Two Steps to Rebalancing Housing Policy

Tax-writing committees in both houses of Congress are developing legislation to reform the tax code that may be seriously...

Resilience, Community Development, and the Problem with Charging Interest

“'Resilience' made #6 on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Top 10 list of buzzwords for 2012 because it is...

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...

Fannie and Freddie Violate New York’s Public Trust

Under ordinary circumstances, Sept. 1 — Labor Day — would be a day of celebration and pride. Not only does it commemorate the sacrifice...

“Costs of Place” Still Rising

Every once in a while, it's useful to take stock of the big picture numbers and trends that form...

Challenging Markets, Innovative Financing

A contract-for-deed program making headway in North Minneapolis offers another look at how using the CLT model to offer potential homeowners once saddled with...

The Art$

I was invited recently by the Municipal Art Society to do a research project called “Who Pays for the Arts.”...

Finally Moving Toward Principal Reduction?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama administration is now considering, in some cases, encouraging banks to reduce loan principal as a...
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.

It’s The Great Election, Charlie Brown

Halloween approaches and, as always, we’re found waiting for the Great Pumpkin, er, Election. Immediately following the...

ACORN: The New York Times, Lies, and Videotape

The New York Times hit ACORN with a one-two punch last weekend, making sure that the community organizing group — flattened by attacks from...

California’s Organizer in the State House

It just ain’t natural for a policy-type blogger to stray into ray-of-sunshine territory — we’re talking politics here, after all, so it’s smarter to...

Segregation 101

A year after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, The New York Times published a front-page article about racism in the St. Louis area. What it doesn't address is ...

Despite Promises of Relief, Foreclosure Crisis Still Escalating

In the Chicago metro area as across the nation, even with various public, private and nonprofit relief efforts underway, the foreclosure crisis continues to...

Does a Sustainable Community Need a Good Drinking Establishment?

My friend Eliot Allen first introduced me to the concept of neighborhood completeness:  that the quality of a place is...

Remaking HUD

Shaun Donovan, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to head HUD, appears to be an indication that this could be the urban policy president we’ve been...

Sustainable Homeownership vs QRMs

One of the many themes running through the interactive session “The Future of Mortgage Finance in America,” this morning at NCRC’s annual conference was...

Cleveland Has a Foreclosure Problem?

You might have caught 60 Minutes flying over Cleveland last Sunday for a quick look at the city’s challenges stemming from rampant foreclosures and...

Do the Roads Belong to All of Us?

The other day at a planning board meeting, I heard someone claim that all the roads from the nearest shopping center to their house, a distance of at least three miles, were “residential roads.” That was a new one to me. What he based that on was the fact that there are many houses along […]

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...

NAACP’s Journey for Justice And Voting Rights

We live in interesting times.Two years ago, immigrant leaders from across the country camped out on the National Mall...

Shiller’s “Continuous-Workout Mortgages” Won’t Address the Crux of the Problem

Robert Shiller in an article in The New York Times proposed a more flexible home mortgage that he argues would help prevent crises...

Manufactured Housing: Underutilized and Misunderstood

What will it take for manufactured housing, the principal source of unsubsidized, affordable homes in the United States, to reach its potential? Limited and expensive financing options make life even more difficult for the financially vulnerable residents who live in manufactured housing (MH) communities. The continuing consolidation of ownership is taking a toll, and the […]

Watching the Numbers

When I was a kid, I loved watching presidential election returns. Every four years I’d get to rush home and sit in front of...

Rich Train Station Neighborhoods Need More Apartments

New Jersey’s extensive public transportation system is a source of envy for most other states, many of whose larger...

NoMi? NoBe? No Go

A few years ago, we had a movement of people who tried to rebrand our Twin Cities community as...
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.

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...

Low Income Housing Group to Release New Housing Wage Data

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) will release its annual Out of Reach report at 11 a.m., ET, today. Speakers will release for...

Immigration Leaders Take a Stand…In Handcuffs

Immigrants are increasingly putting their bodies on the line, hoping to move immigration reform. On Oct. 8, a Chicago activist...
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...

Getting Together–Using National Gatherings to Learn from Each Other

Given our national economic climate and the growing recognition of collaborative, place-based and culturally grounded approaches, it is only fitting then that the theme...

Disclosure Remains Our Right

I was interviewed last month for a book on redlining that took me back to the ‘70s. Going through...

Gentrification Keeps Trying to Improve its Image

The latest report on gentrification in American cities is also the latest to try to give it a decent name. The new study says...

Breaking Up the Pipeline to Prison

 President Obama is doing more than speaking out for criminal justice reform, he is taking action.Earlier this week, President...

“Let’s Refuel America”

According to a report in The New York Times Monday, auto sales are down by more than a million compared to 2007’s 16.2 million...

Walking Away Becoming Less Taboo

We’ve been talking about the pragmatic component of strategically walking away from your mortgage for some time now. For a while, there was a...

HUD: Minorities Shown Fewer Homes, Apartments Than Whites

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this month released its report on Housing Discrimination Against Racial...

Suitcases and Shopping Carts: Lessons from Recent Labor Victories

This week, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation agreed to pay $1 million to the 98 housekeepers who were fired and replaced by lower-paid workers five years ago.  A few weeks earlier, employees of the Market Basket family-owned grocery store chain returned to work after over a month of protests helped to reinstate the ousted, worker-friendly CEO. […]

Time to Bet on Prize-Linked Savings

During 15 years of working within a community development corporation to create and support socially and economically resilient communities, one of my perpetual frustrations...
A blue and white Louisiana road sign.

After a Far Fall, Is Louisiana Becoming a Better Place for its Lower Income...

When the 2017 Prosperity Now Scorecard was published last month, it was no surprise that Louisiana ranked second-to-last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as it typically falls somewhere near the bottom. In many ways, the Scorecard confirmed what we already knew: that most Louisiana families, especially low-income families and families of color, are not faring well financially. What was surprising, however, was how far Louisiana had fallen.

Community Developer Wins Contentious Primary for NYC Council Seat

Brad Lander, a not-for-profit director, affordable housing builder, city planner, and community organizer told the Brownstoner about why he chose to run for New...

How CDCs (and TIFs) Might Help Create Equitable Public School Districts

As many parents know instinctively, and economists have shown, there’s a reason why the housing cost in many communities is...

A Steep Climb Up The Hill

We’ve been interviewing attendees at this year’s National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s annual conference, and we plan on posting individual interviews shortly. Those attendees who...

Supreme Court Set To Rule on Disparate Impact, Fair Housing

The potential success of recent HUD rule changes regarding “affirmatively further fair housing” rest quite substantially on how municipalities...

Photo Contest: Aging With Dignity

Do you have a senior housing development? Are you helping seniors age in place with supportive housing, accessibility retrofits, home repair assistance, creative financial solutions, or other services? Are you organizing against financial abuse for seniors? Does your organization run on the power of retirees and their volunteerism? Share their faces and stories with your […]
Photo courtesy of Right to the City Alliance.

Block by Block, the Renters Movement is Growing

“The string of victories in 2017 are a direct product of renters building power on the ground. Renters, faced with a historic housing crisis, are getting organized to change immediate conditions on the ground and build a movement to transform the way land and housing are treated in the country.”

Employee Ownership: A Solution that Preserves Retiring Owners’ Businesses

Reflecting growing enthusiasm for worker co-ops, the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy—held last month in Worcester, Massachusetts—attracted a record 300-plus participants. One item on the...

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...

Mission Above Method

Shelterforce is graciously allowing me to weigh in on a current topic of debate within the field of “shared equity homeownership” or “permanently affordable...

With ACORN, Transparency Is Just as Important as Good Values

The last few months has seen a number of articles, editorials, and interviews about the lack of financial responsiveness and accountability in the private...

A Farm-to-Fork Movement, Starting with the Corner Store

One of the more intriguing aspects of the local food movement in the United States is the effort to...

Affordable Housing Doesn’t Have Enough Advocates, Science Explains Why

In May, Scientific American (SA) published an article entitled “You Are Less Beautiful Than You Think.” The title refers to...

Financial Destruction in Detroit

On Friday, Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city challenging the legitimacy of...

Failing The Equitable Development Test

I wondered whether the Americans who suffered the injustice of our most recent Great Recession haven’t already been not only forgotten but abandoned by the White House and Congress, despite their votes. 
Neon sign in window reads "Real Estate Home Loans."

Despite What Bankers Say, Data Is Indispensable

The American Bankers Association (ABA) issued a white paper maintaining that the CFPB exceeded its mandate under Dodd-Frank. Full of rhetoric, the white paper makes a number of unfounded allegations about HMDA data and the CFPB final rule.
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.

These States Are Trying to Level the Field for Disadvantaged Students

How would the trajectories of children’s lives change if they knew that their state, their community and their parents were investing in their future success for as long as they could remember?

The Smarter Cities Project Wants Your Input on Sustainability Criteria

As some of you may know, Smarter Cities is an initiative that ranks US cities on a number of key sustainability criteria as well...