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.

Short-Term Stimulus and Planning for the Long Term

Everyone’s excited about the money pouring, or rather trickling, out of the federal government in the form of economic stimulus. As is the case...

News Flash: Rural Places and People are Becoming Irrelevant

The other day Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, got into the headlines with a speech in which he...

10-5-11 Poll: Should nonprofits manage scattered site rentals?

Click continued to see selected feedback. You said: “Yes. It’s been my experience that nonprofits often do and should manage scattered site rental units. This is...

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. ...
"Coming Soon, Very Sad" painted on border wall outside of new development.

We Are All NIMBYs…Sometimes

If we built enough housing, we would still need subsidized housing for many people, but market prices would be low enough that most people could afford them. But we’ve chosen not to. And the reason we give for that choice, more than any other, is that we are trying to preserve or improve the character of our communities.

Disclosure Remains Our Right

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

Housing Doesn’t Filter, Neighborhoods Do

There has been a renewed interest in the role that the real estate market can play in solving our...

Housing Assistance for All Is a Matter of Racial Justice–and It’s Achievable

Project-based Section 8 has been a successful public-private partnership that helps provide affordable housing to very low-income households while...

Tracking Job Creation in the Nonprofit Sector

Rick Cohen, a long-time Shelterforce contributor and editor of The Nonprofit Quarterly‘s “Cohen Report” wrote last week on the importance of nonprofits tracking their...

Free Transit?

New York City’s attempt to pass a congestion pricing plan like those that have been so successful in London and elsewhere was killed a...

“Move.” Governor Jerry Brown’s Troubling View of Affordable Housing

California Governor Jerry Brown is known for expressing ideas outside the standard political box. But in the case of California’s...

“An Antiforeclosure Plan That Works”

Dean Baker, co-director for the Washington, DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research will present his case in the Winter 2009 issue of Shelterforce...

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...

The Shadow (Inventory) Knows

What used to be dismissed as a bogeyman by real estate professionals is now a reality of unknown capacity: homes that fall into the...

Foreclosure Nightmare Continues for “Famous” Chicago Renters

Esteban Cruz digs his hands into a big plastic tub of letters and documents bundled and labeled by month. This mass of paper represents...

A Presidential Agenda Requires a Racial Equity Lens

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

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...
Men in topcoats and hats with rent increase protest signs.

Could Rent Control Come Back?

It was only two and a half years ago that Jake Blumgart opened his article, "In Defense of Rent Control," by saying: "Rent control...

‘Housing First’ Offers Hope for Homeless Veterans, Others

On this Veterans Day, when we remember those who have served, it is troubling to note that, although veterans make up around 9 percent...

GOP: Organize This!

I kind of knew it before, but watching John McCain’s speech as I write, it’s easy to see how the GOP VP pick Sarah...

At Last, Apprenticeships Will Be for All People

Not surprisingly, last Friday's headlines focused on the announcement that the Obama administration had rejected the proposal to build...

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...

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...

Can Technology Help Housing Counselors do More with Less?

On April 2, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan joined a host of congressional leaders and representatives from over 175 community...

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...

Why Aren’t We Building Middle Income Housing?

In a previous Shelterforce blog post, I argued that we cannot give up hope that the market will build middle-income housing. Granted, over the past...

Land Trust Conference Models Better Ways to Get People’s Attention

People are not made to sit in windowless rooms breathing recycled air and squinting at tiny writing on screens for days on end. If...

Stim Tracking: Let’s Get This Part Right

You’ve probably seen the reports that highlight some pretty ridiculous inaccuracies on the federal government’s very own virtual stim-tracking tool, Recovery.gov, including listing 440...

All Aboard, America

The weekend before Barack Obama and Joe Biden take the oath of office, I can’t help but remark on the seeming missed opportunity for...

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....

Giving New Meaning to “Green” Transit

In the US, we tend to think of public transportation as inherently green, which of course it is compared to...

Is the Mortgage Interest Deduction Vulnerable?

Shelterforce and the National Housing Institute have been outspoken about the need to change the mortgage interest deduction — the country’s largest housing subsidy,...
Buildings composed of lottery tickets.

Four Simple Fixes for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing

For the past two years I’ve worked as a housing lottery project manager for a small affordable housing developer and have found that, in spite of De Blasio’s bold initiative, the program often fails to efficiently and adequately serve the very people for which it has been designed.

Fighting Injustice With Love

On Valentine’s Day, job seekers and organizers will deliver candy and flowers to local and state officials, contractors associations,...

Punctuated Equilibrium and Racial Justice

“Ordinary people exercise power in American politics mainly at those extraordinary moments when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules that ordinarily govern their daily lives, and, by doing so, disrupt the workings of the institutions in which they are enmeshed. The drama of such events, combined with the disorder that results, […]

In Pursuit of a “Both/And” Housing Policy–The Case of Housing Choice Vouchers

Readers of Shelterforce are accustomed to seeing commentary about the perceived tension between community development and housing mobility. Almost...

Scoring Bragging Rights–and Funding

If there is one thing we have no shortage of here at LISC, it’s modesty.When a distressed community rebounds,...

“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...

Community and Economic Development, 2012-2016

Responding to Paul Ryan’s commentary about valuing seniors, Vice President Biden shared some advice he received from his father:...

History of the World (Part II)

Deja vu: the sensation that you are doing something that you have done before. In an eerily familiar Web-only piece, Laura Brunts and Theodore Kahn...

Habitat Retrofits Oakland Brownfield for LEED-ND Pilot

Habitat for Humanity’s East Bay affiliate is retrofitting a brownfield into 54 affordable homes on two acres of land in Oakland, Calif. With excellent...

Four Kinds of Concentrated Areas of Poverty

In a fair housing workshop yesterday at the National Low Income Housing Coalition's annual conference Sara Pratt of HUD's Office of Fair...

Worse Than a Tornado: Neighborhood Stabilization Amid the Foreclosure Crisis

NHI’s David Sailer appeared in the February 2009 issue of Planning magazine to address “the insidious destruction of entire neighborhoods now goes largely unnoticed.”...

Keep It Local

Mark Winston Griffith of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy is making a particularly keen point here at the National CAPACD 10th Annual...

All Hands on Deck: Bringing Universities More into the Fold

(with Sheryl Verlaine Whitney)  If there was one phrase heard more than any other during our work at HUD, it was “All hands on deck.” (Actually, it was second only to “Are you kidding me?”). In virtually every situation, whether it was implementing programs in response to the housing crisis, getting Recovery Act funds allocated […]

Basic Challenges Outlast Housing Crisis in Rural America

The United States is emerging from one of the most extensive and painful economic crises in memory. It is...

Abolish HUD?

When faced with a serious and persistent problem, it is often tempting to propose dramatic ideas, like blowing up existing programs and starting from...

Will Our Universities Rekindle Their Public Purpose?

<!-- /* Font Definitions */ font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3...

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 […]

CDFIs Speed Up Sandy Recovery

  When disasters strike, our first responders ensure that emergency resources get to those in need.  But...

The Healthy Nonprofit Ecosystem

In the halcyon days of my youth, way back in 2006, I went to New Orleans. I traveled there...

Preserving Communities: Live From New Jersey Future

Rooflines is reporting from the annual redevelopment forum held by New Jersey Future, a statewide research and advocacy organization today. The even highlights advancements...

Affordable Housing Advocates Need to be Strong TOD Advocates

The Red Line Transit Project is a proposed 14.1-mile light rail line designed to connect approximately 55,000 daily riders...

Bloomberg Thinks You Profited from the Housing Crisis

The following is, sadly, not a spoof, but a real cover illustration on an article about the housing market:Now,...

Taylor: Establish Meaningful Consumer Protections

When Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) last week announced that he would move forward with a consumer protection bill without seeking Republican support on the...

NLIHC Budget Chart Outlines HUD Appropriations

Here’s a handy resource released today by The National Low Income Housing Coalition today assembled following last week’s Senate passage of H.R. 1105, the...

Racial Discrimination by Banks Only Worsens the Foreclosure Crisis

This is the first entry in a series based on the National Fair Housing Alliance report, “The Banks Are Back,...

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...

In Memoriam: Pete Garcia

The community development world lost a leader on May 3. Pete Garcia, who was the director of Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) from 1984 to 2008, passed away at the age of 71.

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.

Come for the Mortgage, Stay for the Repairs

The storm that swept through the mid Atlantic last Friday night brought me a reminder of a certain truth: We...

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...

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...

Marketing the Farmers’ Market

After making only our second visit to the farmers' market in our county this summer, my wife and I...

Financial Implosion: 2nd Chance for Progressive Banking Reform?

When present and former public officials ranging from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary under President Clinton, started...

Our Window of Opportunity Is Open–Let’s Tackle Poverty Now

Every few generations, the stars align to create the potential for monumental, transformative social change. Turns out we’re in just such a moment right now when it comes to tackling poverty in the United States. I don’t blame you for being skeptical. Economic inequality is growing, big corporations are consolidating their political power, and our […]

Out of Reach 2016: Much More than Bad News

“A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 2.8...

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...
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...

U.S. Catholic Funders: Resist Calls to Abandon Social Justice

In the last few years community organizers have learned it's in their self-interest to become astute Vatican watchers. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)...

Read All About It…While You Can

Another major daily faces major cutbacks. This time it’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cutting its full-time news staff by about 90 people, or roughly 30...

From Barracks to Apartments: Serving Vets in Transition

As regular readers of Shelterforce know, with the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, Congress provided $75 million to the...
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.

Alaska’s Pebble Mine Vote the Same Old Catch-22: Jobs or Environment

Much attention has been on Alaska politics lately thanks to John McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, not...

CDCs Step In Where Banks Fear to Tread

Early in 2010, the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program released a report indicating that half of the $1.4 trillion in...

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...

Don’t Quit the Dream: A Vision for Homeownership Beyond 2012

After years marked by stalemate and indecision, 2012 has delivered a glimmer of hope for families and the housing market....

North to Alaska—Where Organizers Roam

Very enlightening : I came across an article today on the Minnesota Independent, an online news source, titled Palin’s Maligning Aside, Alaska’s Rife with Community...

Get Your Green On

In general, most efforts to develop “green infrastructure” at the neighborhood level have been volunteer-led, grassroots efforts. City governments don’t tend to take the...

Awesome Choice: Shelley Poticha to Take Sustainability Post at HUD

Wow. Only a week after I wrote a post celebrating how well the Obama administration seems to be getting its...

Arts in Public Schools: Essential. Life Saving.

This is dedicated to that Little Girl who experienced the first part of life in such a hard way who used to retreat to her world...

If It Can Happen in Virginia…

I've been reading Ruth Berta and Amanda Leonard Pohl's book, Building Power, Changing Lives, about Virginia Organizing. It's a...

Rural Rental Assistance Needs USDA’s Support to Survive

The cost of USDA’s Section 521 Rental Assistance program is growing every year. After a funding crisis hit the...
Photo of a timer

Endangering Community Investment with Tax “Reform”

There wasn’t one Republican senator who was willing say tax reform aimed at growing our economy should augment, not diminish, community investment.

The ‘Art’ of Public Planning

Café tables? Yes. Mimes? Sure. Palm trees? Oooh yeah.I checked off boxes next to the features I like in...

Fair Share Advocates Have to Keep Up Their Guard

“Repeal efforts never go away. Advocates need to remain organized and ready to launch a defense or counter-attack.” ...

Housing Instability and Children’s Schooling

The crisis of affordable housing, both rental and ownership, is causing families to move frequently as they find it difficult to make monthly housing...

A Historic Partnership in Creative Placemaking

NACEDA recently announced our selection as a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town award recipient. The award will...

Early Funding is Worth its Weight in Gold

Developing affordable rental housing these days is a lot like putting together a puzzle – when the financing pieces...

This Is How We Should Measure Our Work (And Achieve Economic Justice)

This is Part 6 in a series about the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. Click here for...
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

A Community Benefits Proposal Is Ignored. Is Displacement Far Behind?

Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods in Atlanta are in the midst of an occupation of Turner Field—the former home of the Atlanta Braves.

Trash: Pick It Up

Though questions about how we’re going to buy stuff in post-credit America may dominate the news, some interesting stories about what we’re going to...

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 […]

Banks Sitting on Foreclosed Homes

Here’s an interesting piece from the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on a “shadow inventory” of foreclosed houses — possibly 600,000 nationwide — that have...
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.

Community-Based Organizing Must Change. But How?

I grew up in rural Iowa. During my childhood, my community was shaken by the collapse of family farms, the...

Can Nonprofit Leaders Also Be Tech Innovators?

You may have seen my prior post on why the nonprofit sector is so tech averse. If you haven't...

New York AG Sues Banks Over MERS

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sued Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase over the banks' use...

Two Sneaky Reasons Why Building More Housing Isn’t Helping

The discussion about how much building more housing will help with affordability, and the nuances of the neighborhood and regional effects and what to...