Community Development Field

Shelterforce considers “community development” to be an extremely broad term. But there are still many conversations about the ways in which that broad work happens. Comprehensively or in coalitions of specialized organizations? Locally or regionally? Place or people? While the answers to all of these are usually “both,” there are many conversations to be had about “how.”

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Regrets of An Accidental Placemaker

Had I unintentionally contributed to the gentrification of my neighborhood and other neighborhoods around Washington, D.C.?
Rubin cover, Advocacy for Social Change

Advocacy for Social Change: Coalitions and the Organizations that Lead Them

Many books discuss the corrosive effect of money in politics and lobbying organizations, but few are devoted to how those representing the have-nots organize on a national level to fight for laws and regulations that seek to empower communities.
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.
rusty door knock

Panacea or Problem? The Possibilities in Opportunity Zones

With Opportunity Zones, the potential is there for great benefit, but it is not yet clear where, how, and to whom any benefits will accrue. People who care about connecting residents and businesses in distressed communities with opportunities need to act now so they fulfill their promise.
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Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—May 11

Democrat’s Housing Proposal | Tracking SNAP Recipients Is a Bad Idea | Including Antiracism Practices Into The Housing First Model | An Asylum-Seeker Game? | Mick, Can We Rate You?
An apartment complex in Minnesota that was under threat of being sold to a luxury developer.

Beating Luxury Developers at Their Own Game

The tide is starting to change as a number of organizations have partnered with nonprofits to make deals to acquire naturally occurring affordable housing.
A group of residents stand outside of the Oak Hill Meeting House holding a sign that reads "We Own It." They are clapping and cheering.

The State of Shared-Equity Homeownership

Though the need is greater than ever for resale-restricted, affordable homes, the growth of this model of homeownership appears to be limited.
homeless camp under bridge

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, May 4

A Trauma-Centered Approach to Youth Violence in Cleveland | We May Know Who Benefits From Port Covington | What Housing Crisis? | Clearing Homeless Encampments in Philadelphia | Restaurant Tax for Affordable Housing
migrant farm workers

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 27

Climate Gentrification | A Marijuana Tax for Housing? | Homeownership Alone Can't Close the Wealth Gap | Illegal ICE Raids on Farms | Keeping An Eye on Opportunity Zones | More...
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.
Barcelona apartment buildings

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 20

NIMBYs, YIMBYs, PHIMBYs-Oh My! | Can Algorithms Make Equitable Cities? | Retail Segregation Takes a Toll | E.R. Visits and "Tough" Neighborhoods | Enough Innovation Already | More...
young men playing horn instruments

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 13

Really, YIMBYs? | TOD Without Displacement | Tracking 80 Million Evictions | MLK's Campaign, Revitalized | Airbnb Hastening Demise of NOLA Culture? | Bike "Borrowing" for Equity | More
tents and tarps on a lot

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 6

Gentrification Is Bad For One's Health | Housing Teachers-At School | Protecting Space for Local Business | TOD Doesn't Have to Displace | Community Artists Win in Court | More . . .
medical marijuana business

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, March 30

Helping Cannabis Entrepreneurs of Color | The "Business" of Homelessness | Housing Is a Mental Health Issue | Justice for Wage Theft Victims | 2020 Census Already Off to a Bad Start?
Michael Bodaken

Interview with Michael Bodaken, retiring director of the National Housing Trust

Shelterforce took the occasion of Michael Bodaken's retiring from the National Housing Trust to speak with him about how he got into housing, some of his favorite projects, and his recommendations for the field going forward.
housing construction near train station

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, March 16

A Cautionary Housing Tale from London | Hospitals Peddling Loans for Healthcare Costs? | Public Housing Resident Lawsuit | Kentucky Rezones for More Housing | Florida Sides with Payday Lenders | More...
Jeanne Fekade-Selassie

New Money on the Block: Funders for Housing and Opportunity

A new funding collaborative, Funders for Housing and Opportunity, has just launched. The collaborative, officially a project of the New Ventures Fund, involves (so far) nine large and well-known foundations.
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Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, March 2

Are Black Incarceration Rates Really Falling? | Clinics in Schools Remedy Absenteeism | Hispanic Homeownership Rate Increases | Uber is Causing Traffic Jams | "Adjustable" Houses | More
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The Displacement Crisis of Immigrant-Owned Small Businesses

Growth of new business is a sign of a robust economy, but New York City’s true success hinges on ensuring that all residents have access to opportunity and community resources.

Tools of the Trade: Measuring the Health-Related Returns of Community Development

Partnerships are becoming more the norm and less the exception, but how do we know that they are actually having a good effect on health, well-being, and economic opportunity?

Why Do We Care About Health Equity?

The fight for health equity—for everyone to have a roughly equal shot at the potential and choice that good health offers—is of course, similar to the fight for economic justice and the work of community development.
Dr. Jim O’Connell sits on a patient's bed at Pine Street Inn Supportive Housing in Boston.

Not Just Partners, But Neighbors: Health Care in Affordable Housing Developments

Offering on-site health care in housing developments makes sense. But developing and managing housing and health care facilities can be very different. How do you make them work together?

Financial Metrics Won’t Tell the Full Picture

Cost savings alone do not measure the full value of the collaboration between the health care and housing sectors.
A sign that reads "wellness center."

Aligning Health Systems With Community Development

Hospitals and health systems can’t solve societal challenges alone. But they can play a key role in mobilizing and aligning joint resources to bring positive changes to low-income communities.
Q: Can Support Community Development Improve Outcomes for the Health Sector? Yes! Over 50 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable non-medical factors, specifically behavioral, environmental, and social conditions. Graphic of a home and all the areas that community development helps with health outcomes. Image links to PDF version of The Answer.

Q: Can Supporting Community Development Improve Outcomes for the Health Sector?

Yes! Over 50 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable non-medical factors, specifically behavioral, environmental, and social conditions.
An African-American man gets his blood pressure checked at the California Hotel, an EBALDC development that offers affordable apartments with community and commercial spaces.

Approaching Partnerships Between Health Care Institutions and Community Development Organizations

There isn’t an exact science to forming partnerships. The slow and sometimes messy process requires patience, allies, and trust.
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.
A sign that reads "the rent is too damn high."

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, Feb. 2

Quote of the Week: “Even as the core problem in cities shifted from disinvestment to displacement, the policy paradigm has remained the same: Spur growth...
Painted gentrification sign on wall

Who Gets to Live Where, and Why? The Answer May Be Settled By Our...

Why housing messaging is backfiring and recommendations on how to change course.
Bustop and wall mural

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, Jan. 26

Bus Routes Out of Poverty | Amazon—Earn Your Subsidy | The Numbers Behind 'Urban Renewal' | Overdue Rent is Sickening | Med. Students As City Planners? | Trump's Medicaid Work Requirement

Moving Hospital and Health System Investments Upstream

Across the country, nonprofit hospitals are under intense scrutiny due to the discrepancy between the substantial revenues they generate compared to the level of...
3 women posed at the sides of a sign.

Nun Funds: The Original Impact Investors

Rising out of a practice of shareholder activism that began in the 1970s, Women Religious made the leap from monitoring their investments on Wall Street to becoming pioneers in investing directly in the communities and social justice causes for which they cared.
A yellow house on a corner.

The Power of Proximity: Making the Case for Living Where You Work

Twenty years later, it’s hard to overstate how wise I think that group of board members was in imposing its residency requirement on me. While initially skeptical, over the years I’ve learned some powerful lessons about the benefits of proximity.

Shelter Shorts: The Week in Community Development, Jan. 12

Activists at the Golden Globes | Carson’s HUD Takes Some Heat | We Make an Exception on Workforce Housing | Companies Must "Do Better" in Nashville | California Makes Policy Using Opportunity Maps

The Mysterious Art of Collaboration

Five housing organizations' effort to merge reveals both pitfalls and practical possibilities for bringing community development groups together.
An African-American man in blue T-shirt and shorts, carry full shopping bags approaches the top of a ramp, where he is greeting by a white woman in a multicolored blouse. Two other people with belongings follow him up the ramp.

Shelter Shorts: The Week in Community Development, Jan. 5

2018 Housing predictions | Gentrification News | Local Resistance | Unlikely inspiration for planners
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.
Canadian flag

Shelter Shorts: The Week in Community Development-Dec. 22

Canada says housing a human right | Protecting local business | Homelessness prevention saves money | CLT milestone in Colorado
"For Rent" sign

Shelter Shorts: The Week in Community Development-Dec. 15

Walmart and Ben Carson looking out for your financial health?! | Homelessness numbers up, but lowering them saves money | Rental market finally slowing down.

Creative Placemaking: Honoring the Past While Welcoming our Futures

A discussion about honoring the history of a place while actively working to encourage its growth and foster positive change.
Three tiny homes.

Shelter Shorts: The Week in Community Development-Dec. 8

“Attainable” housing | Defeating land contracts | Harassed tenants get legal win | Preaching against gentrification | Housing on Bill Gates’ mind
protesters with signs

Shelter Shorts: The Week in Community Development-Dec. 1

Demolitions conducted using Hardest Hit Funds have exposed already suffering communities to asbestos; Vancover gets accessory dwelling units right; Obama dismisses the idea of a community benefits agreement in Chicago; and more in this week's Shelter Shorts, a look back at the week in community development news.
The front cover of the Fall 2017 edition of Shelterforce magazine.

Community Development Potpourri

This issue represents a great cross-section of what community development is. We have stories of organizing, housing, health, and arts. Stories of affordable housing challenges in strong and weak markets; we have pieces on policy, program, and resistance; and more.
Name tag pasted to a wall

When Bad Names Get in the Way of Good Policy

Today, America is a place where symbols are often more important than the causes or deeds they describe. With social media and the 24-hour...
pencil with eraser shavings

Your “Opportunity” Map is Broken. Here Are Some Fixes

If we are truly going to reduce our housing policy objectives to the realm of goals related to “opportunity,” I would like to offer some guidelines for its proper use.
NYC skyline painted on brick wall.

New York City Becomes a Hotbed of Community Land Trust Innovation

New York seems poised to move the concept of community land trusts in new and exciting directions.
Upside-down image of a faucet dripping.

Trickle Up Housing: Filtering Does Go Both Ways

Here's something we don't talk about enough: developing affordable housing in a tight, high-cost market also increases overall affordability through filtering! Just in the other direction—it trickles up.
A car and truck submerged on a flooded road.

Rules for Radicals to Demand a Fair and Transformative Disaster Recovery

At Texas Housers, we've confronted a series of natural disasters over the past decade that forced us to develop new approaches for our housing advocacy. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we find ourselves back at it. Here are seven lessons we have learned.
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.
Statue of children playing tug of war.

A Crisis of Culture (Again)

From the removal of confederate statues throughout the South to the controversial actions by football players during the national anthem, we, as a nation,...
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.
Boarded window with "Resist Immigration Raids" sprayed.

What to Do When ICE Comes to Your Buildings

If you own and/or manage affordable housing, do you know what to do if ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shows up on your doorstep looking for someone? If you haven’t thought it through yet, now’s the time.
Black and white photo of a row of police cars.

The Problem with “We Have to Do Something”

This summer, Eve Ewing, a sociologist of race and education at the University of Chicago, wrote an article called “The Chicago Negro and the...
Word bubbles made of paper materials.

10 Ways to Talk About Inclusionary Housing, Differently

We need to talk about inclusionary housing in a different way that circumvents common misperceptions and creates a new narrative for policymakers in moderate markets and more conservative political climates. Here are 10 messages to help frame your conversations.
Black-and-white photo of DACA information table.

Defending DACA Is a Moral and Economic Imperative

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants. Over the course of its five-year history,...
People line up next to donation items after Hurricane Katrina.

Civil Rights Organizations on Hurricane Relief Efforts

Throughout what we know will be a long recovery over the coming weeks, months, and years, Shelterforce hopes to share the stories of the...
Photo by charlene mcbride via flickr, CC BY 2.0

Industry versus Movement – Redux

Three years ago, I posted a blog in which I wrestled with the question of whether community development is an “industry” or a “movement.”...
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.
This Opa-locka, Florida resident had his loan request approved based on his character and not his credit score.

When a Person’s Character Trumps Their Credit Score

Some CDFIs approve loans based on a person’s character instead of their credit score. But they only recommend doing so when you know the applicant.
Two woman hold a sign that reads, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed Taught me ..."

Preparing a Career Path for Community Change Agents

College credentials combined with local organizing experience helps create a new generation of community activists.
The cover of the Summer 2017 edition of Shelterforce magazine, which focuses on racial justice. Topics include character loans, policing, gentrification ...

Editor’s Note: Racial Justice — Beyond Good Intentions

Race affects everything in American society. Working to fight racial injustice is a large part of what the community development field does. And yet, that doesn’t get us off the hook.

Who Will Lead Community Development Corporations?

Community development corporations are surprisingly short on executives of color. Why? And how can the field do better?
A group of activists and community-based partners in Philadelphia discuss how to deal with a Mantua neighborhood hotspot and possibly solve the problem through a process called “crime prevention through environmental design.”

Roundtable: Policing and Community Development

Many people in the community development field are conflicted about the police presence where they work. We invited a group of practitioners to share their experiences and talk through this tension.
A black and white illustration of a head broken into puzzle pieces.

Chipping Away at Implicit Bias

Structural discrimination has led to an unconscious association between blackness and poverty and neighborhood disinvestment. Here’s what we can do to change the status quo.
Two employees of Grace Federal Solutions in North Carolina, an African-American man and woman, chat in the hallway of their offices. The company secured a loan from a CDFI.

CDFIs Led By People of Color Face Financial Disparities Too

A lack of access to capital, capacity-building resources, and technical assistance significantly constrains the ability of CDFIs led by people of color to achieve greater impact.
Painted measuring tape on street

Measuring What Really Matters in Community-Based Development Organizations

Developing a road map for performance improvement within CBDOs can be a daunting task, and while their missions are sometimes nebulous, here are some ways to measure them.
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 black and white photo of binoculars.

A View from the Other Side of the Funding Proposal

During my time on a CDC's board, my expectations and assumptions have been challenged. This change in perspective and experience has offered me some interesting observations and lessons.

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.

High Cost of Affordable Housing Is Not CDCs’ Fault

You know what doesn’t help lower the cost of affordable housing? Spuriously blaming some of the organizations that are working hardest to create it in the most difficult situations.
A woman who attended the 2016 National Housing Conference's event in New York City speak at the microphone.

How to Build a Case for Community Development and Affordable Housing

In the new administration, housing programs will feel the pressure of budgetary cuts and tax reform. Advocates should be careful not to put down other programs in the process of defending their own, or everyone will lose.

Indigenous Approaches to Succession and Mentoring

The American approach to work often values productivity in terms of outputs and deliverables, and generally, this prevails even in our social justice work. Many of us give of ourselves and sacrifice our time, energy, and other facets of our lives for the cause or to advance the movement; but without some sort of balance and planning on our end, we could face a harsh reality as we meet our advanced years in life.

Not Your Average Community Garden

    Located east of the Anacostia River, Wayne Place is a transitional housing facility for young adults who grew up in the foster care system....

In Troubled Times, Taking Stock of Our Community Wealth

In thinking about how to face the current federal environment, it might be helpful to take stock of where gains have occurred. Among these growth areas are:

On Optimism and Space: The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference

Before 2016’s first presidential debate plunged into birtherism and beauty pageants and Donald Trump ran into a wall of...

Foundations Shrugged

Editor's Note: Ruth Loess (her pen name) is our newest blog contributor who will bring something different to our...

Universities Step Up and Commit to Challenging Inequality

Campus Compact—a group that brings together 1,100 colleges and universities to advance civic responsibility—held its 30th annual conference where it called on member campuses to develop Civic Action plans to embrace a set of five community commitments.

Starting a Social Enterprise? You Need to Know This

Those of us in the affordable housing industry have often required our general contractors to have a payment and...

Earned Income Should Not Replace Public Funding for Community Development

The second article in our New Frontiers series, “Getting Beyond the Developer Fee“ has spurred some discussion. ...
Members of an organization install pavement on a sidewalk in Buffalo, New York.

Getting Beyond the Developer Fee

In tough financial times, community developers are hanging on to their developer fees despite competition, but many are also diversifying their programs and revenue streams.

Co-ops Gain Ground in Communities of Color

              Since 2010, 60 percent of new cooperative worker-owners are people of color and more than two thirds of total worker-owners are women.   These are some...

The Complexity of Compliance

Native American Connections (NAC) is a leader in the development and management of high quality, affordable housing communities. It...

Q: What’s the difference between community economic development and traditional economic development ?

A: A lot! In fact, they are so different that the Democracy Collaborative, which made the chart below, has coined the term “community wealth building” to set apart the truly community-oriented practitioners of economic development.

Voices From the Field: Mixed Income

Do we need more mixed-income housing? Why or why not? The following data and observations were collected via a survey we conducted from late January through mid-February, distributed via Shelterforce Weekly and social media.

In Memoriam: Marva Smith Battle-Bey

Marva Smith Battle-Bey, director of the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation in Los Angeles, which she founded in 1979,...

Harvard Planners Talk Race, Design, and St. Louis

In our recent interview with long-time urban planner and racial equity advocate Chester Hartman, he told us he thought...

Can We Build a Movement for Structural Economic Change? We Must

This July, the New Economy Coalition (NEC), a coalition of over 140 organizations from across North America, will convene in Buffalo for its biennial...

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.

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...

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....

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...

FHFA’s Proposed Duty to Serve Rule – New Opportunities for Community Builders

Community housing and community development advocates could see new opportunities for financing from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2016 and beyond under a...

Remembering Debby Visser

On December 4, we lost a good friend, thoughtful colleague, and champion for social justice in Debby Visser.Debby's career...

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...

Fair Housing and Community Developers Can Work Together

Two organizations in New Jersey show that with a good working relationship, a balanced approach to healthy communities and housing choice for all can be more than pretty words.

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...

The Revitalization Trap

Place-based initiatives won’t address the kinds of injustice and poverty that community development was formed to fight.

With responses by Brentin Mock and Miriam Axel-Lute.

Interview with John Henneberger of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service–Part 2

John Henneberger talks about expansive definitions of fair housing, exciting organizing work in Texas that the rest of the country should keep an eye on, the role of a state-level advocacy organization, and more.

Community Development and Faith

Pope Francis begins his visit to the United States today with stops in Washington D.C., New York City, and...

Skipping “Placed-Based” Work Leaves Cities Vulnerable to Climate Change

I remember it clearly. “The Myth of Community Development,” Nicholas Lemann’s 1994 New York Times Magazine article, cracked the...