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.”

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.

“Money Must Serve, Not Rule!”

In November 2013, Morgan Stanley launched its Institute for Sustainable Investing and announced that within five years it was aiming to manage $10 billion...

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...

Impact Investing Resources

If you want to explore impact investing further, here are some places to start.

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....

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.

Thinking Gray—And Positive

When I think about all the boards and committees I’ve served on, the clean-up days and neighborhood association events and protests I’ve attended, I...

A Nation—and Neighborhoods—of Immigrants

The story of neighborhood populations changing with waves of migrants is a classic part of the history of American cities. We are, as most...

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...

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...

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.

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 […]

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...
Wayne Meyer, president of New Jersey Community Capital.

Interview with Wayne Meyer, President of New Jersey Community Capital

New Jersey Community Capital shakes up our ideas of how nonprofit housers can and should approach neighborhood stabilization
demolition of pruitt igoe

Public Housing: Building Communities vs. Providing a Place to Live

Successful housing isn't merely a function of its form—design is not destiny—it's also a function the economic and social mix present within the communities.

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...

Engaging Banks–And Fighting Them at the Same Time

John Taylor, the President of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), proudly told me that NCRC’s Annual Conference is...

Comprehensive Community Initiatives: Redefining Community Development

Part I: New Partnerships Driving through the Germantown neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia is a study in contrasts. Huge stone mansions stand side-by-side with boarded and...

Happy Thanksgiving!

To All Shelterforce Rooflines readers and contributors: The Shelterforce staff is thankful for you and your words that inspire, challenge, and inform. We wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. We'll return to our regular blog publishing on Monday. (Photo credit: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., CC BY-NC 2.0)
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.
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?
fast food signs

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Oct. 12

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: fast food swamps, Seattle has too many apartments, criminal justice, basic income pilot, more.

Bonus: Diversifying the Public Sector

This is a sidebar to "On Board," an article about making a community development organization's board welcoming to residents and low-income members. CDC boards can...
demolished building

Is “Sustainability” Old Hat?

Americans have treated the word “sustainability” as though everyone practices sustainability daily and the concept is old hat. We should know better.

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...

Community Development and Faith

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

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
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.
home with for sale sign in foreground

Time to Delink Homeownership from Asset Building

Using homeownership as an asset-building mechanism and retirement plan might not be a great thing for our society.

The Past, Present, and Future of Community Development

The changing face of achieving equity in health, education, and housing in the United States.

How do you feel about the proposed QRM rule that would exempt banks from...

Results of the Shelterforce poll of October 12, 2011 Click continued for more results You said: “20 percent is far more than necessary to protect banks against...

Community Development: It’s What’s For Dinner

Last week we heard from Alan Mallach and Mindy Thompson Fullilove on different aspects of stable neighborhoods. Mallach, in his post, looks at some of...

Will Co-ops Spark a New Civil Rights Movement?

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East Harlem’s Bottom Line: Hope Community Development Corporation

Mark Alexander has a plan. At 46, he isn’t content with having more than tripled the number of apartments that Hope Community manages in...

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.
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.

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.
police talking to homeless

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Aug. 17

HUD's Latest Assault on Fair Housing | Decriminalizing Homelessness | "Buying the Block" | FEMA's Roadblocks In Puerto Rico | Public Transport And Health

Interview with John Henneberger, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service–Part 1

It’s not every year (or even every decade) that community developers and housers see themselves represented in the ranks of the coveted MacArthur Fellows (or “genius grant” recipients). That in and of itself would be sufficiently exciting, but when Shelterforce staff sat down to talk to John Henneberger of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, one of the 2014 MacArthur geniuses, we certainly found ourselves impressed and excited. Driven by a sense of justice since college, he has been on the frontlines of the fight for equality and equity since those years. Henneberger has extensive knowledge of the field, an ability to clearly relate many of our most basic concerns to each other, and a clear-eyed focus on end goals above interim measures. In this two part interview, he 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 much more.

The Complexification of the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofit sector organizations are getting bigger, operations are getting more tentacled, financial tools are getting wonkier, and budgets keep growing....

Have CDCs Created a Dependent Poor Population?

Michael McQuarrie’s article, “What Mumbai’s Slums Do Right, And Why We Should Emulate Them,“ in the new issue of...

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...
Melvin L. Oliver, Ph.D., joined the Ford Foundation in 1996 as vice president for asset building and community development.

Interview with Melvin L. Oliver of the Ford Foundation

Melvin Oliver, vice president for asset building and community development at the Ford Foundation, talks about community development, black and white wealth, and racial inequality.

An Artful Rebirth in Columbus

In two excellent articles and a video, The Atlantic magazine profiles the good work the community development field is doing in Columbus, Ohio. As part of a larger series on reinvention and resilience in communities throughout the country, the magazine takes a close look at the Franklinton neighborhood and the Franklinton Development Association (FDA). Like […]
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.
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 . . .
swimming pool

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Oct. 19

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: rent really is racist, new tales of voter suppression, swimming pool access, a response to a pro-gentrification argument, more.

“Stop Killing People” in Chicago

It’s a national scandal that we’re failing to protect our children.

Report Back: NY Grantmakers in the Arts “Creative Placemaking” Panel

Your Man About Town’s middle name is Moderation, Dear Reader; and although it is a somewhat awkward locution when making...

Will Our Universities Rekindle Their Public Purpose?

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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.
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.
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.
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.

Why Don’t We Build It Ourselves?

Humboldt Construction Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chicago CDC Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, has been providing local employment and high-quality work for over...
In the center are blue doors that are surrounded by orange, white, and brown pieces of metal-looking material. This is what a warehouse looks like in a Mumbai slum.

What Mumbai’s Slums Do Right, And Why We Should Emulate Them

Sometimes to understand our own cities and community development practices it is helpful to understand a radically different setting. In the slums of Mumbai...

Can Nonprofits Use Volunteerism to Achieve a Sustained Increase in Capacity?

Last week, we asked readers if volunteerism could play a factor in growing an organization’s capacity. Respondents offered a mixed...

NoMi? NoBe? No Go

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

CDFI Certification Helps Credit Unions Perform Better

The Credit Union National Association and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions released a report last week...

Between Eminence & Notoriety: Four Decades of Radical Urban Planning

Between Eminence & Notoriety: Four Decades of Radical Urban Planning, by Chester Hartman, Center for Urban Policy Research, 2002. 405 pp. $29.95 (Paperback), $39.95...

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:
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...
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?
anti-eviction mural

Eviction Lab Misses the Mark

As housing activists and academics who conduct research on issues of housing and displacement, we have encountered major problems with Eviction Lab’s practices.

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.

Get Big or Get Out!

Earl Lauer Butz, as the U.S. secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, used this slogan to...

Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater…Part II

Moving into a newly adapted space usually entails a leap in operations—not a slow, steady climb.

Seeking Solidarity Between Place-Based and Economic Justice Work

Last week, Brentin Mock over at CityLab had an incisive response to Peter Dreier’s Shelterforce article, The Revitalization Trap....

Getting the Lead Out: Controlling Lead Paint Hazards in Housing

Lead poisoning remains the foremost environmental health risk to American children, with just under one million children with elevated lead levels. While the average...

#OMG: Is the #NPO Sector Tech Averse?

I was speaking with a friend of mine who works at a very large nonprofit organization (very large as in over $100 million in annual revenues). They serve thousands of clients every year with job development, alcohol and other drug abuse treatment, affordable housing, psychological counseling and a variety of other supports. As a result […]
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...
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
Avalon Trace was renamed Cottage Gardens after the 176-unit complex was sold to a new owner in 2018.

Condemning Asthma, Not Homes in North Carolina

An apartment complex in North Carolina generated 120 times as many hospital visits as would have been expected for its population, until a creative coalition forced its sale and worked with the new owner to change things.

Modern Community Development for a Modern Crisis

A story about a nonprofit organization that achieved a large-scale bulk purchase of mortgages. The properties, all vacant and abandoned, and many deteriorated, are located primarily in the New Jersey municipalities of Newark, Orange, East Orange, and Irvington.

Precarious Values and Permeable Edges in Community Development

It has been said there are only two lasting bequests we can leave our children. One is roots. The...

Can a Community Fair Save a Dying Town?

Last weekend there were two ribbon cuttings here in Louisa County. One was for an expansion of the food...

Remembering Debby Visser

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

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.
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.
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.
video in window

Regrets of an Accidental Placemaker

Had I unintentionally contributed to the gentrification of my neighborhood and other neighborhoods around Washington, D.C.?

Interview with Chester Hartman, Radical Urban Planner

As he retires, the founder of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council reflects on the fields of urban planning, community development, and fair housing.

Connecting CDFIs and Impact Investors

It should be a natural fit; what’s in the way?

Webinar: Can Lease Purchase Save Us?

As developers struggle to find buyers for rehabbed affordable homes, many are looking to a lease-purchase model to expand the...

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...

Turns Out Innovation Is Officially Overrated

Many nonprofits and social enterprises face constant pressure to be “innovative,” whether from funders or charitable business leaders who want...

So You Want to Be a Developer: Community Organizing Groups Consider Housing Development

The second week of October 2001 was a busy one for Nobel Neighbors, a community organizing group in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. It...

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.
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.

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?
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.

Staying Ahead of the Age Wave

Groups working with older adults, including many community developers, are crafting a range of creative interventions, from home modifications to service-enriched housing models, to allow seniors to age in place. Will it be enough?

Blurring the Lines Between For-Profit and Nonprofit

In my last blog post I spent a good chunk of time talking about the trend toward “complexification” in the...

On the Cover: Transformation

So you may be wondering, what is that amazing mural on the cover of the latest issue of Shelterforce?It's...

The Revitalization Trap

The community development movement began in the 1960s as part of a crusade against social injustice,...

The Soul of the Neighborhood

Why do we call community-based development an "industry" rather than a "movement" these days? "Industry" is such a satisfyingly hard-nosed word. It says, 'we...

Election Polling, Big Data, and Movement Building

There is a data geek Internet flame war going on between Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium and Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com over 2014 election projections. Evidence of the confrontation can be found here, here, and here. My research interests (such as they are) tend more toward demographic analysis, and I am far from […]
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.