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.

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...

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...

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.

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...

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 […]

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...

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.

The Art$

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

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...

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:
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.
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.
westlake mural

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Aug. 24

Philly's Fight for Affordable Housing | HUD Targets Facebook In Complaint| An Eviction App | A "Massive" Multifamily Housing Fraud

Don’t Be Quick to Blame the Borrower

“The borrowers weren’t risky so much as the loans were risky,” said Michael Calhoun, the president of the Center for Responsible Lending in offering...

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...

Tips for Getting Your “Innovative” Project Funded

In her July Rooflines post on the idea of “disruptive innovation,” Miriam Axel-Lute addressed how innovation has been over promoted in...

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...

Finding and Fostering Entreprenuerial Spirit in Underserved Communities

A few years ago, I had what I thought was a great business idea. After much excited Googling and resource combing, I came across a seven-week small business training program being offered through my town. The training, run by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL), was only open to people who were unemployed. I was […]

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.
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.

Making a Pipeline for Vacant Building Rehab

Baltimore’s Vacants to Value program sparked revitalization block by block with a few key legal powers and partnerships.

Two Structured Community Development Funds: A Peek at How They Work

The details, lessons, and impact of two innovative community development funds created by Enterprise Community Partners.

Fair Housing News from NLIHC 2012

The much-anticipated new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule is not yet out, and probably won't be available for comment for...

5 (More) Things Dividing the Government and CDCs

I was recently in a room with representatives from government, banks, private developers, and CDCs for a conversation about...

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...

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.
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.
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
modular home Y:Cube

CDCs and Nonprofits are Indeed Leading Affordable Housing Innovation

Blaming community development corporations (CDCs) for the high cost of affordable housing construction is not only misguided, but it ignores the work of CDCs and nonprofits that are leading efforts to reduce costs in the key areas of financing, construction, and land costs.

Staying Afloat by Branching Out

As the surge of crisis-level funding recedes from housing counseling agencies, they are looking to technology, fee-for-service arrangements, new partners, and types of counseling to keep themselves going. But can the tricky and highly detailed business of foreclosure counseling in particular survive the transition?

Telling Our Stories: New Economy Gets Noticed

In the world of community wealth building, most of us (most of the time) operate in relative obscurity. As a...

Will Our Universities Rekindle Their Public Purpose?

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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.
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.
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.
public toilet

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 7

What driverless trucks will mean for drivers, public toilets as a human right, disappointing Democratic leadership, and more.

Creating Sustainable Jobs by Rebuilding America’s Neighborhoods: America’s First Priority

Today, we face “gilded age inequality, robber baron corruption, financial booms and busts, a broken health care system, increasing poverty, and spending as much...

3 Things Needed to Improve Transit-Oriented Development

Affordable and convenient transit is important to helping people access the employment, education and critical services required for physical and...

Does Richmond Show the Future of Community Wealth Building?

Richmond’s creation of the nation’s first Office of Community Wealth Building marks a reimagining of community economic development policy.

Building Communities From the Inside Out

In distressed communities across the United States, savvy organizers and leaders are rediscovering ancient wisdom about what builds strong communities, and then developing new...

A Look in the Mirror: Do CDFIs (and CDCs) Reflect Their Communities?

Last year, I wrote about the teeming conference of the Opportunity Finance Network, the trade group for community development financial institutions, with a little bit of awe at how different it was from the rest of the community development world in its growth and optimism, worrying about mission creep rather than survival. This year the […]
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
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...

Transforming Vacant Land Into Community Assets

Vacant land activities can be low cost and high impact; the price of failure is not steep, but the return on investment can be high.

Residents Need to Own Community Change

To get beyond superficial “input,” involve residents in a development from start to finish, from planning to implementation to ownership.

Engagement Before Efficiency

I recently stepped down from my role as the executive director of a community development corporation and I'm in the...

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...

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...

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...
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.
block party

Loneliness Kills; Community Developers Can Help

Some social determinants of health are concrete and physical. A substandard house with mold and pests, for example, will lead to more asthma and...
beige house

The CLT Solution: In Suburbia and Beyond

After 30 years and the development of thousands of units of affordable housing, the Long Island Housing Partnership Inc. and its affiliates are now concentrating on the Community Land Trust model.

The Art$, Part III: Some Quick Fixes

In my earlier posts on this subject, dear reader, I first endeavored to put a finer point on the more...

Can Organizing Resuscitate Community Development?

There has been a lot written about the uncertain future of community development and the way forward for community...

In Memoriam: Cushing Dolbeare

Cushing N. Dolbeare, founder and chair emeritus of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, died March 17 of cancer at her home in Mitchellville,...

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.
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,...
store closing

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.
rent-to-own

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 14

Whole Foods Employees Seek to Unionize, Your Job Won't Save You From Homelessness, Rent-to-own May Equal Jail Time

Reporting From The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2010 Annual Housing Policy Conference

Rooflines, the blog of the National Housing Institute will be reporting live from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2010 Annual Housing Policy Conference....
Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op.

Done Right, Eliminating Food Deserts Result in Community Oases

While eliminating food deserts often involves resources from outside of the community, a neighborhood must maintain control of its assets and identity.

A Nation in Trouble

Most of us feel today that this country and its communities are in serious trouble. We don't, however, see anyone doing anything ambitious enough...

How to Respond When Someone Screams “But We’ll Get Sued!”

There are not a ton of things I read on the Internet that instantly make me want to hunt down the author and send him or her flowers. But Charles Marohn's post “On Liability“ on the Strong Towns blog was definitely one of them. “Liability” is increasingly sucking the joy out of life. Everywhere you […]
"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.
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.
for rent sign

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

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: rent burden relief, policy suggestions for worker co-ops, a new credit scoring model?, states take on housing, and more.

On Board

How do you make a community development organization's board welcoming to residents and low-income members, and ensure that once there, they are more than window dressing?

Peoria LISC

What does it mean when the country's largest community development intermediary opens its first new office in 15 years in...

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...

Neighborhood Investment Doesn’t Have to Mean Displacement

The word “gentrification” is a loaded one and has a host of negative implications for people in the housing...

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...
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.
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.
women sitting in chairs on grass

Practical Ideas for Addressing Micro-Segregation in Mixed Income Communities

Practical lessons from long time community builders on promoting integration and interaction among residents of mixed income communities.

What Works–and What Doesn’t–in Community Development

“Let’s invest in what works,” is a common and recurring slogan that has gained currency in recent years and why...

Cause of Death: Rural Life?

Every once in a while I read that the federal government has come up with some new definitions for...

Making Progress in the Preservation of Affordable Housing

During the last six months of 2003, one could easily make the case that the nation’s entire domestic priorities were summed up in five...

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.
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.
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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
segregation

Fair Housing at 50: At the Root, It’s Still Race Over Place

We should have known better. The Kerner Commission taught us that race matters most, not place. But it also embedded in our psyches the equation of Black = central city and the similarly absolute equation of white = suburbs.

Not Just Affordable Housing, but Connections to Neighborhoods

Shelley Poticha, director of HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Community Development, speaking at NACEDA’s annual summit, outlined two main grant programs in HUD’s...

The Tenacity of Dysfunction

The word resilience has different meanings in different fields. In the field of material science, it refers to the ability of a material to...

What If Community Developers Held a Congress and Everyone Showed Up?

The question we pose captures some of the feeling emanating from the People & Places conference, which took place in Washington, D.C. earlier this...

No Vacancy! Moving to Opportunity in Baltimore’s suburbs

Denial, Fear and the Rumor Mill Waged a War Against Moving to Opportunity in Baltimore's Suburbs For the past 18 years, the Leadership Council for...

The New Dawn of the Nonprofit Merger

It used to be that the idea of one nonprofit taking over another was simply anathema.  Nonprofits didn’t, you know, do that to one another. Mergers and acquisitions were the territory of national banks, energy companies and pharmaceutical giants with oversized ambitions and possibly malevolent intent. Nonprofits weren’t motivated by “creating efficiencies,” particularly at the […]
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
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.
Kids dance at a neighborhood street festival

What Happens When a CDC Pivots to a Health-First Focus?

Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation in Cleveland finds that being an early adopter of a community health focus has its advantages.

Coming to Consensus

When and how can consensus decision making work for community-based organizations?

Achieving that “Last Mile” Impact

I like chocolate chocolate chip and I like peanut butter and chocolate but I’ll take a stand and say that...

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

Turning that old barn (or firehouse, or smelting plant, or abandoned vaudeville theater) into a theater (or dance studio,...

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...

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,...
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.