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.”

Landlines Turned Lifelines

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the growing hardships of people living a rural life. They tend to have...

Getting Through the Storm

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, (D-Md.) offered a sobering, but empowering assessment of the state of the U.S. economy and the impact on families...

How Millennials Are Rocking the Cradle

On this blog recently there have been several posts wondering whether the millenials are going to stay in the...

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?
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.
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.
community garden

Community Development and New Understandings of Health and Wellness

In June 2012, I attended the Institute for the Future’s Health Horizons conference Innovating Information Ecosystems: The Next Decade and Beyond as an expert...

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...
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 . . .
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

Defining Language

Comprehensive. Scale. Development. Capacity. Impact. These words (and many others) took on new definitions when I began working at Shelterforce just two...

Do Good Techies Make Good Neighbors?

Everybody knows that if you want to restore integrity to your downtown business corridor or your local industrial park, if you want to create jobs and point your community toward the future of the workforce, or if you want to capture the hearts and minds of DIY makers and social entrepreneurs, you'd better have a […]
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,...

Remembering Debby Visser

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

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...

Power to the Members

Community development and planning organizations with a voting membership are rare, but the ones that do prioritize a democratic structure say it's well worth the additional work.

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....

Will Our Universities Rekindle Their Public Purpose?

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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.
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

Let’s Turn This Old Barn into a Theater!

For many cultural organizations, buying a fixer-upper is a good strategy for acquiring a home at a reasonable price...
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.

Weaving Together the Silos of Community Development

The New Year—both 2014 and the Lunar New Year—provides a time for reflection and visioning; a time to ask:...

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. Worker co-ops are ...
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.
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...

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...

Can Organizing Resuscitate Community Development?

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

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...
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.

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....
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.

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 […]
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.
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.
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...
physician takes blood pressure

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 21

News from—and affecting—the community development world.

A Cure for the Memphis Blues

As the Bluff City picks itself up, its CDC community faces a host of challenges that are increasingly common across the field.
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.

Trasviña Hints at a Fairer Housing Act; Principal Reduction in Store?

John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, emphasized HUD and Treasury’s central role the federal response to the housing crisis,...

Invest In Your Values

In a panel discussion at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s 2010 National Convention assessing the administration’s mortgage modification initiatives, Gordon Whitman, director of public...
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...

NYC’s Philanthropy Bagel Hole

New York City has everything, just like this bagel. Yum! The secret, as they say, is in the water.  And...

Better Together

The community development and health sectors can and should work together to reduce health disparities and improve everyone’s health.

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...
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.

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...
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.
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.
State policies on everything from taxation to land bank funding can make the difference between a vacant property and a well-care-for property like this one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

State Policies Play a Central Role in the Fight Against Vacant Property

Abandoned and vacant properties seem like a quintessentially local problem. But state policies have a huge effect on how well municipalities can fight it.

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...

Will Co-ops Spark a New Civil Rights Movement?

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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...
The Whittier Street Health Center.

Healthy Futures Fund to Connect Health and Housing Practitioners

Building affordable housing with integrated health services. Health centers in low-income neighborhoods.These are goals of a $100M investment fund.
storefront

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?

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...

A Tale of Conflicting Circumstance

The next few years promise to feature both the best of times and worst of times for affordable housing finance and those who practice or are somehow affected by affordable housing and community development.

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...

“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...

Preparing for Change

CBOs, particularly those involved in comprehensive community building efforts, need to do a better job of involving residents and other constituents in planning and...
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.
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.
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.

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...

What’s in a Name?

The government leaders in Paterson, N.J., are learning the hard way about the importance of community involvement in the naming and branding of...
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

The Right to Stay Put

There is much work to be done around housing and equitable development, but the solution is not simply to move people around. A key challenge is creating real choice.
traffic

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

CRA Survives Its Toughest Challenge

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result. –Winston Churchill The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has survived the most serious attack in...

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

Taking on a “fixer upper” means taking on the unexpected.  If you are a cultural organization seeking a home,...

CRA Bill Getting a Hearing

Dion Spencer, NCRC’s director of legislation and regulatory policy just announced that a new Consumer Reinvestment Act bill will be heard by the House...
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.

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...

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....
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.

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 […]
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.

Why Leadership Pays

In previous blog posts (Why Evaluation Stinks), I’ve discussed how the fragmented nature of the nonprofit sector makes it very...

Engagement Before Efficiency

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

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 […]

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.

Going Where the Big Boats Are

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) went a bit off script today at that NCRC 2010 National Conference when, after a emphasizing responsive, empathetic government...
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.
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...
johns hopkins medical library

In Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Seeks to Be a Good Neighbor

The current HopkinsLocal effort, a three-year program launched in September 2015, is also clearly a response to the death of Freddie Gray and the events that followed.

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...

I’m a Recovering Funder

I spent 10 years as a corporate foundation program officer in New York City.  I managed our $5 million community...

Have you participated in any bank accountability/economic justice demonstrations?

Last week, we asked readers “Have you participated in any bank accountability/economic justice demonstrations through New Bottom Line, Occupy Wall Street, or similar groups?”...
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

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...
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
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...
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.

The Complexity of Compliance

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

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...

9-28-11 Poll: How do conflicting market data affect your neighborhood stabilization efforts?

You said: “Sadly, we may know our economy, but the funding sources require us to use the economists or market study data that may...

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...

It Came from Chicago!

Let's just come right out and say it: New York City is the best. At everything. We are the smartest,...

Community Development: Let Your Mission Do the Talking

In Part 1 of this post, I discuss the issues around the term “gentrification.” Here are two other terms that have become problematic in...