Equity

What is equity? Can it be measured? How and when does the issue come up in housing, education, employment, public utilities, and more? How are community organizations, grant-making institutions, and policymakers working to advance equity?

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
burlap with screenprinted words

The $9 Jar of Artisanal Pickles: Equity and Local Food

Sustainability is about thriving, not just surviving. We will not thrive if we are poorly paid martyrs to a good cause, and thus, in a healthy, diverse and vital food system, some of our efforts might need to be directed to those who can pay nine dollars for a jar of pickles.
girl and boy symbols painted on a wall.

Could Gentrification Be Changing D.C. Schools for the Better?

While gentrification's benefits and drawbacks have been discussed at length, one aspect has been largely overlooked: its effect on neighborhood schools.
sidewalk

Where Were All the Sidewalks Built?

A health and community development partnership leads to a revelation for a city transportation department.
home with sold sign in front

Equitable Tax Reform Begins at Home(ownership)

Talk of tax reform has reached a fever pitch, but most Americans don't realize just how high the stakes are and what impact the final legislation could have on their own financial security for years to come.
people gathered under and around an information tent

Persistently Poor Regions Would Welcome a Little Gentrification

It is often said that you get what you pay for. Clearly, too little is being paid to create positive change in America’s most vulnerable places.
sign at 2014 brown v. board rally

Integration—We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong

I recently had a revelation about the American approach to racial integration: We've been doing it all wrong, and it's had disastrous effects on African Americans.
Photo courtesy of Right to the City Alliance.

Block by Block, the Renters Movement is Growing

“The string of victories in 2017 are a direct product of renters building power on the ground. Renters, faced with a historic housing crisis, are getting organized to change immediate conditions on the ground and build a movement to transform the way land and housing are treated in the country.”
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.
Three women sitting on chairs on a sidewalk.

Hurricane Evacuees are Forcibly Evicted in Miami

More than 60 Miami families, many undocumented, have been homeless since last week’s hurricane and were forcibly removed last night by local officials.
3 men mixing concrete

A Partner, Not an Expert

Over the course of three decades in the development finance industry, I have learned that engaging and empowering those who have the greatest stake in their communities is the best way to achieve meaningful and lasting change.
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,...
Snow-covered Downtown Chinatown in Philadelphia.

In Spite of HUD, Fair Housing Process Can Help Communities

Last year, Philadelphia was one of the first cohorts to go through the AFFH process, a fair housing assessment mandated by HUD to discover...
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...
A dark-skinned woman in the foreground and two light-skinned men are wearing neon yellow T-shirts reading "City Life Vida Urbana, No Nos Moveran, We Shall Not Be Moved" and marching with a black banner with "City Life Vida Urbana" in red letters.

Housing Justice Organizers March Against White Supremacy

Housing is on the radar of racial justice activists.
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 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.
Black computer enter key

SoFi, Not So Good: Is This Virtual Redlining?

SoFi is practicing product segregation. It wants to serve affluent people with its best products and shunt low- and moderate-income borrowers into inferior products that do not meaningfully serve credit needs.
A black and white photograph from 1942 of a sign that read "We want white tenants in our white community."

Just as I Suspected, Paying Rent Is Racist

Every month millions of Black Americans hand over half of our livelihood to the descendants of those who forcefully brought our ancestors here to work for free. Essentially, America is in the business of charging its captives rent.
Yellow sign reading 'Aloha.'

Reflecting and Planning Using a Community Wealth Building Lens

Over an organization’s 25 years in existence, how do staff and volunteers measure impact and build off of lessons learned to guide their next steps forward?

Plans for Housing in the Age of Climate Change Should Include This Tool

As extreme weather patterns in our country become less of an anomaly, the plight of people living in storm-prone...

4 Reasons to Retire the Phrase “Inner City”

On a recent trip to Seattle, I picked up a copy of the weekly paper The Stranger. As I...

Lots of Maps, Little Insight in Richard Florida’s Latest

The New Urban Crisis treats a complicated and demanding subject with depressing inadequacy, offering little or nothing in the way of constructive, creative insights or strategies for advocates or practitioners seeking to combat these trends.

Solar Installation Gives New Power To A Community

Located in the southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., Parkchester Apartments was not unlike some other affordable housing developments in the city. Property owners had come and gone without making adequate investments in the nine-building complex, and residents had all but given up when its tenant association voted to bring in its current owner, The NHP Foundation (NHPF), in 2015. Within months, residents began to see signs of improvement. Top on the list of changes was the realignment of Parkchester’s environmental footprint.

Airbnb, Test Your Hosts for Bias

Airbnb, as with some other of its fellow peer-to-peer “disruptive” tech solutions, has come under fire from a few...

Keeping Everyone Afloat: Is Universal Basic Income the Answer?

Advocates and organizers who deal with the needs of the poor often say it's not really a housing/food/training issue, it's an income issue. So what would happen if we just addressed income?

California Transit Agencies Bring Affordable Housing to Scale

In a recent Shelterforce blog post, we discussed the catalysts for the adoption of equity and sustainability as core principles in a new development...

Cleveland–East Cleveland Merger Plan Overlooks Main Issue

East Cleveland, a struggling suburb of Cleveland, has ended up in so much fiscal distress that it is considering allowing...

A New Way to Do Affirmative Action?

I was prepared to dislike Sheryll Cashin’s Place, Not Race, just based on the title. However, the author largely won me over.

A Voyeur’s View

The author's treatment of race is, at best, contradictory and, at worst, hypocritical and probably the book’s great failing.

Is a Meritocracy Really What We Want?

“Together we can break down all the barriers holding our families … back. We can build ladders of opportunity...

So Far, Development is Divisive, and Driven By Race

Many of us live in cities that are undergoing a renaissance, but the longstanding populations are no better off...

How the Community Reinvestment Act Can Help Flint

The audacious and callous decisions leading to the tragedy in Flint, Michigan are cruel and beyond comprehension. What is needed is an all-out effort...
Dripping faucet.

Attitudes Toward Exploited Cities Helped Poison Flint

Flint’s water crisis started long before corrosive river water starting running through its pipes. Though there’s no question that those who signed off on...
Cars on downtown New York City street.

Rich Neighborhood in NYC Actually Gets a “Noxious” Use

A core environmental justice fight has long been the fair distribution of necessary nuisance uses throughout a city. Poor neighborhoods tend to be over-burdened...

Policy Victory Means Millions for Lower 9th Ward

Tonya Boyd-Cannon, a singer/ songwriter, has performed at Jazz Fest and Essence Festival, and recently reached the final 20 performers on NBC’s talent show,...

A Stubborn Gap

The difference in aggregate home value between blacks and whites in the American South has remained startlingly steady through periods of dramatic social change.

Doubling Down on Community Resilience

Last month here in Rooflines, I argued that place-based community development can make low-income neighborhoods more resilient to climate...
The cover for the book, "I Got Schooled" by M. Night Shyamalan.

Filmmaker Needs to Look at the Whole Picture

I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Moviemaker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Achievement Gap, by M. Night Shyamalan. Simon & Schuster. 306 pp. $25.00 (hardcover). Purchase here.

The Justice Gap

The post-Katrina work of legal services lawyers shows that if you care about equity, legal aid belongs high on the list of crucial disaster recovery programs.

Detours on the Road Home

Serious flaws in the Road Home program have kept many hard-working homeowners from coming back to the Lower 9th Ward. Let’s not repeat them after the next disaster.

Rising Tides, Rising Costs

In the face of climate change, flood insurance rates are rising. But program rules, and the history of who has been shunted into the floodplains, means the brunt is being bore by those least able to absorb it.

Learning to Stretch

Community development corporations find ways to embrace new immigrant communities and new challenges.

Serving the Community, In Their Language

From hiring priorities to translation headsets to special requests of the phone company—the exciting and important work of serving multicultural, multilingual populations.

Building Multiculturally

One culture’s idea of the ideal house is different from another. Luckily, floor plans are adaptable.

Citizenship Is an Asset

Naturalizing is a great way to improve opportunity, but it’s expensive. How can we open that door to more of the immigrants who qualify?

Immigrant Integration Services Must Aim to Build Assets

Financial coaching and small business development services should be right up there next to learning English.
Female construction worker and her son.

Protecting Immigrant Workers

The Texas construction industry is a good example of what happens when immigrant workers rights are not respected. But this organization is fighting back.

Segregation 101

A year after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, The New York Times published a front-page article about racism in the St. Louis area. What it doesn't address is ...

The State of Transit in New Orleans

As many visitors and locals know well, New Orleans boasts the oldest continuously operating street railway in the world....

Vulnerable Workers Mean Vulnerable Communities

Anti-immigrant laws and the lack of a solid path to citizenship leave immigrant workers vulnerable to exploitation—and harm the whole community.

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...

Affordable Housing Advocates Need to be Strong TOD Advocates

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

What Have We Learned a Decade after the Gulf Coast Hurricanes?

As the housing community reflects in August on the tenth anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, what are the...

Rich Train Station Neighborhoods Need More Apartments

New Jersey’s extensive public transportation system is a source of envy for most other states, many of whose larger...

2 Easy Ways HUD Could Bring More NOLA Homeowners Home—With Money It Already Has

Donna Bartholomew’s mother moved to New Orleans as a young woman and bought a home in the Ninth Ward. Over the years, raising...

Tenant Solidarity in Oakland

   Q&A with Kitzia Esteva-Martinez, Causa Justa/Just CauseLast October, Oakland, Calif., passed a Tenant Protection Ordinance. This strong measure defending...

Serving the Community, In Their Language

   From hiring priorities to translation headsets to making special requests of the phone company—the exciting and important work of...
Ai-jen Poo speaking.

Interview with Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-Jen Poo has been organizing with domestic workers for over 15 years, helping in New York to win some of the first statewide labor protections for occupations often exempt from labor laws, and expanding this campaign to a nationwide vision for a strong caregiving workforce and infrastructure for elder care. In 2014 she became a MacArthur Fellow, but this was hardly her first award.

Vulnerable Workers

        Anti-immigrant laws and the lack of a solid path to citizenship leave immigrant workers vulnerable to exploitation—and harm the...

Transportation More Important than Schools, Crime, in Escaping Poverty

  The New York Times recently reported on a finding from the large social mobility study out of Harvard that...

English Required for a Mortgage?

   Language barriers pose an obstacle to fair access to credit, but this population is overlooked in fair credit discussions.Non-English...

Riots and Resilience in Baltimore and Beyond

I remember reciting the Langston Hughes poem Harlem (“What happens to a dream deferred?”) to my students in South...

Community Development and #BlackLivesMatter: What’s Our Role?

There is a lot to be processed and mourned, celebrated and condemned about what has happened in Baltimore recently,...

Staying Current and Healthy with Efficient Building Practices

Holistic, green building certifications are an increasingly integral part of affordable housing development. These certifications are often pursued by...

The Immigrant Population In Profile

Implications for Policy with a Focus on Housing and Urban and Workforce Development        The U.S. immigrant population is growing, and...

Immigration Is a Community Development Issue

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

Solar for the People

So this story started off sounding so promising.An affordable housing complex put solar panels on its roof!Also, it's affordable...

Transforming Communities Through Residential Energy Efficiency

Many of us have been shocked by a particularly high utility bill following a bitterly cold month or a...

Citizenship Is an Economic Asset for Communities

If New York’s legal permanent residents all became U.S. citizens, the city’s economy could grow by up to $4.1...

This Book Changes Everything

Book Review: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Funding the City

At a regional forum on inequality earlier this month, the mayor of Albany, N.Y., Kathy Sheehan, made some remarks that jumpstarted some regional discussion about regional equity, commuter taxes, and the like. As reported by Jimmy Vielkind at Capital New York, Sheehan argued that “the funding mechanism for cities—property taxes—was set up at a time […]

Keeping an Optimistic, Yet Watchful Eye on the Ball

It looks like President Obama and his administration kept most of the great ideas explored with the Grow America Act, last year's transportation initiative. The total investment is increased to $478 billion and expanded to six years in the latest iteration of the budget released yesterday. A few of the best pieces for low-income communities […]

Income Is How You Get Out of Poverty, Assets are How You Stay Out

In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a vision for rebuilding the middle class with pathways to the middle class for lower-income families. But to manifest this vision, we need a much stronger focus on addressing the root causes of concentrated, generational poverty: financial insecurity and lack of ownership. In […]

Homegrown Solutions To Inequity in Ferguson and Beyond

The debate about Ferguson continues: The grand jury decision is unfair to many; policing practices seem discriminatory and dangerous; and local court systems have been shown to prey upon low-income people. The sheer scope of the problems can be overwhelming. But let’s take a step back. Richard Rothstein’s “The Making of Ferguson“ links some modern […]

“Inequality Happens?” Hopefully Not

In a recent Rooflines post, Sarah Treuhaft holds up new, reputable data that finds that inequality is not a circumstance of economic success, after all, but that it actually has a dampening effect. Specifically, the widening gap between the poor and lower middle class (households in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution) and […]

Attitude Reflects Leadership

Recently I was honored to receive the Ned Gramlich Award for Responsible Finance during the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) Conference in Denver. To be recognized by the national association of investors dedicated to aligning capital with justice was a humbling experience—one made more so by the courageous legacy of the late Federal Reserve Bank Governor […]

Two Years Later, Much More Work Remains

  Today marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. To commemorate, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey joined Sandy survivors, community leaders, and elected officials at several events along the Jersey Shore.   In a statement, HCDNNJ President and CEO Staci Berger said: “Coming back from a disaster of the magnitude of […]

The Real Problem with the Model Minority Myth

There is a Time article—“The Real Problem When It Comes to Diversity and Asian-Americans“—that has been making the rounds on the Internet. As a card-carrying member of the Model Minority Myth Busters club, I am sympathetic with author Jack Linshi’s piece in that it seeks to discredit model minority mythology. However, there are a couple […]

Ferguson and Reparations

Shortly after the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the bill enacting redress and reparations for the internment of Japanese Americans, there was an editorial cartoon in my local newspaper. There were two Native Americans.  One was reading a newspaper. The newspaper had a headline that read “Japanese Americans to get $20,000 each.” […]

When Will Attitudes Change Toward Solar?

It was a bright, sunny day in Chicago on September 24. Celebrants were singing, “You Are My Sunshine,” as the solar panels had already saved $64 since the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in the US had started them up just a few hours earlier. With 483 panels, each producing 310 watts, ICA’s 166,000 square […]

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

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

Ferguson on My Mind

Outside my house, two young African-American boys, maybe 9 or 10, scoot by on skateboards. One is carrying something on a leaf and stops to show me a giant slug. We chat about it a bit; I tell him that I looked up what kind of slug that was recently but now don’t remember. He […]

Asian-American Poverty Higher than You Think, And Growing

The US Census recently released American Community Survey (ACS) numbers for 2013. My narrow, first and foremost task with these new numbers is to look at poverty numbers. The growth in numbers of people in poverty is slowing—possibly a sign that the economic recovery is finally trickling (albeit a tiny trickle) down to poor people. […]

Regions Can’t Live By Oxygen Alone

Jack Jensen, an affordable housing and green builder in Ithaca, N.Y., is grumpy about Smart Growth.Specifically, he's pissed off...

Ditch Smart Growth; Try Oxygen-Based Development

At the Farm Pond Circle Reforestation Community in South Lansing, N.Y., a small community outside of the small city of...

Ferguson, Sanford and the Persistence of Violent Racism

“Wonder when I’ll find paradise // Somewhere there’s a home sweet and nice” –WAR, The World is a...

Income for Everyone?

If you wanted to come up with a totally cockamamie idea to attribute to someone to smear them as unrealistic...

Can Mentoring End Poverty?

This year we mark the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, and yet, 46.5 million people were living in...

Japan’s Unintentional Social Experiment

Having just come back from two weeks in Japan, my brain is still overflowing with sensations and images from...

So About that Deconcentrating Poverty Thing…

Land of Opportunity Interactive has a marvelous interactive video (click here for description of what that means) called “Bricks and Sticks: Public...

5 Ways to Create Equitable Communities Near Transit

Across the country, regions are working to improve and integrate processes to create livable communities where all residents can affordably access housing, jobs, healthcare,...

Toward a Politics of Love: Thoughts for Pride Month

During the closing plenary of our recent National Convention, Alex Tom from the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), when talking about...

Is It Time to Think About Post-Post-Katrina New Orleans?

Nine years on, New Orleans is a very different place from what it was like in the wake of...

Hungry for Housing

New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice and Public Housing Policy, by Edward G. Goetz. Cornell University Press, 2013, 256 pp. $23.95 (paperback).

Purging the Poorest: Public Housing and the Design Politics of Twice-Cleared Communities, by Lawrence J. Vale. The University of Chicago Press, 2013, 448 pp. $27.50 (paperback).

Sec. Foxx’s New Transportation Proposal Is Great

Looks like the Obama administration hasn't given up yet on tackling the big issues that plague our country.Secretary Anthony...

A Tale of Two Infrastructure Projects

Living in Central New Jersey, I’ve had a ringside seat for the last few years to one of the...

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

This is Part 6 in a series about the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. Click here for...

How Will We Care For This Overlooked Population?

As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, rural America is aging faster than the rest of the country....

You May Not Realize How Poverty Works

We've been having a ongoing conversation here on Rooflines marking the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty about...