Sowing Seeds of Change: Q&A with John Atlas

Editors of sat down recently with John Atlas, NHI board president and author of Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Antipoverty Community Organizing Group, to discuss the organization itself, as well as organizing on a national level, tensions between organizing and development, and lessons learned from the downfall of the once-powerful antipoverty organization.

Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

We first met Darren Walker about 15 years ago while planning an issue on faith-based development. Darren was the chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the storied community development arm of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. We asked Darren to write an article that was not simply a cheerleader’s promotion of church-based CDCs, but a realistic assessment of the benefits and challenges to an institution embarking on that path.

Darren was optimistic and enthusiastic about the work he was doing at Abyssinian creating hundreds of units of affordable housing in Harlem. But he was pragmatic and realistic also. His article encouraged organizations to temper the enthusiasm necessary to even consider this work with a realistic analysis of an organization’s capacities and a clear-eyed examination of their assumptions about the rewards of creating a CDC.

Darren approached his work enthusiastically, I think, because he had visceral understanding of the challenges low-income folks had and the opportunities that were available to them with the right help. The kind of help that the stability of an affordable home could provide. His understanding came from personal experience that would inform his work wherever it took him, from law school to international finance, from a storefront afterschool program and Abyssinian to the Rockefeller and Ford foundations.

When we sat down with Darren on March 18 to conduct this interview, we were glad to see that enthusiasm, optimism, and pragmatism were as strong as ever as he starts his leadership of one of the world’s largest foundations.

A woman in a red Cause Justa/Just Cause T-shirt holds a hand-lettered sign reading "Black and Brown for Tenant Protections Now"

Black and Brown Tenant Solidarity in Oakland

Last October, Oakland, Calif., passed a Tenant Protection Ordinance. This strong measure defending tenants against the kinds of landlord harassment that often take place...

Conrad Egan

What do Saul Alinsky, Students for a Democratic Society, HUD, and the Housing and Community Development Department of Fairfax County, Virginia, have in common? Conrad...
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan

Interview with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan

Plucked from New York City's Department of Housing Preservation & Development, Shaun Donovan is leading the effort to make the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into a relevant, powerful agency.
Shelterforce spoke with (from left) former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros, who worked under President Clinton, and Mel Martinez, who worked under President Bush.

Interview with Former HUD Secretaries Senator Mel Martinez and Mayor Henry Cisneros

At the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Summit on Sept. 15 and 16, five former HUD secretaries joined a panel discussing their time at the...
2093 mission street

Preserving Affordability in San Francisco—A Look at the Housing Accelerator Fund’s First Year

An interview with Bob Annibale of Citi Community Development and Rebecca Foster of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, which aims to to preserve or develop 1,500 affordable housing units in its first five years. 
Chris Wilder, Valley Medical Center Foundation CEO, holds a sign that reads "Yes on A: Affordable Housing. Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home." The initiative tied health and housing funding for county residents.

Housing Is Health: Ballot Initiatives in California Approved

A conversation with three county supervisors who were instrumental in moving affordable housing ballot measures forward in the California Bay Area by bringing in the health factor.
Sheila Crowley speaks from a podium as she holds a piece of paper.

Interview with Sheila Crowley, past president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Crowley has led the organization through dramatic times, keeping a focus on those with the most pressing housing need when many wanted to just talk homeownership.

Shelterforce Interviews Two CRA Veterans

CRA – Taking It To the Next Step The success of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has been significant. Thanks to the CRA, community groups...

Interview with Mayor Ivy Taylor, San Antonio, Texas

The first African-American mayor of the largely Latino and Anglo city, and strongly identified as an urban planner, Taylor casts herself as someone interested more in getting work done than leaving a political legacy. However, she has not shied away from controversial positions, and her initial position that she would not be running for re-election fell by the wayside as she announced her candidacy on February 16, less than two weeks after this interview.
From top left, Ingrid Gould Ellen of the Furman Center at New York University; Jamaal Green of Portland State University; Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions; and Rick Jacobus of Street Level Advisors. From bottom left, Greg Maher of the Leviticus Alternative Fund; Alan Mallach of the Center for Community Progress and a National Housing Institute senior fellow; and Charlie Wilkins, a consultant and co-author of the AEI paper.

Regulation and Housing Supply: Where the Left & Right Agree (Sort Of)

We gathered some people who have done a lot of thinking and studying on regulation to discuss what it might look like to actually remove obstacles that get in the way of developing less expensive housing options responsibly. What's possible? What are the trade-offs?

Interview with Gordon Chin, Founding Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center

Gordon Chin started San Francisco Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), a longstanding CDC well-known in the field, in the mid-1970s. In June 2015, he released Building Community, Chinatown Style, a book about his professional life, the founding and evolution of CCDC, and the future of community development. Josh Ishimatsu, director of Research and Capacity Building at the National Coalition for Asian-Pacific American Community Development, and a regular Shelterforce contributor, spoke with Chin about where community development is going, and where it should go.
view from street of empty bakery

Is Success Making CDFIs Too Risk-Averse?

Shelterforce's Miriam Axel-Lute in conversation with Ed Gorman of NCRC on whether community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are taking enough risk, and therefore, falling short of their mission.
richard rothstein

The Not-So Hidden Truths About the Segregation of America’s Housing

Our conversation with The Color of Law author Richard Rothstein on uncovering truths about our not-so distant history of federally mandated racial segregation in housing.

Interview with Shelley Poticha, Director of Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities

Shelterforce speaks with Shelley Poticha, director of HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, about implementing sustainable policy at the federal level while encouraging local innovation, keeping down the cost of green housing, and effecting change while dealing with federal government bureaucracy.
Nikole Hannah-Jones

We’re All Enforcing “Separate But Unequal” Schools—An Interview With Nikole Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur “Genius”

Shelterforce spoke with MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award" recipient Nikole Hannah-Jones about her research into the persistence of racial segregation, and how without government intervention, average Americans have done an excellent job of enforcing "separate but unequal" schools.
From left, Andrea Levere, Andrea Luquetta-Kern, Woody Widrow, and Holly Frindell.

In Pursuit of Financial Well-Being: A Conversation on Fairness, Accessibility, and Empowerment

In a world of growing financial complexity, predatory products, stagnating wages, and escalating inequality, financial insecurity is a dramatic problem. We gathered a group of leaders who are combating financial insecurity for a conversation on how it all relates.

Ron Sims: Retiring from HUD, Not from Public Service

Shelterforce caught up with the HUD deputy secretary on the precipice of retirement, nearly two-and-a-half years after joining the agency. Sims brought to HUD not only his political savvy, but also an unshakable commitment to equity and sustainability. In this exit interview, we talk about his accomplishments at HUD, plans for the future, and what he thinks needs to be done in order to stabilize the housing market.

An Interview with Helen Dunlap

In September, Helen Dunlap was appointed president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. She most recently served as HUD's deputy assistant secretary for...