Organizing

Community development relies on policies, resources, and recognition that were won by decades of organizing—and organizing remains essential to face new threats, preserve existing wins, and continue to fight back against the big lie that the way things are is inevitable.

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.

Affordable, But for Whom?

How a box of felt pieces helps organizers help New York communities advocate for their real affordable housing needs 

Cross-Community Collaboration on NYC’s Municipal ID Program

Lack of identification hurts many different groups in different ways—from the homeless to immigrants, and they all need to be considered in the fight for an alternative.

Winning a Land Bank We Can Trust

Lessons from Philadelphia's Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land
Ralliers gather in Washington, D.C., with a sign that reads "Stop, Don't close public schools."

Don’t Call It a Comeback for Neighborhood Schools

In the face of widespread school choice, some D.C. residents are advocating for an equitable system of neighborhood schools. But what's the chance that will become a reality?

Social Innovation and Civic Participation

We have some insight from Sonal Shah, the head of the new White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, who is advocating...

Review of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime & Resistance in the Heart Of San Francisco

I learned about the history of the Tenderloin, San Francisco’s maligned neighborhood, through walks in it with my Great Uncle, Milton Hendrick, and listening...

This Land Is Your Land

What was the best event at the inaugural celebration? Watching Barack Obama take the oath of office, of course, but the next best moment...

In Wisconsin: Do You Hear the People Sing?

We just had our second amazing Saturday in a row, with estimates ranging from 70,000 to 120,000. The problem with the estimates was that...

Watch Your Mouth!  Ten Phrases that Progressives Should Retire in 2013

Along with the usual New Year’s resolutions about exercising, getting more sleep, and being more patient with the kids, progressives...

Don’t Evaluate Community Development on Poverty Rates

Right now, in community development and in the nonprofit/charitable/public service sector more broadly, there is a push to incorporate...

Agreement Reached on Housing Finance Reform Bill

Yesterday, the senate announced an agreement on a housing finance reform proposal that would likely wind down Fannie Mae and...

Can’t Be in the Gulf for the Katrina Anniversary? Watch These Films Instead

Tomorrow is the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, leading to all sorts of reflections on how far the city has...

To Reduce Recidivism Rates, Turn to Housing Policy

A couple months ago here on Rooflines, I wrote about the value of addressing housing challenges that many former...

There’s Really No Argument Against Disparate Impact

Open, inclusive communities free of discrimination are critical to our national success. But despite the progress we’ve made as a nation, significant obstacles to fair housing persist. There are still some real estate agents, landlords, and others who practice intentional discrimination against people of color, families with children, people with disabilities, and other Americans. But […]
Chicago resident Tom Gordon speaks to a crowd. He, as well as other organizers, are fighting for a citywide community benefits campaign.

Chicago Activist Convention Shifts Focus to Community Benefits Campaign

Standing on a truck in front of a group of several hundred protesters, Tom Gordon expressed a feeling shared often at the ONE Northside...

Right Wing Taking Cues From Saul Alinsky?

On his Comm-Org listserv, Randy Stoecker, a professor in the Community and Environmental Sociology department at the University of Wisconsin, talks about an emerging...

Conrad Egan

I suspect I came to the same conclusion when titling this post as Harold Simon did when thinking of a title for our summer...

Obama’s Budget is Good for Public Land

Over the next few weeks we'll be hearing from a range of stakeholders about how they feel President Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion budget will effect...

CDFIs: A New Force in Homeownership?

It has been a big year for community development financial institutions (CDFIs), the innovative, mission-driven organizations that provide much-needed...

President Obama Could Be Doing More for Unemployment

In January, U.S. Rep. John Conyers and seven other Congress members created the Full Employment Caucus, with the goal...

How Did We Manage Stress, Media, and Technology in 2015?

As we near the end of the year, I find myself in reflective mode—is the work I'm doing having...

OCC Moving Steadily Forward on Fintechs–Is This a Good Thing?

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) appears to be plowing ahead with its proposal to allow...

Moving Toward Solutions in Ferguson

Over the past few weeks, many news accounts have laid bare questionable—and perhaps criminal—police behavior and the subsequent and continuing protests by concerned citizens in and around Ferguson, Mo. On a single day, September 10th, at least three protests happened—one at the state capitol, one outside St. Louis City Hall, and one near Ferguson (a thwarted highway sit-in […]

ESOP Rises Again

The success of a Cleveland-based community organizing group in the face of massive foreclosures suggests that the city (and the nation) should have held on to a more diverse set of community organizations.

GOP Credo: Less Government, No Community Organizing?

Ronald Reagan famously said the government is the problem, not the solution, and touted the importance of our civil society. Now we hear the...

Join Shelterforce, NHI, and Rooflines on Facebook!

Do you dabble around on Facebook? Of course you do! So why not become a fan of the National Housing Institute for a streamlined,...

What Matters to a City? Thoughts from Detroit

In the last few months, Neil Peirce's Citiwire.net has hosted several pieces highlighting positive things happening in Detroit along...

A Hero on the Bench: WI Judge Takes on Real Impacts of Highway Expansion

When we go looking for the heroes and heroines who defend our freedoms, we tend to look backward: George Washington,...

Building a 40-Year Vision for Community Development

With this month marking the 50th anniversary of the “War on Poverty,” we have seen a number of retrospectives....

The Role of Municipalities in Supporting Family Wealth-Building

How might a municipality leverage its resources and influence to better support its families?Hawai'i County, specifically the Office of...

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...

10 Ways to Speak Truth to Powerful Lies

How to engage, inform, and fight back against falsehoods. ...
Members of Boston Liberation Health hold a banner that reads, "Capitalism, racism, and heteropatriachy are making us sick. Join Liberation Health."

How Organizing for Justice Helps Your Mental Health

How do social justice, organizing, and mental health interact? Shelterforce chats with clinical social worker Dawn Belkin Martinez to find out.
A woman in a red Cause Justa/Just Cause T-shirt holds a hand-lettered sign reading "Black and Brown for Tenant Protections Now"

Tenant Solidarity in Oakland

Q&A with Kitzia Esteva-Martinez, Causa Justa/Just Cause

Are You An Advocate?

“Isn’t it true, Dr. Squires, that you are an advocate?” As an occasional expert for plaintiffs in fair housing lawsuits this is a question I...

Fed Report: No Wrongful Foreclosures By Banks?

A report issued by the Federal Reserve has found no wrongful foreclosures following an investigation into abusive mortgage practices. Though we must quickly note...

You Can’t Build What People Want: Building Codes vs Affordability

Do you want to share housing expenses with more than two of your friends? Create a separate apartment within your...

Inside the Affordable Housing “Big Tent”

I had an interesting chat over lunch on the train home from National Housing Conference's Solutions 2013 in Atlanta last...

No, Minimum Rents Do Not “Encourage Financial Responsibility”

President Obama's 2015 Budget seeks to impose a $50 per month minimum rent on tenants living in USDA Rural...

Three Ways Your City Can Prosper by Embracing Equity

. Two years ago, New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio captivated voters with his “tale of two cities” narrative summarizing...

The Romance and Reality of the New Financial Technology (Fintech) Companies

Technology is enticing. It's fun. It can make life easier. With a click of a button, consumers can purchase...

Renters Are Not The Problem

Alan Mallach concludes his recent commentary on the problem of declining homeownership (Do Urban Neighborhoods Need Homeowners?) with the important reminder that cities and policymakes should not neglect renters. Yet, his argument leading up to this point is a prescription for continuing a century-old approach to housing that structurally advantages homeowners and disadvantages moderate- and […]
housing sign

Housing Advocates—Seize This Moment!

I’ve been working to address housing affordability since the late 1970s. There has never been this much media and public focus on the issue.

Karl Rove v. ACORN

Now we know that Karl Rove spearheaded the firing of David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico who refused to follow the Bush...

California’s Anti-Foreclosure Movement

Rose Gudiel is on the front lines of a growing protest movement to stop banks from foreclosing on families victimized by the economic crisis...

2014 Budget is Weak on Help for Americans’ Financial Strength

President Obama’s budget lays out a strong starting point for rebuilding American opportunity. He preserves our historic commitment to...

CDCs: You Don’t Have to Develop Real Estate to Be a Success

This is part two of my post on community development and community organizing. In my first post, I argued...

Julian Castro “Outstanding Pick” to Lead HUD

President Obama's nomination of Julián Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, to serve as the secretary of the U.S. Department...

How Are We Responsible for Baltimore?

Over the last few years, slowly but surely, the reality of the lived experience of black American women has continued to come to light....

Nonprofits–Yes You Can Advocate. And Now’s The Time

Amidst the chaos of the past couple weeks there has been at least one positive change—a lot more people...
Illustration of muscular hand lifting scales of justice.

Trump Era a Time to Build Power, Not Buildings

This is a time that calls for us to start thinking a little less like an “industry” and more like a movement.

How Did the Media Fail ACORN and Organizing?

Organizing has been under attack for years, but this time around, the media has been directly complicit in severely damaging one of most influential advocates for low- and moderate-income families in the country. How did the media miss the real story behind the assault on ACORN?

What Palin Could Have Said…

The pushback from around the country is bracing. No sooner did NHI president John Atlas post on Rooflines, setting the record straight on community...

ACORN Facing Significant Problems

With state and local chapters of ACORN all over the country considering forming their own groups as the national organizing feels the effects of...

Community Organizing Creates Jobs

The value of community organizing was perhaps never questioned as much as when Barack Obama became a candidate for president...

National Housing Conference: Housing Person of the Year Gala 2013

On Thursday, June 20, 2013, the National Housing Conference held its annual Housing Person of the Year Gala at...

4 Organizing Trends You’ll See in 2014

Community organizing is changing. It's more social media driven and younger.Immigration advocacy alone has brought a new sector of...

Place, Poverty, and Politics: A Growing Divide

Relocation or reinvestment? This longstanding debate has been reignited by recent events in Baltimore, Ferguson and many other cities, and the release of a...

Making Community Benefits Agreements Count

CBAs can be extremely difficult to implement and enforce, which is why a detailed agreement in the early stages of the community-developer relationship is so important.

CRA Should be Becoming Less Partisan. Instead, It’s More.

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is a law that requires banks to serve the credit needs, consistent with safety and soundness, of all...

Organizing for Hospital Community Benefits

Community development corporations need to become more educated about hospital community benefits. This is what can be done to get the process started.

Task Force Calls for $4 Billion in NSP Funding

Editor’s Note: The following is from the National Foreclosure Prevention and Neighborhood Stabilization Task Force. See the bottom of the page for a list...

No More Crumbs

When I attended a housing-focused conference right after Election Day last year, there was an understandable pall cast over any...

Sick of the Sequester? Learn from Michigan Organizers

The answer for Congress and the stalled action on the sequester? Michigan has some winning ideas. Detroit,...

Why Conservatives Can’t Afford a Real Government Shutdown

It’s conventional wisdom that voters will mostly blame House Republicans if the federal government shuts down over their effort...

Community Developers, Don’t Ignore This Housing Finance Reform Bill

As the U.S. emerges from the housing crisis, the fundamental architecture of mortgage markets is being decided. Although it...

EPA Should Make Environmental Justice Job One

The EPA is making news lately.  Unfortunately, it’s not for protecting the environment or victims of pollution. Activist groups,...

It’s Time to Talk about Cops

I don't need to revisit the hundreds of police killings around this country over the past few years (not...

Housing Equity’s Future: Moving from Debate to Productive Dialogue

A robust debate erupted on Shelterforce in response to Miriam Axel-Lute’s article, “The Dangerous Rhetoric of Escaping to Opportunity,” with strongly worded opinions flowing from both sides of the mobility and place based debate. As practitioners who were involved in this vigorous conversation and referenced in the article, we had a series of private discussions […]
community of people gathered

Reimagining a Neighborhood, The Way It Ought To Be

The arts have a long history of highlighting social issues and creating public conversation that results in measurable change. As an arts administrator with...

NHI’s John Atlas to Discuss New ACORN Book

John Atlas, a founder of the National Housing Institute and Shelterforce, will appear today in the 1 p.m. hour (eastern) on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate...

Roasting a Fire Under ACORN

It’s September here in the Northeast and the acorns falling from the oak trees, including those from the Northern Red Oak, New Jersey’s state...

Bringing the Occupy Movement to the Community

As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue in public settings all across the country, it’s interesting to watch how the movement begins to take...

Too Little, Too Little: Obama’s MID Reform Proposal

Obama’s mortgage interest deduction (MID) reform falls short of the mark. Housing advocates have been holding their breath for...

Take Note: Berlin Thrives with a Declining Population and Housing Surplus

A few months ago I wrote a piece for Shelterforce and a related piece for Rooflines on Mumbai.There I...

“Learning In”: A Coalition Organizes for Equitable Redevelopment

Residents and small business owners are already seeing rents rise in Union Square, a diverse neighborhood in the largely working class city of Somerville...

Dr. King and The Poor People’s Campaign

Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1968 while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. Up until that time, he'd spoken about the dignity...

Three Dangers and an Opportunity

If it seems like we're approaching a domestic policy pivot point, it might be because we are. Since November...
Mural on wall with faces of girls looking into the distance.

Art in the Face of Gentrification

Four representatives of New York City organizations discuss their employment of art and artists to empower residents in the face of gentrification.

Changing the Game

London CITIZENS fights for permanently affordable housing in the shadow of the Olympics.

Community Organizers Help Turn the Tide

Peter Dreier’s most recent Rooflines post cited a story titled “Community Organizing Changed Fishery,” in which John Corrigan, the fishing writer for the Concord...

ACORN: The New York Times, Lies, and Videotape

The New York Times hit ACORN with a one-two punch last weekend, making sure that the community organizing group — flattened by attacks from...

Happy Birthday Occupy!

Occupy Wall Street launched one year ago Monday, September 17, 2011. This past Monday, people converged on Manhattan's financial district...

Demand Congress Act to Advance Home Opportunity

We're in tough times, but there’s some good news on the housing front. In slow but meaningful steps around...

Is There Room for Real Change in the Democratic Party?

Thirty-one years before Cory Booker, Junius Williams, another dynamic African-American Yale Law School graduate, moved to Newark with ambitions...

Seizing the Moment to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

Housing and community development issues do not get the attention they deserve in the national media, but our field is having a moment. Last...

Community Organizing: Integrating a Woman’s Approach

“In closed or structured societies, it is the marginal or ‘inferior’ person . . . who often comes to symbolize . . . ‘communitas.’” —Victor Turner

Failing The Equitable Development Test

I wondered whether the Americans who suffered the injustice of our most recent Great Recession haven’t already been not only forgotten but abandoned by the White House and Congress, despite their votes. 
polling place

Housing Advocacy Needs Housing Voters

Methods from a successful organizing campaign from the past can inform the basis of a new electoral constituency around housing.

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.

Despite Promises of Relief, Foreclosure Crisis Still Escalating

In the Chicago metro area as across the nation, even with various public, private and nonprofit relief efforts underway, the foreclosure crisis continues to...

The Spring Issue of Shelterforce Is Here!

Fair Housing: The Work Continues and the Vision Expands is the theme of our cover package in our Spring 2011 issue as we explore...

Gale Cincotta Reminds Us: The Next Move Is Always Ours

We have a review up by Ted Wysocki of Gale Force, the biography of Gale Cincotta. Cincotta is the legendary (in our field at...

Rossana Torres: Taking on the FHFA

The following is a first-hand account from Rossana Torres on the need for the government to contribute to the...

More Progress, and Peril, on the Home Opportunity Front

Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs released a discussion draft of legislation to...

NAACP’s Journey for Justice And Voting Rights

We live in interesting times.Two years ago, immigrant leaders from across the country camped out on the National Mall...

Our Denial and Inaction On the Issue of Lead

How far does the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) denial about leaded drinking water go? This week, I was having...

On Beyond Income: Asset Building and Union Organizing Go Together

I wrote earlier this week about how the current increase in labor organizing among service workers calls for a conscious choice by other nonprofits who work with low-income households to offer our solidarity to those campaigns. Beyond the fact of supporting workers in their struggle for self-determination, there are some other opportunities for cross-pollination there. […]
organize mural

Organizers: There’s No Shortcut to Success

Overcoming the ideology of individualism and corporate power is achieved not through framing or advocacy but through the experience of collective struggle. A review of "No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age" by Jane McAlevey.