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.

Winning a Land Bank We Can Trust

Lessons from Philadelphia's Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land

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.
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...

Beyond the Box

A movement for second chances takes root.

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...

What If We Don’t Knock It Down? Re-Imagining Public Housing

The New York City Housing Authority’s  (NYCHA) plan to build mixed income housing on some of its properties has prompted...

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...

Can Nonprofit Leaders Also Be Tech Innovators?

You may have seen my prior post on why the nonprofit sector is so tech averse. If you haven't...

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.

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. 
several mural images

Generating Civic Power in North Philadelphia

An organization embarks on a community-driven design process to transform two vacant row homes into a site for residents, artists, and law enforcement to collaborate on new public safety strategies rooted in care rather than control.

Occupy Wall Street: A New Wave of Fair Housing Activism?

Is there a new community reinvestment movement afoot?

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...

Project Rebuild in the 2014 Budget: Beating An All-But-Dead Horse

I must admit I was surprised to see Project Rebuild resurface in the Obama administration’s 2014 budget proposal. If there...

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...

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...

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...

On Progressives and Picket Lines

The story was very different, depending who told it. To the organizers of the I'M HOME and National Manufactured Homeowners' Assocation conferences, news that the Seattle Olive 8 hotel, which they had booked for their annual conferences this past November, was under boycott by the hotel workers union UNITE HERE for refusing to allow workers […]
housing justice for all rally

What the Fight for Universal Rent Control in New York Can Learn from Prop...

Voters have set up an unprecedented fight between progressive housing groups and real estate interests. It will be a brutal fight. For proof of this, housing advocates in New York need only to look at California.

Home Again

With the help of its local community development corporation, a Boston neighborhood comes to terms with its transformation as a beloved church, long a treasured part of the community is reborn as housing.

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...

4 Reasons Why We Need More Community on Labor Day

“Good Jobs: Strong Communities” read many of the signs at the Labor Day rally and march in Cambridge organized by...

Embracing Affirmative Action, Imperfections And All

In a piece on my personal blog, I referenced a bigger politics of social and economic justice vs. a...

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...
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.

An Organizer’s Work Is Never Done

An unprecedented local hiring win is a stepping stone in a trajectory to turn workforce development on its head.

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...

Starting All Over Again: Your New Dance Partners in Congress

A lot is going on at the federal level right now. The sequester that we...

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...

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...

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

Developers: Organize Your Residents for 2018

On May 4, we applauded Congress’ dismissal of the Trump administration’s request for $18 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary programs. It firmly rejected the administration’s proposals and (finally) approved a bipartisan spending bill for 2017, funding the government through Sept. 30. The lights will stay on in the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, and our worst fears that low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled might be literally left out in the cold are allayed … for now.
cleveland streetscape

Remember Slavic Village? It’s Back

A Cleveland neighborhood made famous as an epicenter of the foreclosure crisis works its way back to stability. Here’s how.

ACORN and the Media

You might have seen Peter Dreier, NHI board member, and the director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College on Rachel...

Will the Occupy Wall Street Crackdowns Energize or Deflate the Movement?

Last week we asked you how the widespread crackdowns on the Occupy Wall Street protests would affect the movement. More...

Three Ways the President’s Budget Benefits HUD

For low-income families that need affordable rental housing, the news from Washington in recent years has been bleak. Yet, while...

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...

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...

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...

Walking Away: What Happens When a Project Can’t Be Completed?

As children, many of us grew up hearing from our parents that we must, “finish what we started.” Whether we stalled on a math assignment or scooped too much food onto our dinner plate, we were instructed to keep going until we were done. Certainly, this lesson provides some guidance for events to come later […]
Sol2Sol banner at the climate march

It Takes Strong Roots to Achieve Climate Justice

Throughout 2018's six day Sol-2-Sol climate justice convening, indigenous people from the occupied U.S. territories and lands from around the world led many of the actions and activities, especially those directly impacted.

Equity 2.0: The Missing Pieces

Under President Obama, data transparency, private-sector innovation, and a renewed commitment to expanding opportunity could revolutionize housing and urban planning. But just as proponents of equity, open government data, and social entrepreneurship are being appointed to key positions, and while the administration is still young, the new HUD/DOT sustainable communities initiative illustrates why the devil is in the details.

Financial Implosion: 2nd Chance for Progressive Banking Reform?

When present and former public officials ranging from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary under President Clinton, started...

In Chicago, a Partial Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis?

This week Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, at the request of Action Now, the former Illinois chapter of Acorn, which broke away in 2008, and...

Community-Based Organizing Must Change. But How?

I grew up in rural Iowa. During my childhood, my community was shaken by the collapse of family farms, the...

Will New Rules Be Enough to Protect Homeowners?

For those who watch affordable housing, it’s tough viewing these days: from stagnant wages and an uncertain regulatory environment...

Here’s How HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program Could Be Better

We know that where families live can seriously effect their quality of life. Many predictors of health, education, and financial...

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....

Putting Housing Back at the Forefront of the National Conversation

Eric’s family purchased a Habitat for Humanity home in the Florida farming community of Immokalee, Florida, which among many...
Close-up of the back of a t-shirt that says "Because the rent won't wait."

Renter Week of Action in Pictures

This past week, renter advocacy groups staged coordinated demonstrations in over 45 states to disrupt business as usual, including stand-ins at the personal residences of corporate landlords, banner drops, neighborhood tours of the housing crisis, and creative actions at city halls. With the help of #RenterWeekofAction convener Right to the City, Shelterforce has compiled photos from several such demonstrations throughout the country to highlight their scope.
Book cover show a black and white photo of people gathered in front of a high rise building

Public Housing Residents as Activists

In the 1990s, a group I co-founded, the Eviction Defense Network, was asked by public housing residents to organize alongside them during the HOPE...

Foreclosure Crisis: How Much Blame Falls On The Media?

If you still have not watched The Daily Show, stop what you are doing and go on the Internet and watch last week’s clips...

Rent Regulation in the Great Recession

Over at the Gotham Gazette, David King walks us through the latest round of politics over New York City’s rent regulation laws, which have...

CFPB Witch Hunt Could Lose Latino Voters

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking voted on March 19 along party lines (12 Democrats and ten Republicans) to advance Richard Cordray’s bid to...

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...

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...
Residents in Austin, Texas, sit in a micro-unit home.

Flipping the Script

A nonprofit forgoes the typical community meeting for a "living charrette," which leads to greater neighborhood feedback about a proposed 24-acre development in Austin, Texas.
Neon sign in window reads "Real Estate Home Loans."

Despite What Bankers Say, Data Is Indispensable

The American Bankers Association (ABA) issued a white paper maintaining that the CFPB exceeded its mandate under Dodd-Frank. Full of rhetoric, the white paper makes a number of unfounded allegations about HMDA data and the CFPB final rule.
A building in East Oakland with colorful murals painted on the wall. A graffitied fence is to the right of the building.

Why Tenants Should Be Given the Opportunity to Purchase Their Buildings

Unlike so many owners who are quickly selling their properties to the highest bidder amidst rising real estate values, an East Oakland landlord was intent on giving the existing tenants a fair shot to purchase the property.

What Is ACORN?

By now, most Americans have heard of ACORN. We know them as the national anti-poverty group, which uses community organizing to provide invaluable services...

The Next Stage of the Occupy Movement

Criticized for focusing more on what it is against than what it is for, the Occupy Wall Street movement has now found an organizing...

Rural Housing Budget Disappointing, But Not Surprising

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Obama administration’s rural housing budget continues trends that were evident in the last several...

Poetry Slams Conditions of Richmond’s Public Housing

When poetry and investigative reporting combine, the results are fantastic. PBS recently featured a collaboration between the...

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,...

Tweaks to CRA Q&A Document Miss the Larger Picture

During the dog days of summer this July, the federal bank agencies decided to quietly bunt instead of swing...

After a Long Impasse, A Win for Dudley Street?

In the film Gaining Ground, about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a powerful community planning and organizing group in Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, one of the major story lines involves the Kroc Community Center. In a nutshell, the Salvation Army got a huge amount of money to build community centers around the country, and wanted […]

Has the Fight Gone Out of Organizing?

After a brief, shining moment following the 2008 Republican National Convention, when it seemed community organizers would rule the country, they are now back on the defensive.

ACORN Under Fire, But Is It Justified?

With less than one month left until Election Day, the Republican Party voter repression machine is at it again and once again, its target...

6 × 6: Call for Nominations!

Shelterforce will turn 36 next year and we’d like you to help us celebrate! Community Developers 36 and Under: Call for Nominees Are you, or someone...

Candidates’ Silence on Housing Issues Elicits Frustration

How do you convince somebody to fix a problem when they are seemingly blind to the overwhelming evidence that the problem even exists? Today,...

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...

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...

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...

How Data Disclosure Will Help Prevent the Next Financial Crisis

It seems like an overstatement, but data disclosure can help prevent the next financial crisis. ...

When Disaster Hits, Your First Responder Probably will Not Be a First Responder

Social scientists reviewed all the recent research on disaster recovery and tell us that before the coordinated help arrives, before the Red Cross and all the other recovery groups descend with legions of volunteers, there are neighbors.

Interview with John Henneberger, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service–Part 1

It’s not every year (or even every decade) that community developers and housers see themselves represented in the ranks of the coveted MacArthur Fellows (or “genius grant” recipients). That in and of itself would be sufficiently exciting, but when Shelterforce staff sat down to talk to John Henneberger of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, one of the 2014 MacArthur geniuses, we certainly found ourselves impressed and excited. Driven by a sense of justice since college, he has been on the frontlines of the fight for equality and equity since those years. Henneberger has extensive knowledge of the field, an ability to clearly relate many of our most basic concerns to each other, and a clear-eyed focus on end goals above interim measures. In this two part interview, he 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 much more.

Get Your Green On

In general, most efforts to develop “green infrastructure” at the neighborhood level have been volunteer-led, grassroots efforts. City governments don’t tend to take the...

Community-Labor: A Coalition Whose Time Has Come

Ed Gorman of the NCRC board introduced Mark Ayers, president of the building trades department of the AFL-CIO, as “the man who is opening...

6 Reasons to Be Wary of Public-Private Partnerships

During his recent visit to Miami, President Obama praised Public Private Partnerships (“P3s”) and lifted up the idea of a...

Jon Kest’s Activism, New York’s Future

Thousands of Bill de Blasio’s grassroots supporters—as well as the small inner circle of advisers who helped catapult him...

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...

Energy Efficiency: Vital to the Budgets of Low-Income Households

Electricity and water are indispensable for day to day living, and low income households pay a disproportionate share of...

The Day The Fed Stood Still

With the Federal Reserve Board’s first meeting of 2015 last month and the upcoming 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, I had Mr. Peabody crank up the “Wayback Machine” and set it for April 14, 1980. (If Millennials think they can’t afford to buy their first home now, mortgage interest rates then were heading to […]
participatory budgeting fliers

Participatory Budgeting: Why Not Fix Everyone’s Sink?

Participatory budgeting offers a glimpse of how a more civically engaged society might work, but it’s also a distraction.

The “Real Threat” of ACORN

We’ve long said here that the right-wing attacks on ACORN are rooted in fear: fear of voter registration, fear of increased wages for working...

My Holiday Wish List

The holiday season is a time when we express our lofty wishes and set new resolutions for personal improvement, but there is nothing lofty...

Scale-up? Not So Fast

I think about Dunbar’s number when I hear people talk about community development needing to “scale-up.”  In...

The Fight for Fair Use of Sandy Recovery Funds Surges On

To say that January was a bad month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be something of an...

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...