Authored by Joe Kriesberg
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Thoughts As I Clean My Office

December 29th, 2022 by Joe Kriesberg

As I start to pack up my office after nearly 30 years at MACDC, I have been thinking a lot about the past, present, and future of the CDC sector in Massachusetts.  Yes, the old photos and documents bring back memories, but they also inspire excitement about what is possible in the future. I’m not sure these thoughts have coalesced into a coherent and comprehensive vision, but I figured I would share them before I leave MACDC as a contribution to the never-ending and always-needed conversation about how to build a stronger and more impactful community development field.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the field throughout my 30 years has been how to think about community voice and community power.  There was literally a raging debate about this at my first MACDC board meeting in July 1993 and the conversation continues to this day. As neighborhood demographics change, what does it mean to listen to the voice of the “community”? Which community? Whose community?  Is a community a geographic place or a group of people with shared history and culture? The occasional tension residents in gentrifying neighborhoods who are concerned about new development and others who are pushing for new (and more dense) development is a great example of the emerging complexities.  So too are the frequent tensions between homeowners and renters or between those already living in subsidized housing and those who cannot get in or between long-term residents and newcomers. Some community residents want long-term affordability restrictions and others want to create more opportunities for family wealth building through homeownership.

I don’t profess to have any answers here, but I think we should always challenge and question statements that begin with some version of “The Community wants (or does not want) this”.  Such statements should be followed by questions – which community? Which voices are speaking? Have future residents of this neighborhood been consulted? Do younger and older residents agree? Are you talking about people in the immediate neighborhood or the entire city or the region? Who has a stake in these decisions?  And what do we do when reasonable people simply disagree? These questions will force all of us to deal honestly and directly with the tensions, trade-offs and choices that are inevitable in a diverse society.

Like many housing advocates, I have learned to love the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit despite its many inherent problems such as high transaction costs and complicated deal structures. The program has proven itself as a resilient and effective way to build high-quality affordable housing. Unfortunately, I do think that we too often treat the LIHTC program as the sun around which every other housing program must revolve.  LIHTC never acts alone.  LIHTC deals nearly always require significant funding from Section 8 – both project-based vouchers and mobile voucher holders – as well as significant soft debt from state and local funding sources.  Indeed, by some estimates, LIHTC deals soak up 90% or more of the other subsidy dollars available in the system.  This has meant that too often the affordable housing industry is a one-note band building and preserving LIHTC deals and not much else.  Thankfully, the Commonwealth Builder program has put homeownership back into the equation.  Still, we need an affordable housing industry that can be more responsive to the different needs and opportunities that exist.  Four areas stand out for more investment:

We need the state to invest substantially in Community Scale Housing.  The state tried a Community Scale Housing program a few years ago, but imposed funding caps that made it nearly impossible to use – subsidy caps that were dramatically lower than those for LIHTC deals. At minimum, let’s level the subsidy playing field between big and small projects.

We need to greatly expand efforts to acquire so-called naturally occurring affordable housing to ensure its long-term affordability.  Boston and Somerville have such programs and other jurisdictions are trying but the state needs to come to the table in a much bigger way.  Yes, these deals are hard, but if we create the subsidy and financing infrastructure we can make them a bit easier.

We also need a much bigger investment in housing rehab to make housing safe, healthy and ultimately decarbonized. I’m excited that MACDC has a five year grant to advance this work.

We need to find a way to produce reasonably affordable housing without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidy for each unit.  Is there a way to combine up-zoning reform, public land  and shallow subsidies to create starter homes and mid-market apartments? I don’t know the answer, but we can’t solve the scale of our housing problem without significantly reducing the per unit subsidy levels that are now commonplace in our sector.

Speaking of housing, we need to accept the reality that housing is far too complex to be solved by just one or two policy interventions.  I recently read an article that outlined 13 distinct housing challenges!  Let’s always remember that the most important word in housing policy is the word “and”.  We need more market rate housing AND more affordable housing AND more tenant protections AND more rental vouchers AND more homeownership funding AND the list goes on and on.  Housing advocates must find a way to unite across these various issues to build momentum for a more comprehensive and balanced housing agenda.  At a minimum, we should try to avoid pitting one intervention against another in attempt to gain momentum for our priority.

Innovation and experimentation have been a hallmark of the field throughout the decades.  Community developers at both the local and state level are continually creating new programs, new policies, and new strategies to address the ever-evolving dynamics in our neighborhoods.  This trend continues to this day, and it will be vital to our future.  Nearly everything about the context of our work has changed and is changing – housing markets, neighborhood demographics, the political context, the media context, communications technology, capital markets, work culture and more. The pandemic has accelerated and amplified many of these trends.  Community development leaders – and funders – need to continue challenging old ways of doing business and supporting experimentation.  Inevitably, some experiments will fail or partially fail, and we need to have the courage and integrity to recognize when things are not working. Indeed, failures should often be celebrated and honored as opportunities to learn and improve.  I think the field is ripe for a sector-wide conversation about the future of the field, like what we did in 2007-2009 with our Community Development Innovation Forum.

Years ago, I was interviewing a job applicant who had spent the early part of his career in the environmental field.  I had done the same thing, spending several years working on clean energy issues before making a conscious choice to switch to community development.  This applicant, however, looked at me blankly when I asked why he was switching fields.  He said something to the effect of “I’m not switching fields – environmental justice and community development are the same field”.   How right he was! The Climate Justice and Environmental Justice movements are now deeply intertwined with community development, and I think environmental policy will have as much of an impact on the future of our field as housing policy. In fact, they can never again be separated. I’m proud that MACDC has been actively leading this convergence with our role in the Housing & Environment Revenue Options (HERO) Campaign to create dedicated revenue for housing and climate investments. We are also part of the campaign to put $300 million into a Zero Carbon Renovation Fund and we are co-sponsors of a growing program called DASH – Decarbonizing Affordable Subsidized Housing with LISC-Boston and New Ecology.  I urge community developers to avoid the temptation to resist change due to legitimate concerns about costs or complexities.  Rather, let’s be the climate leaders who focus on “how” to get it done.

What is a CDC?  This is a question that has challenged me and many of us for decades.  Here in Massachusetts, we have had a state law that defines the term since the mid-1970s thanks to legislation sponsored by Mel King. During the Community Development Innovation Forum of 2007-09, we developed a new, updated definition that was eventually enacted into law in 2010.  That said, the law did not settle the question.  While DHCD is now responsible for certifying non-profits who apply to be a CDC, there are often close calls that make it challenging.  

What does it mean in practice to require that the community have “meaningful representation” ? How much representation is “meaningful”?  

We require that they have a mission of community development, but what does that term mean today? Does it require real estate development or not? What activities should qualify? 

What does it mean to say that community development must be the organization’s priority? What do we say about multi-service organizations for whom community development is one focus area? Is this the classic case of “you know it when you see it”?  

One of the major challenges associated with CDC certification is deciding what qualifies as a community.  Historically, many of us have thought of community development as “placed-based” work, but what is a place?  Is it a neighborhood? A City? A Region? A State? Does community development even have to be placed-based or can it be grounded in a racial, ethnic, or religious community?  

Over the years, I have had to negotiate these lines on many occasions.  They can be further complicated by turf battles and even personality conflicts among non-profit leaders. How many CDCs can co-exist in the same place? Does this even matter when determining whether to certify a group?  In general, I have leaned toward a more inclusive definition but there is a risk that we water down the concept by being too inclusive.  Overall, I think DHCD has done an excellent job, but this question is going to remain a challenging one for MACDC and the entire sector.

CDCs proved to be incredibly nimble at navigating the pandemic by shifting to virtual programming in 2020 and then again to various levels of hybrid operations in the two years since.  Most CDCs continue to provide vital in-person services and programs while also expanding what they offer on-line.  As we move into the post COVID-era, however, I worry how remote and virtual service delivery could impact the CDC field.  Can placed based groups compete with functionally specialized organizations when people can access services from anywhere in the world?  Will remote programming accelerate the shift away from local groups and local service delivery?  What will be gained or lost from such a shift.  The answers to these questions could have profound impact on the future of the field.

For years, CDC leaders have anticipated the coming generational shift in leadership from the baby boom generation to everyone else! Indeed, one of the reasons we created the Mel King Institute was to help prepare the next generation of leaders.  Well, the future is now. I’m hardly the only CDC leader moving on.  Over the past three years, fully one-third of the CDC executive Directors in Massachusetts have left their jobs.  ONE THIRD!  The new leaders are younger and more diverse and bring a host of new ideas and skills to the job.  I’ve been honored to support many of them as they take on these new roles and I can attest that these leaders are up to the challenges laid out above.  They are going to bring new thinking and new ideas to these long-standing questions:  There is no doubt that when it comes to community development, the future is now and the future is bright!

I could probably go on and on.  Supplier diversity. Small business development. Health Equity. Racial justice.  Where does the field go from here? What is our role in these broader social movements. But I’m now officially running out of time so I will have to leave those questions and topics for another day. I have just a few days left to pack the office and write my exit memos. Starting in January, my place in the community development field will change but I plan maintain a role and a voice in the field.  MassINC’s mission is to promote economic inclusion and civic vitality.  In many ways, this is precisely what the community development field is all about.  I am excited about the many potential opportunities for MassINC to collaborate with MACDC and others in this sector as we advance our shared goals and values.  Please reach out when you see such opportunities and rest assured, for better or worse, I’ll still be around!  

In the meantime, I wish everyone a safe and healthy new year!  May we all find peace and joy in our lives and in the world.

Joe Kriesberg Announces Departure from MACDC

November 10th, 2022 by Joe Kriesberg

Dear Friends,

After nearly 30 years at MACDC, including 20 as President & CEO, I have decided that it is time for me to take on a new challenge. I have informed the MACDC Board that I plan to leave MACDC at the end of this year. I am also delighted to share that I will be taking on the role of CEO at MassINC starting in January.

As you can imagine, I did not make this decision lightly. I have absolutely loved my time at MACDC and I remain a total believer in the power of community development to change lives, change communities, and change the world. I am proud of the many things we have accomplished together over the past 29+ years, many of which are highlighted in the MACDC Timeline that we produced for our 40th anniversary celebration. These include:

  • Winning legislative campaigns that have advanced economic opportunity and equity, and strengthened the CDC sector, not the least of which is the Community Investment Tax Credit
  • Securing significant budgetary wins that have steered dollars to worthy programs and investments
  • Creating institutions that will serve the community for years, such as the Life Initiative, the Property & Casualty Initiative, the Mass. Growth Capital Corporation, The National Alliance for Community Economic Development Associations, the Coalition for an Equitable Economy, and, of course, the Mel King Institute for Community Building
  • Sustaining a strong community development network through our peer-networking programs, member events, and other capacity building programs
  • Building a powerful movement that commands the attention of policy makers, including candidates for Governor who now routinely participate in our Candidate Forum at the MACDC Convention every four years.

I came to MACDC and stayed here because I wanted to have a positive impact and I'm confident that these results have indeed improved the lives of thousands of people across the Commonwealth. At the same time, what often sustained me in doing this work are the wonderful colleagues from across the state and the country with whom I have had the privilege to work. It has been these personal relationships that have provided me with the support, the counsel, the laughter, and the love that makes this work so meaningful and so much fun. I certainly felt this sense of community two weeks ago at the MACDC Convention in Worcester! I will always cherish my years at MACDC.

Of course, to everything there is a season, and I believe that now is the right time for me to try something new. MACDC is well positioned for the future and ready for new leadership. For me, I'm excited about the opportunity to lead MassINC, an organization that I have long admired with a mission in which I believe deeply. For those who may not know, MassINC seeks to "make Massachusetts a place of civic vitality and inclusive economic opportunity by providing residents the nonpartisan research, reporting, analysis, and civic engagement necessary to understand policy choices, inform decision making, and hold the government accountable."

Given the state of the world today, I cannot think of a more important task than fostering civic vitality and inclusive economic opportunity. I fully expect that I will continue to work with many of you in the years to come given the significant overlap between MassINC's work and community development. I invite you to reach out to me to share your ideas and thoughts about such opportunities or just to say hello. Please don't be a stranger!

I will remain at MACDC for the next two months working to ensure a successful transition. We have a strong board and staff that are ready to step up. MACDC's best days are in the future!

With gratitude,



A Message from MACDC's Board Chair, Angie Liou

Dear Colleagues,

As we prepare to bid farewell to our longtime President Joe Kriesberg, the MACDC board of directors would like to express our sincerest gratitude to Joe for providing over two decades of leadership in Massachusetts for the community development field. We can find Joe's fingerprints on legislative wins ranging from housing, zoning, small business, health, and climate issues. We have Joe to thank for increasing the capacity of CDCs via the establishment of the Mel King Institute and the creation of the Community Investment Tax Credit. These resources enable our CDCs to tackle the community and economic development issues that most affect our communities and residents, whose voices tend to be excluded. Equally important is Joe's leadership during the past two and a half years of the pandemic in advocating for small business relief and tenant assistance while also helping our members navigate unprecedented challenges and working with community organizers and others to launch the Racial Equity Pledge.

As MACDC moves through this transition period over the next two months, the board is working closely with Joe and the staff to put together an interim leadership plan to ensure that MACDC continues to offer high quality programs and services to our members while pursuing our policy agenda with the Legislature and the new Governor. During this time, I and other MACDC board members will make ourselves available to support the staff and the organization.

Simultaneously, the MACDC board will immediately begin a search for a permanent President to lead MACDC into the next chapter. The board will undertake a search process that ensures we field a wide net of diverse candidates, and we will work closely with the new President to ensure a smooth transition. MACDC's financial outlook remains stable, we have a talented and experienced staff, and we have a strong and committed board to guide the organization through this transition.

Please join me in congratulating Joe on his new role as the CEO of MassINC!


Angie Liou, Board Chair

Why you should attend MACDC's Convention and 40th Anniversary Celebration

August 31st, 2022 by Joe Kriesberg

As summer begins to wind down, many of us are beginning to plan our calendars for the fall. As you begin to do this, you will want to make sure that you include the MACDC Convention and Annual Meeting on Saturday, October 29 at Polar Park in Worcester (and online via Zoom).

The MACDC Convention (which happens just once every four years!) is always a special event.  It is not only the biggest community development event on the calendar in Massachusetts, but it is also a special opportunity to advance our theme for the day: United Communities Building Together!

Given the challenges of the past two-plus years, the need for unity and collective action within the community development field has never been greater.  That is why this event will bring together everyone in our field - CDC board members, community leaders, tenants, community development professionals, public officials, private sector allies, and others for day of celebration and collective action.  It will offer a unique set of opportunities:  


An opportunity to pause and celebrate


Notwithstanding the challenges and heartaches of the past two-plus years, indeed because of them, the Convention offers an important opportunity to pause and celebrate. And thankfully we have many exciting things to celebrate, including MACDC’s 40th anniversary as the policy and capacity building arm of the community development field.  We will recognize the extraordinary resiliency of our field and our communities in the face of unprecedented challenges. We will celebrate outstanding individuals and organizations that have made a difference in people’s lives. And we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Community Investment Tax Credit – an example of what we can accomplished when we come together as a field to shape state policy.


An opportunity to build power and shape state policy

While we have much to celebrate, we also have much to left to do. So, this Convention, like our past events, will also focus on the future and taking collective action to shape it for the better.

One of the key elements of our Convention will be the Gubernatorial Candidate Forum.  The winner of the Governor’s race has attended our Convention for each of the past four election cycles and each time we have engaged those candidates with specific questions about their policy agenda and requested their support for specific policies. In response, the candidates have embraced key MACDC priorities such as the Small Business Technical Assistance program, the Community Investment Tax Credit, and closing racial homeownership disparities.  We will be inviting both of this year’s candidates to come and speak with us and to answer specific questions about their proposed policy agenda.   This will be our chance to demonstrate the power of United Communities, Building Together to the next Governor.


An opportunity to build your network

Regardless of your connection to the community development field, this event deserves a spot on your fall calendar because the Convention is always fun, inspiring, educational, and most importantly, impactful.  The MACDC Convention will offer something for everyone:

CDC Board members can connect with fellow board members across CDCs and learn about how they are addressing various challenges and opportunities in their organizations and communities. 

Tenants, community members, and other neighborhood activists can network with and learn from others doing similar work, while also joining with the broader movement to build power and push for major policy change.

Community development professionals can connect with longstanding colleagues and expand their professional networks

Private sector leaders from foundations, financial institutions, small businesses, real estate firms, and others can re-connect with colleagues, get to know more CDCs and community development professionals, and demonstrate support for the CDC field.

MACDC Alumni, including former board members, staff, and interns, can rejoin the movement and see the results of their hard work at MACDC.


An opportunity to pay it forward

Of course, none of this happens without you and others making the trip to Worcester or joining us on-line. The magic of the convention is the scale and diversity of who is there.  Your presence will make the networking and relationship building more impactful for everyone who attends.  Your presence will help us honor our award winners and give meaning to the 40th anniversary celebration.  Your presence will help us build momentum for our racial equity work. Your presence will help drive our policy agenda and make a powerful impression on the next Governor.  Your presence will demonstrate the collective power of United Communities, Building Together.

We look forward to seeing you!

MACDC President Joe Kriesberg Reflects on The Racial Equity Pledge

July 21st, 2022 by Joe Kriesberg

Last November, MACDC launched its Racial Equity Pledge as a membership-wide initiative to disrupt systems within the community development field that produce or sustain racial inequity. Our goal is to provide a roadmap for MACDC members to identify and commit to actionable steps toward racial equity within the specific context of their organization and community.  Today, I’m proud to report that 30 of our members have joined with MACDC in adopting the pledge and doing the hard work of making it real. 

I have been impressed that our members are engaging the process with such seriousness and thoughtfulness (read some of their stories in this blog series: Harborlight Community Partners, Community Development Partnership, Somerville Community Corporation and Codman Sqaure NDC). Honestly, I was afraid that some CDCs might quickly and casually sign a pledge simply out of generalized support for the goals without necessarily having a commitment to make changes within their organizations. But that has not happened. Not at all. We have learned that many of our members were already deep into a process of internal reflection, planning, and change. Others are using the pledge as a needed impetus to take more concrete steps. We heard early on that our insistence that the full Board of Directors vote to adopt the pledge has prompted meaningful discussions at the board level, discussions that in many cases were long overdue.  We also heard that the existence of the pledge was helpful in moving reluctant or hesitant board members to action and communicating to everyone that racial equity is central to the work of community development. 

One challenge that CDC leaders (and frankly leaders of all organizations) have in confronting these issues is where to start. There are so many ways in which racial inequity, discrimination, bias, and structural racism impact our organizations and our communities that it can be overwhelming – even more so because these issues are often intertwined and mutually reinforcing. The Racial Equity Pledge tries to help by emphasizing the four levels of racism – internalized racism within individuals, interpersonal racism that occurs between individuals, institutional racism with our institutions and systems of power, and structural racism across our society. Understanding these levels – both their differences and their connections – can help groups decide where to start their journey. 

Leaders also must overcome the fear that embarking on this path will create discomfort, disagreements and tensions that might disrupt day-to-day operations, cause staff turnover or otherwise make things more difficult to manage. How do we find the “stretch zone” while avoiding the “panic zone”?  I’ll acknowledge that I have had those concerns myself. Even those who know the issues must be confronted may worry that doing so could make things worse if they are done poorly.  

In my experience, two steps are critical to creating the space and culture to engage this work effectively: shared education and relationship building. The Pledge recommends that organizations start with understanding the root causes of racism and racial inequities. Indeed, for years, MACDC has required all staff to attend racial equity training during their first year.  This is the reason we also decided in 2018 to participate in a YW sponsored program where our entire board and staff attended a series of five training sessions where we explored issues of racial equity both within our organizational culture and in our field.  While many of the board and staff had attended other trainings before, we believed it was important that we engage in this learning together in the specific context of MACDC. This ensures that we have some shared language and frameworks. Seeing each other engage in this learning builds credibility and mutual accountability. We know that when people from different backgrounds come together to discuss these issues, it is critical that participants feel like their colleagues have some basic and shared understanding about the history and context. While none of us can fully understand someone else’s lived experience, we can build trust by demonstrating that we are interested in that experience, that we are educating ourselves and listening. And this goes to the other core ingredient to effective racial equity work within organizations – relationship building. This work will be more effective when we know each other beyond our titles and physical identities – when we know each other’s stories and families and histories. Indeed, this was part of the YW program and part of what we try to do on an on-going basis both within our staff and our board.  

The commitment to education and relationship building has also been critical for me in my role as an executive director of a community development organization. It has helped to teach me (and frequently remind me when I forget) that effective leadership recognizes that good ideas come from many different places. Sometimes leadership requires following others. The Racial Equity Pledge was not my idea. The program of support that we are implementing is not my handiwork. I’d like to think that I contributed to the process, but this has been led by our members and our staff.   

I recognize that this type of leadership is particularly important for me as a white male leading an organization dedicated to racial equity.  I must continually ask myself when my leadership and my voice is essential to demonstrate our organization’s commitment to this work? When is my leadership and voice an obstacle to progress because I am taking up space from other, newer voices whose time has come?  When do I lean in and when do I step back?   

I have been struggling with these questions for the past two years and I expect that I and others will continue to struggle. I’m grateful to be in a relationship with so many other nonprofit leaders in our network who must deal with the same or similar questions. I’m lucky to have colleagues who are often unafraid to tell me what they think!  I invite you help me by giving me feedback and letting me know when it’s time for me to speak up and when it’s time to shut up.  Let me know when I make the right call and don’t hesitate when you think I have made the wrong one. When it comes to racial equity work, I, like all of us, am still learning. 



A Busy Year Ahead for MACDC

January 6th, 2022 by Joe Kriesberg

As the MACDC staff and board gear up for our 40th Anniversary Year, I took a few moments over the holidays to review our five-year Strategic Plan to make sure we were on track with the priorities and strategies adopted by the board in 2018.  While the COVID-19 Pandemic has certainly disrupted everything about our work, I do think the five core priorities in our plan remain helpful and highly relevant. With that in mind, I’m excited to highlight some of the exciting programs and initiatives we have on tap for 2022 to advance each of our core priorities. 


Build the power and voice of lower-income people and people of color to shape the future of their communities and their own lives 

Last year, MACDC’s Mel King Institute launched the Resident Leadership Training Collaborative  to expand capacity to develop resident and tenant leaders across the state.  The program builds on our five-year track record of training and supporting tenant leaders in public housing to offer similar leadership development opportunities to tenants living in CDC properties and potentially other subsidized housing. The program enhances trainings and programs that the Institute already offers to CDC board members. 

Speaking of board members and resident leaders, MACDC will once again be hosting our Convention this fall. Ever since our first convention in 2002, these gatherings have been the most exciting and meaningful events on the MACDC calendar as resident leaders, community development professionals, and allies come together for a day of learning, celebration, and action. As in past years, the Convention will include a Gubernatorial Candidate Forum where we will ask the candidates to make specific commitments to our field and our communities.  

Of course, the 2022 Convention faces the unprecedented challenge of a global pandemic, so it is likely to look and feel different from past events, but one way or another we will make it happen in October 2022. The details will be coming as we figure them out, but it will certainly include a Gubernatorial Candidate Forum, inspiring speakers, awards, networking, learning, the CDC Roll Call, and a celebration of our 40th Anniversary! 


Expand affordable housing in places where low- and moderate-income people can thrive 

As I wrote in an earlier blog, 2022 will be a busy year for affordable housing. MACDC will be focused on helping our members access the newly available ARPA funding while also advocating for additional ARPA dollars as the Legislature determines how to spend the remaining $2.3 billion. While ARPA is providing an exciting infusion of funding, we know that it won’t be enough to meet our housing crisis, so we also plan to continue campaigning for the HERO Bill, which would generate $350 million per year or more for housing and climate investments. We will also prioritize efforts to ensure that tenants and homeowners who have faced financial hardship during the pandemic receive the assistance they need and are not displaced. 

Another key focus area in 2022 will be closing the racial homeownership gap. New ARPA funding will provide an opportunity to expand the production of affordable homeownership units as well as expand down payment assistance and mortgage subsidies. As part of these efforts, MACDC will be engaged in a long overdue conversation about how to help first-time and first-generation homebuyers build family wealth, while also ensuring long-term affordability for future homebuyers. This can be a challenging conversation, but it is important as we seek to redress the racial wealth gap. 

MACDC is also excited to see our Neighborhood Stabilization work expand in 2022 as we partner with MassHousing to implement a new round of funding for the Neighborhood Hub, along with newly available capital dollars to support property rehab. 


Reduce income and wealth inequality across the state 

Last year, MACDC helped co-found the Coalition for an Equitable Economy, which seeks to eliminate racial disparities in business ownership by 2030. The Coalition has already had an extraordinary impact in helping small businesses survive the pandemic. We are now poised – with new funding and (soon) new staff – to build a strong small business eco-system that can help entrepreneurs at every stage of business development, from conception onward. MACDC will continue to staff the Community Business Network, which convenes practitioners monthly for peer learning, advocacy, and collaboration. We plan to expand our training programs for small business practitioners. Of course, advocacy will be a key part of our program as we push to secure additional ARPA funding for small businesses and advocate for increased funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance program. 

Another key agenda for 2022 is to help our members strengthen their supplier diversity efforts in both construction and property management. Building on the success of the Boston Pilot Program, we hope to expand this work statewide in 2022.  

In 2022, we will also join with progressives across the state to help pass the Massachusetts Fair Share Amendment on the November ballot to make sure that millionaires pay their fair share toward education and transportation investments in the Commonwealth.   


Drive the convergence of community development and community health 

MACDC was focused on driving the convergence of community development and health equity long before the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated in cruel fashion the impact of safe, stable, affordable housing on health outcomes. In 2022, we will step up these efforts with the work of our Housing Quality and Health Task Force, a cross-sector group of professionals that will be developing and implementing new strategies for reducing the health problems caused by substandard housing. One of our key priorities will be securing ARPA funding for the Massachusetts Healthy Homes initiative, so we can remove health hazards, such as lead paint, mold, pest infestation and other problems that undermine good health. 

We also recognize the deep connection between climate change, green buildings, and good health. Toward that end, MACDC is partnering with LISC and New Ecology to implement the DASH Program (Decarbonizing Affordable Subsidized Housing) to help our members build new and renovate existing housing to make it clean and resilient.  


Promote racial equity within the field and the Commonwealth 

MACDC has increasingly taken steps to apply a racial equity lens to all our work, including virtually every program and initiative mentioned above, from closing racial disparities in homeownership, business, and health, to changing who has voice and power in our communities. At the same time, we are taking explicit steps to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within the community development field itself, including our own organization. This work is being organized around the MACDC Racial Equity Pledge, which we launched at our Annual Meeting last November. With 14 CDCs already signed on, this campaign seeks to help our members individually and collectively adopt state-of-the-art practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion. MACDC and the Mel King Institute will support these efforts with peer-to-peer learning, training, data collection and collective accountability.  


A closing thought 

A short blog can’t capture everything that we will be doing in 2022. Of course, in these uncertain times I suspect that new, completely unanticipated issues will emerge throughout the year.  

That said, I want to acknowledge one more major undertaking that will consume much of our energy in 2022 even though it was not in our 2018 strategic plan – enduring this awful pandemic.  Like many, I thought we’d be past the worst of it by now and maybe we are. But we know that this will continue to be a very difficult time for all of us – some more than others  

For community developers, we must ask ourselves: How can we stay focused on our agenda, but be adaptive to changing needs? How do we build and sustain relationships while staying safe and often apart? How do we remain hopeful in the face of so much sadness? Navigating this is exhausting. We need to give ourselves and each other the time and space to keep ourselves healthy – physically and emotionally. 

As we work on the many projects and programs described above, we ask for your patience and support and we pledge ours in return. 

We are in this together and I’m so grateful for that! 

Ten (OK – 11) Questions to be Asking about Affordable Housing in Massachusetts in 2022

January 6th, 2022 by Joe Kriesberg

As we begin our third year of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we continue to confront a housing crisis that existed long before we started wearing masks. At the same time, COVID-19 catalyzed political, economic, and social dynamics that worsened the housing crisis in some ways, but also underscored the importance of safe, stable, and affordable housing. Policies that would have seemed impossible before COVID, like eviction moratoria and 10-fold increases in emergency rental assistance, demonstrated their efficacy and potential.  What does this mean for affordable housing in 2022? I’m going to refrain from making any predictions – clearly our world is far too uncertain for that with so much riding on the virus, the economy, and our tangled and fractious political culture. Here are 11 things, however, that affordable housing advocates should be tracking and influencing over the next 12 months. 

  1.  Can We Prevent a Wave of Evictions? – Over the past 20 months, a comprehensive set of policies at the local, state, and federal levels combined with the extraordinary efforts of non-profit agencies and cooperative landlords helped tens of thousands of families avoid eviction and maintain their housing. While these efforts have certainly not prevented every eviction and there have been uneven results across the state, it is still an effort of which we can be proud. However, 2022 will likely bring some difficult decisions. Current federal funding for the Eviction Diversion Initiative is expected to run out in June at current spending rates; it will be hard to sustain this spending without significant new federal money.  Even if the pandemic finally ends and the economy stabilizes, housing insecurity will continue. How do we transition and to what? Can we make some of the new tenant protections permanent? Can we institutionalize a right to counsel for tenants? Can we finally enact the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase legislation? How do we balance the need for short-term emergency relief with the need to invest in long-term solutions that expand the stock of affordable housing?  
  2. How Quickly Can We Deploy Newly Appropriated ARPA Dollars? The legislature recently approved over $600 million in funding for affordable housing to be spent on new rental housing, homeownership housing, first-time homebuyer assistance, renovations of public housing, and a small pilot program to retrofit homes in Gateway Cities. MACDC and other advocates will be pushing to get this money out quickly and with rules that are simple, transparent, and fair. We are particularly excited to see an infusion of funding to expand homeownership opportunities and start to close the racial homeownership gap. MACDC will also be serving on the newly created State ARPA Equity and Accountability Panel that is charged with making sure that state and municipal ARPA funds are spent in ways that address long-term racial inequities. This could be a historic opportunity to increase transparency and equity in state and local government. 
  3. How Should We Allocate the Remaining ARPA Dollars? The state has $2.3 billion of additional ARPA funds to appropriate in 2022 and no shortage of ideas for how to spend it. MACDC is advocating that at least another $600 million be allocated to affordable housing, with deeper investment in homeownership and a new program to retrofit older housing, so it is healthier and safer. We also plan to work with the Coalition for an Equitable Economy to secure funding for small businesses.  
  4. Will the Housing Choices Legislation Begin to Yield Results? – Last January, the legislature finally enacted the Housing Choices law to support the production of more housing across the Commonwealth. We have already begun to see the law’s impact with municipalities being able to adopt new zoning via majority votes and abutters being required to post bonds when they sue developers.  The big thing to look for in 2022 is the implementation of the law’s Multi Family Zoning requirement in all MBTA Communities. In December, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development finally released draft guidelines for how this requirement will be enforced and those guidelines are now out for public comment until March.  The proposed guidelines could be a game changer for multi-family housing in the Commonwealth as they push municipalities to get serious about zoning reform. Advocates – both locally and statewide – need to keep advocating to make sure this law reaches its potential.  
  5. Can We Start to Close the Racial Homeownership GapEver since we emerged from the Foreclosure Crisis a decade ago, MACDC and others have pushed the state to adopt a more ambitious and thoughtful strategy for expanding homeownership opportunities and closing the racial homeownership gap. These efforts made little progress for years, so we made it a focus of the 2018 MACDC Convention and engaged the question with Governor Baker. In 2019, he announced the Commonwealth Builder program. We are now seeing a dramatic increase in efforts to close the racial homeownership gap. While we had hoped the Legislature would have adopted the Governor’s proposal to invest $500 million of ARPA money on homeownership, they did approve $180 million, and we hope/expect to see more with ARPA 2.0. The state now has funds to offer down-payment assistance, mortgage assistance, and to build more affordable homes creating an unprecedented opportunity to move the needle. We expect our members to be active participants in this effort. Meanwhile, the renewed focus on homeownership has also renewed the long-standing debate about how to reconcile the goal of securing long-term affordability with the goal of enabling wealth creation for first-time homebuyers. I expect this will be an active conversation in 2022 with perhaps some innovative policy solutions emerging that seek “both/and” solutions. 
  6. Will We Accelerate the Transformation to Climate Smart Housing? The past two years have seen a growing focus on the need to electrify and ultimately decarbonize the residential housing sector. This is a massive challenge given the sheer number of homes in the Commonwealth and the age of our housing stock. We also need to do this equitably so that lower-income tenants and homeowners can benefit from the transformation without being priced out of their homes and so communities of color participate in the economic opportunities created by this effort.  We are starting to see policy shifts at the state and local level, with significant reforms coming through the state’s 3-year Energy Efficiency Plan, to the Mass Save program; beefed up requirements for affordable housing developers in the Qualified Allocation Plan; and tighter building standards like Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). MACDC is stepping up its climate efforts as a leader in the HERO Coalition and through our new partnership with LISC and New Ecology called the DASH Program – Decarbonizing Affordable Subsidized Housing. I expect this trend to accelerate with new policies and new funding in 2022 and beyond.  
  7. Can We Better Leverage Good Housing to Promote Good Health? Public health professionals and community developers have long understood the strong connection between stable, high-quality housing and better health outcomes. That connection became widely understood during the COVID-19 crisis. The question now is whether we can convert understanding into action. Many Massachusetts hospitals are stepping up their efforts to invest in supportive housing, housing affordability, and, occasionally, housing advocacy, often in partnership with our members. MACDC published a report in 2021 outlining how CDCs can build and strengthen such partnerships.  MACDC has also assembled a cross sector task force to build out a strategy for large-scale rehabilitation of poor quality housing to reduce health hazards such as lead paint, mold, and pest infestation. We are also building a coalition to advocate with the Legislature to allocate ARPA dollars for a new Massachusetts Healthy Homes Initiative. I’m hopeful that 2022 will be the year that we see these efforts accelerate and scale.  
  8. How Can We Stabilize Neighborhoods in our Gateway and Rural Communities?  MACDC will continue to work with our public and nonprofit partners on stabilizing neighborhoods, in Gateway Cities and small towns, where weak real estate markets coupled with limited public resources have resulted in significant property neglect, and in some cases abandonment. Through the Neighborhood Hub, we will continue to offer technical assistance to municipalities grappling with these challenges, coupled with new capital dollars provided through passage of the Economic Development Bill earlier this year. 
  9. Can Mayor Michelle Wu Advance Her Bold Vision for Boston? Boston voters elected a progressive Mayor in November who has promised bold action on a range of issues, including housing. Mayor Michelle Wu already announced plans to strengthen the City’s Linkage and Inclusionary Development programs, while advocating for state legislation that would enable the City to adopt a transfer tax on high-end real estate and to implement a modern rent stabilization program. She is also looking to reform – if not completely restructure – the Boston Planning and Development Agency. CDCs are excited to work with the new Mayor to design and implement an ambitious housing agenda for the city that can also inspire and motivate other cities across the state. 
  10. Will Housing be a Key Issue in the 2022 Gubernatorial Campaign? – Governor Baker’s decision to not seek re-election means that we can look forward to a wide-open campaign for Governor in 2022. So far, only Danielle Allen has put a housing agenda on her campaign website but look for all candidates to do so in early 2022. It is critical that housing receive attention from the candidates as well as the media and voters to ensure that it becomes central to the next Governor’s agenda. Both Governor Patrick and Governor Baker made housing a priority and yet there is still much more to do. Will the candidates do the same? What will they change? How can they move the needle further and faster? We will be asking these and other questions throughout the year.
  11. Can Congress Pass the Build Back Better Legislation? – Like people across this country, we will be watching closely as Congress continues to debate the Build Back Better legislation. The version adopted by the House of Representatives includes dramatic new investments in affordable housing, but there is certainly no guarantee that the final bill will do so – if a bill even passes.  It is hard to overstate the importance of this debate on the future of housing in the Commonwealth. With a new infusion of federal funding and updated federal policies, we could make dramatic progress. Without this legislation, it will be hard to scale up to the level we need.  We are grateful to have a Congressional Delegation that understands this and is fighting for this, but it appears our fate lies in senators from other parts of the country. 

 Like all years, 2022 is going to be busy for housing advocates. With so much on the table, however, 2022 could be more than busy – it could be transformational for tenants, homeowners, and communities across the Commonwealth. Let’s get to work! 

House Adopts $3.8 billion spending bill, Combines Federal ARPA dollars with State Surplus - Many, but not all, MACDC Priorities are Included

November 1st, 2021 by Joe Kriesberg

On Friday, October 29, the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved $3.8 billion in new spending using a combination of Federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and state surplus revenue. The final bill included four so-called consolidated amendments totaling $174 million that funded projects in four areas – Health and Human Services, Economic Development, Housing, and Climate/Energy.  The bill, which now goes to the Senate, included some, but not all, of MACDC’s priorities. 

Affordable Housing: The bill includes $600 million for five statewide housing initiatives.  While this was less than the $1.6 billion that CHAPA and MACDC had been advocating for it still represents an exciting and unprecedented investment in our housing system. The five housing programs are:  

  • $150M for Supportive Housing Production
  • $150M for Public Housing Maintenance  
  • $100M for Homeownership Assistance  
  • $100M for CommonWealth Builder Program (homeownership production) 
  • $100M for Affordable Rental Housing Production

MACDC worked with allies to advocate for two key amendments on the House floor, but neither was included in the Consolidated Housing Amendment.    

  • Rep. David LeBeouf filed an amendment to provide $25 million for a Massachusetts Healthy Homes Initiative that would have provided funding to remove lead paint and other health hazards from 1-4 unit properties.  The Amendment garnered 34 cosponsors but did not pass. 
  • Rep. Ruth Balser and Michael Day filed an amendment to fund a Right to Counsel program for people facing eviction. The Amendment garnered 77 cosponsors but was not passed. 

Small Business Support: The bill coming out of the House Ways & Means Committee recommended $50 million for grants to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis – far less than the $1 billion proposal we put forward with the Coalition for an Equitable Economy. Rep. Liz Miranda and 39 other Representatives filed an amendment to increase this to $200 million. The final bill did increase the amount to $60 Million.  

MACDC appreciates the many Representatives who advocated for our priorities and we thank Speaker Ron Mariano and House Ways & Means Committee Chair, Aaron Michlewitz for putting together an historic and comprehensive investment plan that will improve the lives of millions of Massachusetts residents and create a healthier and more equitable Commonwealth. 

The Community Development Movement Lost one of its legendary leaders on April 28 when Charles "Chuck" Grigsby passed away.

May 26th, 2021 by Joe Kriesberg

Chuck's contributions to the Community Development field's birth and growth over the past nearly 50 years represent a legacy that will be remembered for a long time. It was Mel King who was the state representative that led the campaign to create the state’s community development infrastructure in the 1970s. It was Chuck Grigsby who was hired to transform that vision into reality by serving as the founding executive director of the Community Development Finance Corporation in the 1970s. 

Later, after community groups (including MACDC, MAHA and others) successfully won passage of legislation to require insurance companies to make community investments, the life insurance industry also turned to Chuck to make that dream a reality by hiring him to be the founding executive director of the Life Initiative in the 1990s. And once again when the Deval Patrick Administration merged CDFC with another state quasi-public entity to create the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation in 2010, they turned to Chuck to lead the merger and create a new, stronger, and more impactful agency.  He also served as the director of the Public Facilities Departments (now the Department of Neighborhood Development) for the City of Boston in the 1990s during the Thomas Menino Administration. 

To each of these roles, Chuck brought his extraordinary intelligence, leadership, creativity, and commitment. The results speak for themselves. Chuck was someone that I deeply admired from the start of our relationship in the 1990s when he helped us create the CDC Community Business Network, an innovative model for shared staffing and collaboration that was built in close partnership with the City of Boston. I clearly remember the meeting where Chuck laid out his vision. We all nodded in agreement. Later, I had the pleasure of working closely with Chuck as he built the Life Initiative into a critical player in the community development field - not an easy task given the insurance industry's lack of familiarity with our field. Finally, I had one more opportunity to see Chuck in action when he took the helm at MGCC where I serve on the Board of Directors. The success and impact of MGCC in responding to the pandemic over the past year (for which we recently gave them an award) can be traced directly to the culture and foundation that Chuck built during those early years. Over the course of our relationship, I learned a great deal from Chuck about finance, public service, politics, leadership and how to live life to the fullest (learn more about his many hobbies in this terrific Boston Globe article).

The Massachusetts Community Development movement is incredibly fortunate to have had many great leaders over the decades. Today, we walk on their shoulders and none were broader and stronger than those of Chuck Grigsby. May his memory be a blessing.

Pandemic Response: Supporting our small business community - A story about the power of relationships, collaboration, advocacy, and persistence

January 7th, 2021 by Joe Kriesberg

As the Commonwealth and the Country came to terms with the true impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in mid-March 2020, I closed the MACDC offices, and sent our staff home with their laptop computers. MACDC’s staff knew that our focus had to remain on two things: 1) helping our members adjust to the reality of a pandemic; and 2) advocating for the communities we serve and represent. We immediately knew that housing stability would be a central focus of our efforts. We also knew that this crisis would have a devastating impact on small businesses, especially the more vulnerable ones with whom CDCs and CDFIs typically work (micro businesses, businesses owned by people of color, rural businesses, those in Gateway Cities, and other businesses that operate on thin margins and with inadequate equity). These businesses started the pandemic with less wealth, smaller margins, less access to capital and many operated in the very communities hardest hit by COVID-19.  We realized right away that this crisis could make our shameful racial wealth gap even larger.  As we move into the new year, I wanted to share some of my experiences and thoughts about how MACDC and its members worked with old and new partners across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to mobilize a response to the crisis in our small business community.

MACDC grows its long-standing Small Business Peer Group

Our efforts began on March 18, when we convened our Small Business Peer Group, comprised of CDCs, CDFIs, and other community groups who work with entrepreneurs every day.  This group has been meeting regularly (and sometimes irregularly) for more than 25 years, but never with this level of urgency. The relationships among practitioners that had been built over the previous years proved critical as we shared information and ideas, learned about resources and strategies, and provided each other with moral support. Amidst our confusion and fear, one thing was clear - no one wanted to face this challenge alone. We agreed to meet weekly while the crisis continued, with as many as 90 people joining some of our Zoom calls (compared to about 10-15 at the average meeting pre-COVID). Our network grew as we continued to invite more people to join us (municipal officials, regional planning agencies, small business development centers, and anyone else who shared our goals). By the time 2020 came to an end, we held 32 meetings with a total of 1,430 people in attendance, representing 180 individuals from 78 different organizations.

These meetings provided a regular forum for practitioners to not only learn from each other, but to hear from key policy makers and program administrators about the tools and resources available to small businesses. Larry Andrews and others from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation were there every week. We routinely had guests like Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy, DHCD Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox, SBA Massachusetts Director Bob Nelson, and representatives from municipal governments, Small Business Strong, and other critical partners.

New partners start working together in new ways

The conversations on Wednesdays helped spark several organic collaborations as new ideas and new relationships opened new possibilities. Early on, a number of organizations were interested in surveying small businesses to identify their needs, so with the leadership of the Lawrence Partnership we developed a shared survey instrument that dozens of organizations distributed generating a much larger and more diverse survey response and important data about what was happening in the field.  Later, as we saw many businesses of color struggle to access PPP loans, the Foundation for Business Equity, LISC, and others reached out to key banking partners to develop what came to be known as the Equitable PPP Collaborative. LISC stepped up to administer this program that connected businesses of color to technical assistance providers and to banks ready to accept PPP applications from non-customers.  This extraordinary collaboration helped over 350 businesses access PPP loans. The Coalition also used its direct experience with the PPP program to fashion a detailed set of recommendations to the SBA and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation about how the program could be made more equitable and fair.  The recommendations were embraced by over 60 organizations on May 11.

In May, as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts prepared to reopen, two long-time community development professionals and friends of MACDC, Marty Jones and Adam Gibbons, volunteered to help collect, collate, and organize information and resources that would assist practitioners who were helping businesses figure out how to comply with the new rules and still make money (or at least lose less money). They built a special website for the network and provided regular updates and links to resources. MACDC’s Board of Directors was also invited to meet with the Governor’s Reopening Task Force and provide recommendations for how to reopen the economy safely and equitably.  Our strong partnership with the Baker Administration, which had started in February 2014 when candidate Charlie Baker met with our board, gave us the opportunity to influence policy at the highest level. Our Board would also meet with Governor Baker in June to discuss both housing and economic development issues associated with the pandemic.

A bigger vision begins to emerge

By the summer, as the pandemic and economic crisis wore on, and racial justice protests highlighted the deep racial inequities in our society, our work took on new urgency. Glynn Lloyd of the Foundation for Business Equity initiated a conversation among several groups, including MACDC, Amplify Latinx, the Black Economic Council and LISC about how we could build on the success of the Equitable PPP initiative to build an enduring coalition. We started meeting regularly and created a vision for the Coalition for an Equitable Economy and formed an initial steering committee with leaders from over 15 community-based groups. By design, people of color compose a majority of the steering committee, and the Coalition adopted a mission statement focused on closing racial inequities in the small business sector. The Coalition is now poised to advance our policy and program objectives over the long term.  Indeed, the Coalition has already moved beyond immediate relief efforts. This fall, when BECMA led an effort to push the Baker Administration on the Commonwealth’s supplier diversity efforts, I helped mobilize a letter signed by 27 groups in support of BECMA’s agenda. Some of us then joined BECMA in their meetings with the Governor and his advisors, showing strength and unity within our coalition.  A few weeks later, BECMA secured significant policy wins when the Governor announced new initiatives to improve supplier diversity. I would not have been in those meetings but for the relationships and trust built over the prior few months.

Also, during the summer, there was a growing desire to conduct another small business survey to understand how the crisis was evolving, in particular its impact on businesses owned by people of color.  This time several of the organizations around the table agreed to pitch in their own financial resources to hire MassINC to conduct a more formal and professional business survey.  The results provided important insights into what was going on with small businesses, in particular micro-entrepreneurs and businesses of color and gave new weight to our advocacy efforts.

The Coalition has also begun to work with the Boston Foundation to map out strategies to build a strong small business eco-system that can help reduce racial disparities across the state. We envision an eco-system where underserved businesses are aware of and able to access the support they need to succeed. We are also working with Mass Inc to conduct a research project that examines best practices in public policy that can help advance our vision for a more equitable small business system. A third working group is looking at how we can create the financing products that small businesses need to grow and sustain their businesses. All these projects will continue in 2021.

Our coalition mobilizes for small business relief and recovery dollars

Throughout these months, MACDC coordinated an ambitious and persistent advocacy campaign to get relief dollars to small businesses and funding to support the community-based groups that were helping these business owners.  On March 23, 2020, MACDC issued policy recommendations for responding to the COVID-19 crisis that included a call for an initial $150 million investment to support small businesses.  These recommendations were later embraced by a coalition of nearly 80 organizations. We presented these recommendations to Secretary Kennealy; to legislators (including at MACDC’s Annual Lobby Day on April 28) and these ideas eventually became central to Governor Charlie Baker’s small business relief plan in the Fall.  We repeatedly engaged the media and I probably talked to Boston Globe reporters on a weekly and sometimes daily basis to keep these concerns in the press.  Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, Segun Idowu and I jointly published an op-ed about these recommendations in Commonwealth Magazine.

For weeks and months, our coalition pressed the case for more state and local dollars for small business relief.  We first saw success at the local level as cities began using CDBG funding to support small business grants.  Peter Dunn from the City of Worcester made a presentation at one of our Wednesday meetings to share with others how Worcester had navigated the complicated CDBG rules to make grants available to businesses quickly.  In July, both the House and Senate passed economic development bills that provided $75 million and $80 million respectfully for small business relief.  Finally, in October 2020, I was able to join Governor Baker at a State House press conference (my one and only trip to the State House during the pandemic), as the Governor announced a new $50.8 million grant initiative aimed at priority businesses such as people of color, veterans, women, LGBTQ and Gateway Cities.  A few weeks later, the Legislature and the Governor agreed to provide $5.1 million in funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance program – up from $3 million last year. This allowed MGCC to support 65 community-based organizations across the state.  The Legislature and the Governor also approved $17.5 million for CDFIs and CDCs to invest in small businesses and an additional $17.5 million in grants. Finally, on the last night of the legislative session, the House and Senate approved $110 million in new capital authorizations for small business programs.  All these initiatives – the grants, the CDFI investments and the technical assistance – were part of the recommendations that we first put forward in March!

With these new resources secured, the power of the Network once again revealed itself as dozens of CDCs, CDFIs and community-based groups mobilized to help clients apply for grants and LISC stepped up again to coordinate information flow, communications, and technical assistance.  By the application closing date, over 10,000 businesses had applied for help, including 3,700 businesses owned by people of color.  Governor Baker announced initial awards of $50.8 million on December 21, with 95% of the grants going to businesses owned by people of color – a victory for racial equity that would not have happened without this network. A few days later, he announced another $68 million in grants with 50% going toward businesses of color and 50% to women-owned businesses. This was in sharp contrast to what we saw with the PPP program where white-owned and larger businesses fared better. On December 23, the Governor announced a commitment of $668 million in small business grants – far more than we had ever expected, but an amount that is clearly needed to meet the devastation caused by this pandemic.

A victory of that scale has many parents, so I will not argue that our Network deserves all the credit.  Clearly, many other business advocates and industry associations were also pushing for resources, as were municipal and elected officials. No doubt Governor Baker and his entire Administration were already aware of the pain created by the necessary public health measures and were determined to provide some relief.

That said, the Governor cannot distribute $668 million by himself. He needs organization, infrastructure, and a delivery system. He needs to be pushed by advocates like us. Moreover, we know these programs cannot be implemented equitably without community-based organizations.  Our network, working hand in glove with MGCC for the past ten months, created the opportunity and platform (and external pressure) to make this investment possible.

Today’s victories were built on years of hard work

I think it is important to remember that the seeds of this success were planted many years ago.  For me, it goes back at least until 2006 when MACDC was able to successfully lobby Governor Mitt Romney and the legislature to create the Small Business Technical Assistance program in the first place.  At our 2006 MACDC Convention, we secured a pledge from then candidate Deval Patrick to sustain the program, which he did. In 2010, we worked with the Patrick Administration (and Senate President Karen Spilka who was chair of the Economic Development Committee at that time) to create the Mass Growth Capital Corporation as a successor to the Community Development Finance Corporation.  In the negotiations over that legislation, we insisted that MGCC retain the mission and commitment to racial equity that embodied CDFC (which itself was created by Mel King in the 1970s) and secured a permanent seat for CDCs on the MGCC Board. Larry Andrews and I were founding board members of MGCC and together with our colleagues on the board and staff, and under the leadership of the Patrick Administration, we built an organization dedicated to equitable small business development. Governor Baker embraced this vision when he spoke at the 2014 MACDC Convention as a candidate and has followed through ever since. In 2019, Governor Baker and the Legislature increased funding for the program by 50% to $3 million – long before COVID-19 even existed!

More recently, the Baker Administration and MGCC had a few trial runs at providing disaster relief to small businesses, first during the snow emergencies that welcomed Governor Baker to office in January 2015, and then again in 2018 following the Columbia Gas explosions in and around Lawrence. In both instances, MGCC was there to support impacted businesses and the lessons learned in those crises – especially the close collaboration with Mill Cities Community Investments in Lawrence – proved vital when COVID-19 arrived.

I share this history to underscore that successful advocacy and successful community development is an on-going process that builds on past success and past failure, that relies on lessons learned and relationships forged, that builds infrastructure and muscle memory and is handed off from Administration to Administration and generation to generation. The pandemic accelerated this process, but it did not start it, and it will not end it.  I have no doubt that the lessons and relationship built over the past 10 months will continue to yield impact for years and even decades to come.

The Path Forward

Most immediately, of course, the network will continue to address the immense challenges that remain. As we start 2021, with hope that vaccines will soon end this wretched pandemic, we are mobilizing the network to tackle an ambitious agenda:

  • Help more businesses apply for and smartly deploy the $668 million in MGCC grants.
  • Help more businesses secure new PPP forgivable loans and get existing PPP loans forgiven.
  • Partner with DHCD and local governments to fully disburse existing CDBG resources for small businesses.
  • Collaborate with MGCC to implement new small business support programs approved by the Legislature, including a major new investment program for CDFIs & CDCs that lend to small businesses and a program to close the digital divide among small businesses.
  • Convene our network bi-weekly to continue sharing information, building relationships, and engaging policy makers.
  • Offer professional development opportunities to practitioners through the Mel King Institute for Community Building.
  • Provide support to the small business community to ensure that they have the information, capital, customers, and networks needed to successfully reopen and scale up their operations as health restrictions are hopefully eased later this year.
  • Systematically strengthen the small business eco-system by working with the Boston Foundation, MassINC and others to ensure that it can spark and sustain equitable business development that closes that racial wealth gap over the long term.
  • Transform this network into a powerful advocacy force under the banner of the Coalition for an Equitable Economy, so we can continue this work beyond the immediate crisis and build a dynamic and equitable economy for everyone.

Together, we can take some pride in what was accomplished in 2020, even as we wish we could have done more. Thankfully, the relationships, networks and results built in 2020 have created an opportunity to achieve more in 2021 and beyond. 

As we begin this work anew, I take inspiration from the courage and persistence of the thousands of small business owners who have endured so much and continue to fight, adapt, and persevere. They have sacrificed to help stop this deadly virus, and it is our turn to have their back.

For their benefit and ours, let’s get to work!

Small Business Advocacy Begins to Bear Fruit

July 23rd, 2020 by Joe Kriesberg

The moment that Governor Baker and governors across the country announced health emergencies in March that required most businesses to close, it was clear that micro- and small-businesses would be particularly vulnerable to long term-financial harm.  We also knew that it would hit particularly hard on businesses owned by Black people, immigrants, people of color, and other historically disadvantaged communities that have less accumulated wealth, smaller margins, and often have customers who are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To mitigate the harm, MACDC immediately issued a call on March 23 for a $150 million Small Business Relief and Recovery package that included a request for $30 million in grants for small businesses. A few weeks later on April 22, a coalition of 79 community organizations issued the same set of policy recommendations as we began to see that the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) – enacted by Congress in late March – was not going to serve many of the businesses in our communities.

The need for such grant funding has become increasingly clear as the Program has been implemented and the economic crisis has deepened and lengthened.  It is now abundantly clear that the economic recovery will be long and slow and that most small businesses simply cannot take on more debt.  These businesses were impacted by the government’s appropriate need to protect the entire community from the virus – and we believe the entire community has an obligation to help these business owners survive.

Thankfully, after four months of advocacy, we are beginning to see grant funding rolled out to small businesses across the state.  In the first few months, it was mostly cities creating grant programs with federal CDBG dollars provided by Congress as part of the CARES Act.  Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Northampton, Cambridge and many other cities rolled out programs, generally aimed at businesses with 5 or fewer employees.  These grant programs provided critical operating capital and funds to buy Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); however, in virtually every case the programs were overwhelmed with applications.

Last week, Governor Baker announced $19.6 million in CDBG funding for non-entitlement communities (i.e. smaller towns and cities that don’t get their own CDBG) with most of it allocated for grants to micro businesses.  Many CDCs are expected to play a central role in this micro-enterprise grant programs by providing outreach, intake, technical assistance and in some cases direct administration of the programs.  Franklin County CDC, Hilltown CDC, Community Development Partnership on Cape Cod, New Vue Communities and Quaboag Valley CDC are among the CDCs expected to play such roles.

The State Legislature has also begun to respond to our calls for small business support with $10 million included in the recently passed supplemental budget.  The bill is now on the Governor’s desk for his signature.  These funds will be administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) and serve businesses with up to 50 employees who have been unable to access PPP or other federal programs.

MACDC and its coalition partners are also advocating for Governor Baker’s economic development legislation, which would authorize an additional $15 million in grant funding for micro businesses and $35 million of grant funds for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and CDCs that make low-cost loans to small businesses (a second element of our policy proposals from March).  This bill is pending in the Legislature and is expected to pass before July 31.  While we are thrilled at the prospect of $50 million in authorization for new bonds to support small businesses, the critical question will be how quickly Governor Baker disperses these funds.  Under Massachusetts law, the Governor has sole authority for allocating such bond authorizations on an annual basis, and this bill has been deemed a five-year bond bill.  Spending these dollars over a five-year period would not provide the boost we need now as business owners fight to survive.

Finally, MACDC and its partners are advocating that Governor Baker use a significant portion of the $26 million in federal round 2 CDBG funding that is also available to deal with the economic crisis. 

In total, we expect state and local governments to deploy well in excess of $30 million for small business grants by the end of 2020.  At the same time, the economic crisis is likely to be much worse that we realized back in March and April.   This recovery process is going to take longer and the impact on small businesses is going to be even more severe, so we will need substantially more funding at the local, state, and federal level in the weeks and months to come.  MACDC and its partners will continue to press our case.




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