The Secret Formula for Effective Advocacy

April 3rd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg


I recently read an book review by Anthony Lewis about a new biography of Justice William Brennan (Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion  by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel .) For those who don’t know, Brennan was a Supreme Court Justice from 1956 to 1990 and was one of the leading progressives who helped shape Constitutional Law throughout that period. He was known as a liberal who could actually get the votes for a majority opinion – not just write powerful dissents. Anthony Lewis explains how Brennan was able to get his colleagues to vote for his opinions.  Lewis’ summary nicely articulates what I believe is the secret formula for effective advocacy:

Brennan’s success “came from intellect, conviction, a strong tactical sense, an eye for the essentials rather than a wish list, and a relationship of good faith and confidence with his colleagues.” 

In my 25 years of advocacy work, I have seen the importance of these qualities time and time again, although I have never seen this formula so neatly summarized.  Anthony Lewis has provided MACDC, and all of us who engage in advocacy, a succinct and helpful guide for our ongoing efforts.

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How can we drive performance in the Community Development Field?

March 16th, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

Performance and accountability are the subject of substantial discussion these days throughout the nonprofit sector. Government agencies, private funders and non-profit leaders themselves are increasingly focused on taking steps to ensure that we fund programs "that work" and stop funding those "that don't".   Last week, I wrote about Social Impact Bonds, a new approach for doing this about which I have serious concerns. Today that I want to share an idea that I think has great promise.

Obviousely, no one can disagree with the view that we should "fund what works." But this statement simply begs the question of what we are trying to achieve. While this may seem easy to determine, in fact it is often not. Most non-profit organizations and programs have multiple stakeholders, each of whom have their own set of goals – goals that are sometimes in conflict, and are almost always different in terms of emphasis, time frame and priority. Balancing the interests of these different stakeholders is one of the key challenges of being a leader in the nonprofit sector.

At the same time, it is precisely this balancing act that I believe drives innovation and ultimately better, and more sustainable, long-term outcomes. Simply put, this complexity mirrors the complexity of the real world so it produces solutions that will work in the real world. Communities and people are complicated. There are no silver bullets or simple solutions to deeply rooted, complex social challenges, and success looks differently to different people. Equally important, all activities and interventions have multiple impacts and externalities – positive and negative – and they all have short term and long term impacts. This is especially true in the community development field where we are trying to have an impact on individuals and families as well as the broader community. I believe that having multiple stakeholders at the table helps to ensure that all of these impacts are considered, and that negotiating these competing interests results in more balanced, creative and effective solutions.

MACDC hopes to promote this framework through our campaign to enact the Community Development Partnership Act.  This bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry and Senator Sal DiDomenico and 46 other legislators, (and modeled after similar programs in other states) would use tax credits to leverage private donations to genuine and authentic community based development organizations, i.e. CDCs. Rather than creating static, rigid, or one-dimensional outcome metrics for the program, the CDPA will use three levels of accountability to ensure the program’s success while maintaining local flexibility and driving innovation.

  • -  First, and foremost, community members would have a voice because only those organizations with meaningful community representation on their board of directors would be eligible to compete for the tax credits. This helps to ensure that programs and activities funded are relevant and appropriate to the particular local community.
  • -  Second, state government will have oversight because they will review each application and determine which groups receive an allocation of tax credits. Those applications will specify how the CDC will evaluate and measure success. The state will then collect data and reports to measure progress and outcomes.
  • -  Third, the CDCs will need to convince private sector donors – corporate and individual – to make donations with the tax credit creating an incentive, but no guarantee, that funds will be provided.

We believe that having three levels of accountability increases the likelihood that the CDPA will be successful as compared to a program that is designed to simply meet the needs of a specific funder or stakeholder.  To be successful, CDCs will need to innovate, partner, measure, learn, and adapt. CDCs that don’t will surely lose the support of at least one of their key stakeholder groups – if not all of them – and fall out of the program.

Performance and ensure accountability are core values for MACDC. Look for future blog posts about other ways that MACDC, its members and our partners are seeking to advance those values. And, please, share your own!

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I Think Teddy Roosevelt Would Have Liked CDCs

March 7th, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

My 15-year old son is required to declaim a speech or poem each term as part of his English course at his high school. This requires memorizing the text and reciting it with clarity and conviction.  Last week, he declaimed one of President Roosevelt’s famous speeches - the Man in the Arena speech delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April, 23 1910. 

One wonderful passage in the speech reads as follows:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I think this a great message - not only for my teenage son - but for all of us.  Indeed, it makes me think about one of the major reasons I chose to enter the community development field years ago when I finished law school. Prior to that time, I had spent my career fighting against environmental pollution and dirty energy. When I learned about how CDCs fought for something positive, I knew that I wanted to be part of that effort.  For me, community developers and CDCs exemplify what Roosevelt was saying. Community developers don't sit back and simply complain about what's broken. They put themselves "in the arena," projecting a positive vision for our communities. Community developers are certainly not "cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat;" but rather community developers "strive to do the deeds" and "spend [themselves] in a worthy cause."  In so doing, they take risks, endure criticism, "err [and] come short again and again" and often, albeit not always, succeed in "high achievement." Every time I attend a CDC annual meeting, ribbon cutting, graduation or community event I am reminded and newly inspired by those who do this work on the front lines.

The community development movement emerged long after Theodore Roosevelt passed away, but I'm fairly certain that if were alive today he  would have admired community developers just as much as I do.

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Will Social Impact Bonds Really Improve Nonprofit Performance?

March 2nd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

The Obama Administration has appropriately placed a high priority on driving better performance in both the public and nonprofit sectors as they seek to tackle serious social and economic challenges. This includes a heightened emphasis on research, evaluation and funding “programs that work.”  All of this is certainly welcome news. Unfortunately, as part of this effort, the Administration has embraced a new idea that I fear could take us in the wrong direction.

In the FY 2012 budget, President Obama has proposed  $100 million to fund co-called Social Impact Bonds. The purpose of the Social Impact Bond is to create a new capital market that will encourage private, profit-motivated investors to fund social programs that “work.”  Essentially, an investor would front the money to pay for a particular program. If and when the program achieved the designated benchmarks, the government would pay the investor for the cost of the program plus enough to cover their risk and earn a profit. The theory is to create a market where investors can make money by investing in effective social programs.

Sounds good right? The government only pays if the program works. Taxpayer money is no longer wasted on ineffective programs. Private sector discipline and oversight is brought to bear on the nonprofit sector!    But wait! Is this really going to work? Is creating a Wall Street-like investment market the best way to strengthen nonprofit performance? Judging from the performance of Wall Street in recent years (have you read The Big Short?), one has to at least ask the question!

While I understand the appeal of this idea – and would welcome new sources of funding for high performing social programs – we need to carefully examine the implications of this approach to funding non-profit social service programs.  I see many serious questions that advocates of these bonds need to answer before tax dollars are invested.

First, Social Impact Bonds are likely to encourage functional specialization and silo-thinking. Money will flow to programs that can hit a single key benchmark so programs will be designed to do just one thing – achieve that benchmark. This will take the idea of “teaching to the test” to an entirely new level. Programs with multiple positive social impacts will be undervalued (like housing which provides economic, educational, health, public safety, and quality of life benefits) while programs with high externalities will be overvalued  just as they are in the private economy (i.e. programs that improve outcomes in some areas at the expense of others.) What makes this all the more puzzling is that in other programs, the Obama Administration is promoting comprehensive, placed based approaches that seek multiple quantitative and qualitative outcomes through multiple interventions. I don’t understand why they would support a new funding scheme that drives in the opposite direction.

Second, will these bonds discourage collaboration because this funding approach places much more emphasis on which nonprofit should “get the credit” for the “success?  If a student’s test scores improve, who should get the credit and therefore the money? The school? The tutor? The afterschool program? The social worker who helped the student deal with early life traumas? The parents? The next door neighbor who helped with math homework? The Little League that gave her an opportunity to grow and mature and have fun? The library where she did her homework and used a computer? How much time and money do we want to spend sorting through all the possible reasons and their relative impact on the child so we can sort out who gets how much money?  Does that create a collaborative culture?

A third potential problem with this approach is that it may over-estimate our ability to identify the correct metrics and to measure them correctly. Long term data is very difficult to secure and causal relationships can be very hard to discern. In our quest for market clarity, we are certain to over simplify and choose metrics that are easy to collect, count and standardize, even if they don’t tell us the full story or even an accurate story.  This is particularly true when attacking complex, systemic problems such as educational and health disparities, environmental justice, or land use development.

A fourth problem is likely to be cream skimming. Organizations will have a powerful financial incentive to cherry pick the best clients that maximize their chances for hitting performance benchmarks. Supporters say that they can guard against this, but history shows that powerful financial incentives work – they will motivate performance but they will also motivate people to “screen” clients before enrolling them in programs.  And now we will have powerful investors pushing in this direction!

Fifth, advocates say these bonds will promote innovation, but I think it is much more likely that investment dollars will flow to safe, well-known, programs. New, untested ideas, will have a very hard time attracting investors – and those who are attracted may seek returns that taxpayers cannot afford.

I also wonder whether a Bond Market can really think about long term solutions. Will investors be willing to wait 5, 10 or even 20 years to see transformative impact? Or will they only be interested in programs that can achieve benchmarks within 1 or 2 years.  And if we are looking at long term impacts, do we have the ability to measure impact and causation sufficiently well to ensure that the right programs are getting paid? And how would we control for macro economic impacts that may cloud our ability to see the impact of individual programs?

Finally, a Social Impact Bond Market will undoubtedly become a massively complicated system as investors seek to bundle investments, guard against losses, shift risk to other parties, scale up, and otherwise replicate traditional investment markets. Lawyers, accountants, advisors and intermediaries will be needed and they will all need to be paid (handsomely, no doubt.) A program designed to save taxpayer money could easily end up costing far more. Remember, this program will leverage private capital, but at the end of the day, the taxpayer must pay for all the costs plus the profit or return. There is no free lunch and if investors start to lose money the bond market will dry up very quickly.

Everyone wants to fund “what works” and no one wants to pay for programs that don’t achieve real outcomes. But the world is complicated and it does not help to pretend otherwise. Positive social outcomes are usually the result of multiple interventions, programs and causes – including some that operate at the macroeconomic level that is far beyond the scope of a single nonprofit program. And performance metrics can only capture so much. When a new playground opens it may significantly improve the quality of life for children and families nearby. But will a new playground translate into measurable and statistically significant reductions in obesity? Or increases in family incomes? Or improved educational attainment?  Probably not. Does that mean we should stop "wasting" money on playgrounds because the "don't work?"

We absolutely need to fund programs that work. But my concern is that program evaluation is too important for us to dumb it down into numerical measures that Wall Street investors can understand but don’t tell us the true story of what is happening in our communities.  Instead, we need to build capacity in the nonprofit sector to conduct robust and meaningful program evaluation and to take advantage of new information technology that can improve our understanding of program impacts.  And we need to fully fund those activities. I fully support public-private partnerships and programs that leverage private investment (MACDC has filed its own legislation designed to do just that) but we have to be very careful how we design these programs less we suffer serious unintended consequences.

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New Report is Required Reading for Community Developers

February 25th, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

A new report by Enterprise Community Partners provides an insightful analysis into the financial challenges facing community developers and offers thoughtful recommendations for how to address them at the organizational and system levels. It should be required reading for all community developers and their supporters.

The report, Building Sustainable Organizations for Affordable Housing and Community Development Impact, affirms many of the conclusions and recommendations developed by the Massachusetts Community Development Innovation Forum over the past three years.  Enterprise conducted an in-depth analysis of 10 nonprofit organizations that have faced financial crisis in recent years and examined systemic issues that contribute to financial weakness. The report also identifies the particular strengths and weaknesses facing neighborhood based organizations. Finally, the report offers recommendations for both community development organizations and for funders/lenders.

According to Enterprise, community development organizations should:

  • - Strengthen their financial reporting and management,
  • - Beware of one-time cash receipts and manage them effectively,
  • - Diversity revenue streams, but only by growing strategically into business lines that align with organizational mission and can be profitable in the long-term,
  • - Prioritize financial sustainability to ensure that long-term organizational health is not endangered by a single project or program, even one that has high mission impact, and
  • - Collaborate to reduce costs, improve quality, and expand impact.

Enterprise offers the following recommendations to funders and lenders:

  • - Incentivize long-term ownership and stewardship of affordable housing assets by allowing cash flow to be paid to a project’s sponsor,
  • - Set realistic property and asset management fees and structure deals with sufficient cash flow to pay them, and
  • - Embrace an early warning system to address problem properties and weak organizations quickly before they grow beyond repair.

Here in Massachusetts we are already taking action to implement many of these recommendations. We are promoting the implementation of the Strength Matters TM financial reporting system and providing other training and support to improve financial management. We are offering training for asset management and advocating for increased asset management fees. And we are engaged in an active discussion about how to improve cash flow and reduce reliance on one-time developer fees. And, of course, we are implementing a host of new collaborations. The Enterprise report will hopefully fuel these efforts and secure broader support for making the changes needed to sustain and grow the community development field.

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Can Massachusetts Replicate Policy Success Achieved in Other States?

February 23rd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

Throughout my years at MACDC, I have been an active participant in a network of CDC associations from around the country. The network – first convened by the National Congress for Community Economic Development and now by the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) – provides an opportunity to learn about programs and policies in other states that might be applicable in Massachusetts. (It’s also a great place to commiserate with the very small group of people who do the same work we do at MACDC!)

The Mel King Institute for Community Building was partially inspired by CED training programs in other states and now MACDC is trying to replicate another successful approach that has been well tested in other states.  For years, state and cities around the country have operated so-called “Neighborhood Assistance Programs” that provide tax credits to encourage corporations and individuals to donate more money to selected community based nonprofit organizations that offer high quality programming.  The programs vary from place to place, with some placing more emphasis on community development and others on human services. The size of the credit can range from 30% to100% and from one year to 10 years. And some programs are more competitive than others. In each case, the programs foster stronger partnerships between the private sector and the non profit sector and they leverage public investment with private contributions.

After studying a number of these programs, in particular Philadelphia, New Jersey and South Carolina, MACDC has proposed legislation to create the Community Development Partnership program here in Massachusetts. (We also looked at Virgina, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Deleware.) Earlier this year, Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, along with 46 other legislators filed this bill for consideration in the State House. We think the bill takes some of the best elements of the different programs around the country and tailors them to the Massachusetts context. Specifically, the bill would provide a 50% tax credit to corporations and individuals who make a donation to community based organizations that have been carefully vetted through a competitive process administrated by DHCD. To qualify, the community organization must first be certified as a CDC under MGL Chapter 40H to ensure that the group is both genuinely community based and has a core mission of community development. Second, the organization must be selected by DHCD for a tax credit award through a highly competitive process in which each organization submits a thoughtful, long term business plan that outlines their goals, strategies and metrics for success. I encourage you to read the legislation and/or our summary of the bill to learn more.

The key idea behind the bill is that local community members can use this program to develop and implement their own local strategies for creating jobs, growing businesses, building homes and otherwise improving their communities. It will support demand driven community development in a way that we have never been able to do before and will increase the scale and impact of our community development efforts throughout the state.

You will be reading more about this exciting new legislation in future blog posts. You can also learn more about how these programs work and other community development initiatives around the country by joining MACDC at NACEDA’s Annual Summit in Washington, DC from May 23 -25.   Please join us!

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Five Hidden Opportunities in the 2010 Election Results

February 12th, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

The 2010 midterm elections have certainly made many community developers anxious for our communities and our field—and with good reason. The Republican Party’s agenda of draconian spending cuts has the potential to devastate struggling communities and families across the country. We must resist their agenda as strongly as we can.

That said, there may be a few hidden opportunities in the current climate for community developers to seize. At the risk of being Pollyannaish, here are five opportunities that call out for action:

Climate Change: With national climate legislation dead, environmental advocates and funders are looking to create a “Plan B” for stopping climate change. This plan is likely to include advocating for state and local policy changes, as well as changes in local practice. They will also need to broaden their coalition and base of support. This creates a tremendous opportunity to frame community development as a key part of a serious, comprehensive climate change agenda. We know that creating livable, well-designed urban neighborhoods will reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Community developers should not only work to explicitly “green” their agenda by weatherizing their rental properties and developing transit-oriented projects, but should also make the case that community development itself is a climate change strategy. Here in Massachusetts, the largest environmental funder in the state, the Barr Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, have adopted this thinking and are supporting sustainable neighborhood development in a regional context through the Smart Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods program. We can build on this across the country.

Health Care: The debate over our national health care system is far from over, and once again community development could be a nonpartisan solution that becomes widely embraced. There is growing evidence that healthy homes and healthy communities can substantially reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for everyone. With the health care sector embracing new ideas and innovation, there is the potential for community developers to find new funding sources and new political allies. As one colleague has pointed out to me several times, if community developers could access just a small percentage of the nation’s investment in health care, we would increase community development funding many times over!

Local Solutions: While community developers and Tea Party activists probably do not agree on much, we may be able to find some limited common ground. Community developers support strong federal investments in communities and we support a robust safety net. But we can also be critical of federal programs for their rigid and bureaucratic rules that do not work well at the local level. Perhaps we can find new allies that will support building the capacity of local, nonprofit (and importantly, nongovernmental) organizations that can develop and implement practical solutions that are tailored to the local context. Perhaps CDCs can gain bipartisan support as organizations that reflect a long-honored American tradition of local people working together to solve problems and improve their own communities.

Rental Housing: The collapse of the homeownership industry and mortgage lending has created a new appreciation of the important role that rental housing plays in our country. For too long, tenants and rental housing have been denigrated. Today, policy makers understand that we need a strong and diverse supply of rental housing to meet the needs of our communities and our economy. This long overdue shift in public opinion could pave the way for policy changes that help protect tenants and help us to build and preserve high quality and affordable apartments.

Homeownership: While it may seem contradictory, I also believe that the current political climate provides an excellent opportunity to have a long overdue and important conversation about the role of homeownership in low- and moderate-income communities. While the growing conventional wisdom that low- or moderate-income families cannot and should not own homes is a major threat, it is also an opportunity to tell the story of how these families can and have been successful homeowners.

We need to embark on a major policy and educational campaign to highlight the success of homeownership education, specialized mortgage products and shared equity homeownership models. Such a campaign is essential because we know the new Congress will be enacting major new legislation to transform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the entire mortgage lending industry and we know that the Obama administration is looking to update CRA regulations and roll out the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. All of these policy debates and shifts create an opportunity to transform the mortgage industry in a way that better serves our communities.

These opportunities do not come without risks and challenges, and I could have easily written a much longer article about the threats and challenges emerging from the election. But it is vital that community development leaders retain our tenacious optimism as we move forward. It has served us well for over three decades during good times and bad, and we need it now more than ever!

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Five trends to look for in 2011

January 3rd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

As we look forward to a new year, here are five trends that will shape the Massachusetts community development field in 2011 and beyond.

1. CDC Certification will reshape the field. 

This year will see the start of the new CDC certification program established by the legislature and the Governor in 2009. DHCD is currently working to craft the guidelines and procedures needed so that nonprofits can start applying for certification by the spring. The certification program will bring greater clarity, transparency and resources to the CDC sector. It will also transform our collective perceptions about what types of nonprofits are really CDCs from the 1975 vision that was locked in place by MGL Chapter 40(f) to a new, more flexible, and more relevant definition under MGL Chapter 40(h).   MACDC will be advocating for state policies that can help CDCs achieve their community’s goals. This will include legislation to create a new tax credit program and other policies that target funding to CDCs. The result will be a larger, more diverse, and more adaptive network of local community development organizations that can get results.

Former industrial area is transformed into housing.

2. A tighter affordable housing pipeline will pose serious challenges.

The state has a pipeline of high quality housing projects that far exceed the resources available to DHCD. This will force CDCs and all developers to wait longer to receive funding and will begin to reduce the number of new projects that developers can initiate. That’s a shame because CDCs (and others) have many opportunities that will be delayed or terminated. DHCD will need to reassess how to prioritize its limited funding and affordable housing developers will have to take a realistic look at their business model or risk being financially weakened by projects that can’t move forward.

3. A continued increase in collaboration will drive innovation.

Collaboration has become such a buzz word that it sometimes sounds more like a cliché than a strategy. But the fact remains; collaboration is the key to success in today’s community development field. In 2011, you can expect to see many new and expanded collaborations among CDCs and between CDCs and other partners in such areas as housing development, asset management, small business, green jobs, and public transit advocacy.

4. Reenergized state support for small business development will create new opportunities.

The newly established Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation will begin to devise and implement a new framework for providing technical support and financing to small businesses across the Commonwealth. The MGCC will fund and strengthen the Small Business Technical Assistance program and support local and regional nonprofit micro business lenders. The result will be a more effective and targeted strategy for supporting immigrant and minority-owned business enterprises and reaching traditionally hard to serve markets such as inner city neighborhoods and rural areas.

5. Comprehensive, placed-based strategies will gain prominence. 

This year we will see a growing emphasis within the field on placed-based, long-term, and comprehensive approaches to community change. More and more CDCs will be engaging local residents in community planning and partnering with allies in other fields such as public health, public safety, workforce development, public transit, clean energy, and education. This trend will be supported by at least two new initiatives sponsored by LISC (Resilient Communities/Resilient Families) and the Smart Growth Alliance (Great Neighborhoods.) Federal policy will also support this trend through the Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods and Sustainable Communities programs. 

These trends create opportunities and challenges for community developers. We look forward to working with our members and partners to ensure that the trends lead to stronger and more vibrant communities across the Commonwelath.

Happy New Year!

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Is the HAMP Loan Modification Program Really a Failure?

December 8th, 2010 by Joe Kriesberg

As the foreclosure crisis grinds on month after month and year after year, it is hard to find any news to feel good about. Even the recent dip in foreclosure petitions in October was probably due more to the confusion and delays caused by the apparent failure of banks and servicers to process foreclosures in a legal manner rather than any real shift in the market. Foreclosure deeds in 2010 already exceed the number of deeds in 2009 and continued high unemployment and tight credit are likely to cause this crisis to continue for a long time.

And it is now an old story that banks and servicers are not agreeing to loan modifications at anywhere near the rate we need to stabilize the market, keep homeowners and tenants in their homes, and avoid further neighborhood decline.

Despite this, recent federal statistics indicate that 10,535 Massachusetts homeowners obtained a permanent loan modification under the federal HAMP program between January 1, 2010 and October 31, 2010, and a total of 12,154 Massachusetts homeowners have received one since the program began in 2009.  While 12,154 is far too few compared to the 40,686 homeowners who have been foreclosed since 2007 and the 20,603 who have been foreclosed since 2009, it is still 12,154 families who have kept their homes. (The number is probably a bit lower since about 11% of these modifications re-default.)  Significantly, 10,535 homeowners have received a modification during 2010 compared with 11,334 homeowners who have lost their home to foreclosure.

In other words, without HAMP, the problem would be nearly twice as bad this year. Clearly, HAMP is by far the largest scale program yet developed to prevent foreclosures. MACDC members and other non profits continue to use HAMP to help thousands of homeowners avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.  With all the challenges associated with loan modifications, foreclosure prevention counseling remains the fastest and most cost effective method for stopping foreclosures, preserving family wealth, avoiding displacement, and stabilizing neighborhoods.

Fortunately, these non profits will soon benefit from additional resources to support their vital work. The Division of Banks has issued an RFP  to provide additional funding to these nonprofit agencies under a program established by legislation MACDC helped enact in 2007. Also, Morgan Stanley will soon make available $2 million in new funding based on an Agreement signed with Attorney General Coakley as a result of Morgan Stanley’s involvement in subprime lending. MACDC and CHAPA are working with the AG and Morgan Stanley to ensure that this funding is released in early 2011.

I wish the banks would modify more loans and I wish the federal government would put more pressure on the banks to do so. In the meantime, however, let’s recognize that high quality foreclosure counseling by non profits have combined with the HAMP program to save 12,154 homeowners in our state. We can be proud of that.

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Am I an environmentalist or a community developer?

December 8th, 2010 by Joe Kriesberg

In 1993, when I was finishing law school I was considering many career options and decided that I wanted to shift from my prior work in the clean energy field and tackle issues of racism and poverty more directly by working in community development. I was making an intentional and significant shift from one field to another. Years later, when I was looking to hire a new MACDC staff person I had several candidates apply for the job who were employed by environmental organizations. I finally asked one why he wanted to make the shift. His answer was to say that he did not see community development as a new field at all – it was all the same field!

It was an “aha” moment that forced me to rethink my assumptions and definitions. It also was a moment when I realized that the leaders of the future often see connections and similarities where some in the past would have seen barriers and differences.

The reality that community development and environmental sustainability are part of the same movement was on clear display at a session hosted last week by the Mel King Institute’s Community Development Innovation Forum.

At the event, MACDC’s Don Bianchi presented the findings of our new report “Community Development Goes Green: How MACDC Members are Embracing Environmental Sustainability.” The report found that 65 MACDC member organizations are engaged in at least one activity or project that explicitly advances environmental sustainability. We also heard about some examples, including including Franklin County CDC’s   efforts to promote local agriculture, Urban Edge’s green community education work, Homeowner’s Rehab’s work to retrofit existing apartment buildings (including one where they reduced energy usage by 69%) and the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH)’s environmental justice campaigns to clean up contaminated land and engage young people in environmental action. We also heard from Tapper Carew who is working with Mel King and the South End Technology Center to train young people on new solar and transportation technologies.

The presentations were truly inspiring.

I then moderated a panel with John Kassel from Conservation Law Foundation, Mariella Tan Puerto from the Barr Foundation and Madeline Fraser Cook from LISC’s Green Development Center. They shared their observations about the work that CDCs are doing and suggested opportunities for taking it to the next level.  Some of their key points:

  • Collect, track and report energy and environmental impacts with data;
  • With climate legislation dead in Congress, position community development as a key element of the Nation’s “Plan B” for addressing climate change;
  • Recognize that community development is inherently green because urban livability is essential to stopping sprawl; and
  • Focus on advocacy at both the local level and the state level, including issues that CDCs might not traditionally tackle.

For me the event symbolized how things can come full circle. In 1993, I thought I had to choose between being either an environmental advocate or a community developer. As we approach 2011, I am pleased that “either/or” has become “both/and.”

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