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Why The Color of Law is a Must Read for Community Developers

April 11th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

Today, April 11, marks the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Federal Fair Housing Act, and to mark the occasion I spent the weekend reading The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein.  To be honest, when the book was first released I was unsure whether I would read it, thinking arrogantly that “I know that story already.”  After all, I’ve been working in community development for 25 years and have taught graduate level courses in community development and affordable housing. After I missed seeing Mr. Rothstein speak at a recent event with Massachusetts Community Banking Council, I figured I should reconsider.   I’m glad I did.  I learned a tremendous amount pouring through chapter after chapter this weekend.  To put it simply:  I consider this book to be required reading for any serious community developer, affordable housing advocate, or frankly for anyone interested in America’s history . . . and America’s future.

The book is framed as a rebuttal to an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007 in which he rejected school desegregation programs in Louisville and Seattle by arguing that when residential segregation “is a product not of state action, but of private choices, it does not have constitutional implications.”  Rothstein proceeds to document, in brutal detail, that segregation in America is indeed the result of governmental action and this “de jure segregation” violated our Constitution, and therefore, requires a constitutional remedy.

The book effectively combines stories about particular families and places, data, and a systemic analysis of the multiple and reinforcing ways that government – federal, state and local – systematically segregated our country.   Some of the laws, policies and practices that were deployed include:

  • Zoning that explicitly required blacks and whites to live in different neighborhoods, followed by various forms of exclusionary zoning that prevented rental housing and low-income housing from being developed in many communities;
  • Financing programs that encouraged developers to build segregated developments and literally prevented developers from building integrated housing developments, even when developers wanted to do so;
  • Redlining practices that ensured government-subsidized mortgages were only offered to white families;
  • Government enforcement of racial covenants that prevented homes from being sold to African Americans;
  • Demolition of African American neighborhoods that forced residents to relocate to other areas;
  • Highways strategically located to destroy black neighborhoods, to provide barriers between blacks and whites, and to enable whites to move to the suburbs;
  • A failure to arrest perpetrators who used violence to scare and intimidate African Americans who moved into white neighborhoods;
  • Relocating schools to force black (and white) families to move to new neighborhoods, so their children could attend public school;
  • Systematically undermining economic opportunities for African Americans to prevent them from gaining the economic wherewithal to compete with whites in the housing market; and
  • On and on and on it goes.

The impact of these policies and programs, many of which were enacted by liberal elected officials,  was staggering.  Indeed, there were many integrated communities across America in the early 20th century but these communities were systematically destroyed.  Many developers sought to build integrated communities only to be denied by federal, state and local policies.  Middle class black families who were well on their way toward the American Dream had their long term economic prospects (and those of their children and grand-children) artificially short circuited because they were unable to buy a home and build equity.  And, yes, there were white families who wanted to live in integrated communities but were blocked by the government from doing so.  Significantly, these policies were in full force from 1945 to 1968 when our country went through a period of massive housing development.  By the time the laws began to change, it was too late: modern America had been built and residential segregation was institutionalized.

As a community developer and an advocate of affordable housing, the book forces some difficult questions.  Are we unintentionally perpetuating segregation today? Does affordable housing policy focus too much on the provision of shelter for the poor and not enough on the need to promote integration?  How does this history challenge our views about gentrification or the growing suburbanization of poverty?  Given the limited funding for subsidized housing, how can we better leverage the market to drive integration? What is the proper remedy for racially concentrated areas of poverty?  I still have more questions than answers.

Perhaps because I have so many questions, I was a bit disappointed in the section on possible remedies.  He readily acknowledges that some of his suggestions are politically impossible under almost any scenario.  Other ideas that he offers are the same ones that we already frequently hear – such as locating more affordable housing in middle class neighborhoods and allowing Section 8 tenants to rent more expensive housing – remedies that are small scale at best and would do nothing to improve the quality of life for millions of African Americans and others that would inevitably remain in poor communities.  The section fails to adequately deal with the many complexities we face in undoing nearly a century of de jure racial segregation.  He perpetuates the stereotype that low-income communities of color lack assets and does not fully acknowledge that many people of color are seeking to preserve their communities as well as their cultural and historic significance.  He also does not adequately discuss, in my view, the complexities associated with integration in a society that is no longer just black and white, but is growing more and more diverse.

Rothstein does offer one recommendation with which I whole-heartedly agree.  He argues that we need to revamp our high school history curriculum and textbooks to make sure the history of de jure segregation is taught to all Americans. He points out two major high school textbooks that barely mention the subject – one book has just a single sentence on the subject out of 1,000 pages!  Rothstein makes a compelling argument that we can’t even begin to address this issue effectively until we gain a shared understanding that residential segregation in America is the result of explicit, sustained, pervasive, creative, insidious governmental action.  The Color of Law makes a major contribution to that effort and should be read not only by students, but also by jurists, policymakers, advocates, citizens . . . all of us. 

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CITC Legislation Moves Toward Passage

April 4th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

Legislation to extend and expand the Community Investment Tax Credit moved one giant step closer to passage with a recent vote by the Massachusetts State Senate.  On March 29, the Senate voted 34-0 to adopt the Affordable Housing Bond Bill, which included language to extend the CITC program from 2019 to 2025 and to gradually increase the total cap on the program from $6 million to $12 million (see table below).  The House of Representatives approved identical language as part of its Housing Bond Bill earlier this year.

The House and Senate bills will now go to a House-Senate Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between them – differences that do not impact CITC.  MACDC expects the bill to reach the Governor’s desk by the end of April, at which point it will become law with a simple signature by Governor Charlie Baker.  Significantly, the bill would also provide capital authorization for the state’s affordable housing programs and extend and expand other important tax credit programs.

 

Year

Statewide Cap

Cap per CDC

2018

$6M

$150K

2019

$8M

$200K

2020

$8M

$200K

2021

$10M

$250K

2022

$10M

$250K

2023

$12M

$300K

2024

$12M

$300K

2025

$12M

$300K

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New Coalition Works to Reform Health Care System

March 5th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

MACDC is a proud founding member of the Alliance for Community Health Integration, a new coalition led by the Massachusetts Public Health Association which now has 24 member organizations.  The Coalition, which launched in September 2017, has already had a significant impact in mobilizing a growing movement that seeks to transform our health care system so it addresses the social determinants of health (SDOH).

The coalition is playing a key role in educating a diverse coalition about the current opportunities to move the needle and in helping us learn how to talk to and with each other – many of us have had to learn a whole new set of acronyms!

So far, the Alliance is focusing on three broad areas:

  1. Maximizing the impact of the new Mass Health Accountable Care Organizations on addressing the SDOH.
  2. Aligning Hospital investments with community needs through both the Determination of Need program and the Community Benefit requirements.
  3. Partnering with the healthcare sector to advocate for affordable housing policies.

“Health equity is emerging as a top priority for the CDC field as more and more of our members forge partnerships with the health sector to improve health outcomes at the local level,” said MACDC President Joseph Kriesberg.  “MACDC is thrilled to be part of this new Alliance which will greatly enhance our collective expertise and power to advance health equity at the state level”.

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MACDC’s Top Legislative Priorities Advance

January 26th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

Wednesday, January 24 was a big day at the State House for MACDC and its members, with all three of our top policy priorities taking major strides forward.

Governor Charlie Baker submitted his FY 2019 budget to the legislature and proposed fully funding the Small Business Technical Assistance program at $2 million.  This would restore the program to its prior funding level and help thousands of entrepreneurs across the state. The Governor’s budget proposal now goes to the House and Senate.

The House of Representatives passed a $1.7 billion affordable housing bond bill that fully authorizes all of the key capital budget housing programs that CDCs and others use to build and preserve affordable housing.  The bill now moves to the Senate.

The Housing Bond Bill also included language to extend and expand the Community Investment Tax Credit, pushing the program sunset to 2025 and lifting the statewide cap from $6 million to $8 million in 2019 & 2020, to $10 million in 2020 & 2021 and to $12 million from 2023 to 2025.  The cap for individual CDCs will rise proportionately.  The language is consistent with the bill that Sen. DiDomenico, Sen. Forry and Rep. Kulik filed on which MACDC testified last year.

Each of these priorities now advance to the next stage of the legislative process and MACDC will continue to push them forward.

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Ten priorities that will keep MACDC busy in 2018

January 10th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

Now that we have celebrated the holiday season and endured the Bombogenesis storm, it is time to get serious about the business of 2018.  And for MACDC it looks to be a very busy year.  Here are Ten of the items at the top of MACDC’s agenda for this year:

  1. Housing Bond Bill – MACDC is working with many others to pass the Affordable Housing Bond Bill early in 2018 before critical housing programs run out of money.  The Bond Bill would authorize over $1.7 billion in capital spending for a wide range of housing programs used by our members and others to build and preserve affordable housing.
     
  2. Community Investment Tax Credit – Our legislation to extend and expand CITC has been folded into the Housing Bond Bill so we will be working even harder to make sure the full bill is signed into law.  The proposed legislation would extend the CITC sunset from 2019 to 2025 and slowly lift the annual cap from $6 million to $12 million. CITC is now generating over $11 million per year for high impact community development and the new federal tax bill makes it even more valuable for many taxpayers.
     
  3. Small Business Technical Assistance – We are launching a major campaign to restore full funding to this vital economic development program.  Inexplicably, this highly effective program has been cut 62.5% over the past two years to just $750,000.  Our campaign seeks to restore the program to $2 million.
     
  4. MACDC Lobby Day on April 24 – MACDC will host its annual Lobby Day at the State House on April 24 when community developers from around the Commonwealth will come to the State House to advocate for our shared agenda. Please join us!
     
  5. Mel King Institute – I could probably do a Top Ten list just for the King Institute since there is so much going on.  The highlights for this year include a full schedule of nearly 30 workshops and courses, further rollout of the Public Housing Training Program, Innovation Forum events on topics such as mortgage lending disparities, green technology and comprehensive community building, the Community Development mentoring program, and of course, our 9th Anniversary Breakfast Celebration in June.
     
  6. Community Health – A big focus for MACDC in 2018 will be to expand and deepen our work on the convergence of community development and community health.  We see many exciting opportunities to work with hospitals, insurance companies and others in the health sector to address the social determinants of health head-on.
     
  7. Suburban Housing – MACDC’s newly formed Suburban Housing Caucus will be increasingly active in 2018 as we work collectively and with our partners to expand housing opportunities throughout Greater Boston.  Governor Charlie Baker’s Housing Choice Initiative adds new urgency and new tools for these efforts and hopefully we can pass the Great Neighborhoods legislation that would update our antiquated zoning laws.
     
  8. Racial Equity – Racial equity has been one of MACDC’s core values from our inception and in 2018 we intend to step up our efforts to tackle the issue head-on.   Our racial equity agenda will include advocacy campaigns to expand business and homeownership opportunities for communities of color; an expanded Boston Pilot Program to increase MBE and WBE procurement on CDC sponsored construction projects; and increased attention to diversifying the community development field itself through our training and mentoring programs offered by the Mel King Institute for Community Building.
     
  9. Strategic Planning – MACDC has engaged Diane Gordon to assist the Board in the development of a new strategic plan.  We are specifically looking at five key areas – affordable housing, community economic development, community organizing, community health, and CDC capacity building.  MACDC is also a participant this year in Neighborworks America’s Excellence in Governance program which is helping us to strengthen our board’s ability to lead us into the future.
     
  10. MACDC’s Convention on October 20, 2018 – MACDC will be hosting 6th MACDC Convention on Saturday, October 20th at the Hynes Convention Center. We expect over 600 community developers to join us for a day of celebration, networking, learning and action. The highlight will be a Gubernatorial Candidate Forum (For each of the past three elections, the winner of the Governor’s race has appeared at the MACDC Convention and we fully expect that trend to continue this year!)

​We are looking forward to an exciting and impactful year.   And we look forward to working with many of you to help accomplish these goals.

Stay Warm!

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Boost Your Charitable Giving with the CITC

December 21st, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

The holiday season is a time to appreciate loved ones and good fortunes, and it often comes with a renewed enthusiasm for giving back. Thanks to a well-established program in Massachusetts, you can dramatically increase your charitable giving this year and directly support vital work within your neighborhood or community.

Over the past three years, thousands of individuals, families and businesses have used the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) – a 50 percent donation tax credit – to double the impact of their charitable giving and to support local tailored efforts to improve our communities and create economic opportunity. The program enables local Community Development Corporations (CDCs) across the commonwealth to:
- produce and preserve housing that is affordable to working families and seniors;
- help local entrepreneurs start, grow and sustain small businesses;
- organize residents to advocate for community improvement; and 
- provide critical service to families, youth and seniors. 

CDCs strive to address the racial and economic inequality that is prevalent across Massachusetts by supporting families within their community to ensure that everyone can participate in and benefit from our economy. This is both a challenge and an aspiration for a CDC, whether it is supporting scallop fisherman on the Cape, building housing in Chelsea or helping farmers in Greenfield.

The CITC program provides a 50 percent refundable state tax credit to state-certified CDCs. The minimum donation is $1,000, which yields a $500 state tax credit and can also be claimed as a federal charitable tax deduction. Some taxpayers have used the program to eliminate their entire state tax burden, while also supporting their local community.

If the holiday spirit has filled you with the sense of giving and you are looking for a worthy cause to which to donate, look no further than your own community. The CITC program is also open to corporations, foundations and donor advised funds seeking to make charitable contributions. It is a great way to ensure your dollars are spent locally and have maximum impact. Donations must be received by Dec. 31 to be eligible for this year. To take advantage of this amazing program, visit the MACDC website at https://macdc.org.

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MACDC seeks Excellence in Governance

December 14th, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

 

MACDC board and staff leaders joined with community development leaders from across the country in Washington DC recently to participate in NeighborWorks America's Excellence in Governance program. The program works with community development organizations over an 18-month to help them improve their board governance practices.  Each organization identifies specific goals for improvement and develops a work plan to achieve them.  MACDC's board has decided to focus on two issues: (1) helping our board devote more time and energy to generative discussions about deepening our impact and (2) improving the racial and ethnic diversity of our board and other leadership roles.  Through the program, we are working to adopt "best practices" from other organizations, change our board culture to focus on the big issues, build stronger relationships among board members, and ensure a welcoming environment for new board members.

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Governor Baker’s Housing Choice Initiative calls for 135,000 new homes

December 14th, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

On Monday, December 11, Governor Charlie Baker stood with leaders from municipal government, business and the housing field, including MACDC, to announce his new Housing Choice Initiative with the goal of producing 135,000 homes across the state by 2025.  The Initiative creates a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities that deliver sustainable housing growth; creates a new technical assistance toolbox to empower cities and towns to plan for new housing production; and proposes legislative changes, through An Act to Promote Housing Choices, to deliver smart, effective zoning at the local level.

The Governor’s program builds on the ideas and proposals being advanced by the Great Neighborhoods campaign led by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, of which MACDC is an active member.  The Great Neighborhoods campaign announced its support for the Housing Choice Initiative and also plans to continue advocating for comprehensive statewide zoning reform legislation.  The Governor’s initiative also comes at a great time for MACDC as we have just launched our new Suburban Housing Caucus with 13 of our member organizations. The Caucus and its members will be working to encourage cities and towns to embrace the initiative and become designated Housing Choice Communities.

“We are very excited about the Governor’s Housing Choice Initiative and look forward to working with his Administration to make the program a success throughout the Commonwealth. Our non-profit, community-led member organizations have built over 18,000 homes and we are eager to build more.  This program will provide the tools and supports to build more homes for a wide range of households and to build them in good locations,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations.

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Forging a New Resource for CDC Success: The Impact of the CITC program in its first three years

September 27th, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

MACDC released a report today called “Investing in Impact: How the Massachusetts Community Investment Tax Credit is Improving Communities and Changing Lives that highlights how the program raised nearly $24 million in its first three years and has been a game changer for those organizations involved in the program.  The CITC program is helping CDCs leverage new private and federal dollars while increasing their strategic and collaborative initiatives.  With the majority of dollars coming from new donations, the CITC program is fueling expanded programming in a broad range of community development arenas from affordable housing, to community organizing, to economic development to arts & cultural programming.

The report includes two interactive portals that enable stakeholders to see the results for individual CDCs and to conduct their own analysis of the data. 

The report concludes that the CITC program is doing precisely what the legislature intended when it was first enacted in 2012.  Key findings include:

  • In 2015 and 2016, CDCs participating in the CITC program:
    • created or preserved 2,916 homes;
    • created or preserved 8,742 job opportunities;
    • started, grew, or stabilized 1,420 businesses; and
    • served 132,038 families.
  • The program has generated $24 million in private philanthropy for community development over the first three years of the program, with the funding growing dramatically each year from $4.7 million in 2014 to $8.2 million in 2015 to $11 million in 2016.
  • Donations are coming from new supporters, in particular those from individuals who comprise 64% of the total donations and 40% of the total dollars secured.  CITC is also attracting new and larger investments from small businesses, large companies and nonprofit institutions.
  • New and flexible funding is fueling new and expanded programming in a broad range of community development arenas from affordable housing, to community organizing, to arts & cultural programming, thereby demonstrating that CITC is fostering more comprehensive approaches to community improvement.
  • CITC is helping CDCs act more strategically and collaboratively to implement initiatives that are tailored to the local context and market.
  • CITC is helping CDCs leverage new private and federal dollars.  Over the past two years, $9.6 million in tax credits have supported a total investment of over $1.2 billion in local communities.

Beyond the numbers, the CDCs consistently report that CITC has transformed their organizations, enabling them to deepen resident engagement, act more strategically and collaboratively, and make meaningful progress toward improving the communities they serve and enhancing opportunities for the people living in those communities.

The new report underscores the importance of enacting legislation to extend and expand the CITC program.  MACDC is currently working with Senators Sal DiDomenico and Linda Dorcena Forry and Rep. Stephen Kulik to win passage of legislation that would extend the program from 2019 to 2025 and slowly increase the cap on tax credits from $6 million to $12 million annually.

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Building Opportunity

September 27th, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

Over the past few days, MACDC had two important meetings focused on how we can better leverage our real estate construction projects to create more economic opportunity for the people in our communities.

 

On Friday, September 22, MACDC members met with leaders from the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association (MMCA) to plan the launch of the “Boston Pilot Program Phase 2”, a multi-year effort to expand opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses on CDC sponsored real estate projects. Phase 2 will build on the success of Phase 1 when six CDCs undertook 12 projects that collectively spent more than $54 million on MBEs and $11 million on WBEs, representing 36 percent and 7 percent of the total development costs.  Phase 2 will grow the program to 10 CDCs, 29 projects and total development costs of $634 million. The goal of the program is for CDC projects to utilize MBEs for 30% or more of the project and WBEs for 10% or more of the project, including both hard and soft costs.  At the meeting, we talked about strategies for identifying new M/WBEs that could work on CDC projects and holding general contractors accountable for meeting goals.  One area where everyone agreed more work was needed was on soft costs (i.e. professional services) where CDCs have a much harder time meeting their M/WBE participation goals.

 

The following Monday, a group of Boston CDCs met with the new leadership of the New England Regional Council of Carpenter’s to talk about how CDCs can work with the union on their projects.  While many CDCs do hire union carpenters on some of their projects, the union has for years advocated that CDCs should do so more often.  At the same time, CDCs are under intense budget pressures and often can’t afford to pay union rates.  The Union Leaders shared some of their new strategies for being more competitive and we talked about how to establish good lines of communication.  The conversation also focused on how we can ensure that all contractors on CDC projects are in full compliance with employment and worker safety laws given the fact that the Attorney General recently reported that the construction industry is the worst industry in the state with respect to wage law compliance.  We also heard about efforts by the Union to continue diversifying their workforce and discussed ways that CDCs could help in those efforts.

 

The conversations underscored the opportunities and challenges associated with leveraging our construction projects for opportunity. We have multiple goals – hiring MBEs and WBEs; achieving high percentage of work hours for local residents and people of color; paying a livable wage and partnering with unions when possible – all while making sure the projects come in on budget and on time.  It’s not easy!  But these meetings and these partnerships are a key part of our approach to maximizing the positive impact of these projects.  No doubt the conversations and work will continue.

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