THE ARTICLE “Affordable housing groups want in on Preservation Act” (Metro, Feb. 12) mischaracterizes the implementation of the Community Preservation Act in two significant respects. First, it describes the Yes for a Better Boston committee as a coalition of affordable housing advocates. In fact, Yes for a Better Boston, of which we are all leading members, is composed of advocates for housing, parks, green space, historic preservation, youth, arts, and a wide array of other issues. Cooperation among all causes has been and remains the coalition’s strength.
Mass Development has announced that its long-standing and highly successful Brownfields Redevelopment Program is once again open for business thanks to a $2.5 million capital investment authorized by the Massachusetts Legislature and approved by the Baker Administration.
The investment follows a persistent effort by MACDC, CHAPA, the Mass. Smart Growth Alliance and many others to secure bond authorization for the program in last year’s Economic Development legislation and the subsequent allocation by Governor Baker. The program funds both the assessment and remediation of contaminated land with the goal or creating jobs and homes for Massachusetts communities. As part of a strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program, Mass Development and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development have announced the following changes to the program.
The new provisions are as follows:
• Municipalities will make annual repayments to the Fund in an amount equal to 15% of the new municipal revenues from new growth on sites that have received BRF grants. The repayment obligation will apply to all grants, regardless of whether the grantee was a CDC or a municipality. The first $100,000 of a site assessment grant to CDCs for a site it does not yet own and that is not owned by a municipality will be excluded from this repayment obligation.
• Annual repayments would commence in the first year that new municipal revenues are realized, and stop after the earlier of 30 years or full repayment of the grant. If no redevelopment of the site commences within 30 years after the grant agreement, the repayment obligation will expire.
• Before closing on a grant agreement, MassDevelopment must receive a vote of the governing body of the municipality agreeing to budget for and make the contingent annual repayment, subject to annual appropriation.
• Grantees will continue to be required to repay the Fund from net proceeds of a sale of the benefitted site; which repayments would reduce the amount to be recovered from the new municipal revenues.
“We are thrilled that this critical tool is once again available for CDCs and others seeking to put these properties back to productive use,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of MACDC and a member of the state’s Brownfields Advisory Committee. “We will continue to advocate for the program’s full funding so economic growth and opportunity can reach every community across the state.”
Baystate Medical Center, based in Springfield announced earlier this month that it had made a $500,000 investment in Revitalize CDC and HAP Housing in Springfield to support their efforts to improve community health through improved housing and community development activities. The three-year investment marks the largest CITC investment ever made by a health care institution and represents a groundbreaking milestone in the growing convergence between the community development and public health fields.
Revitalize CDC will receive $250,000 to support a three-year effort to improve housing conditions for children with asthma and to make home improvements that allow seniors to safely remain in their home. The project will leverage Revitalize CDC’s remarkable volunteer network, enabling these home improvements to be done with high quality and low cost.
HAP Housing will also receive $250,000 to support a three-year effort to improve health in the Old Hill Neighborhood of Springfield. These improvements will be achieved through a combination of physical improvements to parks, sidewalks, and bikeways as well as healthy lifestyle programming designed to activate the newly improved areas and advocacy to help local residents advocate for these and other health maximizing improvements in the neighborhood such as a new food store.
The investments are part of Baystate’s Better Together grant program. Baystate is able to utilize the CITC even though it is a not-for-profit without any tax liability because the CITC is refundable. Therefore, Baystate has already announced that it will use their $250,000 CITC ”refund” to support additional community health programming in the coming years.
MACDC President Joseph Kriesberg spoke at the grant announcement and remarked that “this is a groundbreaking announcement that demonstrates the power of the CITC program to leverage new private investments. I am so excited to see Baystate lead the way in using CITC to leverage the power of community development for improved health outcomes. I can’t wait to tell health care institutions across the state about what is happening here in Springfield. Congratulations.”
Learn more about Baystate's Community Health Needs Assessment
“Too many Community Development Corporations have abandoned their roots and don’t empower local residents,” said one Community Development Corporation (CDC) leader, noting that the professionals on staff were driving the agenda, not residents. “That’s unfair” said another, who added, “we have to attract investments from banks and work with City Hall to get things done.” This was the summer of 1993, at my very first MACDC board meeting. This particular debate–and various versions of it–has animated community development for the past 25 years. As our movement’s founding father, Mel King, often asks: “in whose interest” are we working? Having just graduated from law school and starting a career in community development, I wondered what precisely I had walked into.
The debate manifests itself around three related but distinct tensions faced by CDCs across the country:
- Should we focus our efforts on places or on people?
- Should we adopt a comprehensive approach or specialize in a single area to achieve greater scale and impact?
- How do we balance power between professional community developers and resident leaders?
By a resounding margin of 73.6% to 26.4%, Boston voters approved the Community Preservation Act to enable the City to raise $20 million dollars annually for affordable housing, parks and open space and historic preservation. MACDC and its members played an active role in every aspect of the campaign along with over 200 community oganizations, representing housing, parks, historic preservation, arts & culture, health, faith institutions, labor and business. The proposal – Question 5 on the ballot – was also strongly support by Mayor Marty Walsh and nearly all of our city’s couniclors and state legislators.
The CPA was first established by the state legislature in 2000 as a way for cities and towns to address the needs for more housing, parks and historic preservation. Since that time, 161 cities and towns have voted to adopt CPA for their communities. Yesterday, Boston was joined by Chelsea, Springfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield in adopting CPA creating new opportunities to improve neighborhoods across the state.
For more information on the Boston CPA campaign, go to Yes for a Better Boston’s website.
MACDC staff and members joined with hundreds of colleagues to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program at an event hosted by the Department of Housing and Community Development on October 21. The event featured remarks from Secretary Jay Ash, Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, and the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and Rep. Kevin Honan. All of the speakers celebrated the collaboration, commitment and talent of affordable housing professionals and community leaders who have enabled the Commonwealth to build or preserve 58,855 affordable rental homes across the state over the past 30 years.
The event also featured interesting and thought provoking remarks by David Smith of the Affordable Housing Institute who talked about why the LIHTC is such a powerful tool – and the largest federal affordable housing program ever. He also pointed out that the program does not currently meet all of our housing needs and that new creativity and tools are needed to address the full range of housing challenges we face. David Gasson from Boston Capital talked about the improving prospects of Congress passing the Hatch/Cantwell bill that would expand the LIHTC by 50% over five years and allow developers to serve a broader range of incomes. He also noted that the success of the LIHTC depends on also increasing funding for rental subsidies and the HOME program, as well as local and state subsidies that are needed to fill financing gaps and fully leverage the tax credits.
Throughout the celebration, there was a recognition that for many of us in the room, affordable housing is both a personal and professional passion. Perhaps no one made that point more powerfully than Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay who shared some reflections in this short statement.
MACDC wishes to congratulate DHCD and our many friends, colleagues and partners for using the LIHTC to create better homes and neighborhoods for so many of our neighbors.
MACDC and several CDCs joined with Mayor Marty Walsh and the Yes for a Better Boston Committee at a Campaign Rally for the Community Preservation Act in Dorchester last week. The Rally (watch VIDEO here) was designed to gain support for Question 5 on the ballot this November. Passage of Question 5 would enable Boston to benefit from the Community Preservation Act and generate $20 million annually to fund affordable housing, parks and historic preservation. The CPA is already operating in 161 cities and towns and is on the ballot in several more municipalities this year including Boston, Chelsea, Watertown, Springfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield.
MACDC’s President Joe Kriesberg is serving as Chair of the Yes for a Better Boston Committee and spoke at the rally about the need for everyone to spread the word to voters who may not yet know about the benefits of CPA and the importance of voting Yes on 5.
It has been a big year for Cleveland, Ohio – the Cavaliers won the NBA Championship bringing a title to the city for the first time since 1964. The Republicans held their national convention there. And last week, more than 200 community developers and public health advocates convened on the city for the 9th Annual Summit of the National Alliance for Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA).
I was lucky enough to join eight others from the Bay State- two MACDC staff, four members and two of our allies from the Mass. Public Health Association – and we were treated to three exciting, educational and inspirational days. We now understand why The Drew Carey Show used the song “Cleveland Rocks” for the title sequence.
The primary focus of the summit was a day long Symposium on the growing convergence between community development and community health. We heard from national leaders like Dr. Doug Jutte from the Build Healthy Places Network and Kevin Barnett from the Public Health Institute and learned about the cutting edge work of CDC associations in Philadelphia, South Carolina and Arizona. We also learned about how CDCs can more closely partner with hospitals in their communities – something that MACDC will be focusing on during the coming year with training and technical assistance for our members.
For me the highlight of the conference was learning about the amazing work of community developers in Cleveland. It is easy for those of us who don’t live in Cleveland to embrace the negative stereotypes that persist about this city – the so called “mistake on the lake”. And the city has serious challenges with thousands of vacant and abandoned properties stemming from the foreclosure crisis – and decades of population decline (from more than 900,000 people to less than 400,000 today). But virtually everyone we met had a positive attitude – seeing assets where others don’t.
The good people at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress led us on a terrific tour of the city’s diverse neighborhoods. We saw new market rate housing being built downtown and in some neighborhoods as urban living gains popularity. We learned that the City is demolishing 3,000 vacant homes a year, setting the stage for redevelopment. When possible vacant lots are being given to adjacent homeowners to expand their lot and ensure their maintenance. While Cleveland’s low housing prices are a challenge, they are also an opportunity. ESOP Reality – a non-profit social enterprise - told a story about a 24-year-old woman making $22,000/year who was able to buy her first home. Boston certainly can’t offer that sort of opportunity.
We also met the founders of Upcycle Parts Shop, another social enterprise that uses recycled materials to create art. In their first year of operation they diverted 6 tons of waste, crafted with 2,500 program participants and welcomed 956 visitors to their store. Conference attendees were among those participants as we were led through an ice breaking exercise in which we used recycled materials to build a mini city. Where some see garbage – these community developers see art supplies, education, social capital and neighborhood uplift.
We heard from Mansfield Frazier who transformed the vacant lot across the street from his home into a vineyard growing grapes that now produce award winning wine – yes a vineyard in the middle of a Cleveland neighborhood. His vision for urban farming includes a reentry program for people coming out of prison. What an inspiration! Learn more by watching his Ted Talk: http://www.tedxcle.com/mansfield-frazier/. His vision: A “green city on a blue lake”.
While we were in Cleveland for business, most of us took some extra time to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where in addition to learning about the history of Rock music we also saw a great exhibit about the role of music in social movements. And of course several of us went to watch the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins as they continue their march to the American League Central Division title. Actually, given the positive momentum in this city, maybe, just maybe, the Indians will win it all.
Read "Getting Beyond the Developer Fee" by Jake Blumgart and Miriam Axel-Lute
This article accurately portrays the state of the community development field . . .and it should worry those who are committed to resident-led community development. A strong community development eco-system needs strong CDCs, as well as larger nonprofits, effective government agencies and other players. But we can’t sit passively and hope that strong CDCs survive. We need intentional policies to enable them to survive and thrive. A few thoughts:
1. Over the past 20+ years there has been an intentional and dramatic investment in building the CDFI sector through certification, grants, technical assistance and access to capital. There has been nothing comparable for CDCs. This needs to change.
2. Our housing finance system has become dominated by tax credits – LIHTC, NMTC, Historic. More flexible and easier to use funds like HOME and CDBG have been slashed. These policy decisions have had significant impact not just on who develops housing but on what we develop. Community scaled rental projects, homeownership projects and rehab programs have suffered at the expense of larger, more complicated deals. In Massachusetts, over 80% of our flexible funding is used to fill funding gaps on tax credit deals, leaving almost nothing for other projects. This means our field is less able to meet the diverse housing needs of our diverse communities – and it has hurt smaller developers. And contrary to conventional wisdom, these smaller projects are often cheaper on a per-unit basis than larger deals.
3. We need to structure real estate deals so that owners have the financial incentive to steward those properties over the long term and have access to stable cash flow, year over year. This will help all of us move away from the boom/bust cycle of large developer fees once every several years.
4. Those who argue that smaller CDCs should focus on organizing, resident services, and other non-real estate activities, need to identify sustainable business models to support these activities. The reality is that there is no substitute for owning real estate, even though we have tried to find a partial solution with the Massachusetts Community Investment Tax Credit.
CDCs cannot do this work alone. But I cannot imagine an effective community development movement without CDCs. We should not leave their survival to chance.
On March 11th the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation held its annual Small Business Technical Assistance Grantee Mid-year meeting at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. MACDC President Joe Kriesberg, a board member of MGCC, attended the event along with more than a dozen MACDC member organizations that participate in the technical assistance program.
“The attendees represented the “best of the best” of small business assistance providers from across the Commonwealth and it is a privilege to have MGCC partnering with their efforts” said Larry Andrews, President and CEO of MGCC.
Mr. Kriesberg was there to talk to the grantees and participants about MACDC's current legislative advocacy efforts to retain funding for the program in the FY 2017 state budget. He noted that Governor Baker is supporting the program and we have strong allies in the House and Senate. At the same time, he urged everyone to contact their legislators to ensure continued funding.
The meeting also provided an opportunity for small business support organizations to network, share best practices and hear from organizations that can help strengthen their programs. Claudia Green, Executive Director of English for New Bostonians, shared an informative and inspiring presentation on the resources available for English as Second Language (ESL) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) startups and entrepreneurs. NewVue Communities Director of Small Business Assistance, Ray Belanger, talked about how their organization methodically and strategically expanded its program to serve the entire North Central Mass region. Finally, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and the Conservation Law Foundation provided information on how they can provide businesses with free legal resources.
MGCC's Small Business Technical Assistance Grant program is designed to complement and enhance the traditional public and private small business assistance network by providing technical assistance or training programs for underserved and disadvantaged businesses with 20 employees or fewer. The grant recipients, which are selected in a competitive process, include community development corporations, micro-lenders and chambers of commerce. MGCC awarded grants to 30 organizations across the Commonwealth in Fiscal Year 2016.