News

Four R.E.M. Lyrics that help me in my work

February 4th, 2020 by John Fitterer

I grew up listening to R.E.M.  It was the song “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” that first grabbed my attention.  To me, Michael Stipe’s lyrics where bizarre, political, angry, poetic, and inspiring.  Peter Buck’s guitar playing had a whimsical spirit to it that carried a great melody.  Somehow it all came together beautifully.  Now as an adult, while I still listen to R.E.M., it’s often for the nostalgia, to bring back wonderful memories of hours spent with my friends when this music was both the central reason for hanging out, or just the background sound to a road trip.  On the surface, maybe it’s strange to write about how a song’s lyrics are applied to my job, but they’re stuck in my head.  They come back to me when some odd connection is made.  Somehow it just works.

Below are four R.E.M. lyrics that drift into my consciousness from time to time:

“If wishes were leaves, the trees would be fallen.  Listen to reason, the season is calling.”

The song “Stand” is corny, but it’s still stuck in my head.  It was on the radio so often that you couldn’t get away from it.  All of that aside, these lyrics come to mind when my colleagues or I start to go off on wish lists of new features, new projects, reports, or anything, I guess, that seems unrealistic, at least for the present.  To me, it’s mental shorthand.  When they come to mind, I know it’s time to come back to reality.

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“Practice, practice makes perfect.  Perfect is a fault and fault lines change.”

The song “I believe” from Life’s Rich Pageant is a top five R.E.M. song for me.  This song held some magical powers that were unleashed each time I listened to it.  I hear these lyrics in my head a lot.  I can’t say that I understand them entirely and that in a way makes them even more powerful. That said, I think it’s mostly a way of saying, “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”  Like the lyrics from “Stand,” it’s a way of keeping me grounded and not getting stuck on every Oxford comma that is missing in our newsletter.  At a certain point, you need to move on to other work.

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“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

This song continues to have a life long after its release in 1987 on the album Document.  It seems to make the wasteland of media and pop culture into a happy place with its fast-paced rant.  I’m far from alone in finding social media, the news, text messages, volumes of emails sometimes just blurring into one insane cacophony of senseless noise.  During a recent communications training in which I participated, I learned that it takes 11 engagements with someone for a message to be received.  That’s a lot of communicating.  When I’m feeling particularly pessimistic about successfully conveying a message, I’m fine…fine.

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“When the world is a monster.  Bad to swallow you whole.”

“Can’t Get There from Here” from Fables of the Reconstruction works for me when big projects feel even bigger because I haven’t started them yet.  If I start on it, the scope becomes manageable and I can sink into the act of doing the work.  Again, I don’t pretend to understand what the lyrics meant, if anything, to R.E.M., but they just pop into my head.  Also depending on the size and scope of a project, sometimes the work is more like a marathon and not a sprint.  Taking small steps is a great way to a get started.

Music is fundamental to me and my understanding of our world.  I listen to music throughout the day.  Often, particularly at work, it’s Baroque or contemporary minimalism that’s playing in the background.  Even so, R.E.M.’s music introduced me to political discourse/discord, lyrics as poetry, and new ways of sharing with others.  It’s no surprise that they’re still with me after all these years, still winding their way into my day-to-day work routine, and not diminishing as powerful and wonderful memories of my youth.

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Could 2020 be the year we make Community Development Policy History?

January 6th, 2020 by Joe Kriesberg

As we enter a new year and a new decade, MACDC is preparing for one of the busiest and hopefully most impactful policy years in recent memory.  The Massachusetts state legislature has seven months before the session ends on July 31 and a wide array of housing and community development priorities are on the docket. MACDC and its members will be focused on these nine priorities:

  1. Major new revenue for housing and climate investments: MACDC is a founding member of the HERO Coalition – Housing and Environmental Revenue Opportunities – which is comprised of housing, climate, faith-based, labor, and social justice groups working together to secure a major new revenue stream to support investments in affordable housing, and climate resiliency and mitigation. Our proposal is to double the deeds excise tax and dedicate 50% (approx. $150 million/yr.) to housing and 50% to climate. This could be the biggest new investment in housing in decades and lay the foundation for more collaboration among housing, climate, and social justice advocates.  MACDC is also actively supporting state legislation that would empower cities and towns to adopt their own, local transfer tax to generate new revenue for affordable housing.
  2. Neighborhood Stabilization: MACDC continues to work with MassINC, the Gateway Cities Caucus, and others to enact legislation to accelerate the renovation of vacant and blighted homes in weaker market areas of the state. This effort also includes launching the new Neighborhood Stabilization Hub at MassHousing thanks to funding we secured in the FY 20 budget.
  3. Land Use and Zoning: MACDC is actively working with many others to help secure passage of Housing Choice legislation that would lower the threshold for cities and towns seeking to enact smart zoning and land use practices.
  4. Economic Development: MACDC will be advocating for:
  • An increase in funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance program from $3 million to $4 million per year.  This program now funds 47 CDCs, CDFIs and other community-based organizations all of whom are helping underserved entrepreneurs launch and grow small businesses;
  • Funds to provide capital grants to CDFIs that offer small business loans, a program we helped launch a few years ago. 
  • New capital funding to support the Mass Food Trust, a program administered on behalf of the state by Franklin County CDC and LEAF, which provides grants and loans to expand access to healthy foods in lower-income communities.
  1. Lead Poisoning Prevention: We are making a major effort this year to recapitalize the highly successful Get the Lead Out program administered by MassHousing and the Department of Housing and Community Development. The program has helped thousands of families and children since its inception 25 years ago, but it is now dangerously close to running out of money. The state recently adopted new regulations that recognize that lead poisoning is even more dangerous than previously understood, so we must fully fund this vital public health program.
  2. City of Boston Home Rule Petition on Linkage and Inclusionary Development: We are working closely with Mayor Marty Walsh to secure legislative passage of the City’s home rule petition that would allow it to make modifications to these two successful programs, without seeking prior approval from the state legislature. 
  3. Tenant protections: MACDC is supporting legislation to create a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction as well as legislation that would enable tenants to band together to buy their own buildings when they are put on the market.
  4. Closing the Racial Homeownership Gap: We will be working closely this year with MassHousing and DHCD to roll out new initiatives to help expand homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers in general and people of color specifically. These efforts include the new $60 million homeownership development funding initiative announced by Governor Baker last year, as well as a new down payment assistance program and potentially other initiatives.
  5. Rural Policy: In October 2019, the MA Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC) released its Rural Policy Plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This Plan suggests policy recommendations related to the unique issues and challenges faced by rural communities across the Commonwealth and addresses 14 focus areas that were identified through listening sessions held across the state in late 2018. MACDC will work with the members of the RPAC and rural Regional Planning Agencies in its efforts to engage legislative and administration stakeholders to fulfill and implement the Plan recommendations, in particular the creation of an Office of Rural Policy.

MACDC cannot make progress on such a robust and diverse agenda without many partners. We are grateful for our allies and partners in the legislature; the Baker-Polito Administration who share many of these goals; our coalition partners at other advocacy organizations; and of course, our members who take the time to join us in advocating for these proposals. Our 2020 policy campaigns will include our annual “Doughnuts with your Delegation” campaign in February and March when our members will meet with their legislators in their home districts and our Annual Lobby Day on April 28, 2020 at the State House.  It will also include countless meetings, phone calls, letters, and other communications over the next seven months.

2020 offers the opportunity to make community development history here in Massachusetts.  Let’s make it happen!

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MACDC Notebook Archive

December 2nd, 2019 by John Fitterer
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Are CDCs Racially Diverse?

November 4th, 2019 by

A critical question when it comes to addressing racial equity is the diversity of the board, senior staff and staff of an organization.  To help provide some insight into whether Certified CDCs in Massachusetts are led by and comprised of diverse boards and staff, MACDC, as a part of the annual state of the sector survey we conduct, the GOALs Report, asks about board and staff diversity.  Below are the results from this year’s survey, which was conducted in early 2019 and captures data from calendar year 2018. We plan to collect this data every year so we can track progress. 

 

CDC Organizational Diversity 

 

Geographical Area 

AVG. POC Board Members 

AVG. POC Senior Staff 

AVG. POC Staff - * 

Statewide 

37.99% 

30.33% 

44.90% 

Gateway 

35.21% 

31.47% 

43.89% 

Rural 

43.89% 

2.38% 

9.57% 

Greater Boston Suburban Communities 

28.64% 

21.52% 

29.49% 

Greater Boston Urban Communities 

55.03% 

44.40% 

66.78% 

Boston 

61.63% 

50.03% 

78.79% 

 

*  Average People of Color (POC) Staff data is rough percentage as MACDC asks for the number of FTEs on staff to the tenth, whereas the POC staff question does not allow any decimalization. 

 

Notes: 

  • 59 state-Certified CDCs reporting out of 61 organizations 

  • Reporting period: 2018 

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Promoting Racial and Economic Equity through Economic Development: Boston Pilot Program and Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) Program

October 30th, 2019 by David Bryant

Nuestra Comunidad's now completed Bartlett B Project was a part of the Boston Pilot Program. (Photo courtesy of Nuestra Comunidad) 

MACDC has been committed to the movement for racial and economic equity since its inception. To solidify this commitment, MACDC has pledged, in its 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, to contribute to the movement by working in four areas of economic development.

“We will continue our long-standing commitment to expanding small business development as a means of building wealth and community assets. To further reduce geographic inequity, we will help to build thriving neighborhoods and rural communities with stores, services, jobs, amenities, transportation and other assets and opportunities. We intend to help our members deliver effective financial empowerment programs to reduce income and wealth inequality. Finally, we will advocate for public policies that promote greater racial and geographic equity. To advance this vision, CDCs, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other community-based groups will need enhanced capacity, access to resources, and stronger public policies.”

Boston Pilot Program

A key initiative in this effort is the Boston Pilot program. In 2012, MACDC and the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association (MMCA) launched a pilot initiative to achieve higher rates of minority- and women-business participation in CDC-sponsored construction projects in the city of Boston.  Four years later, we expanded the partnership (Phase II) to include four more CDCs and to extend the program to Greater Boston.

The original program included six Boston-based CDCs (Madison Park Development Corporation, Dorchester Bay EDC, Jamaica Plain NDC, Codman Square NDC, Nuestra Comunidad, and Urban Edge) that originally enrolled 12 projects in the program and generated collectively more than $61 million in business opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs).  Four additional CDCs – Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA), and Asian CDC – have now joined the partnership and, collectively, have identified 25 projects with total development cost of $634 million, expected to be completed by 2021.

CDCs participating in the program commit to (1) best faith efforts to achieve 30% MBE and 10% WBE utilization on these construction projects, (2) meaningful opportunities for MBEs and WBEs to serve as general contractors, (3) meaningful opportunities to provide professional services to the project (i.e. legal, architecture, consulting, engineering) and (4)  to participate in regular meetings that offer peer-learning, trouble-shooting, and networking events with the broader M/WBE business communities to advance the goals of each CDC and the program overall.

While the focus of this program remains on M/WBE participation – projects reporting as of March 2019 reflect rates of 32% MBE and 9% WBE Contractor Procurement percentages – there is consistent evidence that achieving these goals also will result in the hiring of more people of color on these projects, thereby achieving additional value in our efforts to increase the diversity of the workforce and for expanding economic opportunity across our communities.

Small Business Technical Assistance

Another key initiative promoting racial and economic equity is the Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program.

The Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) grant program has been successfully serving businesses for over a decade, and MACDC has been the principal statewide advocacy organization promoting increased funding for this program.  The program is also supported by the Black and Latino Advisory Commissions both of which embraced the program in 2019 in their first set of priorities and recommendations.

After leading a statewide campaign, MACDC was grateful in July when the Baker administration and the Legislature agreed to increase funding for this program to $3.1 million in FY 2020 – a 50% increase from the prior year – that will empower an outstanding network of “Grantees,” – CDCs, CDFIs, and other community-based groups – to continue to help small businesses grow and thrive in every community. These grants range from $10,000 to $120,000 and allow CDCs and other community-based organizations to provide customized management and operational assistance, financial training, and lending services to small businesses. These resources are targeted to serving low- and moderate-income communities.

MACDC also has advocated for a related Microlending and Community Development Capital Program, which was reauthorized through the 2018 economic development bond bill at $1.25 million.  The Microlending program enables program partners to leverage more federal and private funding. For example, the national CDFI program requires a dollar-for-dollar match, and the Small Business Administration Micro Loan Program requires a 15% local match. This program helps Massachusetts leverage more of these funds. This year, the Baker Administration is making $250,000 available through this program and we will be advocating to increase that number next year.  

Massachusetts needs a strong network of community-based small business programs in order to address decades of structural and systemic racism that has led to the racial wealth gap in Massachusetts and across this country.  By advocating for the Small Business Technical Assistance and Micro Lending programs, we hope to contribute to closing that gap and helping more people of color and immigrants build their business, create wealth and expand opportunities for communities of color across the state.

 

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The Mel King Institute’s Public Housing Training Program is taking steps to ensure racial equity is intertwined in its trainings/activities

October 30th, 2019 by

After two years of trainings, the Public Housing Training Program is updating its Resident Leader Training curriculumA group of residents, trainers and partners has come together to make the curriculum more interactive and more grounded in resident experiences, and to add a stronger racial equity lens.

The Mel King Institute for Community Building launched the Public Housing Tenant Training Program in 2016 with the purpose of increasing the voice of residents as stakeholders in decision-making in public housing management and administration. Trainings are conducted by Sarah Byrnes, Manager of the MKI Public Housing Training Program, along with co-trainers and residents. Since its first training in 2017, across the Commonwealth, the Public Housing Training Program (PHTP) has trained more than 250 residents, equipping them with the knowledge they need to fully participate in the oversight of their housing authorities. 

The current Resident Leader curriculum focuses on skills such as outreach, conflict resolution, and running meetings in order to help tenants start or sustain tenant groups. “After two years of conducting trainings, it became clear that we needed to be more explicit about our values around racial inclusion,” says Sarah. “Public housing communities are often wonderfully diverse, and many residents are looking for tools to make sure that their tenant groups include everyone. This will impact the way they do everything from outreach to running meetings.”

The first step in the process was a Racial Equity Train-the-Trainer session, so that the curriculum committee could seek shared understanding around race and racism in the United States. With participants from a variety of cultures, races and nationalities, the conversation was spirited, informative, and sometimes challenging. The group learned about racism as a manifestation of both prejudice and power, about the four levels of racism, and about the history of white supremacy. The two-day session included time for race-based affinity groups, which the residents enjoyed so much that they decided to keep meeting monthly in online affinity groups!

While the group is still defining what a “racial equity lens” means to them, these conversations laid the groundwork for a shared definition. Sarah believes that in addition to centering inclusion, as mentioned above, “A goal for the curriculum is that it will also empower facilitators to confront implicit biases when they show up, and to convey our lessons about race, racism and white supremacy as needed.” More residents will also be invited to participate in the online affinity groups as follow up to the trainings.

Currently, the team is making plans to offer a training based on the “spiral” framework. This framework centers resident experiences and helps residents see common patterns in those experiences as a basis for building inclusive networks. After testing out this framework, the group will return to the conversation about racial equity in order to adapt the spiral framework and other materials into a cohesive whole. They expect to start using the new curriculum early in 2020.

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Learning to Walk the Racial Equity Talk

October 30th, 2019 by Vanessa Calderón-Rosado and Dave Christopolis

Ever since the civil rights movement gave birth to the community development movement in the 1960s, racial justice has been at the core of our work. At times, this commitment to racial fairness and equality has been front and center in our work; other times it has receded as practitioners have focused on getting deals done, securing contracts, implementing programs and managing the day to day business of implementing community development efforts. And throughout our 50+ year history as a field, we have struggled to recruit and retain professional staff that reflect the communities in which we operate.

In recent years, MACDC has undertaken a variety of efforts to address these shortcomings – from making racial equity an explicit core value of the organization, to requiring all staff to attend anti-racism training, to sponsoring a variety of initiatives designed to help people of color enter, advance and lead the community development field, and pursuing policies and programs that seek to address long-standing racial inequities in housing, employment, business and elsewhere.

However, as part of our strategic planning process, it became clear that we were not doing enough and more important we were not making adequate progress. We heard repeatedly from internal and external stakeholders that diversity, equity and inclusion had to be a core priority for our organization and our field. As a result, our new strategic plan, adopted in 2018, identifies racial equity as one of our core priorities for the next five years. We see this work as infusing every aspect of our organization including our staff, our board, our membership and all four major program areas where MACDC is active: member services, the Mel King Institute for Community Building; policy and advocacy; and research and innovation.

This special edition of the Notebook contains several articles by MACDC staff members about how we are working to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the community development field and how we are attacking the deep and persistent racial inequities that pervade our society.

As the current and future board chairs of MACDC, we wanted to share a bit about how the Board of Directors is looking in the mirror and seeking to apply a racial equity framework to how we operate. In 2017 and 2018, the MACDC Board participated in the NeighborWorks America Excellence in Governance program as way to strengthen our overall board governance. We identified diversity, equity and inclusion as one of the areas where we needed to improve. We worked with our NeighborWorks coach to develop a specific action plan to improve the diversity of our board and to change our board culture in ways that would make it possible for everyone to fully and authentically participate. We also committed ourselves to developing a deeper leadership pipeline to provide more opportunities for emerging leaders of color to demonstrate their talents. 

One of the first things we did as a group was to participate in the YWCA Racial Equity Dialogue Series. This program involves five, two hour sessions with the board and staff where we learned about each other, gained a shared analysis and language for discussing racial equity and covered important topics like micro aggressions, implicit bias, and historic/structural racism. The sessions uncovered important areas for us to focus and brought us closer together as a group and as colleagues.

We were able to immediately put these sessions to work on April 25 when we met with Governor Charlie Baker as part of our annual lobby day at the State House. We had given the Governor the book “The Color of Law” at the MACDC Convention in October 2018 and he had expressed a desire to discuss the book with us at a future meeting. Sure enough, we had a terrific conversation with the Governor about the book, housing segregation and discrimination and what we need to do. Board members were able to speak from the heart and really challenge the Governor to take action. We believe this was made possible by the trust we had in each other, thanks to the YWCA sessions. As you’ll read about later in this notebook, the Governor has taken some important steps since our meeting to close the racial homeownership gap in Massachusetts.

As a woman of color from Boston and a white male from rural Western Massachusetts, we share a deep commitment to this work. We enjoy a certain level of privilege as professionals and community leaders. The success of our efforts will always be measured by our moral compass. It is imperative that whenever we are able to speak truth to power that we remind our privileged leaders of their responsibility to ensure equity for all Americans. 

We believe racial equity is relevant to community and economic development work, and we are united in our commitment to make sure that MACDC lives up to its aspirations and founding values. It is time for us to address racial inequality and put in place the policies and incentives needed to transform our communities to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

We encourage you to read the articles in this newsletter, to share with us your reactions, thoughts and suggestions, to work with us when you can and to challenge us when we fall short. Thank you!   

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The Community Development Mentoring Program: Building inter-racial professional relationships and supporting the pipeline

October 29th, 2019 by Shirronda Almeida

 “The Mentoring program helped bring us to a deeper level I wish more people would have. It allowed me to be honest and candid in a way that I couldn’t have been with other white people. It was refreshing to hear (my mentor’s) thoughts and opinions. It helped me shape and look at things differently too.” Mentee

MACDC launched the Community Development Mentoring program in 2005 to address the retention and advancement of professionals of color in the field. Mentoring participants come from across the field: CDCs, intermediaries, banks, law firms, municipalities, universities, consultants, planning agencies, nonprofits and foundations - a true representation of the community development field. The program is administered by MACDC and CHAPA, the young professionals’ program, and it lives within the Mel King Institute’s the Alliance for Racial Equity.  The program runs for 9 months and will begin the next cycle’s application process in Spring 2020.

Initially engaging only mentees of color, a few years ago we shifted to include white mentees and added an overall racial equity lens to the cohort learning sessions. This was in part, to connect the program to the mission of the Alliance for Racial Equity, the coalition which houses the effort. The Alliance has individual and organizational members, including CHAPA, who co- administers the program. One of the key principles of the Alliance is that Leaders and others within the community development movement acknowledge the existence of race and racism in our organizations and communities and demonstrate the will and the commitment to address these issues.

As community development staff we need to understand the history of racism in the US, and in the communities we serve, and be able to articulate its impacts upon our work. The racial equity learning, networking, and professional relationship building create a space for dialogues on race and support the mentoring pair to learn, grow and challenge assumptions. The learning is reciprocal and includes building awareness of race on the intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and systemic levels and our roles on each level.  In our recent report evaluating the program impact, conducted by Diane Gordon, who interviewed several program alumni, we found the following outcomes:

  • The program is meeting the expectations for both mentees and mentors;
  • The program has had a direct and positive impact on participants;
  • The most impactful element was the match and one on one time; and
  • For interracial pairs the program had a profound impact on their relationship and their ability to have honest conversations about race

Feedback on the cross racial relationships revealed deepened connections:

“I came to understand why some people lacked confidence given everything that’s been thrown at her. Sharing of different perspectives was immensely valuable. Having someone you care about, you learn about those issues at a deep level - it changes things. I see expressions, manifestations of racism in different ways now.” Mentor

 “My relationship with my mentor is one of the most meaningful relationships I’ve been able to have with a white person.”  ~Mentee

We also found that the participating mentees increased their confidence, strengthened their leadership and project skills, and enhanced their professional networks as a result of the mentoring relationship. Mentees reported receiving support on their resumes, refining career goals, and learning about new career advancement opportunities. Some were able to apply for more senior positions in the field. We found that 28% of the 2017 mentee cohort were able to advance to a more senior position.

Mentors also found value in the relationship noting:

  • Expanded professional networks;
  • Awareness of the barriers for professionals of color and the challenge of addressing racial inequities; and
  • The rewarding experience of giving back and connecting with a young professional.

Clearly, all of us want (and need) to expand our professional networks across the traditional barriers of age, gender, race and ethnicity.  This program is making that possible for its participants.

A few of the challenges that were identified in the research include the declining numbers of CDC staff and mentees of color over the years.  As the program has grown to include white mentees, we have a larger cohort overall, yet we haven’t grown the percentage of professionals of color.  We need a more diverse group of mentors representing a wider spectrum of community development content areas.  This would create greater professional development alignment and cohesion of the mentoring pairs.

And finally, we need to increase our capacity to establish and maintain an Alumni network, with over 130 people having participated in the program, that is a tremendous network that could add value to the careers of other professionals finding their way in a community development career. After nearly 15 years of programming we have had several mentors serve two or three program cycles and one former mentee, who envisioned herself in the role of project manager, now mentoring in that very role!

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Closing the Racial Homeownership Gap

October 29th, 2019 by Joe Kriesberg

At the MACDC Convention in October 2018, we gave Governor Charlie Baker (and his opponent at the time, Jay Gonzalez) a copy of a new book by Richard Rothstein called “The Color of Law.”  This book documents the centuries of discriminatory housing and land use laws that systemically segregated our communities and denied African Americans and other people of color the opportunity to buy homes, accumulate equity, and to pass that wealth onto their children. We wanted our Governor (regardless of who won the election last November) to understand that history so he could understand why white people in Massachusetts are more than twice as likely to own their own home as a person of color.  This represents the 3rd worse homeownership gap in the country.

Policy makers – as well as advocates and community leaders – need to understand that history so we can change it.  Indeed, the community development movement was created, in part, to redress some of these discriminatory policies and practices – urban renewal, redlining, and housing discrimination. For 50 years, we have fought to expand access to safe and fair mortgages, to educate first-time homebuyers and to build homes that moderate income people can afford to buy.

Last year, MACDC adopted a strategic plan that made closing the racial homeownership gap a top priority. Our first step in advancing that effort was at the October 2018 Convention where we pushed the candidates for Governor on how they would close the racial homeownership gap and presented them with the Color of Law.  A few weeks after the Convention, the Baker Administration asked us to prepare a white paper outlining potential strategies for addressing this challenge. The Administration then established the Racial Equity Advisory Council for Homeownership and appointed MACDC and other housing experts to serve on the Council early in 2019.

Over the next nine months, MACDC – in partnership with many allies, has made significant progress:

  • The Legislature has increased funding available for homeownership education and foreclosure counseling from $2.05 Million to $2.85 Million in the FY 2020 budget;
  • Governor Baker has announced a $60 million new homeownership development program with the specific goal of reducing the racial homeownership gap through the development of 500 new affordable homes;
  • The Governor and the Legislature appear poised to appropriate $10 million in new money to provide down-payment assistance grants to first time homebuyers;
  • MACDC partnered with four member CDCs, Winn Companies and Compass Working Capital to secure from HUD the first in the nation CDC Collaborative to implement the Family Self Sufficiency program for CDC residents;
  • The REACH Council has adopted and is now working to implement four new initiatives designed to help people of color and others obtain homeownership, including:
    • Targeted Marketing of My Mass Mortgage and State Mortgage Products
    • Rental to Homeownership Pilot
    • Downpayment Initiative and Interest Rate Buydown
    • Relief for Borrowers with Student Loan Debt

The racial homeownership gap is the result of decades and centuries of discrimination. It won’t be easy to reverse. But we are excited by the renewed attention to this issue and the growing momentum to adopt policies, programs and funding to begin moving the needle in the right direction.

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Advancing the Racial Equity Lens Within Healthcare

October 29th, 2019 by Elana Brochin

Image courtesy of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Racial Justice and Health Equity Initiative.

Massachusetts recently opened the door for community organizations to engage with health care institutions in moving the needle on what are commonly referred to as “Social Determinants of Health.” Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are the conditions in which we live, work, and age and which impact our health outcomes. The Department of Public Health’s (DPH) recently updated Determination of Need (DoN) regulations and the Attorney General’s Office’s (AGO) updated Community Benefits Guidelines both emphasize that investment in SDoH is necessary to move the needle on health care outcomes. In particular, the DoN regulations identified the following Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) as priority areas: built environment, social environment, education, employment, violence, and housing. These same priorities were adopted in the AGO’s Community Benefits Guidelines.

In addition to emphasizing SDoH, the DoN subregulations describe an opportunity for “the Commonwealth to address health inequities based on race, class, and other socioeconomic factors, which are a result of historical policies and practices.” The AGO Guidelines further assert that “Racism has an independent influence on all social determinants of health, and racism in and of itself has a harmful impact on health.” Together, these guidelines open the door for community advocates to move health care policy conversations towards explicitly addressing racism as a social determinant of health.

The challenge to organizations like MACDC is how to effectively push health care institutions to adopt racial justice as the primary lens with which to address health inequities. MACDC has been engaged in moving health care institutional focus toward racial equity through active engagement with:

The Boston Community Health Needs Assessment Collaborative – Several Boston area hospitals recently collaborated on a joint Boston Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for the first time. MACDC recognizes this collaboration as an opportunity to help direct the more than $180 million these hospitals spend annually on Community Benefits Programs. In light of our recognition of the importance of this collaboration, MACDC engaged in the CHNA process through assigning two of our members to the CHNA Steering Committee, attending community forums to prioritize goals and craft strategic approaches to achieving these goals, submitting a detailed letter to the Boston Collaborative, and submitting a detailed strategy document to the Collaborative. Through these channels, MACDC expressed support for naming the achievement of racial and ethnic health equity as a core focus/aspirational goal in which specific health goals would be encapsulated. We were pleased to the see that the Boston CHNA Collaborative ultimately adopted a lens of racial equity in their completed Community Health Needs Assessment.

The Alliance for Community Health Integration’s Housing and Health Policy Work Group – Through our membership in the Alliance for Community Health Integration (ACHI), MACDC has been part of an effort to engage health care institutions around high-level housing policy issues. This effort has resulted in a statement of principles for which ACHI is in the process of gathering signatures and two webinars that provide a high-level overview of housing policy for health care providers and executives. Because African Americans and other communities of color are disproportionately affected by housing challenges and disproportionately bear the burden of poor health outcomes, our work is inherently rooted in racial equity. Furthermore, our ongoing challenge is how to use this platform to further push health care institutions to explicitly address structural racism in the way that they talk about and address health inequity in their communities.

Our engagement in the ACHI Health and Housing Policy Work Group and with the Boston CHNA Collaborative are important areas in which to challenge health care institutions to adopt a racial equity lens. As health care institutions continue to define their missions, agendas, and programs under the new state guidance, it is our job, as anti-racist community advocates, to continue to challenge health care institutions to tackle their community health work from a racial equity perspective.

 

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