News

UPDATED: Mayoral Race Candidate Questionnaires on Housing Issues

September 25th, 2013 by Joe Kriesberg

What do Marty Walsh & John Connolly have to say about housing?  Check out their Housing & Community Development Candidate Questionairre responses.

CLICK HERE for John Connolly's responses.

CLICK HERE for Marty Walsh's responses.


Housing is one of the most important issues facing the City of Boston and must be at the top of the new Mayor’s priority list.  Therefore, Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), MA Association of Community Development Corporations , Boston Tenant Coalition, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership , Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston came together to develop a Mayoral candidate questionnaire on housing and community development issues to better inform the public about how each of the candidates would address these issues.

Questionnaires were mailed and emailed to all candidates on July 15th, included 15 questions, and allowed candidates to use up to 50 words for each answer.  The completed questionnaires are presented here exactly as they were received. Not all candidates followed the format provided (as can be seen when clicking on the individual PDFs).

As a tax exempt organization our goal with this survey is to educate the public. Publication of these questionnaires should not be construed as an endorsement of any candidate.

 

CLICK HERE to read the Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire Survey Press Release.

Candidates Charles L Clemons, Jr., Robert Consalvo, and Charles C. Yancey did not respond.

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MACDC & MKI Welcome Natalia Vasquez

September 23rd, 2013 by

MACDC and the Mel King Institute welcome Natalia Vasquez as this year’s New Sector Alliance RISE Americorps Fellow.  Natalia, as the Program Coordinator for the MACDC’s Mel King Institute, will organize the Mel King Institute trainings, support communications and collaborate with CDCs on resident summits.

Natalia previously worked as an Institute for Global Leadership Fellow with Kopernik, an international development start-up in Indonesia, where she supported communications, research, and field projects.  Long interested in the social sector, Natalia has interned with the US Department of Energy, the Nature Conservancy, the Population Media Center, and the World Ocean Council.  She holds a BA in International Relations and Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies from Tufts University.  Natalia also enjoys surfing, painting, dancing and traveling.

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Quaboag Valley CDC helping a small business to recover and grow after tornado.

August 28th, 2013 by

Tibbetts Optical is a 17 year old retail optical shop owned and operated by Brenda Tibbetts, a sole proprietor, for the past two and a half years. She's grown the business from gross sales of $101,055 in 2011 to $130,714 in 2012.  It is now a very attractive retail storefront business in downtown Monson.  Brenda is an active participant in the downtown merchants group.   

Brenda Tibbetts has 15 years of experience as an optician and a passion for “helping others feel good about their eyewear."  She was a manager at Lens Crafters for 10 years and also has two years experience teaching opticians. In late 2010, she purchased an existing practice in Monson that had been in operation for 15 years. Shortly after opening the business, the June 2011 tornado destroyed much of downtown Monson and blew the roof off Brenda’s store. Much of the refurbishing work, equipment, and inventory purchases were financed with two low interest rate credit cards.  However, the credit cards now carry rates as high as 20%.

Adding to the credit card burden, Brenda’s spouse, Raymond, who has his own drywall contracting company, recently injured his back.  This required surgery that will keep him out of work for more than 6 months.

A request for bank financing within the last year was declined due to the business’s high debt to income ratio and length of time in business.

Brenda asked QVCDC for assistance in preparing for another approach to a bank. QVCDC staff, augmented by consulting help from a Certified Public Accountant, completed a financial review and identified several steps Brenda could take to improve her financial position and record keeping. As a result, Brenda made significant changes in order to reduce expenses.  She made improvements to her accounting system and corrected previous errors. She learned what inventory moves and which is more profitable.

With help from Quaboag Valley CDC, Brenda identified that her main competition comes from a business in Palmer, and that she has some competition from WalMart in Ware.  Accordingly, she’s repositioned her business to feature her consultative selling skills, better selection of merchandise and fast and accurate service because she cuts many of her own lenses.

Due to her extensive industry contacts in western and central Massachusetts, Brenda receives many referrals to her shop from colleagues. She has demonstrated her ability to persevere through setbacks, and has the willingness and capacity to become more strategic in her business operations.

The assistance and improved finances helped Brenda obtain the capital for needed equipment.

QVCDC’s next steps with this client are to help her use the more accurate financial information to put together a financing package to refinance her high rate credit card debt.

By Gail Farnsworth French, Quaboag Valley CDC

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What we can learn from Apple iPhone Commercials

August 19th, 2013 by John Fitterer

I like stories and I find that the best stories, the ones worth reading again, connect with me on a deeper level.  It’s not the hero’s adventure or the amazing experiences the protagonist has going up against their antagonist that catches and holds my attention as much as it is the emotional link that is created somehow between the story and me.  Because we live in a world of commercials and crass advertisements of every kind, it’s hard not to be bitter, cynical and downright irritated at our blatantly overexposed, oversold world.  It’s almost impossible for me to become connected to anything in any commercial.  But on occasion, something will catch my attention and linger with me just a little bit.  This is true with Apple’s recent iPhone commercials where they move away from the tech and just show how their product has changed our lives.  I think that CDC staff engaged in prospecting for new donors through the CITC program can learn from this marketing approach because we can easily get caught up talking about housing units and how we run one program or another, when what really matters, what really catches people’s attention are the people that we work with and help out through our efforts each and every day.

In order to understand a little bit more about what I’m talking about, check out the Apple commercials on their website.  The story here is about music and our lives in one commercial and photographs in another.  We are connecting to our world and sharing it with others in ways that simply didn’t exist six years ago when the iPhone first debuted.  Apple knows how profoundly they’ve changed our world and they’re able to capture that in video collages or thumbnails sketches that glimpse at how significant these changes are to our lives.  But our work in helping transform our communities isn’t any different.  When we build a home or a new store front, when we prevent a family from losing their home through foreclosure, when we work with a small business and help them finance a new location or expand online, we’re helping change the way people live, grow, share and support each other.  This is the message that Apple captures in their commercials, and we shouldn’t shy away from sharing our own stories with the world.

I can hear many of you pushing back that we can’t afford to capture our work this way.  Apple has tons of money to spend on marketing and we don’t.  This is true.  But the stories aren’t any different.  Find the time to collect the stories and the experiences behind your work and learn about the many ways you can share them with people.  Thanks to smartphones, we can capture events and without too much editing publish them to YouTube and then release a notice to the world through Twitter.  Will your end product look as polished as Apple’s?  No, but it doesn’t need to be.  Our stories, told compellingly, will engage very well without a multimillion dollar marketing budget.

We owe it to ourselves and our organizations to take the time to learn how to share with others what it is we do and why.  As we reach out to new donors, we’re going up against other worthy nonprofits with great missions.  We must learn how to connect with people not simply because we do lots of great stuff, but because at the end of the day, we are helping revitalize communities one individual and family at a time.

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MACDC Members Receive Funding for Small Business Development

August 19th, 2013 by John Fitterer

Thirteen MACDC members will be receiving nearly $450,000 in new funding to support their Small Business Technical Assistance programs thanks to a new round of funding announced by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC).   The funding is part of a larger $700,000 state program administered by MGCC that provides grants to CDCs and other nonprofits working to start and grow small businesses in low- and moderate-income communities across the state.

"This funding will allow us to work with more small businesses that have potential to develop and hire more employees. This award is for Franklin County, Valley and Hilltown CDCs as we continue to work together to better serve businesses in western MA." - John Waite, Franklin County CDC
 

MACDC members that will receive funding under the program are:

  • Franklin County CDC
  • Valley CDC
  • Hilltown CDC
  • Quaboag Valley CDC
  • Twin Cities CDC
  • Greater Gardner CDC
  • RCAP
  • CTI
  • SMOC/Martin Luther King Center
  • CEDC – Southeastern Mass.
  • Community Development Partnership
  • Jamaica Plain NDC
  • LISC (on behalf of local CDCs in Boston)

MACDC has championed the Small Business Technical Assistance program since we were able to first get it established in 2006. Since 2011, the program has been managed by MGCC which also provides discounted capital to CDCs and CDFIs engaged in small business development lending. MGCC is a quasi-public agency established in 2010 to support small businesses throughout the state. In addition to supporting CDCs and CDFIs, MGCC is a direct lender and technical assistance provider to small firms and makes nearly $20 million in loans per year.

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Affordable Housing Bond Bill Advances, But Troubling 40B Language Tempers Excitement

August 5th, 2013 by Joe Kriesberg

MACDC and other affordable housing advocates were very pleased to see the State Senate pass a $1.4 billion Affordable Housing Bond Bill on July 30 that will ensure continued funding for state housing programs and also increases the State Low Income Housing Tax Credit from $10 million annually to $20 million. The bill, which has already passed the House, now goes to a Conference Committee to resolve the relatively minor differences between the two bills. It will then go to the Governor for his signature – possibly as soon as this September.

Unfortunately, the Senate included troubling language related to Chapter 40B, the state's affordable housing law, designed to address specific concerns in the towns of Milton and Norwood. This is the first time that the Legislature has enacted legislation that amends Chapter 40B and sets a dangerous precedent that might motivate opponents of 40B projects in other cities and towns to pursue similar legislation. This sort of ad hoc, case-by-case approach to Chapter 40B would dramatically weaken the law, increase the risk to developers and cause chaos in the development community. It is precisely the wrong direction for a state that needs more housing and more affordable housing – not less.

MACDC will be working with CHAPA and others to urge the Governor to veto this language and we are confident that we can sustain such a veto – but only if the entire housing community rallies to the effort.

MACDC thanks those Senators who voted to protect the Affordable Housing Law: Senator Jamie Eldridge (Housing Bond Bill Senate sponsor), Senator Michael Barrett, Senator Gale Candaras, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senator Katherine Clark, Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Senator Sal DiDomenico, Senator Benjamin Downing, Senator Barry Finegold, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Senator Robert Hedlund, Senator Michael Knapik, Senator Richard Ross, Senator Bruce Tarr, and Senator Dan Wolf.

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A Community Development Agenda for the next Mayor of Boston

July 14th, 2013 by Joe Kriesberg

Boston is widely known across the country for having one of the strongest CDC networks in the United States.  One reason for our success has been the close partnership between the CDCs and City Hall during the tenure of Mayor Thomas Menino and his predecessor, Mayor Ray Flynn.  Both Mayors have worked with CDCs as partners and the results speak for themselves. In particuar, under Mayor Menino’s Leading the Way Initiative, CDCs and the CIty of Boston have successfully built and preserved thousands of homes and created thousands of jobs.  Can you imagine what Boston neighborhoods would be like today if the Mayor and the CDCs were in conflict and competition, instead of collaboration? Personally,  I’d rather not think about that!

With the campaign to succeed Mayor Menino now fully underway, the MACDC Boston Committee has developed a 10 point Community Development Agenda that we are releasing as part of our effort to ensure that this extradorinary record of achievement and collaboration continues regardless of which candidate emerges as the winner.  We recommend the following:

  1. Enact a strong Inclusionary Development Ordinance:  Such an ordinance should (a) require that a minimum of 15% of the units in new market-rate developments be affordable, (b) establish “pay-out” fees sufficient to produce a comparable number of off-site units, (c) ensure greater transparency at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, (d) ensure neighborhood equity, and (e) empower DND to administer IDP dollars along with other housing funds.
  2. Strengthen the City’s Linkage program:  This requires increasing the linkage payments for housing and workforce development and allowing linkage funds to be used for a broader array of community economic development and small business development programming.
  3. Continue Leading the Way: The City of Boston must continue to “Lead the Way” on affordable housing by establishing ambitious, measurable multi-year goals for housing and by growing the City’s annual Leading the Way appropriation from $5 million to $10 million per year.
  4. Leverage public land disposition: The City should establish land disposition policies that require or at least favor affordable housing development and price such land to enable developers to build homes that are affordable to Boston residents. The City should also prioritize selling properties to community based non-profits that propose development plans consistent with neighborhood priorities. The City should also exercise leadership to ensure that state-owned parcels are developed with similar guidelines and priorities.
  5. Support neighborhood economic development: The City should fund a robust and city-wide small business development support system that leverages the capacity, expertise, and physical presence of CDCs and other community based organizations across the City. Such a program should provide training, technical assistance and financing to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs and should be designed to leverage private, federal and state dollars.
  6. Promote Mixed Use and Transit Oriented Development: The City should partner with CDCs and other private developers to support mixed use developments, especially those near transit nodes, which help create the lively, vibrant urban neighborhoods that Boston resident’s desire. This means strategically leveraging housing dollars, CDBG funds, public land, and zoning tools to make it easier and less expensive to bring those projects to completion.
  7. Enact the Community Preservation Act: The new Mayor should lead a campaign to win ballot approval of the Community Preservation Act to provide new funding for affordable housing development, historic preservation and green space. The CPA would establish a 1% property tax surcharge and leverage millions of dollars in state matching funds.
  8. Partner with community based organizations: The City should leverage the assets and capacity of local community based organizations, CDCs and others, to implement housing, economic development, workforce development and other city priorities.
  9. Ensure the Casino benefits Boston residents: If Boston becomes home to a new casino, the new Mayor must ensure that Boston residents are able to access jobs during both construction and operation of the facility. Local, minority and women owned businesses must have access to contracting opportunities and community mitigation funds must be provided to impacted neighborhoods.
  10. Advocate for state and federal resources: The next Mayor of Boston must be a leader at the State House and with our Congressional delegation to make sure Boston has access to state and federal dollars for housing, economic development, brownfields recapitalization and many other programs.

 

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Are poor families stuck in place?

July 8th, 2013 by Joe Kriesberg

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review of a new book by the Brookings Institute called Confronting Suburban Poverty that highlights the growing number of poor people living in suburbs and small cities across America.  While I have some strong concerns about the book, it does draw needed attention to the changing demographics of poverty in America. Interestingly, when I bought the Brookings book on-line, Amazon.com kindly recommended that I buy another new book that highlights the persistent and long standing problem of concentrated poverty in the inner city. This book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress toward Racial Equality, by Patrick Sharkey, provides new insights into this old problem.

Drawing on detailed, longitudinal data about white and African American families over the past several decades (comprehensive and long term data does not exist for more recent immigrant groups), Sharkey documents that the negative impacts of concentrated poverty deepen as successive generations of the same family live in poor neighborhoods, especially for African American families.  Some of Sharkey’s key findings:

  • Disadvantage can be inherited just like wealth can be. Says Sharkey, “to understand neighborhood inequality we must think in terms of generations not single points of time or even single periods in an individual’s life.”
  • Neighborhoods clearly account for some, but by no means all, of the social and economic disparities that exist between African Americans and whites.
  • African Americans not only have less upward mobility than whites, but they have significantly higher rates of downward mobility.  In other words, those African Americans who do attain middle class status are often unable to sustain it over time as they are “caught between two worlds, one dominated by the ideals of education and advancement up the income ladder, the other dominated by the presence of gang activity, poorly functioning schools and violence.” Moreover, the social and family connections that can be a source of support for some African Americans can pull others downward.
  • There is strong evidence that when neighborhoods do improve “the economic fortunes of black youth improve and improve rather substantially.”
  • The “most common pattern of neighborhood ‘improvement’ for African Americans in the 1980s entailed improvement in the economic status of residents combined with ethnic diversification in the form of a rise in Latino and foreign born newcomers.” This is very different than the “common conception of gentrification which often connotes a racial turnover where new white entrants …displace original minority residents,” writes Starkey.
  • Mobility programs that help families leave low income neighborhoods have shown mixed results with the most significant impacts on families who left the most devastated neighborhoods and moved to suburbs outside the central city.  Less dramatic changes in neighborhoods generated less clear results.

Based on these findings, Sharkey has important policy recommendations to offer:

Programs that work only at the neighborhood level can be overwhelmed by larger economic forces, but efforts to focus on regional and national economic strategies often leave challenged neighborhoods behind. Therefore, he concludes, we need to have policies working at all of these levels at the same time.

  • Given the generational nature of the problem, we need a “durable” set of policies that are sustained over time, unlike the War on Poverty programs that were quickly abandoned or scaled back after a few years. There is no quick fix to these long standing problems.
  • Mobility programs have a role to play, but they cannot be taken to scale, almost by definition. We can’t move everyone out of the inner city and if we were to move a significant number of people they are likely to end up in newly concentrated areas of poverty – assuming we could find the housing and the political support needed for such a policy. (He does not mention, but I will, the problem of what happens to the people left behind in poor neighborhoods if mobility programs were to scale up and depopulate these places.)
  • Placed based programs that work to comprehensively improve poor neighborhoods are essential and need to be sustained over time.
  • “One of the most formidable challenges to maintaining cohesive urban communities in the years and decades to come will be dealing with the destabilizing consequences of mass imprisonment.”
  • Sharkey offers a resounding endorsement of CDCs. He writes that “local community organizations focusing on housing and physical development, economic development, asset building, and resident organization must continue to be supported, as these types of organizations provide a stabilizing force in city neighborhoods, even in the most challenging economic and political climates.”

While the problems detailed in the book can be overwhelming, it was refreshing to read such a detailed and honest account of the challenges we face and such a balanced and thoughtful approach to the policies we need.  He recognizes the need for many different strategies, emphasizes the long term nature of this work, and cautions against policies that look for a quick fix.  With all of this, Starkey remains hopeful as there is significant evidence that we can make progress if we as a society are prepared to make a deep and durable commitment to doing so.

For those who want to see our country make that commitment, Sharkey’s book is essential reading.

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Is Poverty Growing in the Suburbs or the Cities? Or Both?

June 8th, 2013 by Joe Kriesberg

What do Lynn, Brockton, Lincoln, Westwood, Watertown and Revere have in common? According to a new report by the Brookings Institute “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” they are all suburbs of Boston, despite their vast differences.  Does this seem strange to you? It does to me.

The Brookings report is getting a great deal of attention in recent days because it offers a compelling and challenging message:  Suburban poverty is exploding across America and our federal policies are poorly designed to meet this challenge.  Many people are already citing the report as evidence of the need for a new anti-poverty strategy.

I would agree that we need new approaches to reducing poverty. Indeed, perhaps the most stunning finding in the report is how much poverty has grown over the past decade in cities and suburbs, largely as the result of the deep economic recession. Hopefully, that will turn around as the economy slowly recovers, but deep structural problems in our economy will likely result in high poverty rates for years to come unless we embrace a much larger national commitment to reducing poverty. I would also agree with Brookings that smaller municipalities struggle with addressing poverty because they have less financial and technical capacity than larger cities. Regional collaboration – a core recommendation of the book – is certainly a part of the solution.

All that said I have some questions about the report’s findings and recommendations.

1. What is a suburb?

Brookings defines “suburb” as any municipality with less than 100,000 people regardless of its wealth, density, housing stock, or anything else.  Therefore, according to the report, wealthy communities with mostly single family homes can be considered “urban” while dense, poor cities with significant rental housing can be considered “suburbs”.  Such an incomplete and inaccurate definition makes the use of the word “suburb” meaningless at best, and misleading at worst, especially in Metro Boston.  It is a serious mistake to conflate truly suburban communities like Lincoln and Westwood with smaller urban cities like Lynn, Brockton and Revere because they face different challenges, have different resources, and need different solutions.  There may in fact be more poor people in the “suburbs” as Brookings contends, and maybe this even means that we are moving to a more equitable distribution of poverty in our region.  I’m skeptical about this, at least for Greater Boston.  What might be happening instead is that our smaller cities are getting poorer and the true suburbs remain largely exclusive.  The Brookings data clearly indicates that poverty is dispersed across metro regions, but without further analysis, the Brookings findings do not help us to understand whether this is a suburban phenomenon or a small city one. The difference matters, especially in Massachusetts where we have many small cities with significant poverty.

2. Are  federal dollars too focused on so-called place-based programs?

Brookings goes on to contend, based on these flawed definitions of “urban” and “suburban” that the Federal Government’s anti-poverty programs are too “placed-based” and overly focused on “urban” areas.   Yet, the largest anti-poverty programs by far in America are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.  None of these are placed-based! Moreover, Brookings definition of “placed-based” does not make much sense as it includes programs such as HOME and LIHTC that provide housing in urban, rural and suburban communities.  The report even includes mobile housing vouchers that are explicitly not placed-based and the new HUD Sustainable Communities Program, which is explicitly regional.  I worry that Brookings perpetuates the false impression that the Federal Government actually spends significant money outside of our core entitlement programs on fighting poverty. With recent budget cuts, this is less true than ever, and the Brookings report could reinforce the false notion that federal programs are too expensive, ineffective and should be slashed.

Of course, Brookings does not advocate for federal budget cuts. Rather, Brookings says on its website that “the answer to these challenges is not to shift limited resources from poor urban to poor suburban communities.” That sounds good until you read the next paragraph where they propose to do just that by taking 5% of the funding now focused on so-called “placed-based” programs and creating a new Metropolitan Opportunity Challenge program.  This might be a great new program, but robbing Peter to pay Paul is not an effective strategy.

3. Are we really still debating the efficicacy of placed-based vs. people-based programs?

There is a growing body of evidence connecting place to social/economic outcomes.  I find it strange that Brookings is now suggesting that we move away from efforts to improve places.  I thought we were done with the tired debate about place-based vs. people-based efforts and that it was widely understood that both were needed. (The same is true for the newer, but already tired, debate about whether to focus on regions or neighborhoods.)

4. Will the Brookings report help re-energize a national commitment to reducing poverty?

There is no doubt that we need a more thoughtful and direct approach to addressing poverty in suburbs and smaller cities, as well as our larger cities for that matter.  Our members struggle with these challenges every day.  If the Brookings report helps spur that conversation and drives resources to that effort, then it would have a positive impact.  By making it clear that poverty is an American problem not just an urban problem, perhaps the report can generate more public support for progressive policies. And the report is likely to push a very important conversation about regional equity and reducing concentrated poverty. But I would encourage you to read beyond the headlines and examine the report’s assumptions, definitions and recommendations. And I would encourage Brookings and others to conduct a more fine-tuned analysis. The stakes are too high to misdiagnose what is going on with poverty across America.

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MACDC Wins Nonprofit Advocacy of the Year Award

June 1st, 2013 by John Fitterer

On Monday, June 10th, MACDC was awarded the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network's Nonprofit Advocacy of the Year Award for our work championing the Community Investment Tax Credit, which provides $66 million in new funding opportunity for CDCs across the Commonwealth. We're thrilled to be recognized for our work on this program as we strive to engage new champions and donors to help support the phenominal work of our members.

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