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.



Statewide Cap

Cap per CDC

























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2018 CITC Awards Announced

April 4th, 2018 by

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced $5.9 million in allocations to 46 CDCs through the Community Investment Tax Credit program.  Over the program’s first four years, $34.5 million was raised for critical community development programs that directly benefit low- and moderate-income families across Massachusetts.  These funds are helping CDCs to work with residents in their communities by providing vital affordable housing options, access to services and capital for aspiring entrepreneurs as well as programs and services to ensure that community residents can not only become stabilized, but thrive and benefit from our Commonwealth’s economy.

“The Community Investment Tax Credit Program is a unique tool to encourage private investment,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “From instituting new lead paint programming in Central Massachusetts, to bringing on a full-time community planner in Boston’s Chinatown, our CDCs have leveraged significant funding to bring impactful programming to communities across the Commonwealth.”

Commenting on the 2018 CITC allocation, MACDC’s President Joe Kriesberg said, “It is truly exciting to see what happens when banks, hospitals and individuals work together to make their communities a better place to live. Today, because of their collective belief and investment in their local community development corporations, millions of Massachusetts residents, regardless of their socio-economic status in life, will see demonstrative improvements to their neighborhoods and share in the benefits of Massachusetts’ success. For those unable to participate in the CITC for this year’s tax filing, be sure to visit the MACDC website to learn about how you can get involved next year.”

Below is the complete list of CDCs receiving 2018 CITC allocations:

ACT Lawrence: $50,000

Allston Brighton CDC: $150,000

Asian CDC: $150,000

CDC Southern Berkshire: $100,000

Coalition for a Better Acre: $70,000

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp.: $150,000

Community Development Partnership: $150,000

Community Teamwork: $119,465

Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp.: $150,000

Fenway CDC: $150,000

Franklin County CDC: $150,000

Harborlight Community Partners: $150,000

Hilltown CDC: $150,000

Housing Assistance Corp. Cape Cod: $150,000

Housing Corp. of Arlington: $150,000

Housing Nantucket: $150,000

Housing Solutions Southeastern MA: $70,000

IBA: $100,000

Island Housing Trust: $150,000

JPNDC: $150,000

Just-A-Start: $125,000

Lawrence CommunityWorks: $150,000

Lena Park: $50,000

LISC Boston: $119,465

MACDC: $150,000

Madison Park CDC: $150,000

Main South CDC: $125,000

Metro West CDC: $61,605

Mill Cities: $50,000

NeighborWorks Southern MA: $119,465

NewVue Communities: $150,000

NOAH: $150,000

North Shore CDC: $119,465

Nuestra Comunidad: $150,000

Oak Hill CDC: $119,465

Quaboag CDC: $119,465

SMOC: $150,000

Somerville CDC: $150,000

South Boston Neighborhood Development Corp.: $61,605

Southwest Boston CDC: $50,000

Springfield NHS: $50,000

The Neighborhood Developers: $150,000

Urban Edge: $150,000

Valley CDC: $150,000

WATCH: $150,000

Way Finders: $150,000

WHALE: $150,000

Worcester Common Ground: $50,000

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Preparing Communities for a Green Future: CDCs and Sustainability

March 27th, 2018 by Allison Curtis


Check it out: MACDC releases new report highlighting the environmental initiatives of its members across the Commonwealth.


CDCs throughout the Commonwealth are leaders in the development and preservation of homes that are energy-efficient, transit-oriented, and environmentally sustainable. But many CDCs have sustainability programming that reaches far beyond housing. A recent report from MACDC, CDCs Go Green: A Snapshot of the Environmental Initiatives of MACDC’s Members, outlines the ways in which CDC sustainability work contributes to the overarching goals of comprehensive community development: creating places of opportunity where people of diverse incomes and backgrounds can access healthy, livable, and affordable neighborhoods.

Impressively, 33 of MACDC’s member organizations are involved in sustainability programming ranging from activism and advocacy, to supporting the local food economy, to open space preservation and stewardship. These three categories account for approximately 75% of CDC sustainability activities.  CDCs are also engaged in restoration and environmental clean-ups, recycling and waste initiatives, and resiliency and climate change preparation.

Highlighted in this report are three CDCs with particularly innovative and expansive sustainability programming. The Western Mass Food Processing Center, housed at Franklin County CDC, redefines the ways that CDCs can be involved in local food production. Through this unique facility, the CDC supports the efforts of local farmers and food businesses by providing technical and business support and encouraging local economic development, while also preserving green space and cutting back on the energy spent on transporting food. Groundwork Lawrence engages residents of all ages through an Environmental Technical Training Program and The Green Team youth program. While the immediate beneficiaries of these two initiatives vary (the training program provides workforce skills, while the Green Team prepares Lawrence’s youth for a lifetime of environmental and healthy community leadership), both address the environmental challenges faced by the City of Lawrence. Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) recently celebrated the success of their East Boston Climate Summit that attracted nearly 300 residents, organizers, and politicians. While the Climate Summit raised awareness, NOAH’s Community Action for Resilience Engagement Program identifies actions that all people can take to reduce the impact of climate change.

The impending repercussions of climate change threaten to derail the work CDCs are doing across the Commonwealth. The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation will impact low-income, minority, and marginalized populations first, and with the most vigor. By designing and implementing sustainability programming, CDCs are being proactive in the fight against these detrimental impacts. They can lessen the potential repercussions on communities through preventative programs as well as prepare communities for the impact of climate change in the future.

We hope that the work of CDCs highlighted in the report provides inspiration for organizations seeking to address community development issues through environmental programming.

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The role of CDCs in the Age-Friendly Community Movement

March 9th, 2018 by James Fuccione

A movement is gaining momentum in Massachusetts to create livable communities that focus on improving quality of life for older adults, but benefit all residents of all ages.


The goals of Community Development Corporations, as well as the CDC “Theory of Change,” aligns perfectly with those of the Age-Friendly Community Movement. Many cities in towns in Massachusetts are already engaged in this continuous improvement cycle where assessment, action planning, and implementation phases aim to enhance eight “domains” of livability as determined by the World Health Organization.


As CDC are experts in improving social determinants of health, building partnerships between healthcare and the community, and educating the public about the linkage of community development and public health, there is an opportunity to contribute to the success of the Age-Friendly Movement.


Learn more:


For more on how your CDC can get involved and join the MHAC Advisory Council or regional advisory groups, contact MHAC Senior Director James Fuccione.

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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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Redlining and homeownership

February 27th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

The PBS News Hour broadcast an important two-part series this week about the continued challenges facing African Americans when they seek to obtain a mortgage to buy a home (see Part 1 and Part 2).  The story highlights that racial disparities between African Americans and whites remain extraordinarily high and that outright discrimination continues.  The story highlights the issues facing African American homeowners seeking home equity loans to fix their homes and the fact that lenders seem to prefer lending to upper-income whites moving into low-income areas as they do for lending to moderate-income African Americans who already live there.   The story highlights the potential for the Trump Administration to make changes to the Community Reinvestment Act – changes that are likely to make things worse, not better.   U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) points out the industry’s heavy reliance on credit scores has an unfair and disproportionately negative impact on African Americans.


The Mel King Institute and the Massachusetts Community Banking Council recently co-hosted an Innovation Forum event to highlight a new report that documents similar patterns here in Massachusetts. This is a problem that is getting worse and requires a significant response from local, state and federal government.  Indeed, the need to address homeownership for low and moderate-income families, in particular families of color, is emerging as a major agenda item in MACDC’s strategic planning process. More on that to come later.

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MACDC Praises Gov. Baker, House of Rep. for Advancing Critical Com. Dev. Priorities

January 29th, 2018 by

Wednesday, January 24, 2018, was a very good day for Community Development in Massachusetts. 

Governor Charlie Baker submitted his FY 2019 budget to the Legislature with a recommendation of $2 million for the Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program.  Over the past two years, funding for this program was reduced 62.5% to $750,000.  MACDC was thrilled that the Governor proposed to restore funding to its historic level of $2 million.  This program helps local entrepreneurs – in particular, people of color, immigrants and women located in urban and rural communities – to start and grow thriving businesses, which, in turn, provide jobs, wealth, vitality and hope to historically under-invested areas.

“Governor Baker’s budget demonstrates his commitment to expanding economic opportunity everywhere and for everyone,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of MACDC.

MACDC members were also pleased by the Massachusetts House of Representatives passage of the $1.7 billion Housing Bond Bill that same day.  The bill, originally filed by Rep. Kevin Honan and Sen. Linda Dorcena-Forry, passed overwhelmingly and ensures the continuation of the Commonwealth’s affordable housing programs by authorizing funding for housing production and preservation over the next 5 years, including the following allocations:

  • $400 million for the Commonwealth’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
  • $150 million for the Housing Stabilization Fund;
  • $100 million for the Housing Innovations Fund;
  • $125 million for the Capital Improvement and Preservation Fund;
  • $45 million to support early education facilities; and
  • $650 million for public housing modernization and to provide innovative financing tools.

The Housing Bond Bill also incorporates legislation to extend and expand the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC), filed earlier in the legislative session by Rep. Steve Kulik and Sen. Sal DiDomenico.  The proposal had more than seventy House and Senate co-sponsors.  We are thankful for all their support.  We are especially grateful that Rep. Sarah Peake offered an amendment to restore and expand the annual amount of tax credits available.  Rep. Peake, working with House Ways & Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez and Committee staff, offered a successful amendment to increase the annual amount of tax credits available, incrementally growing CITC from its current cap of $6 million to $12 million in taxable years 2023 through 2025, and to lift the individual CDC cap in alignment with the growth of the overall program.

“By extending and expanding the highly successful Community Investment Tax Credit, the House bill, if ultimately enacted, would draw more private investment to support high impact community economic development across the state,” said Kriesberg.

The Housing Bond Bill also extended the sunset for the Massachusetts Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, but did not include a requested $5 million increase in the program needed to offset the negative impact of the new federal tax law.  MACDC and other advocates will be working with the Senate to secure this additional authorization.

MACDC extends its appreciation to the many legislators that helped move this legislation forward.  In addition to Speaker Robert DeLeo, his leadership team and the sponsors and supporters mentioned before, MACDC thanks Rep. Carmine Gentile and Rep. Peake for sponsoring amendments to extend and to expand LIHTC and CITC, and these select members who offered their remarkable support for community development practice across the Commonwealth:

Rep. Patricia Haddad, Rep. Byron Rushing, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Rep. Paul Donato, Rep. Jay Kaufman, Rep. Antonio Cabral, Rep. Ed Coppinger, Rep. Joseph McGonagle, Rep. Chris Walsh, Rep. Liz Malia, Rep. Adrian Madaro, Rep. Timothy Whelan, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, Rep. John Scibak, Rep. Mike Connolly, Rep. Frank Moran, Rep. Marjorie Decker, Rep. Denise Provost, Rep. Christine Barber, Rep. Jay Livingstone, Rep. Jonathan Hecht, Rep. Tackey Chan, Rep. Todd Smola, Rep. William Crocker, Rep. David Vieira, Rep. Natalie Higgins, Rep. Paul Tucker, Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, Rep. Evandro Carvalho, Rep. Dan Hunt

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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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