Five (six) websites to bookmark in 2012

December 26th, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

With so much information available to us all the time, most of us could use some help sorting through the noise to find interesting and helpful information on the internet. While there are countless websites related to community development and affordable housing, here are five (well, O.K., six) that should be on your list:

1. The Institute for Comprehensive Community Development provides information, stories, and tools for practitioners looking at comprehensive community development strategies, a movement that is gaining momentum across the country.

2. Shelterforce magazine remains the pre-eminent publication in our field and its website offers a host of interesting stories, links and blogs that thoughtful community developers should be reading on a regular basis.

3. Non profit quarterly  is not geared to community developers per se, but it is essential reading for anyone in the nonprofit sector who is trying to adapt to changes in foundation fundraising, government programming, non-profit competition, regulation, human resources or any of the other challenges facing the “third sector.”

4. seeks to provide the web's most comprehensive and up-to-date information resource on state-of-the-art strategies for democratic, community-based economic development. The resources offered here include directories, breaking news, publications, and conference information, as well as cutting-edge initiatives from cities, states, community development corporations, employee-owned firms, land trusts, non-profit organizations, co-ops, universities, and more.

5 (and 6.) Finally, I could not write a blog like this without promoting our own websites at MACDC and the Mel King Institute.  Both websites offer important information for community developers in Massachusetts, including updates on important policy issues, professional development opportunities and the dates of important events in our field.

You can find more helpful websites here.

What websites do you find helpful? Please post your ideas in our comment section so others can see your suggestions!

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Ticking Time Bombs

December 19th, 2011 by Allison Staton

Back in October, in the pouring rain, a group of people got on a small school bus and drove around different neighborhoods in Worcester. The Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business had sponsored a tour to examine community economic development throughout Massachusetts. The tour took legislators, municipal officials, small business owners, housing advocates and others to Springfield, Beverly, Kingston, Brewster and Boston.

But an organizer from Main South CDC in Worcester said something on the bus that cold rainy day that predicted a sad story in months to come.

Casey Starr knelt on the school bus seat so everyone could hear her as she talked about the transformation of the Kilby-Gardner-Hammond neighborhood across the street from the leafy green campus of Clark University. She told tales of crime, vacant homes and frightened residents. During the tour she pointed out new homes with solar panels, a gleaming Boys and Girls Club and tree lined streets. Even under the gray clouds the neighborhood was inviting and bright. But this transformation did not happen overnight. It is part of a multi-decade plan to revitalize nearly eight acres of inner city streets and vacant industrial land. It was led by community residents and Main South CDC.

As the bus was leaving the neighborhood, she pointed out several homes which were the opposite of inviting and bright. These privately owned houses were falling apart. Casey told of frequent 911 calls because of squatters’ illicit activities. She told of concerns when the crime spills into the neighborhood and the fear of a fire starting in one of the buildings. Her face changed as she said “we worry that something really terrible could happen.”

A few months later, that terrible something happened in another neighborhood of Worcester. On December 8tha fire roared through a blighted property in the Oak Hill neighborhood, killing a firefighter and injuring his partner. The Oak Hill neighborhood surrounds Worcester Academy, a private day and boarding school founded in 1834 that sits on an elegant campus encased in grand iron gates. Outside those gates is a neighborhood reeling from foreclosures, struggling to keep small businesses open and coping with crime and poverty.

The fire in Arlington Street building that killed the firefighter was blocks from the leafy private school campus. A building that had generated frequent calls to 911, that had squatters and caused neighbors to worry had become the place where “something really terrible” actually happened.

The transformation of neighborhoods like Main South and Oak Hill continues – led by dedicated neighbors unwilling to give up. But it takes time, resources, and capacity to reclaim blighted buildings that are dragging down neighborhoods. Blighted buildings that are really ticking time bombs. Time bombs that can devastate.

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Four key ideas that I heard at the New England Housing Network Conference

December 3rd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

The New England Housing Network held its annual conference in Needham, MA yesterday and the speakers and workshops provided a tremendous amount of information and insight into the current state of affairs in Washington, DC.  

Four ideas that stood out for me:

1. It's bad - but it could get worse:  The budget situation in Washington is terrible with significut cuts on the way in FY 2012 and further cuts likely in the coming years. The Super Committee's failure to reach a deal means automatic cuts of about nine percent in FY 2013, but those cuts might actually have been worse had the Committee reached a deal.  Under the default plan, the military will aborb a much greater share of the cuts than under any other likely budget scenario.  And long term budget pressure will likely force deeper cuts in housing and community development funding, absent a broad budget deal that includes both new revenue and reductions in spending on health care.

2. Revenue, revenue, revenue :  All of the national housing advocates made it clear that housing programs, and more importantly the people those programs serve, will be hurt badly without an increase in revenue.  Housing advocates will need to speak out on the need for more tax revenue issue and not simply lobby for our own programs.

3. Housing is a platform for "care" as well as "opportunity:"  MIT Professor, Xavier Briggs, spoke at lunch about the emerging data that documents how the Moving to Opportunity program achieved dramatic outcomes for low income families in the areas of public safety, health, and mental health.  These outcomes dramatically improve the quality of life for these families and reduce the need for public expenditure in other areas, in particular health care. Briggs emphasized that these results are important, even if families did not always see a dramatic increase in their income or economic security. Briggs encouraged housing advocates to more strongly and effectively articulate the value of housing as a platform for "care" as well as "opportunity."  If we can better document how housing investments reduce the cost of health care, we may be able to win more support - and more dollars - for our agenda.  Look to hear much more about this topic in the coming months.

4. Mortgage Finance Reform is happening:  While advocates are forced to largely play defense on budget issues, and most legislation is stuck in gridlock, our national advcocates do believe that Mortgage Finance Reform will happen - probably in 2013 after the election.  This could be the biggest and best opportunity in the near future to advance progressive housing policy (and block regressive policies) so advocates should be fully engaged in this debate now as the proposals advanced in 2012 will form the basis for legislation in 2013.

To learn more about these and other issues discussed at the conference, click here.




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Must See T.V.

December 3rd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

60 Minutes did a very powerful piece on family homelessness recently.  I can't say anything that would add to what the kids in this segment have to say about their lives, their parents and their dreams.  I simply ask that you watch it:;storyMediaBox

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