Roxbury Community Gentrification Forum brings neighbors together to prevent displacement

April 30th, 2015 by David Price

150 Roxbury neighbors and stakeholders filled Palladio Hall's spacious ballroom in Dudley Square on April 22nd to discuss the growing challenge of displacement due to gentrification.  In framing the discussion, Byron Rushing gave a keynote on the South End experience, noting that Roxbury is attractive today for many of the same reasons the South End was in the 70s and 80s. Nuestra Executive Director  Price cited census data showing that 1,100 fewer African-Americans lived in Roxbury in 2010 compared to 2000, while the number of whites increased by 2,700.

Small table discussions focused on Roxbury's specific gentrification issues.   A "mapping gentrification" table collected reports from over two dozen neighbors on rising rent and home price levels across Roxbury, with many of the examples clustered along the Orange Line.  New construction single family home prices in Fort Hill are over $550,000, requiring an income of over $120,000 in order to buy.  Average Roxbury 2BR rents are now $1,654, requiring an income of $60,000 to afford.  Many participants referenced the Baystate Banner article published that same day showing prices of triple deckers on Circuit Street and Rockville Park approaching $1 million.  There was agreement that the 20% of Roxbury households with incomes from $50,000 to $75,000 are being squeezed out of the market.  The table identified large projects driving this escalation and displacement, including a planned 300-unit market-rate tower planned for Parcel 3.  There is a risk that dense luxury development could be planned for the old B2 station, the Blair Lot, Parcel 8 and the Crescent parcel.

Other event sponsors included Alternatives for Community Environment, Future Boston Alliance, Boston Tenant Coalition and Teen Empowerment.

Photo by Michael Hailey

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Community Investment Tax Credits: Donors Investing Over $1K in CDCs Realize Significant Tax Benefits

April 30th, 2015 by

AAFCPAs, a leading accounting firm in Massachusetts, released an excellent article on the value of the Community Investment Tax Credit as a way to have a significant philanthropic impact in one's community, while substantially reducing or eliminating one's Massachusetts tax obligation.

Below is an excerpt with a link to the full article.


The Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) was established as a way to incentivize Commonwealth residents to invest in community development corporations (CDCs). The CITC program allows taxpayers to realize considerable tax savings when they make a qualified investment (cash contribution) in a CDC’s community development plan. For the individual or corporation who is charitably inclined, they are able to combine their desire to do good with their desire to save on taxes.

The CITC is an outstanding tax incentive for both individuals and corporations who are inclined to donate $1,000 or more, with an annual cap of $1 million in credits. Donors are eligible to receive a credit equal to 50% of the total qualified investments for the tax year in which the investment was made. The credit must be taken in the year the qualified investment was made, and any amount in excess of the taxpayer’s tax liability may be either refunded or carried forward to offset future tax liabilities. This credit is available for tax years 2014 – 2019.  READ MORE

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Boston LISC Expands Services across Commonwealth

April 30th, 2015 by John Fitterer

With the launch of the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) last year, Boston LISC committed to expanding the range of their services beyond their traditional focus on greater Boston to the entire Commonwealth.  With just over a year following the initial allocation of tax credits through the CITC program, Boston LISC is actively reaching out to provide new programs and services to Community Development Corporations across Massachusetts.“Boston LISC is working to bring resources to community development corporations across Massachusetts as a Community Support Organization.  We are building on the work we have been doing with MACDC as cofounders of the Mel King Institute.”Some of the highlights from LISC’s expansion of services over the past year:

  • Issued first two loans of LISC’s Transit Oriented Development Accelerator fund in Salem, MA
  • Provided $120,000 in capacity building grants to eight CDCs outside of Boston, including:
    • North Shore CDC
    • ACT (Lawrence)
    • Twin Cities CDC
    • CEDC
    • HAP
    • Franklin County CDC
    • Hilltown CDC
    • CDC of South Berkshire
  • Served CDC affordable housing owners statewide through LISC’s Green Retrofit Initiative
  • Expanded LISC AmeriCorps program from 11 members to 16 members, with residents at CDCs such as South Berkshire CDC, CEDC in New Bedford and North Shore CDC.

“This is another excellent way the CITC program is expanding and strengthening the Community Development field in Massachusetts,” noted Joe Kriesberg, MACDC President.  “Boston LISC has an incredible track record providing programs, services and funding to CDCs in communities and neighborhoods in greater Boston.  Now they are expanding this geographical focus and within one year the impact is substantial.”Learn more about Boston LISC.

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Five Reasons why CDCs Should Communicate the Health Impact of their Work

April 24th, 2015 by Kavya Sekar

* - Join us for our training series on health, beginning on June 4th with an introductory session on Health and Community Development: Leveraging Resources and Opportunity for Impact - *

When I started my role at MACDC back in September, one of the first events I attended was our Innovation Forum “How Can We Better Leverage the Health Impact of Community Development?” With my background in public health, I was excited to connect the dots between my previous work and my current role in community development. I decided to move away from public health, in part, to learn more about economic and structural inequalities, so it was important to be reminded that “A person’s zip code has a greater impact on a person’s health than his or her genetic code.”

With my background and interest in health, I am helping develop training programs on community development and health for The Mel King Institute. As a part of this process, I explored CDC websites to look for health related programs. What I found was somewhat disappointing: while CDCs are doing work that helps improve the health of their communities, very few are talking about it.

Housing, economic development and community building all have a positive health impact and here’s why we should tell the world:

  1. It tells a compelling story: In a Rooflines blog post, Jonathan Reckford of Habitat for Humanity writes about how moving into a safe mold-free home helped stop a young boy’s asthmatic seizures. Stories like these can help the general public understand the real importance and urgency of providing safe and affordable housing to save lives.
  2. There is plenty of evidence to support your claims- In the recent, “The Health Impact of the Community Investment Tax Credit” report, Health Resource in Action, MAPC and MADPH use evidence from the latest public health research to show how CDC activities are linked to better health outcomes. Using the conclusions from this report, community developers can confidently speak about the health impact of their work and reference research to support their claims.
  3. It could lead to new partners- Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, nonprofit hospitals are now required to conduct Community Health Needs Assessments that "take into account input from persons who represent the broad interests of the community served by the hospital . . . , including those with special knowledge of or expertise in public health, and is made widely available to the public.” Based on their findings, hospitals must adopt an implementation strategy to meet community public health needs at least once every three years. As community organizations, CDCs can play a major role in helping hospitals understand community needs, develop plans to meet those needs and implement solutions. Openly communicating your organization’s commitment to and impact on health can help hospitals see your organization as a potential partner.
  4. It could lead to new resources- As health related funding agencies and organizations have become more aware of the social determinants of health, there is movement towards supporting healthy neighborhoods. For instance, Madison Park Community Development Corporation has a grant from the Boston Public Health Commission for programs to reduce youth violence. CDCs all over the state receive donations from hospitals and healthcare centers. Communicating the health impact of your work can help attract these sources of funding and, therefore, leverage your work to meet the mission of health organizations.
  5. It helps us move beyond our silos- Ultimately community development and health organizations have a common goal: to promote the overall wellbeing of people and communities.  Poor health leads to poverty and poverty leads to poor health.  Through acknowledging this linkage and working together, we can move the needle on addressing the major health and economic inequalities in our society.

CDCs are already improving people’s health on a daily basis. By articulating the health impact of your organization, you can offer a more compelling story about your organization, access more resources, and ultimately have a bigger impact on the communities and families you serve.

Join us for our training series on health, beginning on June 4th with an introductory session on Health and Community Development: Leveraging Resources and Opportunity for Impact.

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First Days Story Project at Viet-AID

April 15th, 2015 by Michelle Hu

StoryCorps, PBS and WGBH were in residence at Viet-AID's center on Charles Street in Dorchester earlier in March. Their purpose was to interview and record Vietnamese-American refugees and US veterans telling their stories following the war. The interviews are a part of the "First Days Story Project." The project invites members of the Vietnamese-American community, and Vietnam veterans, with strong ties to the post war diaspora and evacuation to have a conversation with a loved one or friend, in order to document the Vietnamese-American refugee experience through the voices of those who lived it.

"This project is amazing in that until now, there has not been a large scale effort to collect the many stories, the many voices of Vietnamese-Americans and their exodus," says Van Paul Le, a Boston attorney and interim executive director of the Vietnamese-American Initiative for Development, Inc., who is also one of the participants of this project.

The participants’ experiences were very poignant, and it was truly meaningful for them to remember and share their stories. "I remember my own family's journey in April of 1975," Van shared. "We fled by boat at dusk, with gunfire aimed at us as we fled to the open ocean. We had no destination but were hoping to be rescued by the US Navy. After many days, we were finally picked up by a ship bearing the American flag, and ultimately resettled in America." Participants also brought in their photos and memorabilia, bringing their stories even more to life. Many participants expressed their gratitude for this opportunity to share their stories, not just with the public, but with their family as well, as they felt it brought them closer together.

"I think you will find that the stories are filled with simple, inspiring acts of heroism, charity and hope, reminding us of the sacrifices that were made so that we can enjoy the freedom and opportunities we have today," Van said. Viet-AID is thrilled and honored to be a part of this inspirational project.

Copies of the interviews will be posted on the First Days Story Project website and permanently archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

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Communities Come Together to Address Blighted Properties

April 7th, 2015 by Don Bianchi

Vacant, abandoned and blighted properties have challenged community developers, housing advocates, tenants and municipal officials for years. Recently, the Center for Community Progress ( brought together practitioners from Massachusetts and two other states to address the challenges posed by these properties through the Community Progress Leadership Institute (CPLI), a four-day symposium held at Harvard Law School.   

Three communities from Massachusetts (Brockton, Fitchburg and Lawrence) were chosen through a competitive process to participate in CPLI last month, along with MACDC, the MA Attorney General’s office, and representatives from cities in Missouri and North Carolina.  Each Massachusetts city delegation included a representative from a CDC (Neighbor Works of Southern MA in Brockton, Twin Cities CDC in Fitchburg, and Lawrence Community Works in Lawrence), along with city officials from local departments including City  Solicitors, Community Development Directors, and representatives from departments responsible for code enforcement, public health, and tax collection.  Most of the sessions focused on the numerous challenges associated with blighted properties and creative strategies for addressing them.  These included sessions on using data and analyzing markets; property tax systems and receivership; code enforcement, and land banking.  The Institute also offered some valuable sessions on the type of collaborative leadership needed to solve these challenges. The Institute culminated in State-specific planning sessions, where all the participants from Massachusetts could discuss how to take what we have learned and shared back to our communities.

Some of the key take-aways for me included:

Understanding markets is key to identifying successful strategies for a property or a neighborhood.  Markets are a driving factor when people consider where to live, invest, or build.  All strategies to address individual properties or neighborhoods are affected by the market, but markets are not all-powerful.  There are strategies than can influence the market.  Effective strategies are driven by data that can tell you how well the market is working and what affects the market.  There are national data sources (such as the Census and the U.S. Postal Service), local data sources (such as property records and tax records), and “point-source data”- data you can collect on individual properties.  Once you have the data, you can collaborate with others, in City government and outside of it, to develop a neighborhood action plan.

Code enforcement strategies should be applied strategically based on market factors.  Strategic code enforcement involves understanding your inventory of blighted properties, using data to identify a menu of remedies, and making market-driven decisions to deploy scarce resources.  This can be effective in all but the weakest markets.  In very weak markets, a strategy of boarding up vacant buildings and cleaning up illegal dumping may be appropriate.

Court-Ordered Receivership has proven to be effective tool.  Under Receivership, a Court appoints a receiver to manage blighted properties (vacant or occupied), spend on necessary repairs, and put a lien on the properties for the costs incurred.  In a middle-market neighborhood, where properties have value, the threat alone of Receivership may be enough incentive for a property owner to make the necessary repairs.  If there are a large number of blighted properties in a neighborhood, Receivership may be the best strategy for addressing blight.  Through the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, Massachusetts has aggressively addressed vacant properties in a number of communities.

Property tax systems need to be efficient, effective, and equitable.    An efficient system establishes clear timelines for each stage of enforcement, including what a property owner must pay and when the owner can redeem the property. An effective system yields maximum payments and avoids abandonment and deterioration.  An equitable system provides built-in circuit breakers for targeted populations (such as elderly, disabled and low-income people), with a clear program of hardship payment plans for certain properties.  While some municipalities sell their tax liens for an immediate infusion of cash, this means losing control of the properties and foregoing the interest payments associated with tax delinquent properties.

You don’t need to have a Land Bank to do land banking.  A Land Bank is a public entity that focuses on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties into productive use.  It can be an effective tool where other tools fail: when code enforcement is not effective because property owners have no economic incentive to invest in repairs, and where owners who acquire properties auctioned due to tax foreclosure repeat the cycle of disrepair.  Syracuse, New York pursued an aggressive strategy of tax foreclosure, resulting in a significant payment of delinquent taxes, a portion of which were used to fund the operation of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank to acquire many of the properties whose owners continued to neglect both their properties and their tax obligations.  While Massachusetts does not have State enabling legislation to allow municipalities to establish Land Banks, many communities have Redevelopment Authorities with untapped power and potential to acquire and convert properties to productive use, i.e. to “land bank”.

It all needs to work together.  On the last day of CPLI, all the participants from Massachusetts met to discuss their priorities and how they could work together to implement the strategies discussed over the prior three days.  We discussed the need for improved data collection systems, ideas for incentivizing compliance with code enforcement, strategies for dealing with tax title properties, and how to use the State’s Receivership statute to greater effect.  Within each City, all agreed that a more systematic and integrated system for addressing blighted properties can be accomplished through the cooperation of the various local stakeholders.  Statewide, we agreed that re-convening the participants to discuss strategies and share progress would be helpful- for the three communities involved in CPLI and other municipalities statewide.  MACDC and the MA Attorney General’s office agreed to convene the group and to organize a training on Receivership, as the first steps in an ongoing process.

Each vacant, abandoned and blighted property has a story, and typically its condition results from a number of inter-related and reinforcing factors- a weak real estate market, a neglectful property owner, and/or a lack of effective government response. By approaching the problems associated with these properties in a data-driven, collaborative, and aggressive manner, many of these properties can be turned around- resulting in better living conditions for residents, stronger neighborhood markets, and more housing for Massachusetts residents. 

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Hibernian Hall Announces Jacqui Parker as 2015-2016 Playwright In Residence

April 1st, 2015 by Angel Babbit-Harris & Dillon Bustin

Dillon Bustin, artistic director at Hibernian Hall, has announced that Jacqui Parker will be Visiting Playwright during 2015-2016.  "I'm very pleased that Ms. Parker has agreed to grace our stage with her acting and directing as well as her scripts during the next two seasons," said Bustin in making the announcement.  Parker says she is thrilled with the invitation from Hibernian Hall, and she plans to write and direct two plays in 2015 during the first half of the residency.   The first is "Roads to Wisdom," celebrating life stories of elders in Roxbury.  This play, written in affiliation with Project Right in Grove Hall, will be presented at Hibernian Hall on May 14-17.  Her original play "A Crack in the Blue Wall," about a young black male shot by a white police officer, will have a try-out production July 9-12, and a fully staged extended run in November.  In this drama Parker will address the breakdown of the family of the victim as well as a breakdown in the justice system.Photo Credit:  Redford Lee

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Creating a ‘New’ Life

April 1st, 2015 by Moira Noonan

When Kim Shkapich re-located to the Lower Cape from New York City almost a decade ago, she was prepared to ‘reinvent’ herself. She had had a thriving career in the city, but it was time for something new. Her background and expertise is in architecture and design. But, she had life-long talents for cooking and preserving—skills she had learned as a pre-teen from her working mother. She knew she wanted to incorporate these skills into her new livelihood. So shrubs and rubs, drinking vinegars, spices, and jams and jellies became her focus.

Creating the products came naturally to Kim, but on the business side she needed some support. Early on she participated in the Community Development Partnership’s Smart Start workshop and SCORE Cape Cod’s business planning series. From these she learned some business basics to kick start her business—Lola’s Local Food Lab. After that she started meeting monthly with SCORE mentors at the Community Development Partnership offices. During these sessions she received individual guidance for her business. “The mentors have been helpful with the business structure and financials. They keep me on track", said Kim about the meetings. "They have also been so enthusiastic and supportive. With thought provoking conversations that provide me with a different perspective on the business, they have been a tremendous resource as my business has grown.”

And that growth has included branching out in a variety of ways. She participates at local Farmer’s Markets (you can find her at the Orleans Winter Farmers’ Market right now). And—new this summer—Kim will be opening her own retail space. She’s thrilled to be able to have a home base from which to sell her products. And she's excited to expand her products and services to include food classes and foods to go. Also stay tuned for her new website, which she’s working on with a professional services grant the Community Development Partnership offers via the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. This grant helps business owners access professional services at a more affordable rate. By using local resources, prudence, and lots of hard work Lola’s Local Food Lab and the new life Kim had envisioned for herself have flourished.

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