News

Considerations for Equitable Reopening

July 31st, 2020 by Elana Brochin

Artwork: “Essential: Student, Worker, and Parent” by Nicole Garcia

“Essential: Student, Worker, and Parent” depicts a student, nurse, and parent struggling with the effects of the pandemic. Students during the pandemic have had to deal with learning in a new remote environment, but also teaching themselves in under resourced homes. Many students are first generation Americans causing language barriers between their parents and school. Let alone students who may not be in a safe household, learning has become difficult. Medical workers are given a great responsibility with stress and heavy loads to carry. Patients in dying need and become emotional support for their families. They risk their lives to save others and risk the families they come home to as well. Parents who lost their jobs along with a source of income for their families are scrambling to provide, leaving some parents feeling like failures due to not being able to provide enough.

Nicole Garcia's art is published through the Punto Urban Art Museum, a program of North Shore CDC. Learn more about the museum's programs and their "Free COVID Resources."


Massachusetts CDCs, like so many others, are eager to return to “business as usual” in light of eased COVID-19-related restrictions while at the same time fully committed to keep infections low and people safe. Massachusetts CDCs are rooted in the communities in which they work and therefore recognize the importance – literally and symbolically – of re-opening their physical doors. As of mid-July, over half of CDCs who responded to a survey had at least partially reopened their offices. All but two CDCs surveyed indicated that they would be open in some capacity by mid-September.

As CDCs bring staff back to their offices, they are considering how to do so in a way that considers – and does not enhance – the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Over the last several months, we have seen how COVID-19 and the concurrent economic crisis has disproportionately affected low-income, and Black and Latinx communities. In addition to disproportionate impact by race and ethnicity, COVID has affected many demographic groups in proportionally different ways: parents and other caregivers have had to respond to school closings in a way that others have not, individuals with pre-existing health conditions have had to take even more precautions to stay healthy than their healthier counterparts, etc. As CDCs and other offices begin to re-open, they are thinking about how to reopen in an equitable way that treats all members of their staff fairly.

One CDC Executive Director that we spoke with told us that decisions around reopening can have racial implications, this ED acknowledged that one factor that was considered when creating their reopening plan was the racial makeup of the staff structure. The ED found that the staff who could more easily continue to work remotely vs the staff that had a greater reliance on in-person contact to do their work often exposed potential disparate effects across racial lines.

Another issue that CDCs must consider is how the commute to work affects risk and how different commuting patterns correlate with demographic factors. Crowded busses and trains carry more risk for disease transmission than private vehicles. While CDC employees in smaller towns and rural areas may regularly drive to work, CDCs in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield must consider how employees who rely on public transportation will get to work. Further, Black and Latinx workers are more likely to commute to work via public transportation as compared with their white counterparts, putting them at increased risk for disease. In reopening offices, urban employers could consider arranging for increased parking or reimbursement of parking costs to encourage private transportation. In his Reopening Massachusetts Report, Governor Baker urges employers to consider staggering hours to allow employees to avoid popular commute times.

Employers and Employees need to work together to determine ways in which work can be completed productively and safely and should continually apply an equity lens to decisions around reopening. One way employers can achieve this is through a hybrid model: in addition to the 70% of CDCs that said that they were open to staff on a limited basis, close to 40% of members indicated that they plan to have a mix of online and in-person programs in fall. As CDCs consider reopening their offices and holding in-person programs, they could also consider:

  • Working with employees who are parents and guardians on ways they can continue to be productive while ensuring their children are cared for. Among other considerations, this could include offering a flexible work schedule for these employees as well as a stipend to buy necessary home office supplies and equipment.
  • Maximizing safety for older employees or employees with pre-existing conditions or who live with others who are older or have pre-existing conditions, while developing a system to ensure sensitivity to employee privacy.
  • Considering ways that disparities in income and wealth might affect employees differently, e.g., it will be harder for an employee with a lower income or less wealth to cut their hours or pay for a new childcare or transportation arrangement than for a wealthier or higher income counterpart.
  • Thinking about how office set-up affects employees differently (e.g., lower-level employees are less likely to have their own offices, making social distancing more difficult).
  • Investing in technology that allows employees to be as productive as possible when working remotely.
  • Considering the role that the organization plays in the community – how to provide maximum benefit to community members while protecting their health and safety.

COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges that existed long before the pandemic. Let’s commit to an equitable re-opening that does not further exacerbate these challenges.

Commenting Closed

CDC Associations and the Coronavirus: Divergent Paths Toward the Same Goal

July 29th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” - Barack Obama

As Massachusetts reopens, MACDC is weighing how to transition to a “new normal.” Like our members, we are thinking about when and to what extent do we reopen our office, how do we ensure the safety of our staff, how we can commute safely, and care for our children?  Beyond that, how do we accomplish our raison d’etre, which is to provide support to CDCs and our other MACDC Members across the Commonwealth who deliver essential programs, projects, and services to their communities?

In order to better understand how other CDC associations are approaching reopening, I’ve talked with some, scanned association websites, and joined a call with our national association, NACEDA. I’ve learned that these organizations are continually striving, like we are, to determine how best to serve their members.  While the information presented here is anecdotal, it offers insights into some of the many paths that CDC Associations are taking to arrive at the shared goal of serving our members.

In my conversations and research, several themes have emerged.  I looked at these themes, and the paths that MACDC and other CDC Associations have chosen to address them.

Ask Your Members What They Need

“USA Today has come out with a new survey - apparently three out of every four people make up 75% of the population.”David Letterman

Effective surveying is challenging.  There are tradeoffs between survey comprehensiveness and ease of completion.  Should the survey be general, or more narrowly focused on specific topics?  The answer to this last question, by MACDC and other CDC Associations, is yes and yes.

CDC Association Surveys

Some CDC associations, including the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis Survey and Prosperity Indiana Survey, utilized general surveys to gauge the impact of Covid-19 on their members’ financial health and programs. The Ohio CDC Association issued its Re-Opening and Recovery Survey to better serve its members as they navigate through the Covid-19 recovery.

On a targeted basis, The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania conducted a survey of landlords to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting property owners and managers tasked with maintaining operations while experiencing an unprecedented loss of rental income. Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) surveyed its members on how CDBG funds allocated to the City should be spent.

MACDC Surveys

In July, MACDC sent out a Member Survey, to inform our work over the next year.  Questions ranged from how CDCs are serving their communities through the Covid-19 crisis, to their response to the racism embodied in the murder of George Floyd, to more general questions about how they are managing financially and operationally. More targeted, through its central role in the MA Small Biz COVID Response Coalition, MACDC issued a survey, and is using the Survey Results to inform our policy advocacy. The surveys complement other MACDC efforts to gauge resident needs, including virtual monthly member meetings and calls to individual members.

Lesson Learned

It matters what you ask your members.  It matters just as much that you ask them.  Whenever we ask our members what they want or need from us, they express their appreciation.  It is an invitation to a conversation.

Consider How Local Community Development COVID-19 Response is Impacted by Local and State Policies

Michigan’s Dual Approach

Michigan is served by two CDC associations. CDAD serves the residents of Detroit, who face daunting problems that pre-date Covid-19.  Detroit possesses the highest rate of child poverty among the 50 largest cities in the U.S., has crumbling infrastructure, and 26% of its residential lots are vacant. CDAD successfully advocated for adoption of a Community Benefits Ordinance in 2016, that requires developers to engage with Neighborhood Advisory Councils, to identify community benefits and address potential negative impacts.  Covid-19 has hit Detroit very hard, as the health pandemic has merged with a pandemic of poverty, and CDAD’s response includes supporting its members involved in food delivery, health services, and other public services.

On the state level, the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) advocated for an extension of the statewide eviction moratorium, and for using the federal funds from the CARES Act for rental assistance.  CEDAM also regularly advocates that CDBG funding be allocated to meet housing needs, such as housing counseling.

As noted by CDAD Public Policy Director Ruth Johnson, CDAD focuses on the City of Detroit, and works with CEDAM on state-level matters.  Given the severity of the economic challenges facing Detroit, CDAD plays a crucial role in advancing the work of nonprofit, community-based organizations in Detroit, while its partnership with CEDAM provides the opportunity to impact state policy. 

"All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy." - Samantha Power

MACDC’s Comprehensive Approach

As the only CDC Association in Massachusetts, MACDC’s work must impact both state and local policy. Over the years, MACDC has grown to include 88 members representing 60 state-certified Community Development Corporations across Massachusetts.  We also have committees and peer groups representing cities and regions, including the City of Boston, the smaller Gateway Cities across the State, and the Western MA region. One positive byproduct of the Covid-19 imperative to work virtually has been that geographic distance is not a barrier to participation. Though we provide a variety of member services (including peer learning and training), much of our work is focused on advocacy for public policies that facilitate the work of our Members- statewide and locally.

Lesson Learned

Tip O’Neill famous declaration that “all politics is local” does not apply to all policies. In fact, we have seen that not even all local policies are local. During the current pandemic, we’ve seen how local policies on social distancing and mask-wearing can impact infection rates across a region, and how state policies can impact infection rates across the nation.

Be Flexible, Adaptable, and Creative in Serving Our Members

NACEDA Member Examples

Funding: The Ohio CDC Association identified the need among its members for cash, and set up a Community Recovery Fund, to provide small grants (up to $5,000) to them.  It also partnered with an Ohio-based foundation through the Empowering Communities Grant Challenge, to provide grants ranging from $37,000 to $150,000 to its Members working to address the social determinants of health.

Access to Information and Resources: The Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis provided information on Covid-19 training, with up-to-date links to CBN and Member partner events. Prosperity Indiana established an information and resources hub.

Creative Use of Available Platforms: CEDAM ramped up virtual Town Meetings, on a variety of topics. In July, CEDAM hosted three webinars on widely divergent topics.  They included one on Eviction Diversion and Rental Assistance Programs, a second on Successful Onboarding in a Virtual World, and a third on Building Self-Empathy through Social Journaling. 

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” - Albert Einstein

MACDC

Early on in the crisis, we created information and links to Covid-19 resources on our website which we have kept frequently updated.  Later we created a page specific to helping our members navigate reopening. We also adapted two major events, taking advantage of the available technology to increase the connection we have to our Members, while planning a third virtual event.

A key part of MACDC’s advocacy is our annual Lobby Day, when our Members converge at the State House for inspiration, networking, and meeting with their legislators. This April, an in-person Lobby Day was not possible. We held our Lobby Day virtually, including inspiring remarks by State Senator Eric Lesser and virtual meetings between MACDC Members and their legislators.

The Mel King Institute for Community Building celebrated MKI’s 11th Anniversary Breakfast in virtual style, highlighted by an inspiring keynote speech by Dr. Atyia Martin, CEO and Founder of All Aces, Inc., which partners with organizations to advance racial equity and build resilience.

MACDC is approaching our Annual Meeting this fall in a similar spirit.  We are partnering with NACEDA and with CDC Associations across the nation for a shared, virtual, national conference in October “Strengthening Resilient Communities”.  While the details are still being planned, this shared event will allow our members to participate in national workshops, as well as local workshops tailored to Massachusetts.

CDC Associations around the country support their members in a variety of ways, and our planned joint national conference is just the latest manifestation of how we work together to support our Members, as they transition through the Covid-19 recovery.  Please be in touch if you have any thoughts as to ways MACDC can continue to support our members in this transition.

Lesson Learned

We can make lemonade from lemons.  It’s not hard to see the many challenges the Covid-19 crisis and accompanying economic crisis have posed for CDC associations nationwide: how to serve their members facing logistical complications, financial shortfalls, and the need to rethink program delivery to populations in need.  But we’ve also seen increased participation in virtual member convenings without regard to distance, access to some of the great leaders in community development without concern for travel details (and costs), and a new openness by public officials to levels and kinds of assistance that six months ago were considered non-starters.

“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”Muhammad Ali

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MACDC Lauds House Action on the Economic Development Bill and Urges further Refinements by the Massachusetts Senate

July 29th, 2020 by

MACDC Lauds House Action on the Economic Development Bill and Urges further Refinements by the Massachusetts Senate

The emerging legislation would support small businesses, promote affordable and equitable housing development, and protect tenants across the Commonwealth

MACDC urges Senate approval of amendments that would make a good bill even better

MACDC is excited to see the Massachusetts Legislature making substantial progress toward enacting legislation that would support small businesses, promote affordable and equitable housing development, and protect tenants across the Commonwealth. On July 28, the House adopted its version of H. 4879, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth, also known as the Economic Development bill.  MACDC strongly supports the bill, which was originally filed by Governor Baker and was made stronger by the House. We are pleased to see the Senate take up this legislation on Wednesday, July 29th, when debate begins on its version of An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (S.2842).

MACDC is particularly appreciative that the Senate bill includes several MACDC priorities in its legislation, in particular:

  • $35 million in capital authorization for CDFIs and CDCs that lend to small & micro businesses, with a focus on those owned by people of color, immigrants, women and lower-income people;
  • $20 million for a small business grant program for low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs;
  • $20 million for a small business grant program aimed at restaurants impacted by COVID-19;
  • $40 million to support neighborhood stabilization by revitalizing underutilized properties into active commercial space, housing, green or civic space;
  • $10 million to a new Rural and Small-Town Development Fund; and
  • Additional funding for green and smart growth housing development.

MACDC also urges Senators to co-sponsor and support:

  • Amendment #1 (Sen. Crighton) to enact modified Housing Choices legislation;
  • Amendment # 6 (Sen. Crighton) to guarantee a tenant’s first right of refusal, so that tenants can work together (or with a nonprofit partner) to acquire their property if/when it goes on the market (to learn more see this article);
  • Amendment #22 (Sen. Crighton) to effect rehabilitation of blighted properties and creation of affordable housing in the Commonwealth by making it easier for municipalities to acquire long vacant and blighted properties for the purpose of rehabilitation;
  • Amendment #23 (Sen. Crighton) to increase the low-income housing tax credit by $20 million per year to build and preserve much needed affordable housing;
  • Amendments #42 (Sen. Moore) to fund the MA Food Trust by authorizing $10 Million for the MFT Program over the next 5 years, including unreleased funds from 2016;
  • Amendment #87 (Sen. Cyr) to attain parity and flexibility for small businesses by allowing grant dollars to be used for capital investments, safety equipment, working capital and payroll;
  • Amendment #96 (Sen. Collins) to enact the City of Boston’s Home Rule petition to strengthen its Inclusionary Development and Linkage programs (for more info read this letter);
  • Amendment #161 (Sen. Hinds) for the creation of an office of rural policy;
  • Amendment #167 (Sen. Hinds) to increase the annual cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program to $30 million; and
  • Amendment #175 (Sen. DiDomenico) for a pilot right to counsel pilot program.

Approval of these amendments would build on the excellent bill adopted by the House on July 28. The House-passed legislation includes several provisions that are particularly important to MACDC and its members:

  • Authorizes capital funding for critical programs, such as
    • $35 million in capital authorization for CDFIs and CDCs that lend to small & micro businesses, with a focus on those owned by people of color, immigrants, women and lower-income people;
    • $15 million for a micro business matching grant program;
    • $30 million for a forgivable loan program for small businesses;
    • $40 million to support neighborhood stabilization by revitalizing underutilized properties into active commercial space, housing, green or civic space; and
    • $10 million to a new Rural and Small-Town Development Fund;
  • Additional funding for green and smart growth housing development.
  • Triples the Housing Development Incentive Program from $10 Million to $30 Million annually;
  • Increases the state housing tax credit from $20 Million to $40 Million annually;
  • Provides new language to protect tenants from eviction (after the moratorium ends) by requiring landlords to engage in good faith mediation before evicting a tenant impacted by COVID-19;
  • Provides tenants with an opportunity to purchase their property when it goes up for sale;
  • Provides a mechanism for public housing tenants to serve on the boards of Local Housing Authorities consistent with the public housing reform program adopted by the legislature several years ago;
  • Creates an Office of Rural Policy;
  • Includes the Housing Choices legislation filed by Governor Baker that would reduce the threshold for approving smart growth housing from two-thirds to a simple majority.

Massachusetts faces the most severe economic and housing challenges since the Great Depression. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated workers, families, businesses, and communities across the Commonwealth. The economic development legislation now pending in the Massachusetts State Senate offers an opportunity to begin to address these needs. We urge the Senate to adopt these amendments and to enact the strongest possible economic development program.

Commenting Closed

MACDC urges approval of amendments that would make a good bill even better

July 27th, 2020 by

MACDC Applauds House Economic Development Bill

Legislation would support small businesses, promote affordable and equitable housing development and protect tenants

MACDC urges approval of amendments that would make a good bill even better

On Friday, July 24, the House Ways & Means Committee released its version of H. 4879, An Act Enabling partnerships for growth, also known as the Economic Development bill.  MACDC strongly supports the bill which was originally filed by Governor Baker and was made stronger by House Leadership.  The bill – scheduled for a full vote of the House on Monday – includes several provisions that are particularly important to MACDC and its members: 

  • Authorizes capital funding for critical programs, such as
    • $35 million in capital authorization for CDFIs and CDCs that lend to small businesses
    • $15 million for a micro business matching grant program
    • $30 million for a forgivable loan program for small businesses
    • $40 million to support neighborhood stabilization by revitalizing underutilized properties into active commercial space, housing, green or civic space
    • $10 million to a new Rural and Small-Town Development Fund
    • Additional funding for green and smart growth housing development
  • Triples the Housing Development Incentive Program from $10 Million to $30 Million annually
  • Increases the state housing tax credit from $20 Million to $40 Million annually
  • Provides new language to protect tenants from eviction (after the moratorium ends) by requiring landlords to engage in good faith mediation before evicting a tenant impacted by COVID-19
  • Includes the Housing Choices legislation filed by Governor Baker that would reduce the threshold for approving smart growth housing from two-thirds to a simple majority.

This is a very good bill, but we have a chance to make it even better.

MACDC urges representatives to co-sponsor and support: 

  • Amendment #9 (Rep. Honan) to enact the City of Boston’s Home Rule petition to strengthen its Inclusionary Development and Linkage programs (for more info read this letter);
  • Amendment #82 (Rep Santiago) for a right to counsel pilot program (for more info read this fact sheet);
  • Amendment #269 (Rep Cullinane) to create a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase program (for more info read this article);
  • Amendments #382 and #384 (Rep. Donahue) to fund the MA Food Trust. Amendment #382 authorizes an additional $7 Million for the MFTP over the next 5 years, and #384 continues the authorization of unreleased funds from 2016, which is $3 Million, for a total authorization is $10 Million (For more info go to MA Food funded projects);
  • We are also opposed to any amendments to weaken or modify Housing Choices.
Commenting Closed

Small Business Advocacy Begins to Bear Fruit

July 23rd, 2020 by Joe Kriesberg

The moment that Governor Baker and governors across the country announced health emergencies in March that required most businesses to close, it was clear that micro- and small-businesses would be particularly vulnerable to long term-financial harm.  We also knew that it would hit particularly hard on businesses owned by Black people, immigrants, people of color, and other historically disadvantaged communities that have less accumulated wealth, smaller margins, and often have customers who are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To mitigate the harm, MACDC immediately issued a call on March 23 for a $150 million Small Business Relief and Recovery package that included a request for $30 million in grants for small businesses. A few weeks later on April 22, a coalition of 79 community organizations issued the same set of policy recommendations as we began to see that the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) – enacted by Congress in late March – was not going to serve many of the businesses in our communities.

The need for such grant funding has become increasingly clear as the Program has been implemented and the economic crisis has deepened and lengthened.  It is now abundantly clear that the economic recovery will be long and slow and that most small businesses simply cannot take on more debt.  These businesses were impacted by the government’s appropriate need to protect the entire community from the virus – and we believe the entire community has an obligation to help these business owners survive.

Thankfully, after four months of advocacy, we are beginning to see grant funding rolled out to small businesses across the state.  In the first few months, it was mostly cities creating grant programs with federal CDBG dollars provided by Congress as part of the CARES Act.  Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Northampton, Cambridge and many other cities rolled out programs, generally aimed at businesses with 5 or fewer employees.  These grant programs provided critical operating capital and funds to buy Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); however, in virtually every case the programs were overwhelmed with applications.

Last week, Governor Baker announced $19.6 million in CDBG funding for non-entitlement communities (i.e. smaller towns and cities that don’t get their own CDBG) with most of it allocated for grants to micro businesses.  Many CDCs are expected to play a central role in this micro-enterprise grant programs by providing outreach, intake, technical assistance and in some cases direct administration of the programs.  Franklin County CDC, Hilltown CDC, Community Development Partnership on Cape Cod, New Vue Communities and Quaboag Valley CDC are among the CDCs expected to play such roles.

The State Legislature has also begun to respond to our calls for small business support with $10 million included in the recently passed supplemental budget.  The bill is now on the Governor’s desk for his signature.  These funds will be administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) and serve businesses with up to 50 employees who have been unable to access PPP or other federal programs.

MACDC and its coalition partners are also advocating for Governor Baker’s economic development legislation, which would authorize an additional $15 million in grant funding for micro businesses and $35 million of grant funds for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and CDCs that make low-cost loans to small businesses (a second element of our policy proposals from March).  This bill is pending in the Legislature and is expected to pass before July 31.  While we are thrilled at the prospect of $50 million in authorization for new bonds to support small businesses, the critical question will be how quickly Governor Baker disperses these funds.  Under Massachusetts law, the Governor has sole authority for allocating such bond authorizations on an annual basis, and this bill has been deemed a five-year bond bill.  Spending these dollars over a five-year period would not provide the boost we need now as business owners fight to survive.

Finally, MACDC and its partners are advocating that Governor Baker use a significant portion of the $26 million in federal round 2 CDBG funding that is also available to deal with the economic crisis. 

In total, we expect state and local governments to deploy well in excess of $30 million for small business grants by the end of 2020.  At the same time, the economic crisis is likely to be much worse that we realized back in March and April.   This recovery process is going to take longer and the impact on small businesses is going to be even more severe, so we will need substantially more funding at the local, state, and federal level in the weeks and months to come.  MACDC and its partners will continue to press our case.

 

 

Commenting Closed

CDCs Invested $918.1 Million in Local Communities in 2019 - The MACDC GOALs Report

July 21st, 2020 by

 

We’re proud to release the results of our annual GOALs Survey.  Even though 2019 was not too long ago, it feels like the old days! So much has happened over the first six months of 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.  Both crises have, not surprisingly, negatively impacted communities of color and low-income communities disproportionately.  Also, we have seen our country re-awake to the issue of racial injustice, spurred by worldwide protests against police violence and all the myriad injustices against Black, indigenous, and other people of color that have made our nation less than it can be, than it should be. 

While the story of 2020 has yet to be fully written, we can now tell the story of what our members accomplished in 2019, which demonstrates the prescience of our movement. CDCs place racial equity and justice at the forefront of their work.  MACDC’s Strategic Plan – adopted in 2018 - named racial equity and health equity as two of our core priorities, along with advancing economic opportunity.

All these priorities are reflected in the work highlighted in this report. The Community Economic Development Center in New Bedford provided small business technical assistance to 57 entrepreneurs, focused in the Acushnet Avenue Commercial Corridor, the historic Gateway community to new immigrants.  Lena Park CDC, in partnership with CodeSquad, trained 10 adults from Boston’s urban core to launch new careers as full-stack web developers. Madison Park

Development Corporation partnered with the MA Census Equity Fund to ensure all residents are counted.  Franklin County CDC, as Co-Administrator of the Massachusetts Food Trust, funded 7 healthy food projects across the Commonwealth.

As always, CDCs are also creating and preserving affordable housing: for seniors on the South Shore, families in Western MA, year-round residents on the Cape, and residents at risk of displacement in triple-deckers in East Boston. CDCs are fighting for climate and environmental justice from South Boston, where sea level rise presents an imminent risk, to Lawrence, where Groundwork Lawrence’s Green Team prepared 40 young people for a lifetime of environmental and healthy community leadership.

This report highlights these activities and tallies the collective impacts of CDCs in 2019.  Tables on our website show the complete GOALs Survey results.

While these CDC activities are diverse, their underlying principles are similar: economic empowerment, housing stability, health equity, civic engagement, and racial equity.  This work has built community resilience and infrastructure that is being called upon as we face new and unprecedented challenges. And while our 2020 results won’t be available until next year, we are already seeing evidence that CDCs are taking their work to yet higher levels in 2020.  The work of community development continues.

Read the MACDC GOALs Report

Commenting Closed

Affordable Rental Housing Remains Out of Reach for Many Americans, New Report Shows

July 16th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

“Right now, our efforts to ensure that everyone has a safe, healthy home to weather the coronavirus storm are hampered by the fact that we already had a housing crisis in this country before this virus ever hit our shores”  U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown pointedly notes in the Preface to “Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing 2020.”

Since 1989, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has issued Out of Reach, to call attention to the gulf between actual wages and what people need to earn to afford their rents. The report affirms that even before the massive economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, housing costs outpaced what many workers could afford; more than 7.7 million extremely low-income renters were spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing costs.

According to the Report, in Massachusetts, the average or Fair Market Rent (FMR)[1] for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,847. For a household to be able to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, the household must earn a “Housing Wage” of $35.52 per hour (annual pay of $73,890). The average hourly renter wage in Massachusetts is estimated at $21.74, meaning that two incomes are required to afford the rent.  For single parent households, or other households where only one person is employed, the household income is typically not sufficient. For those making the minimum wage of $12.75, the situation is dire, as 111 work hours per week would be required to afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

In the Boston Metropolitan Area, the required Housing Wage is even higher, at $44.44 per hour.  But some communities outside of Boston face a steeper affordability challenge, as incomes are lower.  In the Brockton area, although average rents of $1,528 for a two-bedroom apartment are lower than the state average, the average renter wage is only $11.69 per hour.  At this income, even a household with two full-time employees earning the average renter wage could not come close to affording the average rent.

Of course, as noted in the Report, “the economic downturn spurred by the virus further increases the risk of housing instability for millions of low-wage renters at a time when stable housing is vital.” The unemployment rate for African Americans and Latinx Americans remains several percentage points higher than the overall rate. Low-income households are facing disproportionate hardships; the Federal Reserve’s May report on the economic well-being of U.S. households found that 39% of people working in February with household incomes below $40,000 reported job losses in March.

The Report describes the significant investment in federal rental housing programs needed to ensure that everyone has a decent and affordable home. It notes that the federal eviction moratoriums for renters in federally supported rental properties, and other state and local moratoriums, offer important protections for renters during this crisis, and should be extended. The Report adds that, since the moratoriums do not relieve renters of their obligations, significant federal assistance is needed, including the following:

  • Emergency Rental Assistance: $100 billion in emergency assistance is included in the HEROES Act, passed by the U.S. House and awaiting Senate action;
  • National Housing Stabilization Fund: Creation of an emergency assistance fund to prevent evictions and provide housing stability for families facing a sudden and temporary shock to their finances is included in the “Eviction Crisis Act,” introduced on a bipartisan basis by Senators Bennet and Portman;
  • Rental Assistance: Fully fund the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which allows households to pay 30% of their incomes for rent, as well as increased funding for Project-Based Rental Assistance. Senators Hirono, Gillibrand, and Booker have introduced legislation to fully fund Housing Choice Vouchers;
  • Increase Supply of Affordable Housing: Expanding the supply of affordable rental housing with significant increases in capital investments is necessary. For example, multiple bills have been introduced to provide additional funding for the National Housing Trust, currently capitalized at less than $1 billion per year; and
  • Capital Investments in Public Housing: NHLIC estimates that public housing authorities face a backlog of capital repair needs of $70 billion.

At its current funding levels, federal housing assistance is available to only one in four eligible low-income households (Fischer & Sard, 2017).  A sustained commitment to the investments described above are needed to make affordable rental housing, in Massachusetts and in the nation, in reach for everyone.

 


[1] Fair Market Rent:

Source: NLIHC calculation of weighted-average HUD fair market rent. Affordable rents based on income and benefits data from

BLS QCEW, 2018 adjusted to 2020 dollars

Commenting Closed

MACDC Notebook Archive

July 10th, 2020 by John Fitterer
Commenting Closed

Racism and Public Health – A New Announcement, A Growing Understanding

July 10th, 2020 by Elana Brochin

On June 12th, Mayor Walsh declared racism a public health crisis in Boston and announced that he would reallocate $12 million of the Police Department’s overtime budget to fund programs to reduce racial disparities, including $3 million on public health initiatives. This $3 million was reallocated to the Boston Public Health Commission in the Mayor’s final budget, which passed on June 26th.

Declaring racism as a public health crisis is a bold statement. It echoes growing awareness in the public health community that racism itself is a major social determinant of health. At the same time, I wonder what exactly this declaration can do to accelerate change since others in the city and the state have previously established the connection between racism and public health.

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is an independent public health agency which is governed by a board appointed by the Mayor of Boston. According to their website, “BPHC has been committed to racial justice & health equity in Boston since 2000.” In 2019 BPHC made ‘Racial Justice and Health Equity’ its priority in its strategic plan.

Massachusetts has additionally recognized racism as a public health issue in several ways. In 2017 as part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) revisions to their Determination of Need regulations, DPH created a Statewide fund of which the intersection of racism and public health as a defining characteristic. MACDC served on the fund’s advisory task force that recommended this focus on racial equity. Applicants to the fund were required to articulate how their project works to dismantle “policies, systems, and social/physical environments that are historically based in structural and institutional racism and other forms of oppression.” According to the Department of Public Health, “these forms of oppression need to be understood and disrupted to eliminate health inequities.”

Building on the Department of Public Health’s Determination of Need updates, the Massachusetts Attorney General clearly identified racism as a public health issue in her updated Community Benefits Guidelines for hospital in 2018 (MACDC also served on this Advisory Task Force!). Citing the BPHC (again – which has a board appointed by the Mayor of Boston), the Attorney General declared that racism both has an independent impact and also impacts other social determinants of health. The Guidelines recommend that “hospitals and HMOs should consider this framework and continue to recognize and address the role that racism and institutional bias play in impacting health outcomes in their communities.”

So, what is new about the Mayor’s announcement? First of all, an announcement from the top City official is an important statement – even if it’s one that reiterates something that’s been said before. It’s also important the Mayor’s term “Public Health Emergency” connotes appropriate seriousness and urgency. This is particularly noteworthy in the midst of another public health crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. By using terminology that evokes this international crisis, the Mayor is signaling the importance of acknowledging the profound impact of racism on population and individual health. Lastly, it is important that this is a statement that is coming from a non-public health entity nor from explicit public health guidance. Mayor Walsh’s announcement makes clear that it is not just the people who think day-in and day-out about population health who are making the connection between racism and health. I hope that the Mayor’s declaration will influence people at all levels of government, across all industries and sectors, and across demographics to recognize this connection. Additionally, all levels of government, as well as hospitals and other healthcare institutions should follow Mayor Walsh’s lead and invest money in racial equity work. In addition to being the right thing to do, investing in racial equity work will lead to improved health outcomes and a reduction in health disparities.

 

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