Five trends to look for in 2011

As we look forward to a new year, here are five trends that will shape the Massachusetts community development field in 2011 and beyond.

1. CDC Certification will reshape the field. 

This year will see the start of the new CDC certification program established by the legislature and the Governor in 2009. DHCD is currently working to craft the guidelines and procedures needed so that nonprofits can start applying for certification by the spring. The certification program will bring greater clarity, transparency and resources to the CDC sector. It will also transform our collective perceptions about what types of nonprofits are really CDCs from the 1975 vision that was locked in place by MGL Chapter 40(f) to a new, more flexible, and more relevant definition under MGL Chapter 40(h).   MACDC will be advocating for state policies that can help CDCs achieve their community’s goals. This will include legislation to create a new tax credit program and other policies that target funding to CDCs. The result will be a larger, more diverse, and more adaptive network of local community development organizations that can get results.

Former industrial area is transformed into housing.

2. A tighter affordable housing pipeline will pose serious challenges.

The state has a pipeline of high quality housing projects that far exceed the resources available to DHCD. This will force CDCs and all developers to wait longer to receive funding and will begin to reduce the number of new projects that developers can initiate. That’s a shame because CDCs (and others) have many opportunities that will be delayed or terminated. DHCD will need to reassess how to prioritize its limited funding and affordable housing developers will have to take a realistic look at their business model or risk being financially weakened by projects that can’t move forward.

3. A continued increase in collaboration will drive innovation.

Collaboration has become such a buzz word that it sometimes sounds more like a cliché than a strategy. But the fact remains; collaboration is the key to success in today’s community development field. In 2011, you can expect to see many new and expanded collaborations among CDCs and between CDCs and other partners in such areas as housing development, asset management, small business, green jobs, and public transit advocacy.

4. Reenergized state support for small business development will create new opportunities.

The newly established Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation will begin to devise and implement a new framework for providing technical support and financing to small businesses across the Commonwealth. The MGCC will fund and strengthen the Small Business Technical Assistance program and support local and regional nonprofit micro business lenders. The result will be a more effective and targeted strategy for supporting immigrant and minority-owned business enterprises and reaching traditionally hard to serve markets such as inner city neighborhoods and rural areas.

5. Comprehensive, placed-based strategies will gain prominence. 

This year we will see a growing emphasis within the field on placed-based, long-term, and comprehensive approaches to community change. More and more CDCs will be engaging local residents in community planning and partnering with allies in other fields such as public health, public safety, workforce development, public transit, clean energy, and education. This trend will be supported by at least two new initiatives sponsored by LISC (Resilient Communities/Resilient Families) and the Smart Growth Alliance (Great Neighborhoods.) Federal policy will also support this trend through the Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods and Sustainable Communities programs. 

These trends create opportunities and challenges for community developers. We look forward to working with our members and partners to ensure that the trends lead to stronger and more vibrant communities across the Commonwelath.

Happy New Year!



Thanks for outlining the key community development trends that you anticipate this year. As mentioned above, collaboration is certainly critical and certification may be a means to that "end".

Joe, this is a fascinating and timely look at some critical issues. Well done and thought-provoking.


Good point about "green." That certainly qualifies as a major trend - thanks for highlighting it!

As for the CDC certification, I'm not sure all of the groups that you mention would qualify as CDCs under the new certification. Some may; others may not. It is not easy to draw a line, but the prior line which was based as much on historical accident as substantive differences was not working. In any event, all these groups already compete with each other - our hope is that certificaiton will give CDCs a leg up in the competition. But competition will always be with us - as it should in my view. And of course, we won't be passive observers to this process. We intend to influence it!

Thanks for commenting.

Thanks for getting issues out there for consideration. I would add one trend and a few contrarian thoughts.

The Greening Trend is a thread that will bind most every organizing project and/or housing activity we undertake - and I hope it gets us all to a greener bottom line as well. ‘Green’ affordable housing, at small/moderate scale anyway, is harder to accomplish outside of Boston. The CDC industry needs CPA or additional funds to succeed in building Green affordable housing for families and seniors in those 147 locations which have taxed themselves in order to broaden housing options for residents. When there is little access to water/sewer or other utilities, Green items are difficult to include in a project budget. Bigger scale 40b projects, which are needed but not often all-affordable, will have an advantage on State Green funds because they can produce ‘at scale.’ The 40 Gateway Cities, esp those with pro-active Community Development departments and CDBG funds, have a useful advantage here as well.

Collaboration, ie ‘innovation’, will continue to be driven by competition, which is often more tense than fun. Restated, ‘Competition is the mother of………Innovation, ie Collaboration.’ We more often collaborate when we can’t do it alone. So are we truly collaborating or just avoiding competition – or does it matter? Of note, some more local entities seem to be morphing into or claiming larger territories. Are they collaborating or doing place-based development? NOAH has been public for years that we intend to serve a broader territory where there no active CDC’s. None of us wants to fade but we all have to find ways to add value.

CDC certification may bring in more entities to the field but they will not be place-based or have ‘community development’ as their goal. CDC cert will broaden the field (and hopefully increase our collective power to advocate for housing resources), but it will also increase competition for current CDC’s. Larger enterprises and single purpose entities have different agendas. Single purpose entities pursue single-purpose (eg homelessness, domestic violence) production projects in a variety of locales. They have little mission focused intention of ‘improving the neighborhood.’ Larger enterprises have production ‘at scale’ as their goal and they work across regions and states. Their worthy (and needed) projects may well have a complement of resident services, but they should not be mistaken for the traditional CDC, neighborhood based palate of services, projects and leadership/youth development programs that begat and built the 40h movement.

In the end, even though there is certification, funders/investors will still likely choose production over community, size/scale over place. As CDC’s, the changes are scary for all of us, but they are not ‘bad’ for the development of affordable housing in the State, ‘just’ a form of uneasy evolution.