Posted by Jeremy Liu on May 3, 2013
An overwhelming percentage of the budget each year is allocated to the police and fire departments, and to pension obligations. Meanwhile, funding is cut for services that would equip Oakland to proactively attract business, plan for development, support quality education programming, and provide other services that are a key means for cities grow the budget “pie.”
This is not to suggest that the police and fire departments don’t play a critical role in ensuring that the city is a safe location for businesses (which generate sales and property taxes) and for residents (who work in said businesses and generate property taxes); they do. But without growing the budget, the stark realities of having to cut services are not going to go away.
Without trying to overgeneralize, you could put teachers, libraries, human services, and community economic development in the “proactive” category, and fire and police services in the “protective” category. The challenge is to balance these “proactive” and “protective” strategies within a limited (because of Proposition 13) property tax revenue environment like California, particularly in cities other than San Francisco and Los Angeles, which have other viable sources of local revenue, like a hotel tax.
What if we could find more ways to combine “proactive” and “protective” services?
Posted by Rooflines on May 3, 2013
NCRC is an association of more than 600 community-based organizations that promote access to basic banking services, including credit and savings, to create and sustain affordable housing, job development, and vibrant communities.
The awards ceremony on March 22 was hosted by Julianne Malveaux, and featured remarks by John Trasviña, assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This year's awardees are:
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on May 2, 2013
We've heard noises before that President Obama might nominate Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) to replace Ed DeMarco as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the agency the regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
I find it hard to believe that it was a coincidence that this announcement was made official right as the Congressional Budget Office released its findings that principal reduction on underwater mortgages could save taxpayers up to $2.8 billion.
DeMarco's opposition to principal reduction has been the reason behind a massive movement calling for his replacement. I find it believable that the president felt more comfortable heading into a senate confirmation process with CBO analysis backing him up fresh on everyone's minds. (Might not also hurt that there has been legislative action started calling for principal reductions too.)
Many housing advocates including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, and New Bottom Line, have praised the choice of Watt. But there are naysayers too:
Posted by David Holtzman on May 2, 2013
Last fall, I wrote on Rooflines about people in intentional communities who engage with the market economy, even as they live a communal lifestyle that contrasts with the mainstream.
When I moved to Louisa, Va., a couple years ago, there were two such communities in my rural county. Now a third one is developing, with a mission not so much to participate in the market economy, but to show it can be transformed.
Living Energy Farm makes its purpose simple: to live, work and play without reliance on fossil fuels.
Posted by Steve Dubb and David Zuckerman on May 1, 2013
On April 12, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke cited Jane Jacobs when he called for “bottom up” community development at a Federal Reserve community development conference. The affirmation of the importance of community development by Bernake demonstrates how far our field has come.
(Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op. © Indy Fod Co-op)
Still, building healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities requires more than “bottom up” solutions. The importance of community ownership to ensure that projects that start at the bottom result in lasting community wealth for the people involved is often missing from the discussion.
The local foods movement provides examples that illustrate the importance of this ownership principle in practice. Access to healthy food is a critical component of any vibrant community. Food deserts, as we all know, plague many low-income communities.
While eliminating these food deserts often involves resources from outside of the community, ensuring community ownership in any project means that as a neighborhood rebounds it maintains control of its assets and identity.
Posted by Laurie Goldman on April 30, 2013
Relationships are critical to promoting affordable housing and community development, but how we invest in those relationships may be even more important.
This is the message that stayed with me after the screening of the new documentary film Envisioning Home and the panel discussion hosted by Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) on April 9.
The film, produced and directed by Daniel Blake Smith and Jason Epperson, recounts the efforts of two inspiring leaders who have devoted more than four decades to transforming public housing. Jean King, a housing tenant activist, and Richard Baron, a legal aid attorney, met during the St. Louis rent strike of 1968-69. She knew the residents and the tribulations of living in deteriorating and poorly managed public housing developments. He knew the regulations and legal systems. Their partnership and relationships among mobilized residents and their allies won reforms that continue to shape federally subsidized housing today, such as rents capped to a percentage of household income, designated budget lines for operating expenses, and formal mechanisms for tenant participation. It’s a story about relationships as powerful instruments of institutional change.
The second part of the film traces the growth of McCormack Baron Salazar, a St. Louis-based company, from its first mixed-income, mixed-finance housing developments in the 1970s to the nationwide enterprise it is today. We tour numerous examples of people-centered and energy efficient design and access to educational, employment, health, recreational, and cultural amenities. This is also a story about relationships. Relationships brought together private finances and multiple streams of federal, state, and local funding, connected property managers with residents, and housers partnered with neighborhood service providers.
The discussion among scholars and practitioners of affordable housing and community development following the screening reinforced the message that relationships among audacious and persistent leaders with good ideas matter. Yet discussants stressed that investing in those relationships may matter even more. Here are a few of their suggestions:
Posted by Jodi Weinberger on April 29, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday that it will be restructuring its Multifamily Housing Programs and the Office of Field Policy and Management to meet the realities of dwindling funding.
Over the next two and a half years, HUD will consolidate its field employees, who currently work in 50 offices, down to 10 nationwide, with plans to offer the 900 affected employees opportunities to continue working for HUD.
"The current organizational model for HUD is not sustainable from a financial and a service delivery point of view," said Maurice Jones, HUD's Deputy Secretary. "We're in a different budget environment and we're at a point where we must make some extremely tough choices."
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on April 26, 2013
Today in New York state, third through eighth graders are wrapping up their second week of increased testing under the new Common Core standards. It did not go over very well among either among administrators and teachers or among parents, who launched a significant movement to have their children refuse to take the tests.
To hear John Tierney tell it, this backlash is just the beginning of a well-deserved revolution against the "accountability-based" education reform that we have been in the grip of for over a decade, with its emphasis on standardized testing, school "choice" and "competition," and disregarding and punishing teachers in favor of businesspeople with ideas about how education should work.
I wrote this week for our local paper about the opt-out movement and how I find it hopeful that it seems to be uniting people across the ideological spectrum.
But I'm also very curious about how this sea change will play out in the community development field. Community-based groups have often found themselves on different sides of the fence when it comes to the education wars:
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on April 25, 2013
Housing First, the model that says that homeless families need stable housing before they can address other problems in their lives, and which privileges things like rapid re-housing, rental assistance, and permanent housing over increased shelter capacity, has become widely regarded by many in the business as the state-of-the-art approach that will save money and have better outcomes. It got significant funding through the stimulus, and has turned out good results in many places.
But in New York, where the shelter system has a population larger than some small cities, a debate is raging over whether the shelter-to-housing pipeline should be sped up or slowed down. City Limits reports on this debate, and especially on a policy brief from the Insitute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness that claims that rapid rehousing was creating perverse incentives, drawing people into the shelter system, and that the services to address other issues in homeless families' lives should come first to ensure successful rehousing.
The perverse incentives part seems like an argument that I would have expected more from the likes of the the Manhattan Institute than ICPH, especially, as mayoral candidate Christine Quinn points out in City Limits, shelter numbers have stayed high or increased since such programs have been canceled. I don't quite see the argument, but maybe the unexpected source means it's at least worth stopping to think about. Are Housing First programs getting more glory than they deserve?
(Photo by Kymberly Janisch, CC BY-NC-ND.)
Posted by J. Rosie Tighe on April 24, 2013
"The old formula of buying and dying in your house is no longer the formula for many…The stigma of renting is no longer the case. When it comes to living the American dream, the overwhelming response (is) renting is just as appealing," says Peter Hart.
The MacArthur Foundation quoted Hart, its emeritus chairman, in a recent press release discussing the results of new survey on the American Dream conducted by Hart Research Associates.
The survey asked this question: “Thinking more broadly and not for you personally, given our nation's current economic situation, generally speaking, do you think that buying a home has become more appealing, less appealing, or that our current economic situation has no impact on whether buying a home is appealing?"
According to the results, 54 percent of respondents said that renting has become more appealing, and 57 percent said that owning has become less appealing.
Does this mean that renting carries no stigma?