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MACDC Board Meets with Gov. Charlie Baker

April 30th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

For the fourth year in a row, MACDC's Board of Directors met with Governor Charlie Baker as part of our annual Lobby Day.  MACDC Board Chair, Vanessa Calderon Rosado thanked the Governor for his support of key MACDC priorities including the Housing Bond Bill, the Community Investment Tax Credit and the Small Business Technical Assistance program.  A number of board members then shared some of the innovative work they are doing locally to support small businesses, help working families buy their first home, and partner with hospitals to advance health equity initiatives. The Board also pressed the Governor to support an increase in state matching funds for the Community Preservation Act and to allocate a portion of the forthcoming gaming industry tax revenue to support small businesses from under-invested communities.

"Our conversation with the Governor was substantive and productive," said MACDC President Joseph Kriesberg.  "We deeply appreciate the Governor's keen interest in our work and his willingness to engage in a detailed conversation about how we can work together toward shared goals."

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MACDC Lobby Day: Hit Me with Your Best Shot!

April 30th, 2018 by David Bryant

By any objective measure, MACDC’s 2018 Lobby Day was a tremendous success.  On April 24, more than 150 community development practitioners and patrons filled the MA State House, with passion and vigor, both to thank the Governor and legislators who have supported important community economic development priorities this past year and to urge decisive action for completing important legislation before the end of the session on July 31st. 

Lobby Day coincided with the beginning of the House of Representatives’ week of formal budget debate.  Because of months of planning, outreach and engagement – primarily through State House meetings, committee hearings and in-district “Doughnuts” meetings – CDCs had secured broad support from Governor Baker, legislators and the House Committee on Ways and Means for several important budget priorities. In January, the Governor had proposed to restore funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program to $2 million in FY 2019, and to provide sufficient funding through the Division of Banks to provide at least $1.3 million for the State’s Chapter 206 grant program, which allows nonprofit partners to offer homebuyer education and foreclosure prevention counseling in communities across the Commonwealth.  Chairman Jeff Sanchez and the House Committee on Ways and Means adopted these recommendations and the full House of Representatives passed in its budget late last week.  (We encouraged senators to support these same policy initiatives through its budget process beginning in May.)

Fortunately, at this time the legislature already has advanced two of our most important priorities to a conference committee – the extension and expansion of the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program and a five-year extension of a $1.7 billion Housing Bond Bill – and should complete its compromise deliberations and send a bill to Governor Baker in the next few weeks.

Thus, MACDC members and its partners fanned out around the State House to thank legislators for this support and to encourage them to complete action on statewide zoning reform and restored state funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund before the end of the legislative session July 31st.

MACDC’s Board met with Governor Baker to express our gratitude for his support and to highlight several key CDC member initiatives, to address community health disparities and low-income homeownership challenges, which may foretell important state - community partnership opportunities in the years ahead.

At the noon luncheon, a boost of encouragement was offered in remarks made by retiring Rep. Steve Kulik of Worthington, a longtime champion for our community economic development priorities (e.g., zoning reform, SBTA, CPA, CITC, Rural Policy Commission, etc.) who vowed to make a strong push through the end of his term.  Senate President Harriette Chandler was the keynote speaker and she reiterated her commitment to housing affordability and her full-throated support of CDCs (see, prepared text of her remarks) offered a power chord for a chorus of activists to take heart from the rest of this session.

Fire away!

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Read Senate President Chandler's Remarks at MACDC's 2018 Lobby Day

April 27th, 2018 by John Fitterer

On Tuesday, April 24th, Senate President Harriette Chandler spoke at MACDC's 2018 Lobby Day.  Her powerful remarks addressed the affordable housing crisis, how we must do more to address this challenge, and how zoning statutues need to be revisited.

"If just one family cannot afford to live in Massachusetts, then we have failed our collective responsibility to fairness, and have failed in our pursuit for economic prosperity," Senate President Chandler.

Here are her remarks in PDF format.

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Valley CDC Celebrates 30 Years of Serving its Neighbors

April 26th, 2018 by Don Bianchi

Joined by more than 200 of its closest friends and supporters, Valley CDC celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 12.  Valley CDC primarily serves four communities in Western Massachusetts: Northampton, Easthampton, Amherst, and Hadley.  Through affordable housing development, services to homebuyers and homeowners, and small business development services, Valley CDC demonstrates its commitment to economic justice every day.

In her remarks, CDC Executive Director Joanne Campbell said that she moved to Northampton in 1997, and joined Valley CDC to run the CDC’s affordable housing initiatives, thinking that work in Western MA would be slower-paced than what she left in the New York City area.  She soon realized that affordable housing work is by its nature difficult anywhere.  Undeterred, in less than a year, Joanne became Valley CDC’s Director, and led the CDC out of difficult times.  More than one speaker noted how fortunate we are that Joanne is leading the organization, along with other skilled and dedicated staff.

The highlight of the evening was a keynote speech by Charles M. Blow, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, CNN commentator, and author of his best-selling memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones.  Mr. Blow spoke for 30 minutes, and then answered questions submitted by the audience for another 40 minutes.

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Blow provided counter-points to a number of widespread talking points about poverty and the black community.  He noted how President Trump, in his campaign, described life in the inner cities as “hell”, and rhetorically asked those living there what they had to lose.  Mr. Blow replied that the answer was, and is, “everything.”  He went on to speak about the “othering” of communities, and that “more law and order is simply code for organized state oppression in many of these communities.”  He concluded his prepared remarks by using a metaphor of life being a hill; some people start at the bottom while others start halfway up or at the top, and finished by declaring “For God’s sake, stop pretending there’s no damn hill.”  In response to one of the audience questions, he pushed back against the belief that racism is only a southern thing, with “No, it’s your thing,” citing segregation in New York’s schools and how Martin Luther King Jr. fought for fair housing in Chicago toward the end of his life.  He added, “Liberal cities cannot lecture anybody else until they take a long hard stare in the mirror.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, attendees bid their good-byes and ventured out into the night.  And, no doubt, Valley CDC’s staff went home for a night’s sleep before returning to work the next day to start the CDC’s 31st year of service to the community.

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State Awards $1.5 Million for Sustainable Homeownership Counseling

April 11th, 2018 by Don Bianchi

 

On April 9, state officials visited two CDCs to announce $1.5 million in awards for eleven regional foreclosure prevention centers and ten organizations that provide consumer and homeownership counseling.   EOHED Secretary Jay Ash traveled to the Neighbor Works Homeownership Center of Central MA in Worcester and to Wayfinders in Springfield to announce these important grants.

CDCs continue to be among the leaders in providing these essential services, with thirteen of the twenty-one awards made to MACDC Members or coalitions which include MACDC Members.  CDCs serving urban, rural, and suburban areas across the Commonwealth are helping homebuyers acquire their first homes and assisting homeowners at risk of foreclosure in keeping their homes.

The counseling awards were created through Chapter 206 of the Acts of 2007 – a law that MACDC helped enact through our advocacy with CHAPA and MAHA.  They are funded by fees associated with the licensing of mortgage loan originators. These grants have enabled Regional Foreclosure Education Centers and Consumer Counseling Agencies to serve more than 4,700 Massachusetts consumers in 2017. More than 85 percent of the families receiving foreclosure prevention counseling were able to avoid foreclosure and successfully remain in their homes.  Since the inception of the Grant program in 2008, the Division of Banks (DOB) has awarded more than $12 million to organizations to assist over 41,000 consumers.

In his remarks, Secretary Ash noted that he and Governor Baker know that “without a stable roof over your head, nothing else is possible.”  Undersecretary John Chapman of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation acknowledged the role of the Division of Banks in administering and advocating for the program, and DOB Commissioner Terence McGinnis closed the event by noting the Division’s rigorous review of applications and thanking the counseling organizations for accomplishing their mission in a fiscally responsible manner.

The $1.5 million awarded is higher than in recent years.  MACDC appreciates the Baker-Polito Administration’s recognition of the importance of these funds to organizations that so many families rely on to acquire and keep their homes.  We are particularly grateful to the Division of Banks for its continued advocacy for the program and for its thoughtful and effective oversight.

 

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Why The Color of Law is a Must Read for Community Developers

April 11th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

Today, April 11, marks the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Federal Fair Housing Act, and to mark the occasion I spent the weekend reading The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein.  To be honest, when the book was first released I was unsure whether I would read it, thinking arrogantly that “I know that story already.”  After all, I’ve been working in community development for 25 years and have taught graduate level courses in community development and affordable housing. After I missed seeing Mr. Rothstein speak at a recent event with Massachusetts Community Banking Council, I figured I should reconsider.   I’m glad I did.  I learned a tremendous amount pouring through chapter after chapter this weekend.  To put it simply:  I consider this book to be required reading for any serious community developer, affordable housing advocate, or frankly for anyone interested in America’s history . . . and America’s future.

The book is framed as a rebuttal to an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007 in which he rejected school desegregation programs in Louisville and Seattle by arguing that when residential segregation “is a product not of state action, but of private choices, it does not have constitutional implications.”  Rothstein proceeds to document, in brutal detail, that segregation in America is indeed the result of governmental action and this “de jure segregation” violated our Constitution, and therefore, requires a constitutional remedy.

The book effectively combines stories about particular families and places, data, and a systemic analysis of the multiple and reinforcing ways that government – federal, state and local – systematically segregated our country.   Some of the laws, policies and practices that were deployed include:

  • Zoning that explicitly required blacks and whites to live in different neighborhoods, followed by various forms of exclusionary zoning that prevented rental housing and low-income housing from being developed in many communities;
  • Financing programs that encouraged developers to build segregated developments and literally prevented developers from building integrated housing developments, even when developers wanted to do so;
  • Redlining practices that ensured government-subsidized mortgages were only offered to white families;
  • Government enforcement of racial covenants that prevented homes from being sold to African Americans;
  • Demolition of African American neighborhoods that forced residents to relocate to other areas;
  • Highways strategically located to destroy black neighborhoods, to provide barriers between blacks and whites, and to enable whites to move to the suburbs;
  • A failure to arrest perpetrators who used violence to scare and intimidate African Americans who moved into white neighborhoods;
  • Relocating schools to force black (and white) families to move to new neighborhoods, so their children could attend public school;
  • Systematically undermining economic opportunities for African Americans to prevent them from gaining the economic wherewithal to compete with whites in the housing market; and
  • On and on and on it goes.

The impact of these policies and programs, many of which were enacted by liberal elected officials,  was staggering.  Indeed, there were many integrated communities across America in the early 20th century but these communities were systematically destroyed.  Many developers sought to build integrated communities only to be denied by federal, state and local policies.  Middle class black families who were well on their way toward the American Dream had their long term economic prospects (and those of their children and grand-children) artificially short circuited because they were unable to buy a home and build equity.  And, yes, there were white families who wanted to live in integrated communities but were blocked by the government from doing so.  Significantly, these policies were in full force from 1945 to 1968 when our country went through a period of massive housing development.  By the time the laws began to change, it was too late: modern America had been built and residential segregation was institutionalized.

As a community developer and an advocate of affordable housing, the book forces some difficult questions.  Are we unintentionally perpetuating segregation today? Does affordable housing policy focus too much on the provision of shelter for the poor and not enough on the need to promote integration?  How does this history challenge our views about gentrification or the growing suburbanization of poverty?  Given the limited funding for subsidized housing, how can we better leverage the market to drive integration? What is the proper remedy for racially concentrated areas of poverty?  I still have more questions than answers.

Perhaps because I have so many questions, I was a bit disappointed in the section on possible remedies.  He readily acknowledges that some of his suggestions are politically impossible under almost any scenario.  Other ideas that he offers are the same ones that we already frequently hear – such as locating more affordable housing in middle class neighborhoods and allowing Section 8 tenants to rent more expensive housing – remedies that are small scale at best and would do nothing to improve the quality of life for millions of African Americans and others that would inevitably remain in poor communities.  The section fails to adequately deal with the many complexities we face in undoing nearly a century of de jure racial segregation.  He perpetuates the stereotype that low-income communities of color lack assets and does not fully acknowledge that many people of color are seeking to preserve their communities as well as their cultural and historic significance.  He also does not adequately discuss, in my view, the complexities associated with integration in a society that is no longer just black and white, but is growing more and more diverse.

Rothstein does offer one recommendation with which I whole-heartedly agree.  He argues that we need to revamp our high school history curriculum and textbooks to make sure the history of de jure segregation is taught to all Americans. He points out two major high school textbooks that barely mention the subject – one book has just a single sentence on the subject out of 1,000 pages!  Rothstein makes a compelling argument that we can’t even begin to address this issue effectively until we gain a shared understanding that residential segregation in America is the result of explicit, sustained, pervasive, creative, insidious governmental action.  The Color of Law makes a major contribution to that effort and should be read not only by students, but also by jurists, policymakers, advocates, citizens . . . all of us. 

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CITC Legislation Moves Toward Passage

April 4th, 2018 by Joe Kriesberg

Legislation to extend and expand the Community Investment Tax Credit moved one giant step closer to passage with a recent vote by the Massachusetts State Senate.  On March 29, the Senate voted 34-0 to adopt the Affordable Housing Bond Bill, which included language to extend the CITC program from 2019 to 2025 and to gradually increase the total cap on the program from $6 million to $12 million (see table below).  The House of Representatives approved identical language as part of its Housing Bond Bill earlier this year.

The House and Senate bills will now go to a House-Senate Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between them – differences that do not impact CITC.  MACDC expects the bill to reach the Governor’s desk by the end of April, at which point it will become law with a simple signature by Governor Charlie Baker.  Significantly, the bill would also provide capital authorization for the state’s affordable housing programs and extend and expand other important tax credit programs.

 

Year

Statewide Cap

Cap per CDC

2018

$6M

$150K

2019

$8M

$200K

2020

$8M

$200K

2021

$10M

$250K

2022

$10M

$250K

2023

$12M

$300K

2024

$12M

$300K

2025

$12M

$300K

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2018 CITC Awards Announced

April 4th, 2018 by

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced $5.9 million in allocations to 46 CDCs through the Community Investment Tax Credit program.  Over the program’s first four years, $34.5 million was raised for critical community development programs that directly benefit low- and moderate-income families across Massachusetts.  These funds are helping CDCs to work with residents in their communities by providing vital affordable housing options, access to services and capital for aspiring entrepreneurs as well as programs and services to ensure that community residents can not only become stabilized, but thrive and benefit from our Commonwealth’s economy.

“The Community Investment Tax Credit Program is a unique tool to encourage private investment,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “From instituting new lead paint programming in Central Massachusetts, to bringing on a full-time community planner in Boston’s Chinatown, our CDCs have leveraged significant funding to bring impactful programming to communities across the Commonwealth.”

Commenting on the 2018 CITC allocation, MACDC’s President Joe Kriesberg said, “It is truly exciting to see what happens when banks, hospitals and individuals work together to make their communities a better place to live. Today, because of their collective belief and investment in their local community development corporations, millions of Massachusetts residents, regardless of their socio-economic status in life, will see demonstrative improvements to their neighborhoods and share in the benefits of Massachusetts’ success. For those unable to participate in the CITC for this year’s tax filing, be sure to visit the MACDC website to learn about how you can get involved next year.”

Below is the complete list of CDCs receiving 2018 CITC allocations:

ACT Lawrence: $50,000

Allston Brighton CDC: $150,000

Asian CDC: $150,000

CDC Southern Berkshire: $100,000

Coalition for a Better Acre: $70,000

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp.: $150,000

Community Development Partnership: $150,000

Community Teamwork: $119,465

Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp.: $150,000

Fenway CDC: $150,000

Franklin County CDC: $150,000

Harborlight Community Partners: $150,000

Hilltown CDC: $150,000

Housing Assistance Corp. Cape Cod: $150,000

Housing Corp. of Arlington: $150,000

Housing Nantucket: $150,000

Housing Solutions Southeastern MA: $70,000

IBA: $100,000

Island Housing Trust: $150,000

JPNDC: $150,000

Just-A-Start: $125,000

Lawrence CommunityWorks: $150,000

Lena Park: $50,000

LISC Boston: $119,465

MACDC: $150,000

Madison Park CDC: $150,000

Main South CDC: $125,000

Metro West CDC: $61,605

Mill Cities: $50,000

NeighborWorks Southern MA: $119,465

NewVue Communities: $150,000

NOAH: $150,000

North Shore CDC: $119,465

Nuestra Comunidad: $150,000

Oak Hill CDC: $119,465

Quaboag CDC: $119,465

SMOC: $150,000

Somerville CDC: $150,000

South Boston Neighborhood Development Corp.: $61,605

Southwest Boston CDC: $50,000

Springfield NHS: $50,000

The Neighborhood Developers: $150,000

Urban Edge: $150,000

Valley CDC: $150,000

WATCH: $150,000

Way Finders: $150,000

WHALE: $150,000

Worcester Common Ground: $50,000

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Preparing Communities for a Green Future: CDCs and Sustainability

March 27th, 2018 by Allison Curtis

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Check it out: MACDC releases new report highlighting the environmental initiatives of its members across the Commonwealth.

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CDCs throughout the Commonwealth are leaders in the development and preservation of homes that are energy-efficient, transit-oriented, and environmentally sustainable. But many CDCs have sustainability programming that reaches far beyond housing. A recent report from MACDC, CDCs Go Green: A Snapshot of the Environmental Initiatives of MACDC’s Members, outlines the ways in which CDC sustainability work contributes to the overarching goals of comprehensive community development: creating places of opportunity where people of diverse incomes and backgrounds can access healthy, livable, and affordable neighborhoods.

Impressively, 33 of MACDC’s member organizations are involved in sustainability programming ranging from activism and advocacy, to supporting the local food economy, to open space preservation and stewardship. These three categories account for approximately 75% of CDC sustainability activities.  CDCs are also engaged in restoration and environmental clean-ups, recycling and waste initiatives, and resiliency and climate change preparation.

Highlighted in this report are three CDCs with particularly innovative and expansive sustainability programming. The Western Mass Food Processing Center, housed at Franklin County CDC, redefines the ways that CDCs can be involved in local food production. Through this unique facility, the CDC supports the efforts of local farmers and food businesses by providing technical and business support and encouraging local economic development, while also preserving green space and cutting back on the energy spent on transporting food. Groundwork Lawrence engages residents of all ages through an Environmental Technical Training Program and The Green Team youth program. While the immediate beneficiaries of these two initiatives vary (the training program provides workforce skills, while the Green Team prepares Lawrence’s youth for a lifetime of environmental and healthy community leadership), both address the environmental challenges faced by the City of Lawrence. Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) recently celebrated the success of their East Boston Climate Summit that attracted nearly 300 residents, organizers, and politicians. While the Climate Summit raised awareness, NOAH’s Community Action for Resilience Engagement Program identifies actions that all people can take to reduce the impact of climate change.

The impending repercussions of climate change threaten to derail the work CDCs are doing across the Commonwealth. The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation will impact low-income, minority, and marginalized populations first, and with the most vigor. By designing and implementing sustainability programming, CDCs are being proactive in the fight against these detrimental impacts. They can lessen the potential repercussions on communities through preventative programs as well as prepare communities for the impact of climate change in the future.

We hope that the work of CDCs highlighted in the report provides inspiration for organizations seeking to address community development issues through environmental programming.

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The role of CDCs in the Age-Friendly Community Movement

March 9th, 2018 by James Fuccione

A movement is gaining momentum in Massachusetts to create livable communities that focus on improving quality of life for older adults, but benefit all residents of all ages.

 

The goals of Community Development Corporations, as well as the CDC “Theory of Change,” aligns perfectly with those of the Age-Friendly Community Movement. Many cities in towns in Massachusetts are already engaged in this continuous improvement cycle where assessment, action planning, and implementation phases aim to enhance eight “domains” of livability as determined by the World Health Organization.

 

As CDC are experts in improving social determinants of health, building partnerships between healthcare and the community, and educating the public about the linkage of community development and public health, there is an opportunity to contribute to the success of the Age-Friendly Movement.

 

Learn more:

 

For more on how your CDC can get involved and join the MHAC Advisory Council or regional advisory groups, contact MHAC Senior Director James Fuccione.

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