Still Learning, After All These Years

Posted by Ted Wysocki on November 26, 2014

I had a great education and was fortunate enough to have scholarships to become the first in my family to obtain a Master’s degree. But I made a career choice in 1974 to forego a PhD for experiential learning. I didn’t know that at the time. For me it was a job then not just a student internship. Soon enough, it would become a vocation.

This month I had the opportunity to attend the 40th Anniversary Conference of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).  The theme was: “Mobilize Learners. Revolutionize Assessments.” What I learned from the plenary panel “CAEL Through the Decades” was how a movement of committed education professionals have battled over four decades for recognition and resources for adult learning. 

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Do Urban Neighborhoods Need Homeowners?

Posted by Alan Mallach on November 25, 2014

At a conference I attended last week, one of the speakers, a colleague whose judgment and knowledge I respect, offered his take on the future of urban single family neighborhoods. The lower income families who have the credit and can get together the down payment to become homeowners are buying in the suburbs. People working in urban neighborhoods, he said, (more or less in these words), are going to have to “get over homeownership." Putting aside his conclusion for a moment, the underlying facts tend to bear him out.

While homeownership has declined all over the country since the end of the housing bubble, it has dropped much faster in urban areas, not only distressed Rustbelt cities, but Sunbelt cities as well. Let’s look at a few numbers.

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Historic, and Green, and Affordable, and at (Some) Scale?

Posted by Keli A. Tianga on November 24, 2014

Iberville Offsites—the collective name of the 46 historic homes throughout New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood restored and preserved as low-income affordable housing—received the 2014 National Trust/HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation earlier this week.

“This project is proof that eliminating blight, providing affordable housing and maintaining the historic fabric of our neighborhoods are not mutually exclusive goals,” said Lata Reddy, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Prudential and president of The Prudential Foundation.

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Ferguson: No One Should Be Surprised

Posted by Gregory Squires on November 21, 2014

This op-ed originally appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on October 8, 2014.

Recent events in Ferguson constitute the logical outcome of forces spelled out in 1968 by the National Advisory Panel on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission. The report warned of a “permanent division of our country into two societies: one, largely Negro and poor, located in the central cities; the other predominantly white and affluent, located in the suburbs and outlying areas.”

Cities have not become pockets of black poverty surrounded by prosperous white suburbs. But the reality of uneven development documented in the Kerner report persists in the nation’s metropolitan areas. Central features of that development are persisting racial segregation and surging economic segregation.

To understand recent events in Ferguson, and similar tension around the U.S., we need to go beyond an understanding (accurate or inaccurate) of individual or cultural characteristics (e.g., work ethic of minorities, culture of poverty among the urban poor, racial prejudice on the part of police) and examine the institutions that shape continuing uneven metropolitan development.

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A RADical Change for Public Housing?

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on November 20, 2014

Earler this month, we published an op-ed from HUD in which the authors declared the Rental Assistance Demonstration project a success, calling for a lifting of the cap on the number of units that could go through the process.

The idea behind RAD is to address the massive backlog in capital improvements in public housing by allowing PHAs to turn units into project-based Section 8 units and take on private debt to finance the improvements.

When RAD was first proposed, it was known as PETRA, and much of the affordable housing world was in an outcry over what they said was essentially a privatizing of public housing. We devoted much of an issue to it here. RAD, proposed by affordable housing champion Rep. Keith Ellison, fixed many of the specifics that advocates critiqued, building in many more safeguards against things like the possibility of public housing being lost to foreclosure. This new version seems to have muted most of the objections, even though the underlying shift in principle is still there.

Since then, RAD has proceeded with little commentary, at least the little that has come to my attention. A panel on RAD at the Bipartisan Policy Center's Housing Summit was upbeat, but did have some interesting tidbits in it:

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Asian Americans Key in Virginia Senate Race?

Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on November 19, 2014

When I drafted this post, incumbent Virginia Senator Mark Warner held a narrow margin of victory over challenger Ed Gillespie (Warner has since declared victory, and Gillespie officially conceded). The race was bitterly contested, and the results are notable in that Asian Americans–with growing populations in Northern Virginia–were very likely determinative in Warner’s victory.

UC Berkeley political science professor, Taeku Lee, working with the AAPI Civic  Engagement Fund, conducted the Asian American Election Eve Poll, a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, nationally representative survey with targeted samples of Asian Americans in California, Texas, and Virginia. According to Professor Lee’s polling data, in Virginia, Asian Americans strongly favored Warner at over a 2-to-1 ratio (68 percent Warner to 29 percent Gillespie).

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Housing Microfinance: So Little Changes So Much

Posted by Jonathan Reckford on November 18, 2014

Housing in the developing world is a process. Families may replace a dirt floor with a clean, hard surface. They might reinforce the walls or the roof to prevent water from seeping through the cracks when it rains. They may build an additional room after welcoming a new child into the world or build a new home by starting with one or two rooms and adding on as they take out new loans.

This method of building and improving housing one step at the time is called incremental or progressive building and accounts for up to 90 percent of residential construction in the developing world. Families build their homes bit by bit as needs change and resources become available.

With 1 billion people living in slums and that number on the rise, the task of significantly impacting the problem of substandard housing is not easy; but by facilitating incremental housing efforts, we help create more safe and secure dwellings, reducing the financial burden on governments that subsidize housing. Formalizing the incremental process helps to create better planned communities rather than ad hoc solutions.

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An Artful Rebirth in Columbus

Posted by Harold Simon on November 17, 2014

In two excellent articles and a video, The Atlantic magazine profiles the good work the community development field is doing in Columbus, Ohio. As part of a larger series on reinvention and resilience in communities throughout the country, the magazine takes a close look at the Franklinton neighborhood and the Franklinton Development Association (FDA).

Like so many other communities in America, Franklinton has seen its share of abandonment—fully 25 percent of the buildings were vacant, giving the FDA lots of room to work.

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#OMG: Is the #NPO Sector Tech Averse?

Posted by Michael Hickey on November 17, 2014

I was speaking with a friend of mine who works at a very large nonprofit organization (very large as in over $100 million in annual revenues). They serve thousands of clients every year with job development, alcohol and other drug abuse treatment, affordable housing, psychological counseling and a variety of other supports. As a result of the many contracts and grants they have to do this work, they operate in excess of 15 databases to track operations, case management, fiscal operations, etc. They have a full-time IT staff, desktop and laptop computers, and handheld devices out the yingyang. I asked what they are doing with all that data. “Actually,” my friend said, “we don't do anything with the data.”  #OMG.

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City Halls Help Plant Seeds for Community Co-ops

Posted by Steve Dubb on November 14, 2014

What do Austin, New York City and Denver have in common? All three cities voted to support the development of cooperatives for the first time this year. The amounts are modest, but the trend is clear—mayors and economic development leaders are beginning to add cooperatives and community wealth building to the economic development toolbox.

In Denver, the city’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has taken the lead. In September, the city closed on a $1.2 million loan to Re:Vision to support the development of a food cooperative (and related projects) in the city’s Westwood neighborhood. Although set up as a loan, according to OED, the community development block grant funding is “essentially a grant, so long as a community benefit of food access is provided to residents for at least 20 years.” The city council had approved the financing a month earlier in August.

Re:Vision Executive Director Eric Kornacki describes the likely uses of the funding: “We’re envisioning a neighborhood-scale co-op grocery store, combined with a small cafe, a commissary kitchen, and a food aggregation and processing facility. We also aim to build a 10,000 sq. ft. greenhouse on-site to provide year-round produce—in addition to the thousands of pounds of food that we produce in the community.”

The impetus here is the city’s community economic development focus on Westwood and the Morrison Road corridor, one of Denver’s five Neighborhood Marketplace Initiative sites. As OED explains, “In 2014, with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Re:Vision launched the Westwood Food Cooperative (WFC) to help low-income families sell their surplus food. The WFC will be the first food cooperative in the country that vertically integrates low-income, urban food producers with value-added food processing and a retail food outlet. This community wealth building approach is truly unique as it creates a for-profit business, owned by the people growing the food, and then shares profits with the community it serves.”

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