Extreme Makeover: CLT Home Edition

Posted by Dana Hawkins-Simons on August 29, 2014

Who doesn’t enjoy a room makeover contest with stunning results? The competition is even more gratifying when it serves a dual purpose: delighting a happy homeowner, and fostering awareness of the community land trust (CLT) housing model.

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Moving Forward: It’s What We Do

Posted by Chris Krehmeyer on August 28, 2014

It is with an odd combination of relief and sadness that I see that my hometown, my community is no longer the lead in national headlines, no longer the first visual on national cable news and no longer the most trending hashtag. 

My organization has owned almost 20 single family rental homes in Ferguson, Mo., for over a decade and Michael Brown graduated from the school district that is our targeted geography for our community building efforts. My first thoughts about this tragedy were shared in local media and can be found here.

I wanted to use this space in Shelterforce, however, to talk my peers in our difficult field of housing and community development.  My message to you is to take a moment and make sure you are taking of yourself and your staff.

I have been in this field since 1986 and have seen my share of difficult and challenging events in the lives of those we serve and our larger community.  The tragic death of Michael Brown, or Big Mike as he was known by his friends, has shaken me like nothing else I have experienced. I cannot understand how a parent buries their child and ask that each of you take a moment and steep in that idea. I further cannot understand how a police officer like Darren Wilson who previously had not had any issues suddenly is thrust into the role of villain and has had his life ruined. I will leave it to the justice system to work through all the issues in this case and hope that all the protesters continue to push our local prosecutor to ensure a fair, just trial. 

The picture above is of me and a number of Mike’s fellow 2014 graduates from Normandy High School. My organization,Beyond Housing, has the unique opportunity to send this talented group to Carnegie Hall for a choir competition. These young folks are talented, passionate and destined for great things. 

So was Mike.

How do we in this work come to terms with the sadness, grief, and trauma that encroaches on our daily efforts to make change in our communities? 

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Ferguson, Sanford and the Persistence of Violent Racism

Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on August 27, 2014

“Wonder when I’ll find paradise // Somewhere there’s a home sweet and nice” –WAR, The World is a Ghetto

By now, many of you have probably have read the open letter to Michael Brown’s family from Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother). It is heartbreaking to think about the deep loss, the deep injustice, that these families have had to bear.

Many of the smaller facts and even the bigger issues between the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin shootings are different. Brown was shot by a policeman, Martin was shot by a volunteer on neighborhood watch. In Ferguson, there are major secondary issues around the militarization of police; in Florida, big sideline issues were about stand your ground laws, gun control, gated communities. But at the simple core, both Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were murdered because they were young and black and male.

I lead with these two things—the parents’ grief and loss and the racist violence directed at young black men—because they should be front and center in our discussions about Michael and Trayvon.

All of us outside observers—pundits, bloggers, academics, advocates, organizers, arm chair (or laptop) quarterbacks—discuss these tragic shootings, through our own lenses and from our own contexts. We generate paragraphs of text, tables of statistics (percent of police who live in the communities in which they police; the increasing number of guns in the hands of private citizens), color-coded and time-sequenced maps (the increase of poverty in Ferguson over the past ten years; segregation by race in St. Louis) and mostly we talk and talk and talk.

And these conversations are important. These shootings are important touchstones. They expose deep and complicated tangles of issues around race, class, gender; about violence, fear, safety; about our country, about where we are going, about what we value; about justice; about the mythologies of the American Dream. These are important issues to discuss, to act upon. We need to have these hard conversations in order to better progress as a society.

But in our discussions about what has happened, in our calls to action, in our advocacy for new policies and practices, it is easy to lose sight of the simple, central reality of loss and of injustice.

So I wanted to call out these core realities before I jump into my own punditry.

All that being said, this blog post is about the demographics of Ferguson and Sanford (the places where Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were killed, respectively). I want to build off of Miriam Axel-Lute’s recent post about the dangerous rhetoric of labeling poor neighborhoods in terms of deficits and borrow some of her points about the fact that how we talk/think about issues often undermines our ability to change things for the better.

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Believing in Homeownership: How It Affects the Desire to Buy

Posted by Rachel Bogardus Drew on August 26, 2014

Last week I wrote about the first part of my recent research into beliefs about the benefits homeownership: messages conveyed to the American public during the 20th and early 21st centuries on outcomes associated with owning, which I argue fostered a set of commonly-held beliefs about the benefits of homeownership that persist today.

The second part of the study considers whether and how much these beliefs contribute to individual decisions about owning or renting, using data from the 2011 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey on renters’ intentions to buy homes in the future.

Survey respondents reported how much they agreed with statements about four outcomes potentially associated with homeownership—that it provides a good place to raise children, a safe physical structure, more control over living space, and more space for families —as well as one statement about financial advantages of owning over renting.

I estimated the effect of these beliefs on respondents’ stated intentions to buy a home in the future, controlling for other things likely to affect that decision, including individual socio-demographic characteristics (age, race, marital and family status), financial circumstances (employment status, current income, total debt, ability to quality for a mortgage, financial sacrifice required to own), and satisfaction with renting.

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Is Homeownership Really Falling Out of Favor?

Posted by Rachel Silver on August 22, 2014

Homeownership seems to be falling out of favor.  Newspapers these days are peppered with articles that highlight the skepticism of younger Americans about whether buying a home is a good investment, and with so many people still suffering the effects of the housing crisis that started in 2008, who can blame them?  The MacArthur Foundation recently published the results of a nationwide survey of Americans' attitudes and perceptions about housing.  Based on this survey, many people feel that, given the changes over the past several decades in the way we live our lives, renting a home has become more appealing and owning less appealing.  Perhaps more surprisingly, a majority of adults believe that renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream.  But is this really true, or, in the current backlash against homeownership, are we in danger of throwing out the baby along with the bath water?


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HUD Improves Project-Based Voucher Program But More Remains to Be Done

Posted by Barbara Sard on August 21, 2014

HUD has recently made some important changes to the rules for its Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program, which helps families live in affordable rental housing.

The PBV program combines two standard forms of housing assistance: "Project-based," meaning that the assistance is linked to a particular property, and vouchers, which are usually tenant-based and move with the family.

Residents of PBV units can move with a voucher after one year, using the next voucher that becomes available when another family leaves the HCV program, and the housing development continues to receive a subsidy for another eligible family in that unit. Public housing agencies (PHAs) may “project-base” up to 20 percent of their Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) funding.  

PBVs are an important tool to provide supportive housing for individuals with disabilities or others who need services to live stably in their own homes.  They can help PHAs in tight housing markets use all of their vouchers and can support development of housing in low-poverty neighborhoods with strong educational or job opportunities.  More than 400,000 vouchers could be project-based nationwide, but HUD data indicate that PHAs subsidized fewer than 100,000 PBV units in 2012.  About 500 of the 2,300 PHAs that administer Housing Choice Vouchers currently operate PBV programs.

While the changes were an improvment, unfortunately, HUD’s final rule did not incorporate many suggestions made by CBPP and other groups that would further strengthen the program.

Here are the changes HUD did—and didn't—make:

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Believing in Homeownership: Where Does the American Dream Idea Come From?

Posted by Rachel Bogardus Drew on August 20, 2014

Homeownership in the U.S. has long been associated with a wide range of positive outcomes–from investment potential to social stability to personal well-being. But where did these associations come from, and how they have been communicated and reproduced over time and across different segments of society?

I recently conducted some research examining not the benefits of homeownership themselves, but beliefs in those benefits. I asked: how was homeownership portrayed to the American public in the 20th and early 21st centuries, and what effect does the adoption of positive beliefs about homeownership have on renters’ intentions to buy a home? How do these beliefs compare across different demographic and socio-economic characteristics, and how strong are they compared to potential barriers to homeownership?

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The Roots of #Ferguson

Posted by Laura Barrett on August 19, 2014

The situation in Ferguson, MO continues to be volatile, news cycle after news cycle. A second young person, a Howard University grad, was shot, members of the national press have been arrested, tear gas has been fired night after night at protesters, and this morning the National Guard has been called out to restore order.

The roots of this terrible conflict began long ago with white flight. St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in America. Ferguson, once a destination for whites fleeing from St. Louis city, later became one of the few deliberately organized multiracial inner suburbs in the area. Its population boasts impressive racial diversity: 67percent African American, 29 percent white. Unfortunately, the police force does not reflect this diversity. It is 95 percent white, and there is only one African American on the city council. 

Late last year, more seeds for today's conflict were sown in a public school battle that continues today. Recent changes in Missouri's education system, forced by an obscure state law detailed earlier in Rooflines, enabled the transfer of more than 2,000 largely African-American children in inner ring suburban school districts to mostly higher achieving school districts. Ferguson welcomed hundreds of these children. Then, in a surprise move, the largely white local school board seemed to force their popular African-American superintendent, Art McCoy, to resign.   

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Income for Everyone?

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on August 18, 2014

If you wanted to come up with a totally cockamamie idea to attribute to someone to smear them as unrealistic bleeding-heart socialist, what would you come up with? Possibly “the government should just give everyone a salary (even if a minimal one) just for breathing”? That ought to do it, right? I mean who in their right minds . . . ?

Turns out, quite a few people. I was fascinated to learn that this is one of those issues on which principled left- and right-leaning thinkers and economists actually tend to agree, though predictably, for slightly different reasons and with different flavors. It even got so far in Switzerland as to come up for a national referendum.

As Dylan Matthews recently pointed out, writing for Vox, Richard Nixon, for the love of God, during his first year as president, proposed something similar: 

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The Dangerous Rhetoric of Escaping to Opportunity

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on August 13, 2014

At the Philly Federal Reserve conference last spring, in the "Future of CDCs" discussion our own Harold Simon moderated, Joe Kriesberg, director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, said something that really stuck with me:

"Sometimes to attract funders you have to convince people the place you’re in is so terrible, so needy. . . . It can become self fulfilling. . . . That's why I find the whole opportunity mapping thing so counterproductive. It's respected voices declaring vast portions of our country terrible places to live."

In his blog post on the subject, Kriesberg elaborates, noting that places are not universally "good" or "bad"—different kinds of places have dangers and strengths for different people in different life circumstances. (Think of all the queer kids whose lives were saved because they escaped from a "high opportunity" conservative suburb to a poor but welcoming urban neighborhood.) Some high-poverty places, for some period of time, are pretty extremely distressed. Many more are very complicated mixed bags—a place to leave for some, a beloved home to others even while they recognize the place has serious needs. Residents often paint a nuanced picture of even very high-crime, disinvested developments or areas. 

Kriesberg's point came to mind again as I was trying to figure out what made me slightly uncomfortable with Alex Polikoff's stirring speech (we published an excerpt here) about the moral imperative to make housing choice vouchers truly enable mobility and choice.

To make his argument for an important set of policy changes (with which I agree), Polikoff regularly refers to America's poor neighborhoods as war zones that are killing everyone in them. He asks why we are not removing children from harm's way. He speaks of any place in the country that is poor as first and foremost a place to be escaped from. 

That is a problem, and here's why:

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