Field Notes: Housing, Health, and the NASUAD HCBS Conference

Posted by Sarah Ellis on October 31, 2014


People in the affordable housing field have grown increasingly interested in talking about healthcare. Concepts like “housing as a platform” for health outcomes have become part of our professional lexicon and panel topics at our conferences. We talk a lot about the barriers to progress in aligning health and housing policy in this country. We also talk about integrating service delivery and how to cut through the red tape and silos that divide health and housing systems today.

It turns out that health policy advocates are just as eager to talk about housing as we are to talk about healthcare.

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Two Years Later, Much More Work Remains

Posted by Keli Tianga on October 29, 2014


Today marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. To commemorate, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey joined Sandy survivors, community leaders, and elected officials at several events along the Jersey Shore.


In a statement, HCDNNJ President and CEO Staci Berger said:

“Coming back from a disaster of the magnitude of Sandy is a multi-year effort but there must be a continued, unyielding commitment to assist families and communities that were in the storm’s path as well as those who have suffered from its aftermath."

Rooflines contributors, leaders and practitioners in the field of housing, community, and economic development have shared stories of strength, struggle, and outrage in Sandy's aftermath. Instead of words, today we share Katrina/Sandy, an interactive video produced by Land of Opportunity and Sandy Storyline that compares and contrasts both the impact and response to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, through storytelling.

(Photo credit: JoLu Productions, Inc.)

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Election Polling, Big Data, and Movement Building

Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on October 29, 2014

There is a data geek Internet flame war going on between Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium and Nate Silver of over 2014 election projections. Evidence of the confrontation can be found here, here, and here. My research interests (such as they are) tend more toward demographic analysis, and I am far from an election-polling expert, but I find this confrontation fascinating.

On the surface, the rivalry seems about methodology. Sam Wang aggregates only polls, while Nate Silver adjusts polling data with other factors (e.g., economic trends). Wang is open source. Silver’s process is proprietary.

But this fight is about more than methodology; it is a fight for legitimacy in shifting social media space, which says something larger about how technology is aiding and abetting some pretty big socio-cultural shifts right now.

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The Benefits of Having Everyone at the Table

Posted by Brent Kakesako on October 27, 2014

How might we better engage the families we work with and provide them access to larger opportunities?

Last month, CFED held their bi-annual Assets Learning Conference. It featured a range of topics that touched on an array of asset-building issues and included networking opportunities, mobilized conversations with policymakers, and celebrations of the progress of the field with well-deserved awards for forward thinking organizations, such as Hawaiian Community Assets and Step Up Savannah. The closing plenary identified a number of topics that needed to be pursued further, including worker-owned businesses and cooperatives, additional case studies for innovative products and services, collaborations with faith-based communities, CRA and responsible banking, support for local policy work, and more holistic approaches to asset-building through health and multi-generational approaches.

I was particularly struck by a comment that encouraged conference attendance by more of the actual clients and families of the organizations work with. How might such a thing be carried out when each of us are spread out over a large country–Hawai`i being across the Pacific Ocean–and the families we work with are often struggling just to make it through the day to day?

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Finding and Fostering Entreprenuerial Spirit in Underserved Communities

Posted by Keli Tianga on October 24, 2014

A few years ago, I had what I thought was a great business idea. After much excited Googling and resource combing, I came across a seven-week small business training program being offered through my town. The training, run by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL), was only open to people who were unemployed. I was freelancing at the time and had just had a baby, so I qualified.

My class of 15 budding entrepreneurs was a mixed group in every sense of the word, by race, gender, and education level. We practiced our "elevator pitches," wrote business plans, and listened as special guests including insurance agents, bank loan officers, accountants, and marketing experts told us what we needed to do to get our businesses off to the right start. The information was exciting, terrifying, and necessary, because it helped me realize that not only was I nowhere near ready to launch a business, I was also unsure whether I even wanted to.

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A Look in the Mirror: Do CDFIs (and CDCs) Reflect Their Communities?

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on October 23, 2014

Last year, I wrote about the teeming conference of the Opportunity Finance Network, the trade group for community development financial institutions, with a little bit of awe at how different it was from the rest of the community development world in its growth and optimism, worrying about mission creep rather than survival.

This year the conference surprised me yet again, but in a much different way. After some hard reflection, OFN's director Mark Pinsky explained how the organization decided to take a square look at, and try to do something about, an issue that affects the entire field and is almost never talked about:

The staff and boards of community development institutions are, as a rule, much whiter than the communities they serve.

Now I don't have hard data on this for the entire field, but OFN does for its members. In 2011, according to Pinsky, OFN removed a nominal requirement of membership that staff and board "reflect their communities" in exchange for getting data on how well they actually do so, trading, in his words "intention for transparency."

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The Real Problem with the Model Minority Myth

Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on October 21, 2014

There is a Time article—"The Real Problem When It Comes to Diversity and Asian-Americans"—that has been making the rounds on the Internet. As a card-carrying member of the Model Minority Myth Busters club, I am sympathetic with author Jack Linshi’s piece in that it seeks to discredit model minority mythology. However, there are a couple of (big) points that I wish had been made more clearly and explicitly:

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Do the Roads Belong to All of Us?

Posted by David Holtzman on October 20, 2014

The other day at a planning board meeting, I heard someone claim that all the roads from the nearest shopping center to their house, a distance of at least three miles, were "residential roads." That was a new one to me.

What he based that on was the fact that there are many houses along those roads, but no businesses, at least none that are clearly selling something or providing some sort of service. He made this statement as he was encouraging the planning board to reject a proposed business. The business would interfere with his "quiet enjoyment of his property."

Now I have heard people argue plenty of times that a residential neighborhood is the wrong place for a business to operate. Sometimes in these neighborhoods commerce is very restricted, but people are allowed to have so-called "home occupations," like a small cake-baking business, for instance, or a hair salon in someone's converted living room. As long as there is minimal sign of the business from the street or from neighbors' houses, people are usually ok with it.

But I'd never heard someone stake a claim to a road, or a set of roads, as off-limits to business. Especially in this case, where the roads in question were not even part of a defined subdivision of homes and streets. 

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What’s The Matter With Atlantic City?

Posted by Alan Mallach on October 16, 2014

Over the past few months, there’s been a drumbeat of bad news coming out of Atlantic City. Since the beginning of 2014, four casinos have closed, including Revel, which the state of New Jersey granted $261 million in tax breaks to back in 2011 so they could finish construction and open their doors. A fifth casino, Trump Taj Mahal, is considered likely to close its doors as well, perhaps before the end of the year.

Suddenly, Atlantic City faces a $65 million budget shortfall, and is a city in crisis. No slouch at crises, New Jersey’s Governor Christie summoned 30 politicians and casino executives to a closed-door meeting in September to figure out what to do about it—without apparent results. The fact is, though, that casino revenue and employment have been plummeting in Atlantic City for a decade (see Figure below). Even before the casinos started closing, the number of casino jobs had fallen by 40 percent since 2004, and total casino revenues adjusted for inflation had dropped by over 50 percent. Meanwhile around the country, as the American Gaming (aka Gambling) Association gleefully reported, casino revenues have rebounded smartly from the recession. What we’re seeing now is the end game of a process that began the day the first casino in Atlantic City opened in 1978.

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Ferguson and Reparations

Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on October 14, 2014

Shortly after the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the bill enacting redress and reparations for the internment of Japanese Americans, there was an editorial cartoon in my local newspaper. There were two Native Americans.  One was reading a newspaper. The newspaper had a headline that read “Japanese Americans to get $20,000 each.”

The first Native American says to the second Native American, “Go get the calculator.”

I was a teenager when I read this cartoon, but I still have a pretty vivid memory of it. I remember that when my mother (who used her $20,000 check to help pay for my college education) saw it, she gave a short laugh and said something like, “Yes, Native Americans should be getting reparations too. And more than us.”

This cartoon has popped back into my head over the past few weeks because Ferguson has been on my mind, still.

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