How To Do Well By Doing Good
February 05, 2009, 11:44 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF
 Now that people are starting to realize that America`s economy has long-term problems that won`t be solved just by throwing money at it in the short-term, it`s time to start thinking about how the economy could become more efficient. We just can`t afford all the luxuries that we thought we could when cruddy houses in California were averaging a half-mil each.

One obvious approach to making the economy work better is to take a skeptical look at the many ways "community organizers" exploit wealth-creators. PolicyLink, a leftist thinktank, has conveniently collected 27 strategies in its "Equitable Development Toolkit," with in-depth How-To Guides. Half of them sounded okay, at least on the surface (e.g., fighting asthma), but at least 13 look like ploys by which ethnic activists get cut in on a piece of the action:

PolicyLink Logo

 

Minority Contracting  Ensures that healthy local businesses owned by people of color are a basic component of strong, sustainable communities. These businesses generate job opportunities for residents, and keep money circulating within the neighborhood. This tool reviews major approaches for achieving parity for minority-owned businesses. 

Local Hiring Strategies  An array of strategies that connect economically marginalized communities to regional job opportunities. For example, linkage programs can require that a percentage of jobs created by a commercial development go to local residents. Other programs link urban core and inner-ring suburban residents to employment opportunities around the region. Building such economic opportunity helps residents remain in their communities.

Affordable Housing Development 101  Increasing and preserving affordable housing stock is critical to community stability. There are a range of practices that are aimed at both existing housing and new development. The focus is typically protecting low-income residents most at risk of displacement from gentrification. Often strategies expand to include a spectrum of housing choices from rental to ownership in a range of income classes.

Expiring Use: Retention of Subsidized Housing  Protects "expiring use" subsidized housing from losing its affordability-designation and reverting to the private market. This tool clarifies ways to protect affordable housing originally supported by HUD, with a special focus on regions with extreme housing shortages, and not coincidentally, considerable amounts of gentrification.

Commercial Linkage Strategies  A range of programs and fees that tie economic development to the construction of affordable housing. Most require developers of new commercial properties to pay fees to support affordable housing construction. Linkage programs support smart growth, mitigate rising housing costs caused by economic development, and provide a dedicated source of revenue for affordable housing.

Commercial Stabilization This tool reviews effective techniques employed by community-based organizations to preserve cultural organizations and longstanding commercial enterprises that define the historic character of communities. These institutions are frequently the most vulnerable to displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Developer Exactions Requires new commercial developments to contribute fees to the development of affordable housing, community services and infrastructure. Creative nonprofit organizations are utilizing exactions as an anti-gentrification tool to finance services such as day care, cultural centers, job training, below market rate housing, and ride sharing.

Living Wage Provisions Ordinances that ensure the employees of public contractors, private contractors receiving public sector funding, and public employees are paid wages at pace with regional cost of living measures. Higher wages achieved through living wage ordinances assist low-income residents in remaining in their communities, lead to greater stability in the workforce and increase the municipal tax base.

Rent Controls A review of legal and programmatic protections for renters to slow the pace in markets with rapidly escalating rental prices. The effectiveness and implications of rent control has been heavily debated for as long as such ordinances have existed. This tool reviews their potential application in gentrifying contexts, as well as the compeimentary techniques necessary to make this a useful strategy.

CDC`s with Resident Shareholders An emerging tool that offers low-income/low-wealth residents the opportunity to own equity in real estate projects spearheaded by community development corporations (CDCs). Owning CDC project stock provides residents with financial benefits and voice in the neighborhood development process. This tool directs profits from development back into the community, ensuring benefit for existing residents.

Community Reinvestment Act Congressional mandate that financial and depository institutions, such as commercial banks, help meet credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. To utilize the Act as an anti-displacement tool requires diligent monitoring to ensure investment occurs, as well as strategic planning to direct investment to benefit residents.

Inclusionary Zoning  Land use regulation mandating a percentage (usually 15-20%) of the housing units in any project above a given size be affordable to people of low and moderate incomes. The developer can build the housing or contribute to a fund to develop it elsewhere. This tool has particular relevance in gentrifying communities, where high-income and luxury apartment developments can quickly overrun the existing low- and moderate-income housing stock.

Housing Trust Funds Public funds, established by legislation, ordinance or resolution, to receive specific revenues dedicated to affordable housing development. The key characteristic of a housing trust fund is that it receives on-going revenues from dedicated sources such as commercial development taxes, fees on loan repayments, and transfer taxes. These funds can stabilize communities facing gentrification pressures.

For some reason, though, I don`t think Barack Obama is going to take the lead in cutting parasitical community organizers out of the loop.