• Center for Community Change

Advocacy Skillshare

Welcome to our forum for highlighting innovative initiatives from state and local housing and homeless coalitions advocating to increase housing opportunities. The goal of Advocacy Skillshare is to advance cross-pollination of ideas, tactics and strategies that effectively advance housing and homeless advocacy. Have a good experience or idea to share with Advocacy Skillshare? Send it to Michael Anderson.

Campaign Actions: State Tax Credit Provides Reliable Funding for Community Development, CDC’s

Fluctuating levels of funding have long been a challenge to the internal capacity and external impact of organizations in the public services sector. It is difficult to design and implement long-term programs when time and resources must be reallocated to completing grant applications or when a lost grant results in severely curtailed capacity or community impact. With the intention of changing this dynamic, in 2014 the Massachusetts legislature established the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC). Established in part due to income inequality in the state (currently only five other states surpass Massachusetts in income inequality), the CITC is intended to provide a reliable source of funding to community development corporations (CDCs) that will in turn support the local community and combat inequality through organizing, advocacy, affordable housing, economic development, and other initiatives adapted to address local needs.

Administered by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the CITC stimulates private philanthropy by entitling donors to receive a 50% refundable state tax credit for donations of $1,000 or more made to participating CDCs (or one of two DHCD-designated community support organizations) and a federal tax deduction as allowed under federal law. This tax credit is available to any taxpayer, including corporations, non-profits, and individuals. To be eligible to participate in the program, a CDC must be selected through a competitive process administered by the DHCD. Organizations submit a comprehensive, multi-year Community Investment Plan (CIP) that is scored on a 100 point scale. Tax credits are then distributed according to the scoring of each organization’s CIP, with awards ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 in credits on an annual basis. These credits are good for three years, and after three years a CDC must submit a new CIP to continue to participate in the program (for more information one can watch this CITC informational video made by the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC)).

community developers in MA state house

Over 200 community developers congregate in the Massachusetts State House to advocate for extending and expanding the CITC. (credit: Joe Kreisberg, MACDC)

Over 200 community developers congregate in the Massachusetts State House to advocate for extending and expanding the CITC. (credit: Joe Kreisberg, MACDC)

Since its implementation in 2014, the CITC has been very successful in stimulating private philanthropy. To date it has generated $23 million in private investment, with a total economic impact of $1.2 billion in economic activity over the past two years. In addition, the CITC has proven capable of engaging a wide range of donors. In the first two years 1,316 of the participating donors were new donors, and over 90% of donors are either new donors or donors who doubled their prior year’s contribution. In 2014 and 2015, 66 percent of donors were individuals. Throughout 2015 and 2016 these donations have helped participating CITC groups build or preserve 2,916 homes, create or preserve 8,743 jobs, assist 1,420 small businesses, and serve 135,054 families with housing, jobs, or other services.

While it is still a relatively recent development, the Community Investment Tax Credit has already proven itself a powerful tool for supporting the efforts of local community organizations. The strength of the CITC lies in its ability to engage a wide variety of donors while keeping this money within the community and supporting local needs. This flexible and reliable source of funding allows organizations to refocus their resources from grant applications to community programming that makes a tangible impact. For more detailed information on the CITC, how it works, and its impact, visit the CITC page on the MACDC website.

Building our own Leadership: Interfaith Communities Bring Affordable Housing into the Worship Space

For many communities of faith, advocacy has been a long-standing practice. For Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU), a part of the larger, secular East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), the annual Housing Sabbath is an important opportunity to continue their work supporting communities and advocating for access to more equitable and affordable housing. The importance of affordable housing (and the lack thereof) is staggeringly apparent in the Bay Area, where from 2010 to 2014 median rents increased 38% while middle and low-income workers experienced inflation adjusted wage decreases of almost 5% during a similar period. Initiatives like the Housing Sabbath are designed to look at these issues through a faith lens and incorporate one’s personal beliefs and practices into actions aimed at helping the community as a whole.

The goal of the Housing Sabbath (which takes place the weekend before EBHO’s Affordable Housing Week, and most recently occurred May 5th through May 7th of 2017) is to bring the topic of affordable housing into the worship space. ICU believes that the unique resources of the faith community, both material and spiritual, are vital tools to be used in social transformation work, especially housing justice. As such, they bring together resident leaders of affordable housing and local faith leaders with EBHO staff and board members to educate denominations on the opportunities and responsibilities of communities of faith. The primary function of the Housing Sabbath, however, is to serve as a call to action. This action can be something as simple as participating in events during the upcoming Affordable Housing Week, but may lead to the cultivation of life-long housing advocates.

For ICU, it is important to realize that the Housing Sabbath is just one part of their larger work. Rather than being an end in and of itself, the Housing Sabbath is a means to engaging people in the year-long organizing and activism efforts needed in the fight for housing justice. As faith communities continue to utilize their vast property, material, and spiritual resources, they have the capacity to mobilize congregations to make positive changes in their community.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Alliances Across Issues: Housing and Education Project Connects Where Children Live with Where They Learn

Learning should not stop once the school day ends. By the 6th grade, children in middle-income families by income are estimated to have spent an additional 6,000 hours learning compared with families with the lowest incomes. Of these 6,000 hours, an estimated 4,140 occur in after-school and summer programming. Many non-profit housing providers are working to close this deficit with Out of School Time (OST) learning opportunities designed to solidify the connection between where children live and where they learn. To consolidate and elevate best practices among these providers, the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County (HDC), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, initiated the Housing and Education Project (HEP) and recently issued a report on the project’s Exploration Phase.

HEP advances Out of School Time learning opportunities for residents of affordable housing in Seattle

HEP brought together designated representatives from six non-profit housing provider organizations to identify opportunities and challenges related to Out of School Time education programming, and to explore the implementation of regionalized models to better support housing provider efforts to meet the educational needs of child and youth tenants. Beginning in June 2016, HEP participants met nine times as a group to develop the Exploratory Phase Report.

The report touches on a variety of issues related to OST programming. Among these are summary findings on currently offered programming (characteristics of programming, school district relationships, common funding sources, etc.) and summary recommendations for future programming. In addition, it provides a recommended model for achieving systems change, details the essential features of any future system, explores factors impacting program support, identifies barriers to change, and provides guidance for expanding and strengthening networks.

For children, education is a powerful predictor of future success. Many housing providers, such as those involved with HEP, recognize the opportunity we have to help improve predictors of success such as family engagement and absenteeism. The Exploratory Phase Report is a valuable tool to any organization looking to increase its out-of-school education capacity.

To learn more about HEP, go to: http://www.housingconsortium.org/housing-and-education-project/.

For more information on the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County go to: http://www.housingconsortium.org/.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Community Voices: The Building Communities Workshop Increases Equity in the Rio Grande Valley through Personalized, Affordable Housing Design

As real-estate prices continue to rise, affordable housing is an issue confronting communities throughout the country. Among these are the communities of the Rio Grande Valley, where a history of disenfranchisement, political oppression, predatory lending practices, and inequitable distribution of resources (often along racial lines) has resulted in concentrations of poverty, often in the form of colonias. For residents of the colonias (defined as isolated border communities “that may lack some of the most basic living necessities” such as potable water, electricity, and more) housing is often makeshift and unsafe. The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]), a Texas-based, non-profit community design center, is looking to change this. [bc] aims to increase equity in the Rio Grande Valley by providing low-income residents with expandable, affordable housing designed with direct input from the prospective homeowner.

One of the programs [bc] is using to accomplish this is MiCASiTA. MiCASiTA is an initiative lead by the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), and supported by [bc] and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC), that empowers individuals through personalized design options for low-cost homes that are designed to grow along with the homeowner’s needs and savings.

The construction of a MiCASiTA house begins with a meeting between the prospective homeowner and program architects to design a home based on the homeowner’s needs and desires. A cheap, simplified version of the design, called a “starter home,” is built first. As the homeowner’s financial stability grows, the home grows along with it, with additions being added until the original design is completed. Throughout the process, CDCB supports homeowners with innovative financial solutions and counseling, ensuring that the homeowners are fully prepared for the responsibilities that come with home ownership.

MiCASiTA works along the principle that choice is empowering. Providing families with the opportunity to design their own homes allows the home to reflect their specific needs and desires, and gives them a greater stake in home ownership. Following the success of MiCASiTA and other related programs, [bc] is working to disseminate the principles of their design process to other affordable housing developers out of the belief that people everywhere deserve to have input into the design of their homes.

 

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow