• Center for Community Change

Campaign Actions Articles

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

Campaign Actions

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.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

A Video Game that Promotes Affordable Housing Ballot Measures

Campaign Actions, Raising Awareness

To support a local ballot measure for affordable homes in Portland, Oregon, members of the Welcome Home Coalition have developed a smart-phone friendly game intended to engage audiences that otherwise might not connect affordable housing as a solution to homelessness.

Click on image to experience the game.

Click on the image to experience the game.

The game, Can you Solve It?, takes the player for a stroll on a sidewalk. Along the way, players pass people, young and old, all of whom are experiencing homelessness.  As the player passes, she can choose to give people items such as a few dollars, a soda, bus tickets, and other useful gifts, or even just say hello or have a nice day.  As the game progresses, signs for Yes for Affordable Homes start appearing on the walls next to the sidewalk.  When the player clicks three times on the signs for more affordable homes, all the sudden the scenario of changes, illustrating for the player importance of funding affordable homes and the transformative impact an affordable home can have on families and individuals.

“We wanted to create a new tool to connect to a broader audience and engage them through their phone or computer as an active participant in being part of the solution: creating more affordable housing,” says James Moore, the game developer.

On November 8, voters in Portland, Oregon will decide on whether to pass Yes for Affordable Homes (Measure 26-179), a $258.4 million bond to acquire and build affordable housing for Portlanders with very low incomes. With voters going to the ballot  for affordable housing revenue measures in at least 24 jurisdictions in eight states this November, the game makers with the Welcome Home Coalition made the game easily adaptable so that advocates in other locations can also use the tool.  In addition to the Yes for Affordable Homes version for Portland, there is a unique link to Can You Solve It? for Measure A1 in Alameda County, California, Proposition HHH in Los Angeles, California, and Proposition 1 in Vancouver, Washington. Since the Can You Solve It? went live in early October, more than 1000 people have played in more than 40 states and the game was featured on the Silicon Florist blog.

Play the game and experience for yourself — and when you solve it, share it with your family, friends, and Facebook community! Contact the creators to add your local ballot measure campaign to the list and get a unique link to share with your community too!

For a link to a Can You Solve It? press kit, go to: https://canyousolveit.us/press/

To contact the Can You Solve It? creators, email James Moore at hello@jmoore.me or at 503-816-3008.

By Michael Anderson, Director, Center for Community Change—Housing Trust Fund Project

Youth Poetry Slam Supports Funding the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Campaign Actions, Community Voices

Housing advocates in Louisville, Kentucky continue to call on Louisville Metro Council members to provide dedicated public funding to support the city’s affordable housing trust fund.  CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together), a local faith-based affiliate of the DART Network with thousands of members across Louisville, has been central to this on-going campaign. The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund has only received $1.5 million in general funds since its inception in 2008.

Advocates are calling for $5 million to be moved from the General Fund this year and $10 million in annual dedicated funding to support the trust fund. In Louisville, nearly 60,000 households spend more than a third their income on housing. CLOUT collected 1,200 cards urging the mayor to invest in the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

CLOUT recently pumped up their campaign by hosting three high-school students to present their view of the housing crisis in Louisville through a poetry slam at a City Council meeting.  See the video here:  http://louisville.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=4546&meta_id=555846–the poetry slam starts at 6:45 into the video.

The Council meetings are frequently filled with advocates showing support for funding the City’s trust fund, holding signs and testifying—and they did again in support of Mackenzie Berry, Jalen Posey and Jasmine Frederick as they voiced their support for finding a dedicated source of money for the city’s affordable housing trust fund through their own powerful poetry.

Berry used striking facts in her poem emphasizing the thousands of families seeking an opportunity to move into affordable homes.  She criticized City leaders for their funding priorities: “If our city were whole, it would be able to be called home by all of its people, instead of temporary.” Posey’s poem hit hard: “The only sight I see, is politicians climbing money trees …We all know hope doesn’t pay the bills, poor people never get the mortgage deals.”  And Frederick’s poem shared a heart-breaking story of how devastating the lack of affordable housing can be.  She concluded with: “This is a true story about how unaffordable housing destroyed the life of Jamal Brown—a man with aspirations and high thinking.  Open your eyes people and you will see what is forced upon you to be unseen.”  The impact of the poetry slam was visible on the faces of City Council members … how can you ignore the voice of youth in your community.

DuPont Manual High School senior Mackenzie Berry is founder and executive director of Young Poets of Louisville, a nonprofit organization for young people ages 13-19.  Young Poets of Louisville’s vision is to develop socially active and artistic leaders with literary, public speaking, and performance skills.  The poetry slam in Louisville met every expectation of this potential.

“This is a perfect opportunity to use our skills in advocating for something that can make a huge difference in our community,” Berry said.  “As we delivered our poetry to Metro Council, it is our hope that we are the last generation of young people living in this city with a lack of access to affordable housing.”

By Mary Brooks, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project

Going the Extra Mile to Be Inclusive

Campaign Actions

Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) held one of the most robust advocacy day in the country on February 2nd.   Getting more than 655 people to attend this year was due to extensive and innovative outreach by the Action Fund.  The Alliance pulls out all the stops to encourage people to attend by reaching out to not only the housing community but includes all of Washington’s communities affected by the lack of affordable housing.  This year, WLIHA recruited a labor union, a LGBTQ group, and clients and staff of an organization that focuses on Urban Indian homelessness. Each of those organizations entailed some extra outreach and a particular approach.

Spokane advocates join Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day virtually.

Spokane advocates join Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day virtually.

In order to make the day accessible to those affected by the housing crisis, WLIHA strategized on how to help more folks attend.  They worked with resident leaders in Seattle Housing Authority buildings, bringing information, support, and transportation options so residents could attend.  They provided funding for a bus full of advocates from the Yakima area to attend, including currently and formerly homeless people, farmworkers, and others.  Alouise Urness, WLIHA’s Community and Member Organizer, related, “Sometimes you need to go the extra mile to be inclusive of all people. So we funded a hotel stay for 4 low-income attendees so that they would be in Yakima to catch the bus to Advocacy Day at 5:30 am.”    Furthermore, they provided childcare onsite, and translated key materials for the day into Spanish and provided an interpreter. They also worked with one of the leaders in the farmworker community to speak, through an interpreter, at the morning kickoff rally.

New this year was an experiment on how to virtually involve people who wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to Olympia.   It started out with a conversation between the Alliance staff and some advocates in Spokane who wanted to participate in Housing Advocacy Day but couldn’t make the trip.  WLIHA decided to try live streaming the rally portion of their event.  Using the Ustream platform to broadcast live from the event opened up the opportunity to share the link widely.   Thus, even though this was a test run with the group from Spokane, they decided to send a link to everyone the day before Advocacy Day to see what happened.  There were 21 total viewers during Advocacy Day, and one of those “viewers” was the room of 13 people watching together in Spokane. WLIHA had sent them scarves and packets ahead of time so they had all of the same information that the folks in Olympia did. After they watched the Call to Action, as a group, they participated in a conference call with one of their legislators.

Rachael Myers, the Executive Director of WLIHA, said, “The livestream was a trial – we wanted to see how it went for a small group, and hope to expand in the future. We live in a big state, with a snowy mountain range in between the capitol and many people who would like to attend. We’re hopeful that in the future we can significantly increase participation by having a remote option.”

To learn more about Homeless and Housing Advocacy Day or WLIHA click here.

By Katy Heins, Senior Organizer, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project