• Center for Community Change

Stronger Coalitions Articles

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

Stronger Coalitions

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

Alabama Arise Brings Moral Urgency, Community Voices to Housing Trust Fund Campaign

Community Voices, Stronger Coalitions

Having a diverse set of community organizations and representatives voicing support for public investment in affordable housing is a source of strength for any housing trust fund campaign, state or local.  When elected leaders, decision makers and the media hear from a wide range of stakeholders and community perspectives, advocates have an opportunity to shift the conversation for creating or expanding a housing trust fund from a narrow single-issue to a broad community concern. Particularly powerful are the perspectives of the faith community and community based organizations, who bring moral and personal urgency to the debate.

The campaign to dedicate revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) got a boost in September when Alabama Arise selected the Trust Fund as a priority issue for the 2017 state legislative session. Alabama Arise is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of 150 congregations and community groups and hundreds of individuals united in their belief that low-income people are suffering because of state policy decisions.

#FundtheAHTF: Majadi Baruti and fellow Arise members indicate their support for legislation dedicating revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.

#FundtheAHTF: Majadi Baruti and fellow Arise members indicate their support for legislation dedicating revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.

Arise members voted to maintain the Alabama Housing Trust Fund as a legislative priority along with an adequate state budget, tax reform, “ban the box” policy, death penalty reform, minimum wage, payday/title lending reform and public transportation policy.  The 2017 Issue Priorities guide describes Arise’s position on the need to dedicate revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund:

Everyone needs a place to call home. But too many hard-working Alabamians can’t find safe, affordable housing. The state Housing Trust Fund (HTF) was created in 2012 to build, rehabilitate and maintain housing for low-income families. Permanent HTF funding would create jobs and make home a reality for thousands of families, veterans, and people with disabilities in Alabama. Arise will seek dedicated state support for the HTF to expand affordable housing options, especially in rural areas.

As a priority issue, Arise will lobby for dedicated funding for the Trust Fund in Montgomery as well as activate their membership across the state to support revenue legislation.  “Having Arise by our side in the legislative hallways is critical to our success and we are thrilled that the Arise membership selected the AHTF as a legislative priority for 2017,” stated Ashley Kerr of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama, the organization leading the dedicated revenue campaign.

That Arise is a champion for the AHTF is nothing new. Arise members made the creation of a state housing trust fund a top priority throughout the multi-year campaign that culminated in victory in 2012, and have been core supporters for the push for dedicated revenue in the 2014, 15 and 16 sessions.  Arise was also a founding member of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama in 2007.

Arise’s Carol Gundlach explains: ‘Arise believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to get ahead. Investing in the Housing Trust Fund would help ensure that thousands of Alabama families have a solid foundation on which to build a better life and a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.”

To read more about Alabama Arise 2017 legislative priorities, click here or go to http://www.arisecitizens.org/

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

The Power of On-Site Learning

Building our own Leadership, Stronger Coalitions

What better way to learn about something than seeing it in action.  That is exactly what Evansville CAJE (Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment, a DART affiliate) did by traveling to Nashville Tennessee and being toured by Urban Solutions and others to study the impact of the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, Nashville’s housing trust fund.  CAJE brought some of their leaders, two Evansville city officials, two major affordable housing providers and a reporter to Nashville to learn more about Nashville’s recent commitment of substantial funding to the Barnes Fund and the impact of affordable homes on the Nashville community.

Presently Evansville has a trust fund that was funded with one time money years ago.  CAJE is campaigning to get Evansville city council and mayor to dedicate permanent funding.

The Evansville delegation from CAJE, the city, and housing provides meet with members of the Nashville Metro Council about to the benefits of affordable housing.

The Evansville delegation from CAJE, the city, and housing providers met with members of the Nashville Metro Council about the benefits of affordable housing.

The site visit to Nashville had dual purposes.  They went to learn about the details of Nashville’s fund and to build excitement to fully fund the Evansville trust fund. The delegation met with Nashville Metro Council members, the Mayor of Nashville and the Barnes Fund committee, which oversees the Nashville housing trust fund.  The group also visited both finished and in process housing developments that were funded by the Barnes Fund.

CAJE leader Marcia Ballard commented on the visit, “To me it was exciting to see the actual and varied “Affordable Housing” units, to hear about the streamline application form and scorecard process that the Nashville Trust Fund Board uses to award funding, and to learn about the flexibility of the fund and how the Nashville group thought we were in such a good situation because of Evansville’s land availability.”

The site visit to Nashville was a new tactic for CAJE and was successful in multiple ways: learning about revenue sources, uses of land banks, how affordable homes contribute to a city and built excitement amongst attendees which is key to the momentum of their campaign.

“Seeing the success of Nashville’s trust fund and the homes they built was inspiring. Evansville has the opportunity to make a difference in our community, to make a difference in a family’s life. We can do this! Because we are stronger together,” said CAJE member Vel Sitzman

At the writing of this article, the Evansville administration has publicly supported a dedicated revenue source from revenue the city receives from the Tropicana casino.

See more on the visit through a storify click here.    And for more information contact Camille Davis of CAJE at camille@thedartcenter.org

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

Report Provides Ideas & Activities to Keep Coalition Members Engaged

Stronger Coalitions

Keeping coalition members and supporters engaged in a multi-year housing trust fund campaign presents various challenges, especially during periods of inactivity when legislation or an ordinance is not moving or when the decision making body is not in session. CQ Roll Call, formerly Congressional Quarterly, conducted a recent survey with association and advocacy professionals cq-roll-call-postwhich identified maintaining engagement of members as a key advocacy challenge. In response to their survey, CQ Roll Call released Increasing Engagement: How to Keep Members Active When Your Issues Are Not, a concise, easy to read report filled with ideas and strategies to increase member and supporter participation and action.

Increasing Engagement profiles strategies developed by associations and advocacy organizations that have been effective in involving members and moving them to action, such as an Advocacy Leadership Forum that the American Academy of Neurology developed for its Doctor members, and the Alzheimer’s Association “grasstops ambassadors” that matches associations members with each member of the U.S. Congress. While the profiles focus on federal advocacy, the ideas and lessons learned are transferable to state and local advocacy. The report also describes easier ideas and tips including the practice gamification, i.e. turning advocacy into a game or competition that spurs engagement, and how to use video to elevate new messengers to decision makers.

To download Increasing Engagement: How to Keep Members Active When Your Issues Are Not, click here.

CQ Roll Call monitors and reports on the legislative process, provides strategic political consultation, and is recognized as a source of timely news, objective facts and analysis, and coverage of elections and the politics of legislation. For more information of on CQ Roll Call, go to: http://cqrollcall.com/.

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