Looking Ahead: Shelterforce’s 36th Anniversary Issue

Posted under NHI News on July 27, 2011

In the latest issue of Shelterforce, we examine housing and community development not only by looking back, but also by offering critical analysis for the future in a way that can only be done by individuals with new, fresh perspectives.

The occasion, of course, is Shelterforce’s 36th anniversary. Launched in 1975 amid profound problems facing distressed communities that struggled to find decent housing and opportunity, Shelterforce sought to examine and promote solutions to these problems that were clearly not going away any time soon.

Shelterforce, as a forum for covering and addressing these issues, often features seasoned practitioners, academics, and other noted policymakers and thinkers in the field, but this time around, we thought it would be good to have individuals who arent part of the everyday policy dialogue featured herespecifically, we wanted to hear from the people out in our neighborhoods, on the ground, and making a difference.

In keeping with that “36” theme, our cover feature, 6 Under 36, comprises six essays from six community developers from around the country who are, of course, all under the age of 36. This feature provides some valuable insight because our contributors balance pragmatic professionalism with the idealism that brought them to the community development world in the first place. As Janelle Chan, executive director of the Boston-based Asian Community Development Corporation writes, the importance of maintaining an “activist mindset” while “identifying what the community realistically has control over” is essential in tackling challenges facing communities.

In addition to Chan’s piece, these essays all share common, pragmatic ideals, and each brings its own perspective and ideas for success:

  1. Stephanie Allewalt, a neighborhood planner with the Agape Community Center in Milwaukee, calls for a cocktail of “large-scale, long-range urban planning processes to smaller, site specific investments, and a full range of planning activities” to achieve “sustainable, resilient change.”
  1. Brett Elrod, project developer for Urban Housing Solutions, Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., envisions a future of “mixed-income, mixed-use, and transit-oriented communities,” by way of sustainable design that capitalizes (both monetarily and socially) on the ”’golden age’ of multifamily housing” that has been brought by more and more Americans realizing the value of quality, affordable rental housing over homeowership;
  1. Shola Olatoye, deputy director of relationship management at Enterprise New York emphasizes the importance of planting the seed—financially supporting—in “the next generation of neighborhood developers,” or, the “pluck of community leaders” as she terms it;
  1. Karen Beck Pooley of the urban planning firm czbLLC calls for ending the “narrow focus of creating housing units” in favor of “the broader challenge of using housing-based investments to prompt broader neighborhood-wide improvements;”
  1. Finally, Jaime Arredondo, fund development director for Farmworker Housing Development Corporation in Oregon, points to reduced CDC services during the Great Recession and the adverse effect on communities of color: “In these times of change, investing in and institutionalizing practices to develop emerging leaders will be critical for sustaining and expanding community development efforts.”

Our perspectives don’t end there, however. This spring, we put out a call for entries for this series and received a great response. All of our young community developer perspectives are featured as a web exclusive special at www.nhi.org/go/Under36.

6 Ideas to Reshape Housing Policy. Our cover package continues as we think big and think fundamentally about housing policy. Is what we’re doing working? If not, do we make the same old tweaks or do we need a real overhaul in our thinking? Our essayists—representing CDCs, academia, think tanks, advocacy groups, and research and consulting firms—say yes, and they do so convincingly. www.nhi.org/go/radical

From here, we still have an entire issue’s worth of material:

  1. Conrad Egan interview. We talk with the now-retired president and CEO of the National Housing Trust looks back on his astounding career, as well as discusses his current projects.
  1. Filling the Lending Vacuum by Marcus Weiss, president of the Boston-based Economic Development Assistance Consortium, looks at how CDCs are filling the commercial real estate lending vacuum in times of tight credit.
  1. CLTs Go Commercial. Miriam Axel-Lute, NHI associate director and Shelterforce editor, examines the role community land trusts can play in commercial development.
  1. More Mission. Carol Wayman, federal policy director of CFED, reports on the economic development promise of Federal Home Loan Banks, saying they are sources of untapped potential.
  1. It’s All About Choice, by Staci Horwitz, program director of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust, describes her organization’s innovative practice of allowing buyers to pick their own house to bring into the land trust.
  1. Making Light Rail Stop for Us. Traci Babler, of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, tells the story of Stops for Us, a coalition that fought to include stops in lower-income and immigrant communities along a new light rail route connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

This issue contains our regular features, Shelter Shorts, Access, Industry News, and print-exclusive content as part of our anniversary package that includes a Route 66 infographic that looks at notable community organizations along the storied roadway, and a timeline that begins in 1975, showcasing past Shelterforce covers and coverage. Want access to this additional content? You can purchase a copy of this special issue at http://www.shelterforce.org/publications/.