February 5, 2009

How to do well by doing good

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.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

'Real-world political suggestions focus on "cool communities," reroofing and re-paving in lighter colors as well as planting trees. It is estimated that such a program for Los Angeles - involving planting 11 million trees, reroofing most of the 5 million homes, and painting a quarter of the roads - would have a one-time cost of $1 billion. However, it would have annual added benefits of lowering air-conditioning costs by about $170 million, and providing $360 million in smog-reduction benefits. Plus the added benefits of a greener LA. And perhaps most impressive, it would lower LA temperatures by about 3°C - or about the temperature increase envisioned for the rest of this century.'
-- Cool It, Bjorn Lomborg

Get writing those checks, stimulus bureaucrats!

neil craig said...

The asthma one is politically loaded too.

Here in the UK the BBC have officially announced that 17,000 children a year are hospitalised by passive smoking. This is, of course, a complete lie. What they have done is taken all the growing childhood asthma cases & said they must be from smoking. Even ignoring the total lack of positive evidence, this must be a lie because asthma is growing & smoking is declining (probably because childrenn nowadays are wrapped in cotton wool in their early years as the immune system develops). However only a nasty capitalistic person could question giving more power to government activists when it involves suffering children.

Anonymous said...

Every goofy idea in the world wants funding. If goofballs can't get funding on the private market, they go to the government. The government raises the money by taxation or inflation, i.e. takes it from the private market.

The goofballs are thieves - they have a thief mentality.

Anonymous said...

The "community organizer" shakedown artists are annoying but they're small potatoes compared to the big Wall Street financial parasites. Liberals are right on this one.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't realized until now that the shakedown artists have made the word "gentrification" a pejorative term for "economic development," carrying the connotation of "evil."

Still, that excerpt does show what "community organizers" think of building up any community-- they're against it!

Anonymous said...

There are sound policy options that increase wealth. Liberals and non-White interest/lobby groups oppose them:

1. Policing, strict sentencing guidelines, imprisoning criminals, reducing street/violent crime.

This reduces the thug tax that the criminal element extorts out of poor people, increasing their wealth far more than junk loans.

2. Low taxes and regulatory barriers to entry for small business, helping create jobs.

3. Clean, efficient, non-corrupt government focused no doing a few things well: public safety, libraries/health, public education.

4. Discouraging single motherhood in culture and government -- making women choose long-term instead of short-term and creating the nuclear family instead of the single-parent nightmares.

Anonymous said...

Think of self-contradictions which "community organizers" face. They (supposedly) want to make the neighborhood a nicer place to live (nicer homes, nicer local businesses, more local jobs, better schools...), BUT, they don't want the improved amenities to attract new residents with more money-- even though that's pretty much the definition of an improved neighborhood: one that attracts people who could afford to live elsewhere!

Every time someone voluntarily sells a house or moves out of an apartment, there is a chance that someone else more affluent will buy the house or rent the apartment. As any neighborhood becomes more attractive this sort of population turnover may occur, all in quite a voluntary manner-- the person who sells his house presumably values the buyer's money more than the house; and people who leave apartments generally move someplace else that suits them better.

If you're a community organizer, though, you must oppose such voluntary population turnover! You think: "the point of all my hard work is to see all the po'folks who lived here when I arrived (e.g., to Chicago from Harvard Law School) living in a swank neighborhood! I don't want them to sell out to gay bohemians or self-consciously "progressive" white people, take the capital gains created by all my community organizing, and move to some other slum!"

No wonder community organizers devote so much effort to forcing new "low income housing" set-asides and prolonging old ones. It takes coercion to keep slumdwellers in a swanky neighborhood-- and vice-versa. The logic of community organizing dictates the use of such coercion-- almost by definition, under conditions of economic freedom large numbers of poor people will not remain in an affluent neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Piper said

I hadn't realized until now that the shakedown artists have made the word "gentrification" a pejorative term for "economic development," carrying the connotation of "evil."

Oh, they were doing that at least 20-25 years ago in Manhattan, regarding e.g. the Lower East Side.

On this subject the lefties have, if not a point, then a point of purchase: multi-millionaires of dubious provenance (think oligarchs and govt. fat cats etc.) leveling lower-middle-class neighborhoods to put up multi-million-dollar condos unaffordable by 99% of the people there. NOT community-friendly. On the other hand, turning dangerous wasteland ghettos into safe, trendy, artsy neighborhoods IS an improvement. I believe lefties use animus against the former to support the latter, at best - and at worst oppose both and all.

Anonymous said...

Piper, your comment about "self-contradictions" really nails it. You describe the anxieties, not only of the shake-down artists, but also of people who live in neighborhoods like mine, i.e., the Norwood section of The Bronx, predominantly Hispanic, lower middle-class to poor. We are lucky to have the stabilizing influence of the Montefiore Medical Center, which almost envelopes this area, with its buildings interspersed everywhere. The Center is a very responsible, conscientious landlord and neighbor, and many people in the area work there.

We have small stores galore, six bank branches (which is always a healthy sign), and lots of "progressive" community stuff. There's always the construction of something or other (like a filtering plant) that's being fought against. That's when the white folks appear.

We're used to renovations and new edifices being constructed only by Montefiore. So, when a commercial builder takes over an old car lot and begins construction, there is an "Uh, oh, what might this mean?" kind of anxiety. This fear also comes about when some upscale store attempts a branch in the area, which always, always fails. ( One wonders, who in the world does their marketing research.)

At any rate, such attempted innovations will set off visions of freshly scrubbed 20-somethings flying in from Ohio and Indiana, to take cheap apartments in The Bronx, while commuting on the D or #4 train to their fancy Manhattan jobs. The beginnings of gentrification!
-- Victoria