2020 Policy Priority: Community Economic Development

At BLDG Memphis, the Community Economic Development working group acts to build equitable community development strategies and encourage increased economic opportunities for neighborhoods. The working group also advocates for increased transparency and accountability, greater inclusion of the community development sector, and more place-based approaches for public programs, such as payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) and tax increment financing (TIF) districts.

Over the next year we hope to accomplish the following goals:

  • Evaluate the formal roles of community development and other neighborhood-based organizations in the process of awarding PILOTs through the issuing agencies.

  • Advocate that location along existing transit routes be included in the evaluation of PILOT applications to better connect workers with jobs and housing.

  • Support the strategic use of community based TIFs through the Memphis and Shelby County Community Redevelopment Agency to leverage rising values in certain sub-markets for community investment.

  • Explore tools that support equitable development benefiting existing residents and local businesses, such as community benefits agreements (CBAs), community land trusts (CLTs), alternative property tax structures for affordable development, and density bonuses to incentivize greater percentages of affordable units and deeper affordability targets.

  • Explore the creation of a community development tax credit program that would offer tax incentives to for-profit entities making direct investments in nonprofit community development organizations.

  • Support the creation of state legislation to curb predatory lending practices by limiting interest rates, effectively regulating title and payday lenders, and encouraging financial tools that facilitate wealth building in low-income communities.

Visit our website to learn more about BLDG Memphis and see how you can get involved

at Friday, May 8, 2020

What Proposed Changes to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Could Mean for Memphis CDCs

 

Proposed changes to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) could divert billions of dollars from low- and moderate-income communities. Currently, banks meet their CRA requirements by providing capital for affordable housing, small businesses and economic development in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. By relaxing standards for the types of investments that qualify for CRA credit, the proposed rules would open the door to discriminatory housing and investment practices – i.e., redlining. Overall, these rules would make financial institutions far less accountable and connected to the communities they are required to serve.

Our team at BLDG Memphis wanted to address the concerns of these proposed changes at the local level by speaking with leaders of our member community development corporations. We asked Charia Jackson, Deputy Director of Frayser Community Development Corporation, to share her perspective on how CRA changes could impact communities across the city. 

What are some examples of how CRA investment has supported your work?      
CRA has supported our work by providing a tool to ensure banks are willing to invest resources in the communities we serve – in low- to moderate-income areas. For example, local banks have worked alongside neighborhood leaders to identify how they could create affordable mortgage loan products that would allow the owner-occupant purchase of homes priced below $50,000. With this loan product in place, it opened the doors for buyers to purchase homes that were previously being purchased only by investors. 

Another way in which CRA has assisted with our work in the community development sector is that it’s allowed for lower interest rate financing for us to produce good-quality affordable homes to sell or rent to low- to moderate-income households.     

How do you think these changes will affect your CDC and others in the Memphis community?                        
If the CRA rules are changed, we believe banks will not be as proactive as they have been in working with the community development industry to solve problems in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. Additionally, we think they will be less likely to serve those consumers in ways such as creating loan products to serve low- to moderate-income borrowers choosing to purchase lower-valued homes. There would fewer opportunities for homeownership in areas where prices do not meet the bank’s traditional lending guidelines.  

How can people take action to prevent the proposed CRA changes from being put into action?  
People can take action to prevent these proposed changes by making public comments to the regulators, encouraging many others to make comments, and speaking to the facts of how this act has benefited many low- to moderate-income families and individuals in the communities where they live. 

Together, we can protect CRA investment in low-income communities. Submit a comment today. 

at Wednesday, March 11, 2020

2020 Policy Priority: Affordable Housing

Creating affordable housing options is crucial to the revitalization of Memphis neighborhoods. Through our affordable housing policy priority, we are focusing on increasing resources for and eliminating barriers to solving the quality affordable housing supply/demand gap through tools for acquisition, development and maintenance of affordable units.

Over the next year we hope to accomplish the following goals:

●    Secure county and private allocations to the Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund and explore additional dedicated funding sources for long-term sustainability.

●    Explore changes to the state Low Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Allocation Program that increases the competitiveness of neighborhood-scaled affordable housing developments. 

●    Improve governing systems and enact policies that hold property owners and private management accountable for their properties while supporting and protecting the rights and livability of renters. 

●    Support the adoption of a rental property registry ordinance and regular inspections of rental housing units to ensure the safety of and livability for residents. 

●    Explore the creation of a “renters’ bill of rights” that clarifies and strengthens protections from housing discrimination, unlawful eviction, and retaliation. 

●    Encourage equitable access to fair housing opportunities through home repair and weatherization programs, increased housing and financial counseling, and the creation of a “one-stop-shop” for individuals and families to access information, apply, and be referred for services.

●    Expand the eligibility of local and state home repair and weatherization programs to have a greater economic, health, and stability impact for Memphis households, for example by including rental property improvements as eligible uses. 

Visit our website to learn more about BLDG Memphis and see how you can get involved
 

Member Monday Spotlight: Alcy Ball Community Development Corporation

 

Seth Harkins, Executive Director 

How was Alcy Ball started?
Alcy Ball Development Corporation (ABDC) was founded in 2012. Our Community Development Corporation (CDC) started through relationships between the leadership of Divine Life Church and Second Presbyterian Church. Through their mutual understanding of Asset Based Community Development principles, the initial leadership group decided to form a CDC to strengthen some of the existing relationships and reestablish Alcy Ball as a desirable, thriving community. Funding from Second Presbyterian and neighborhood connections from Divine Life formed the foundation of what exists today – an organization working to support resident leaders. 

What is your current focus?
Over the last three and a half years we have focused on building relationships with key leaders and long-time residents in the community. We’ve spent numerous hours showing up to events, sitting in living rooms and hearing stories about the history of this unique city. Our focus is now on connecting those leaders, providing exposure to best practices from the community development field and supporting the endeavors they choose to undertake. We’re doing this through establishing our office, venue and meeting space in a beloved building in the center of the neighborhood, at 1672 Alcy Road. 

Over the next five to six months, we’ll be incorporating feedback and performing renovations to our building. While it holds many neighborhood memories, it hasn’t been held to a high standard for the last several years. Programming in this space will revolve around the existing block clubs and associations in the area, as well as FOOD! Several neighbors have offered to help teach young families about budgeting and health-conscious cooking. For us, there’s no better way to build multi-generational relationships than by preparing and eating good food together. 

How can people help address the needs of your community?
Find us at alcyball.org and follow us through Instagram @alcyball. We will be sharing opportunities to donate, to volunteer with revitalization projects, mentor students at Alcy Elementary School and participate alongside neighbors, as we teach each other budget-friendly health-conscious recipes. As our network of leaders selects their first project in 2020, we will be promoting it and recruiting volunteers to help get the word out. We also need donations of cooking utensils, mixing bowls, knife sets and cutting boards to complete our training kitchen and to enable us to host demonstrations. 

What accomplishments are you proud of?
Over the last few years, we have hosted over 700 volunteers. These volunteers have boarded up vacant houses, cleared overgrowth, made light repairs and helped host parties. In September of 2018, our first credit counseling clients became homeowners right next to Alcy Elementary School. In 2019, we've focused on deepening relationships, serving together, improving visibility and removing blight from 22 properties. 

Does Alcy Ball have any upcoming activities or events?
Subscribe to our newsletter at alcyball.org or follow us @alcyball on Instagram to learn about upcoming projects or events, especially as we get up and running in the Rogers’ Store building in late spring/early summer.

Get in touch with Alcy Ball CDC
1672 Alcy Road Memphis, TN 38114
(901) 522-5534
info@alcyball.org

at Monday, January 6, 2020

BLDG 20 for 20

Day 20 – The Next 20 Years of BLDG Memphis

Thank you for following along as we celebrated our 20th year and reflected on the people, partners and programs that have been core to our work of building more sustainable and just neighborhoods across Memphis.

Your donations allow us to increase resources for safe, affordable and healthy housing, redevelop vacant and abandoned neighborhoods, create better strategies for community economic development, make our streets safer, equip residents with the tools they need to make neighborhood change a reality and more. 

As we look to the next 20 years, consider making an investment in our community to help us to continue to strengthen the coalition and make Memphis livable for years to come.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate

Day 19 – 2020 Policy Priorities

As an advocate on the local, state, and federal levels, BLDG Memphis organizes its members to create policy priorities in five areas critical to community development in Memphis: 

  • Affordable Housing

  • Community Economic Development

  • Neighborhoods and Local Government

  • Reuse and Revitalization of Vacant Property & Land

  • Transportation and Mobility

After forming the priorities, the General Policy Committee, along with working groups related to each of the aforementioned areas, advances those objectives by engaging with elected representatives, public officials, nonprofit and private sector organizations.

In the past, the BLDG Memphis General Policy Committee has advocated for items that are now making tangible improvements to Memphis communities, such as the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The 2020 platform includes advocacy for items such as:

  • Regulatory changes to increase tax credits and funding for development of affordable housing

  • Planning and investments that link transit to new and existing job centers

  • Tools and official processes that expand and enhance community engagement in public decision-making 

In addition, we are excited to explore items such as the creation of a "renters' bill of rights" and guidance on how to implement community benefits agreements (CBAs). Stay tuned for the official list of 2020 policy priorities!

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 18 – BLDG Memphis 2020-2023 Strategic Plan 

Our 2020-2023 Strategic Plan was developed over eight months in collaboration with members, board members and organizational partners. Input that formed this plan was gathered through a member survey and multiple member focus groups; a formal organizational assessment by National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations
(NACEDA); interviews with funders, organizational partners, members and staff; phone and in-person interviews with peer organizations around the country; and many work
sessions with the planning team and staff.
 
The input made clear that a larger role for BLDG Memphis exists and stakeholders greatly value BLDG’s past contributions and have great ambitions for the organization’s future. The completed document is comprised of goals and objectives to meet those ambitions and details strategies that will provide accountability. 

Take a look at a few updates and additions to our 2020-2023 strategic plan:

Updated Mission Statement
BLDG Memphis drives investments in Memphis neighborhoods through building capacity in members, public policy and civic engagement.

Our Organizational Values
Strong Neighborhoods

  • We value the importance of strong neighborhoods as our reason to exist.

MEMFix is a reflection of this value. MEMFix is a series of community events designed to rethink and activate streets and vacant storefronts and test drive new neighborhoods in Memphis. The purpose of this initiative is to provide neighborhoods with a tool to demonstrate the “art of the possible” by temporarily transforming one to two city blocks into a vibrant, people-friendly neighborhood commercial corridor. 

In partnership with our member CDCs and community leaders, we are excited to expand upon our Strong Neighborhoods value and create more meaningful work in the coming years. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

  • We value and model diversity, equity and inclusion practices for our community.

Additional values include: Community-informed; member-focused; collaboration; innovative; equitable development; public participation; and systemic change. 

These few items barely scratch the surface of what we hope to accomplish for our community beginning in 2020. We look forward to the future of our organization as we continue to initiate authentic development and relationships across the city of Memphis.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 17 – Building Community and Capacity with Binghampton Development Corporation

Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC) was founded in 2003 by Christ United Methodist Church. It operates with a mission to improve the quality of life in the community through building awareness of opportunities and needs, promoting education and literacy, and offering capacity building opportunities for residents in Binghampton.

With priorities such as blight removal and support for affordable homeownership, the BDC has renovated 100 housing units and constructed 18 new houses. In addition, the BDC develops strategic multi-family properties and manages approximately 70 housing units in rental service.

In 2015, BDC was awarded the first Community Builder PILOT, a program designed to support the work of our members and other neighborhood-focused developers, to create the Binghampton Gateway Center at Tillman and Sam Cooper. 

BDC has continued to drive neighborhood reinvestment with their support of the Hampline, the creation of the Binghampton Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district and their work to redevelop the long-vacant Tillman Cove. 

We are thankful for the work of the Binghampton Development Corporation to drive catalytic investment in their community! Learn more about their work here: https://www.bdcmemphis.org/.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 16 – Creating Thriving Neighborhoods Through Community LIFT Capacity Building Fund

Since 2011, Community LIFT has been a catalyst for change, working to advance Memphis by accelerating the revival of its disinvested neighborhoods. They pursue national relationships and dollars and align them with local resources. Together, those investments are then strategically distributed in the form of grants and loans primarily to Community Development Corps., Grassroots Leaders, and Neighborhood Businesses.
 
Community LIFT is a vital partner to BLDG Memphis. Since its creation as the primary recommendation of the 2009 Greater Memphis Neighborhoods Plan, LIFT and its affiliate, River City Capital, have been accelerating investment in disinvested Memphis neighborhoods to create a thriving Memphis for all. 
 
A specific example of this is the CDC Capacity Building Fund, which provides project and operating support to CDCs looking to increase their impact on Memphis neighborhoods. The vision of the CDC Fund grant is to ensure a robust, effective network of CDCs that are capable of serving as quarterback agencies for scaled revitalization efforts that significantly enhance the quality of life in Memphis’ distressed neighborhoods, thus serving as catalysts for equitable economic growth and advancement. 
 
We are thankful for all that Community LIFT is doing for our city, and we look forward to the years to come working alongside their team. 

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 15 – Community-led Positive Change with Ioby

The partnership between Ioby (“in our backyards”) and BLDG Memphis started in late 2013 to make a positive impact by working closely with people and organizations who have deep local roots in Memphis. Through this collaboration, Memphians have raised more than $500,000 for 200+ projects throughout 20 ZIP codes. Take a look at some of the projects:

Wellness in Hollywood with Restoration Time
North Memphis residents were in need of better access to a wellness/fitness center for youth, adults and senior citizens. The nearest one was approximately three to five miles from the community center, which was shared by more than 2,000 residents within a three-month period. 

Restoration Time believes that until they are able to partner with Planet Fitness to set up a wellness/fitness center in North Memphis, they needed to equip the community with the tools and resources needed to address health needs.

Ultimately, Restoration Time was the choice nonprofit to carry out this plan, since the organization’s goal is to support families in need with services that will benefit the family as a whole.

 
HUG Park Friends 
With Ioby, the HUG Park Friends group raised more than half the amount they were awarded to complete their Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR) work plan. This plan includes the revitalization of the Gooch Park pavilion. In addition, they have received matching funds and launched a rehab initiative in this park with their partners by starting a mural. 

View their fundraising page here: https://www.ioby.org/project/gooch-park-rehab.
 
Speedway Terrace Historic District Signage (Crosstown CDC) 
This project represented a significant opportunity to invest in preserving the historical value and character of the beloved Speedway Terrace neighborhood. Historic Midtown neighborhoods have signs to remind residents and visitors that they are in a special place with historic status. 

With their funding goals earned and Ioby matching donations, Speedway Terrace’s signs will be fabricated from metal and placed at major entry points to the neighborhood.

View their fundraising page here:  https://www.ioby.org/project/speedway-terrace-historic-district-signage.
 
The Heights Park Project
The Heights neighborhood has many great assets, but it lacked a place for neighborhood children to play. Thus began the development of a nature playground, one that uses creative landscaping to give kids an outdoor experience to enhance their innate curiosity and allow them to interact with nature. 

View their fundraising page here: https://ioby.org/project/treadwell-nature-playground.
 
We are grateful to Ioby for generously matching funds for each of these projects, as they are enabling Memphis to continue moving forward with neighborhood development and revitalization.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.
 

Day 14 – Meaningful Partnerships Through Memphis Housing & Community Development

BLDG Memphis (then CD Council/Livable Memphis) first started working with Paul Young, Director of the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development, a few years back in his role with the Memphis & Shelby County Office of Sustainability. 
 
Since then, he has been a strong ally in our community development work, most recently leading the successful 2019 charge to establish the first ever Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 
 
We are lucky to have had Paul be present at a few of our community's greatest milestones and achievements. In April of 2017, he spoke at the brand reveal event for BLDG Memphis. In December of 2019, he accepted a $5.6 million lead and healthy homes grant award from HUD field office director Sernorma Mitchell.
 
We are thankful for Paul’s leadership through the years and look forward to our continued work with him!

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 13 – Member CDCs and SPARCC/NCR Team Up for Meaningful Investment 

The Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) is investing in and amplifying local efforts underway in six regions to ensure that new community infrastructure investments reduce racial disparities, build a culture of health and prepare for a changing climate. The initiative’s long-term goal is to change the way metropolitan regions grow, invest and build through integrated, cross-sector approaches that benefit low-income people and communities of color. 
 
SPARCC’s resources include capital grants and debt financing as key assets to use and demonstrate capital as a critical tool for achieving the systems change objectives of the individual SPARCC sites and the initiative as a whole. Through a community table structure and various work groups, and as a result of the collective efforts of our CDCs and staff, Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR) members and the SPARCC national team, community-sourced projects were able to take root in a part of Memphis that has historically faced disinvestment. Some of these projects include:
 
Oasis of Hope Affordable Senior Housing
The NCR Capital Funding opportunity has allowed us to help fill a resource gap needed to build three quality, affordable, energy-efficient homes on the Oasis of Hope lots located a few blocks from their senior program at Bickford Community Center. The funding provided through SPARCC led to the completion of the final three lots of a 40-lot subdivision (Bearwater Park), which involved countless partners, including the City of Memphis, THDA, HUD, Habitat for Humanity, President Jimmy Carter and numerous other foundations and nonprofits. 
 

Klondike-Smokey City Neighborhood Stabilization Plan
The Klondike-Smokey City Community Development Corporation (CDC) purchased 150 vacant, blighted lots in the North Memphis area. SPARCC usage for these properties includes a home rehabilitation program, scattered site development, a feasibility study, and historical home stabilization.
 
Heights Line
Heights Line is a neighborhood-led initiative to create the longest linear park in Memphis along a former trolley line, providing a much-needed public space amenity in North Memphis. This project will also connect disinvested historic neighborhoods to nearby parks, urban centers and transit routes. Heights Line will create the first urban connection between two of Memphis’ premier greenways – the Wolf River Greenway and the Shelby Farms Greenline. SPARCC contributions to the Heights Line will include architectural design. 
 
The work we have accomplished through this partnership has been extremely rewarding. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the SPARCC and NCR teams.
 
Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 12 – Neighborhood Leaders Discuss the Importance of Park Equity 

In 2019, we gathered neighborhood leaders at one of our monthly Pizza with Planners events to discuss the importance of parks in our community. 

Throughout the night, was shared and ideas were expressed surrounding the concept that community ownership of parks is key for community building and community mobilization around beautification and safety. 

Great parks promote healthy lifestyles through exercise and spending time outdoors, provide places for group activities, increase our property values, improve the environment and connect us with nature and neighbors.

Park Friends, Inc. PFI) is a non-profit group dedicated to providing a community voice for all of Memphis' 165 City Parks. Other leaders advocating for parks and supporting and the activities include:

  • H.U.G. Park Friends (Hollywood, University and Gooch parks)
  • Friends of the Park
  • Rozelle-Annesdale Park Group

No matter where you live, there should be an accessible and appealing park nearby. When this is not the case our key priority is a holistic approach that allows communities to plan and develop park systems that make the benefits of parks available for all community members. To improve park equity across Memphis, we need to limit the existence of poorly maintained, understaffed, and unsafe parks in. 

To help others become leaders and create community change, we’ve kits and resources to help improve the parks in neighborhoods across Memphis. 

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.
Image credit: Memphis Parks – Park Reservation Administration

 

Day 11 – Rehabbing and Revitalizing the Community with The Heights CDC

The Heights Community Development Corporation (CDC) began organizing in 2013 and was officially established in 2016 to help facilitate and implement a neighborhood revitalization plan. While fighting blight by homes and providing quality affordable housing for families, The Heights is also addressing the community’s need for public space by working on a linear park development called the Heights Line. 

With the neighborhood saying, “We rise by lifting others,” The Heights continues to spread hope and awareness of the need for reinvestment and development within the community. Many neighborhood schools, organizations, churches and businesses have shared that mantra, and they invite you to join them.

Learn more about the The Heights: https://www.heightscdc.org/.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 10 – Give $20 for 20 Years of BLDG Memphis

As BLDG Memphis celebrates our 20th year, we are giving thanks the people, partners and programs that have been core to our work of building more sustainable and just neighborhoods for all Memphians.

Your donations allow us to increase resources for safe, affordable and healthy housing, redevelop vacant and abandoned neighborhoods, create better strategies for community economic development, make our streets safer,  equip residents with the tools they need to make neighborhood change a reality and more. Consider making an investment in our community to help us to continue to strengthen the coalition and make Memphis livable for years to come.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate

Day 9 – City Development with Memphis 3.0

On December 3, the Memphis City Council gave final approval to the Memphis 3.0 land use and guidelines, a comprehensive 20-year plan to improve neighborhoods, streets and future development across the city. With the plan, an affordable housing and catalyst fund provided by the city, the goal is to encourage developers to take on blighted areas, or areas that would otherwise not make financial sense for them to go/build.

BLDG Memphis has played a role in coordinating more than 20 neighborhood-based organizations as community engagement partners. In addition, some of our 2020 policy focuses are based on Memphis 3.0 recommendations.

We look forward to witnessing the continued growth of Memphis into a city of opportunity. For more information on 3.0 progress, visit: https://www.memphis3point0.com/.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop, and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 8 – Ushering in Healthful Renaissance of a Targeted Community with The Works, Inc.

The Works, Inc. was founded in 1998 to serve the housing and community development needs of South Memphis. Its vision is to usher in the total, holistic and healthful of a targeted community in South Memphis – to deliver its revival. The South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan (SoMe RAP) is an effort to transform South Memphis into one of the region's premier urban neighborhoods of choice.

Housing Development Programs:
Alpha Renaissance Apartments is an 80-unit multi-family development in South Memphis, opened in May 2002 by The Works, Inc. Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.  

The DreamWorks is a home construction program that builds new and renovates existing single-family homes. The homes are built to be, not look, affordable, using the highest quality construction products to facilitate long-lasting

Mortgage Financing is for those looking to buy a new home. The Works, Inc. acts as a mortgage lender for homes costing up to $50,000.

  

Community Development:
South Memphis Farmers Market (SMFM) opened for the first time in 2010. It was founded by a of South Memphis residents, The Works and the University of Memphis.

The Grocer at South Memphis Farmers Market is a year-round neighborhood grocery store serving the needs of the South Memphis community. The Grocer grew out of the South Memphis Farmers Market, opening in 2014 to expand upon the food access provided the seasonal Farmers Market.

The Works, Inc. continues to be a leader in showing what is possible when the community is engaged to address their own holistic health outcomes. We congratulate them for winning an award from Healthier Tennessee for their health and wellness campaigns in 2018-2019.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Image credit: The Works, Inc.

Day 7 – Investing in Memphis Alongside Frayser CDC 

The Frayser Community Development Corporation (FCDC) was formed in January 2000 to become a revitalization engine for the community. Frayser CDC has seen significant growth in its efforts toward impacting housing values, home ownership rates, foreclosures and improving overall perceptions of the Frayser community. To date, it has rehabilitated nearly 200 houses and sold or rented more than 200.  

Steve Lockwood
Steve Lockwood, the Executive Director of Frayser CDC, joined the organization in 2002. Steve Lockwood and the Frayser CDC as a beacon of hope, not only to Frayser residents, but across the city of Memphis, as they model and share best practices with other neighborhood leaders as they also work to overcome the effects of disinvestment.

Charia Jackson
Jackson, the CDC’s Deputy Director, joined the staff in 2005. She has worked with many Frayser families over the years through the Housing Counseling Program to attain their home ownership goals or by resolving housing issues through specialized foreclosure prevention counseling services. Jackson focuses on leading Frayser’s housing program and recently received her Masters in City and Regional Planning from the University of Memphis.

Continuing to make an impact
In March, at THDA’s annual Tennessee Housing Conference Frayser CDC was awarded The Neighborhood Stabilization Award. This award reflects the hard work of the agency in combating blight to stabilize the Frayser community. Additionally, Jackson received the Vicki George Award of Excellence for her work in serving West Tennessee residents through the housing counseling program.

In July, Frayser CDC celebrated its commitment to build 10 new homes in Frayser with the completion and of the first three. The event also gave residents the opportunity to connect with lenders and realtors, listen to great music, eat delicious food and participate in fun giveaways.

We are grateful to have Frayser CDC as a part of our community and look forward to their continued success. 

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.

Day 6 – Strengthening Knowledge and Connections through New City Builders

The New City Builders program was created in 2015 in response to community development corporation (CDC) member organizations asking for support that would build knowledge and strengthen connections of CDC staff and board members who have worked in community development for less than five years. 

2019 marks the fourth year of our New City Builders program for emerging leaders in community development. The experiences and exposure provided throughout the program give participants the opportunity to hear from real-life leaders in the industry, participate in monthly visits to CDCs and the neighborhoods they serve, engage in social networking, and complete capstone projects. At its core, this program focuses on building an individual’s own capacity as a leader through professional development. 

We recognized the most recent graduates of the New City Builders program at the BLDG Memphis 20th anniversary celebration. The eight graduates were a part of the largest class to complete our program to date. 

We look forward to the continued success of New City Builders and are excited to see what’s in store for 2020. 

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.


Day 5 – The Executive Director of BLDG Memphis, John Paul Shaffer

While in planning school at the University of Memphis, our current executive director, John Paul Shaffer, first crossed paths with BLDG Memphis (then known as the Community Development Council) as it convened a large group of active transportation advocates to drive policy change and investment in Complete Streets and public transit.

After working several years at the government level on transportation planning and investments, the opportunity came to join the advocacy side with BLDG, allowing John Paul to broaden his scope to look at new ways of re-investing in neighborhoods and the people within them, and he didn’t hesitate to join.

We are thankful and honored to have an executive director who continues to support the mission of our organization. For two decades, we have worked to promote the revitalization of Memphis neighborhoods through public policy development and advocacy, organizational capacity building and community education.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis.
 

Day 4 – Connecting people with safe, affordable housing through the Housing Counseling Network

The BLDG Memphis Housing Counseling Network (HCN) is a collective of Memphis-area housing counselors and housing resource providers that share resources, data and strategies to connect people with safe, affordable housing.

BLDG Memphis, with support its members, re-launched the network over the past year. This year BLDG Memphis has connected HCN members with trainings at no cost to housing counselors. A few highlights include:

  • In July, BLDG Memphis hosted trainers from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to offer a variety of weeklong professional development courses. This opportunity not only brought together counselors from around the city, but also across the region and country.
  • NCRC returned to Memphis in November with a follow-up course for the HCN.
  • In December, BLDG Memphis will welcome facilitators from Freddie Mac to teach their exclusive CreditSmart Train the Trainer program. 

Over the next year, BLDG Memphis aims to support HCN participating counselors and organizations to achieve HUD Certification–a new federally-mandated national standard.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis. 


Day 3 – Facilitating Dialogue through Pizza with Planners

Pizza with Planners – BLDG Memphis' flagship community engagement program – has been facilitating dialogue among community development leaders in government, non-profits, the private sector and Memphis neighborhoods for almost five years. By bringing together folks who are passionate about their community and city over complimentary (and delicious) pizza and salad, we set the stage for collective participation in a search for positive change through public policy and civic education. 

Pizza with Planners events are held monthly, from January through October, at different locations across the city and feature a variety of speakers from government officials and CDC directors, to artists and resident leaders. In some cases, Pizza with Planners might include focus groups, audience Q&A, guest lectures, film screenings and audience activities.

Pizza with Planners explores questions such as:

  • How can our city plan and prioritize equity?
  • What changes can the city and MATA make to strengthen our transit system?
  • How can we attract businesses to our neighborhoods and build commercial corridors?

As we head into 2020, we hope you will consider joining other neighborhood leaders at the next Pizza with Planners for continued discussion on how we can collectively continue building Memphis.

For more information, visit: https://www.bldgmemphis.org/PWP.

 

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis. 

Day 2 – Investing in North Memphis through SPARCC/NCR

In six regions across the country, the Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) is investing in and amplifying local efforts to ensure that new investments reduce racial disparities, build a culture of health and prepare for a changing climate. Since 2017, BLDG Memphis has served as the backbone agency for SPARCC in Memphis, also referred to as the Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR), supporting community-led solutions for addressing racial inequity in North Memphis. 

As SPARCC prepares to launch its next three-year initiative in Memphis, we recognized that bringing in Center for Transforming Communities (CTC) as an institutional partner to lead this effort is the best next step for our community. CTC will now serve as the backbone agency to the continuation of SPARCC efforts across our city. 

Executive Director of CTC, Justin Merek, states, “Center for Transforming Communities is very excited to support the North Memphis Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience. Our model of grass seeds (youth), grassroots (residential) and grass tops (institutional) organizing is a fresh approach toward building neighborhood capacity and systems change.” 

We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve been able to be a part of through SPARCC/NCR, and we are excited for what the future holds for our community. 

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis. 

 

Day 1 – 20 Years of Building Memphis

In 1999, the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis was formed from a group of neighborhood-based developers, who had experienced challenges affecting everyone, from land development and grant attainment to training and advocacy. They understood that there was strength in numbers and chose to join forces to create an advancement community for Memphis by pooling the various strengths and resources each possessed.

Now, two decades later, BLDG Memphis is the product of the combination of the Livable Memphis program and CDC engagement. Through peer-to-peer organization and relationship-building, the organization has adapted to speak as one voice to work with city, county, government, foundations and financial institutions.

In celebration of 20 years, BLDG Memphis is sharing the many ways we are building Memphis. Join us over the next four weeks as we post about various community development corporations (CDCs), community projects and leaders we have had the pleasure of enabling and participating with to keep moving Memphis forward.

Show your support for BLDG Memphis by giving $20 for 20 years of empowering Memphis to build, live, develop and grow: https://bldgmemphis.nationbuilder.com/donate.

Your donations allow us to continue the development and redevelopment of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods across Memphis. 

at Tuesday, December 24, 2019

BLDG Memphis celebrates 20th anniversary, reflects on two decades of community development and engagement

BLDG Memphis (Build. Live. Develop. Grow.), a coalition for organizations and individuals who support the development and redevelopment of healthy, vibrant, attractive and economically sustainable neighborhoods throughout the Memphis region, recently announced its 20th anniversary, celebrating two decades of community advancement. Established in 1999, the organization now enables more than 40 community development corporations (CDCs) to make their visions a reality.

“The daily lives of Memphians are affected by the infrastructure and investments, or lack thereof, made in our communities,” said John Paul Shaffer, executive director at BLDG Memphis. “With this in mind, it has been a privilege to lead, encourage and witness the revitalization that has been brought to local neighborhoods through the work of our organization and incredible partners.”

Resources offered to CDCs include organizational development, business and financial structure, community outreach, housing development and management, and economic development, conducted using a proprietary Capacity Assessment Tool (CAT). Community engagement events, such as Pizza with Planners and the Community Development Book Club, set the stage for dialogue between neighborhood members and professionals on how communities are structured and operate.

“I am honored and humbled to see the new heights BLDG Memphis has attained,” said Kathy Cowan, community development manager at Regions Bank and BLDG Memphis board member. “The creation of this organization stemmed from a coalition of community leaders discussing challenges that were affecting all of us – like land development, grant attainment and affordable housing – and we knew there was strength in numbers. This was about all of us and the future we all wanted for Memphis. It’s exciting to know that this mission is still being carried out today.”

Previously known as the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, the newly minted BLDG Memphis is a product of the combination of the Livable Memphis program and CDC engagement. Through peer-to-peer organization and relationship-building, alongside policy and advocacy initiatives, the organization has adapted to speak as one voice to work with city, county, government, foundations and financial institutions.

at Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Future of SPARCC/NCR

In six regions across the country, the Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) is investing in and amplifying local efforts to ensure that new investments reduce racial disparities, build a culture of health and prepare for a changing climate. Since 2017, BLDG Memphis has served as the backbone agency for SPARCC in Memphis, also referred to as the Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR), supporting community-led solutions for addressing racial inequity in North Memphis. Through a community table structure and various work groups, and as a result of the collective efforts of our staff, NCR members and the SPARCC national team, community-sourced projects were able to take root in a part of Memphis that has historically faced disinvestment.

The work we have accomplished through this partnership has been extremely rewarding. These projects include a food pantry, affordable senior housing, education around flash flooding and more. 

Oasis of Hope Affordable Senior Housing
The NCR Capital Funding opportunity has allowed us to help fill a resource gap needed to build three quality and affordable, energy-efficient homes on the Oasis of Hope lots that are within a few blocks of their senior program at the Bickford Community Center. The funding provided through SPARCC led to the completion of the final three lots of a 40-lot subdivision (Bearwater Park), which involved countless partners, including the City of Memphis, THDA, HUD, Habitat for Humanity, President Jimmy Carter and numerous other foundations and non-profits. 

Table Spread Food Pantry
The Midtown Mosque in Memphis received a capital grant from SPARCC of $40,000 to support the construction of Table Spread, a food pantry and non-profit retail greengrocer. In partnership with local farmers and a food bank in Klondike/Smokey City, residents in these communities now have better access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Future of SPARCC
As SPARCC prepares to launch its next three-year initiative in Memphis, SPARCC 2.0, we recognized that bringing in Center for Transforming Communities (CTC) as an institutional partner to lead this effort is the best next step for our community. CTC will now serve as the backbone agency to the continuation of SPARCC efforts across our city.

Executive Director of CTC, Justin Merek, states, “Center for Transforming Communities is very excited to support the North Memphis Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience. Our model of grass seeds (youth), grassroots (residential) and grass tops (institutional) organizing is a fresh approach toward building neighborhood capacity and systems change. Designing storytelling experiences into community action plans, we see the arts as a powerful pathway toward communities taking ownership and leadership of their own neighborhood development. We invite all on our journey toward building the movement, as we often say, ‘don’t come to see, come to be.’” 

We look forward to continuing to support SPARCC and CTC in their equitable development efforts in North Memphis, through our capacity building and policy work. We are excited for what the future holds for our community. 


 

at Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Member Monday Spotlight: South Memphis Alliance Community Development Corporation

 

Tiffany N. Turnage, Program Director

How was SMA started?
SMA opened its doors in the year 2000 to help support local civic organizations in addressing community concerns such as blight, food deserts, environmental racism, and social injustice. These issues are, and always will be, at the core of our agency’s mission.

What is your current focus? 
SMA has focused on three core goals: social services, mentoring, and advocacy. In 2012, our agency took a dilapidated, rundown laundry in South Memphis and secured one million dollars to convert it into the first-of-its-kind laundromat and resource center, which we named “Social Suds.” This unique social entrepreneurial project built a state-of-the-art laundromat to attract individuals who often fall between the cracks of society, including the working poor and students. While customers were waiting for their clothes to wash and dry, they were able to receive free support services from over a dozen social service agencies. These agencies included the Shelby County Health Department, the Memphis VA Medical Center, the IRS, Hope Credit Union, Southern College of Optometry, Just City legal aid, and many more.

It was clear to us that communities such as South Memphis and Orange Mound could be better served with neighborhood-based social services, so we purchased a 53,000-sq.ft. warehouse in Soulsville, USA and began the process of leasing space to service agencies that can help improve the lives of area residents. In October 2019, the Shelby County Health Department opened a 10,000-sq.ft satellite office, now known as the SMA Urban Connect Warehouse. We are presently in discussion with a second agency that will utilize 25,000 sq.ft. 

We also purchased an abandoned dairy factory a few years back and had the two-story building demolished. This left a two-acre open field, which we are working to transform into a community soccer field for youth. 

How can people help address the needs of your community?    
By getting involved. These communities suffer from being ignored. When we see our brother’s problem as our problem, we are moving in the right direction. 

What accomplishments are you proud of?     
Just to name a few, SMA partners with a dozen local neighborhood associations to provide support services to young people in the community. Also, SMA hosted a free laundry day this August and over 200 families received free laundry services over the course of an afternoon. Lastly, SMA hosted its first back-to-school supply/uniform giveaway. We were able to give over 100 children backpacks, school supplies, and uniforms. 

Does SMA have any upcoming activities or events?
SMA will host our next Sisters Saving Sisters (SSS) class on Nov. 16. Sisters Saving Sisters is a group intervention program designed to empower young females between the ages of 14 to 22 who are in foster care, to help them become more knowledgeable about the risks of HIV/STDs and teen pregnancy among adolescent females. 

SMA is also set to host an annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Soulsville this month. The official lighting will be Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. The 33-foot Christmas tree will be at the entrance of Soulsville, USA on Bellevue.

Lastly, SMA is planning our next back-to-school giveaway next year. We will provide backpacks and school supplies to at least 300 school-aged students to end the second half of the school year. 
 

Get in touch with the South Memphis Alliance CDC
1048 S Bellevue Blvd, Memphis, TN 38106
(901) 774-9582
turnage@smaweb.org

at Monday, November 11, 2019

Member Monday Spotlight: The Heights Community Development Corporation

 

Jared Myers, Executive Director 

How was the Heights CDC started?
The Heights CDC began organizing in 2013 and was officially established in 2016. A small group of residents who went to Christ Community Church completed a community survey with 80 families to find out how the church could best serve the neighborhood. The results of that survey showed that residents wanted better housing and a safer community. The Binghampton Development Corporation was awarded a Building Neighborhood Capacity Program grant under President Obama’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, and the BDC deferred that grant to the neighborhood north of Highland/Mitchell Heights. The BNCP allowed our community to build capacity and start our own CDC for the neighborhood. The Heights CDC is the organization that is helping to facilitate and implement our neighborhood’s revitalization plan.     

What is your current focus? 
The Heights neighborhood, like many other communities in Memphis, has been disinvested in for several decades. We were once a thriving community, but now we struggle with blighted housing and lack of access to public spaces to gather and recreate. The Heights CDC is fighting blight by rehabbing homes and providing quality, affordable housing for families. We are also addressing our community’s need for public space by working on a linear park development called the Heights Line. 

How can people help address the needs of your community?    
The Heights neighborhood is in the heart of Memphis and simply needs reinvestment.  We have a neighborhood saying, “We rise by lifting others.” There are many schools, organizations, churches and businesses that have shared this mantra, and we invite others to join us.

Memphians can be a part of investing in the Heights through monetary donations that allow homes to be restored. You can volunteer your time to mentor students or participate in a community cleanup. We also encourage individuals to stay connected by attending neighborhood events and by building relationships with our partner organizations. We have active social media outlets and a monthly newsletter that will keep you informed on how you can also Rise by Lifting Others. 

What accomplishments are you proud of?     
The Heights CDC’s greatest accomplishment is our development of relationships with residents and community partners. We love this neighborhood and the people who make it beautiful. We take pride in being led by residents and supporting the neighborhood associations, schools and organizations who work tirelessly to reinvest in our community. Our strong community relationships have allowed us to invest in Treadwell School by attracting school sponsors, installing an outdoor basketball court and developing the green space on the Treadwell campus. The Heights CDC has also rehabbed 10 homes in our community and guides families toward homeownership. Our most recent accomplishment is the design of a new linear park space for National Street called the Heights Line. The Heights Line will be an expanded median that will provide a public gathering space for our neighbors and connect our community to the Wolf River Greenway, the Shelby Farms Greenline, the Broad Avenue Arts District and Overton Park. 

Does the Heights CDC have any upcoming activities or events?    
This fall, the Heights CDC will host several community events, including a Halloween party, movie night and fall garden planting. The Heights Line construction documents will be completed by the end of the year, and we will be working to raise support as we break ground on the Heights Line in the spring of 2021. 

Get in touch with the Heights CDC
920 N. Highland St. Memphis, TN 38122
(901) 730-6902
info@heightscdc.org


at Monday, October 28, 2019

2019 BLDG Memphis Candidate Questionnaire Results

Leading up to the 2019 City of Memphis Municipal Elections, we posed three questions to all 64 candidates running for mayor and city council to gauge their support for local solutions to our city's needs. The questions addressed the topics of quality affordable housing; supporting and growing the newly created Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund, pedestrian safety; improving Memphis' record as the 11th most dangerous metro area for pedestrians in the U.S. and public transit; increasing our investment to fund the Memphis 3.0 Transit Vision.

The three questions were sourced from our membership base of 28 nonprofit community development corporations working in neighborhoods across Memphis and supporting/partner agencies in the economic development and financial sectors.

We recorded responses from the 13 candidates that participated and displayed them on our website to help voters make informed decisions on election day. Let’s look at what a few of the 2019 candidates running in the City of Memphis Municipal Elections had to say. 

Do you support the current allocation of $700,000 in general property tax revenue annually to the Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and would you support increasing funding from a recurring source for the long-term sustainability of the Fund?

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund was part of my 2019 budget proposal, and we worked with our partners on the City Council to make it a reality. This is a sustainable fund, as it is tied to a portion of our property tax rate. We are continuing to work to find ways to grow it in time with our own funding, as well as with philanthropy.  – Jim Strickland, Incumbent Mayor

I'm supportive of the current allocation of $700K. Before supporting an increase to the funding. I'd like to have an opportunity to evaluate the successes and failures of the first year's grants. – Worth Morgan, Memphis City Council Candidate, District 5

Yes. Affordable housing is a priority for me, and I will support current efforts as well as work to find additional ways to accelerate the reduction of the affordable housing deficit. – Tami Sawyer, Mayoral Candidate

I fully support the Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It’s my desire for the funding for this program to increase significantly. I absolutely will search for ways to increase and sustain long-term funding to help provide affordable housing to Memphians. – Cody Fletcher, Memphis City Council Candidate Super District 9, Position 3

What will you do to make Memphis streets safe for all, regardless of their mode of transportation?

Some things I would do to make Memphis Streets safe for all, would be to provide sidewalks in communities that don't have them and to increase street sweeping and mowing along walkways in communities to improve walkability. – Rhonda Logan, Memphis City Council Candidate, District 1 

First of all, we have to hold elected officials accountable who promised to address crime with a plan and didn't. Secondly, we have to allocate resources properly to MATA. Third, we have to restore benefits to police and fire but also improve/revamp/increase the amount of training overall, but especially when it comes to de-escalation tactics. 
– Theryn Bond, Memphis City Council Candidate, District 6

We need to make public transportation more accessible, and we need to put speed bumps on streets notorious for speeding. I have seen a lot of work put in on making more clearly marked crosswalks available, and my platform discusses a lot of our schools where speed bumps and signage are not properly in place. – John Marek, Memphis City Council Candidate, District 5

We’ve done quite a bit already, but we have much more work ahead of us. Through our Bikeway & Pedestrian program, we incorporate safer street designs for all users of our streets. – Jim Strickland, Incumbent Mayor 

There have been many recent pedestrian and bikeway improvements, but we have more to do. Continuing to increase safe pedestrian walkways, bikeways, speed bumps in school zones, parks, and other areas that have high pedestrian usage can all help create a safer community for pedestrians, bikers, and drivers. We also need to have educational plans in place to effectively slow down drivers which will save lives. – Dr. Jeff Warren, Memphis City Council Candidate Super District 9, Position 3

Would you support efforts to find new and increased funding sources to implement the Transit Vision network and serve Memphis neighborhoods more effectively?

Transportation equity is a very important issue for me and a major part of my campaign platform and work as commissioner. I will as mayor work to find innovative funding sources that allow us to revitalize and modernize while improving access. – Tami Sawyer, Mayoral Candidate 

I would support it as a temporary fix not as a permanent solution. Memphis cannot become a world class city with MATA. In order to attract Fortune 500 companies to our city, we must invest heavily in phasing out MATA for a more advanced and more modern form of transportation that will be used not just by the poor but by the middle class and upper middle class as well. – Pastor Gerald Kiner, Memphis City Council Candidate Super District 9, Position 3

Yes, and I would and include a provision to fund a PR campaign to increase ridership. We must view MATA as a business, and if you expand a business without increasing business, then that business will be in crisis. I would advocate for a carefully crafted and executed PR campaign to increase ridership and revenue simultaneously. – Pearl “Eva” Walker, Memphis City Council Candidate Super District 8, Position 1

I will make transportation a priority of my policy agenda. The information that I have about the $30 million dollar is what I have seen as a private citizen. I can't wait to enter much more in depth discussions to see what we need and how we are going to fund it. – Mauricio Calvo, Memphis City Council Candidate Super District 9, Position 2

at Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Concept of Shared Prosperity


By Leslie Smith, BLDG Memphis Advocacy & Engagement Program Manager

In April 2019, the Atlantic and the Shared Prosperity Partnership gathered local policymakers and community leaders at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to discuss how the legacy of structural racism has affected cities across the country. Together, these groups exchanged views on how public policy can help foster more inclusive growth, and they took a look at those who are currently pushing for change.

The Shared Prosperity Partnership – a collaboration of The Kresge Foundation, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, the Urban Institute and Living Cities – uses public forums and open discussions to spark dialogue among local leaders in communities across the United States. In Memphis, this conversation was designed to help leaders feel more equipped and informed on best practices for fighting poverty. During this discussion, Shared Prosperity openly challenged local community and economic development leaders to approach the topics of race, equity and equality and discover ways to address these areas of concern.

Addressing the racial gap

America is facing an affordable housing issue and has been doing so for quite some time. Policy makers tend to tout homeownership as being the best vehicle for low- or moderate-income (LMI) families and people of color to build wealth. While this is true, the reality is, barriers for LMI families to successfully obtain homeownership are high. 

Unfortunately, racial inequality and segregation in America are not issues of the past; they continue to affect entire metropolitan areas. Richard Rothstein, a senior fellow at the Haas Institute at University of California, Berkeley, creates a historically-compelling case in his novel titled, “The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of Segregated America,” which sheds light on the role racism has had on minorities for generations, especially for African Americans.  

From the infamous practices of redlining to the normalized societal standards of structural racism, Rothstein accentuates the wrongdoings and intentionality behind government-sponsored segregation and private discrimination. “Half a century ago, the truth of de jure segregation was well known, but since then we have suppressed our historical memory…” Not only does he remind the readers of the “forgotten history,” which inhibited many minorities from accessing housing and capital, but he illustrates how the callous actions of the past contribute to the current burden inherited by many minorities today. Rothstein expresses that America took its time to begin addressing the issues of racism, “By the time labor market discrimination abated sufficiently for substantial numbers of African Americans to reach for the middle class, homes outside urban black neighborhoods had mostly become unaffordable for working- and lower-middle-class families.”

While some legislators are currently looking to push legislation to make housing more affordable like theAmerican Housing and Economic Mobility Act, others have and are currently attempting to hold onto the integrity of fair and affordable housing protections for all. Consider legislation like the Restoring Fair Housing Protections Eliminated by HUD Act of 2018Landlord Accountability Act of 2019and the Housing Fairness Act of 2019, to name a few.

Advocates have begun to examine the role ever-evolving technology has played in irresponsible practices of disseminating information to consumers based on race. However, problems in this space can be difficult to detect, as data sets and algorithms used are often proprietary. If these systems rely on data that reflects historic biases deeply embedded in our society, the systems themselves may discriminate.

Allan Mallach describes in his book, “Divided City,” how many cities have reinvented their design in response to capitalism-based trends. Throughout his book, he follows history and builds up to modern day trends – from educational institutions, the healthcare industry and the chase for attracting millennials. As we consider the affordable housing issues looming over America, the cost of development rises, and property values drive up the cost of living. Once millennials are attracted to the growing cities, where does this first-time homebuyer live? 

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) is working with advocates across the nation to raise awareness of the importance of improving access to affordable homeownership. NCRC states, “As a wave of millennials reach the median first-time homebuyer age of 30, they are confronted with a critical shortage nationwide in the number of homes for sale, forcing many to become “involuntary renters” and delaying their ability to build wealth and community in homes of their own.” 

The racial gap to obtaining and maintaining wealth continues to be an issue for minorities not only across the country, but also right here in our city. Andre Perry, one of the panelists who spoke during the Shared Prosperity event, referenced one of the latest reports published through the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings titled, “The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods.”The report offers comparable home values among black and white neighborhoods. While Memphis did not make it into the top 10 list of cities with the largest difference in home values, data showed that there is still room for improvement in our city.  

This year, the City of Memphis and Shelby County published an Analysis of Impediment for Fair Housing Choice. The report covers the following points in detail:

  • Increased chances for displacement, especially for residents who are disabled.
  • Low availability of affordable units in a range of sizes.
  • Lack of private investments in specific neighborhoods.
  • Low access to opportunities.
  • Unfavorable school quality.
  • Segregation persists. Contributing factors: Accessing capital for loans or subprime lending.
  • Minorities have trouble accessing jobs – even when they live in close proximity – due to skills and/or education mismatch.
  • Land use regulations and zoning ordinances affect the siting and types of houses.

How we can take action

With open discussions on the economic issues that continue to plague Memphis and cities across the country, we can work together to put policy in place that advocates for those who are underrepresented. 

We can urge regulators to release better information about community lending and investing. This will help both lenders and proponents better understand what qualifies for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credit and where CRA investments are occurring. Banking institutions are still failing to identify how the level of their investments in local communities actually brings about change. It’s our responsibility to promote efforts for fair and transparent lending practices and hold lending institutions accountable. Modernization of policy will help these establishments take more responsibility for providing fair access to financial services, helping to meet the credit needs of entire communities.

Urge legislators and local elected officials to address the affordable housing demands in Memphis by increasing funding to support home preservation (aging in place and modifications for senior/disabled persons) and home-building efforts. Hold landlords accountable for providing energy efficient housing that is universally-designed to accommodate all people. Provide funding to support increased development of multi-family housing that caters to multiple levels of income. Build the capacity of housing counselors to counter the demand of housing resources.

This article originally appeared in StoryBoard Memphis. 

at Thursday, June 27, 2019

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