To prevent displacement, communities need responsive lenders and investors to finance community anchors that can provide a range of services for the vulnerable, expand businesses, and assure real affordable housing. It will also require reawakened politicians to embrace real community participation. That was my message in session remarks to colleagues from across the country at the 28th annual conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] this month.
There is more urgency to this next chapter in the saga to preserve the federal Community Reinvestment Act [CRA]. Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard opened her keynote noting: “CRA is highly valued by banks and communities, and could be even more so.” Certainly that’s more astute than Alan Greenspan allowing predatory lending to destroy communities on his watch.
Yet the urgency is not only driven by pending CRA Reform proposals, it’s exacerbated by the on-going financing of non-affordable housing with the blessing of local government and taxpayers’ subsidies. One attendee in the Preventing Displacement session tweeted my rhetorical question: “How many more luxury apartments can the market bear?”
I learned new terms at this session: “serial eviction developers” and “displacement enabling lenders.” The California Reinvestment Coalition has been researching the pervasiveness of such incidents and has formulated an Ant-Displacement Code of Conduct for lenders to vow not to finance landlords who use loopholes to evict tenants, but instead to invest in affordable housing.. They are tracking the imminent invasion of New York by California’s most egregious displacement lender.
In my remarks, Crafting New Narratives for Communities Taking Charge of Change, I shared the history of Chicago’s Uptown and its challenging future. I commented on inadequate Chicago ordinances that only further racial and economic segregation. I remarked that Chicago’s history does provide justification for community skeptics to question “Planning for whom?”
As we await the election of Chicago’s first African-American woman Mayor on April 2nd, we are still confronted with a tale of two cities. There are now multiple billion dollar development projects rushing to get through Chicago’s City Council before there is a new sheriff and a new City Council that ends developers’ perceived notion that they don’t have to directly provide affordable housing. Meanwhile Uptown’s diversity is increasingly threatened by developer greed, when Uptown could and should be a national model of inclusion.
If it ignores the lens of “equitable development,” CRA Reform could accentuate CRA credit for loans to luxury and market-rate housing in economically and racially diverse communities that will only further real estate speculation, displacement and lack of affordable housing for those Americans who should benefit from CRA lending. Banks fueling displacement should be downgraded on their CRA evaluations.
The Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] USA has called Chicago’s Uptown home since 1971.
ICA’s anti-displacement strategy is to sustain spaces for the vulnerable population of Uptown. Our Chicago Landmarked building, which we now brand as ICA’s GreenRise, is a community anchor that provides affordable space for two intentional residential communities and 25 social service agencies which serve over 1,000 low income and homeless persons per week. An ICA colleague captured ICA’s community vision in mural art: “Uptown: Where Diversity Brings Success.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the key moment at this year’s NCRC conference when the Senator William Proxmire Lifetime Achievement Award [first established by NCRC in 2006 in honor of the US Senator who authored the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977] was presented to civil rights leader Stella Adams. A longtime member of NCRC’s board of directors and the organization’s Chief of Equity and Inclusion from 2016 to 2018, she was honored for her leadership and advocacy for fair lending practices and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act across the country.
John Taylor, President and Founder of NCRC, lauded Stella as “a true soldier in the complete sense – somebody who is willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to get the truth and to confront power and to get at change – social and economic and civil change – that creates a better society.”
In accepting the award, Stella implored:
“Every day we fight against injustice, inequality, racism, sexism, all the isms, and we lose sight of what we are fighting for. We are so busy fighting to preserve and protect past gains, and let’s be clear, all our gains are at risk, that we fail to plan for this future where we live out the American dream. That is what we are striving for. I need you to fight for your future. Fight for equity.”
Stella, thanks for your service and your inspiration. You are a true Champion & Warrior for Justice.