Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Update

In Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) field work throughout the Seventh District, CDPS contacts – in varying contexts – have voiced concerns about conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations and communities. CDPS conducts regular surveys of people representing organizations that serve LMI communities in varying ways. Our survey respondents represent organizations in the fields of real estate development; facilities financing; financial counseling; economic development; banking; consumer advocacy; small business development; philanthropy; law; higher education; agriculture; manufacturing; and human services. This blog is a summary of responses from the latest CDPS survey.

While the survey provides, by virtue of its nature and scope, more qualitative than quantitative insights, most contacts noted that in their communities many people lack skills that are needed in the workforce. Additionally, the contacts highlighted that community colleges are partnering with industry and non-profits to make sure they are customizing their curricula to correspond with skills sought by local employers. A recent ProfitWise News and Views article, Community Colleges and Industry: How Partnerships Address the Skills Gap provides more information about community college and industry partnerships in the Seventh Federal Reserve District states of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

On a different note, CDPS is interested in learning about the institutions in your community that create, lead, and finance community development. The two charts below break down which organizations create and lead community development and organizations that help to finance community development. Additionally, it was noted that Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and farm service agencies helped create, lead, and finance community development, respectively.

Chart one
Click image to enlarge
Chart two
Click image to enlarge
Posted in CDFI, Community Development and Policy Studies, Profitwise News and Views, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off

Industrial Cities Initiative Profiled in New Report

Community Development and Policy Studies at the Chicago Fed recently published profiles of a group of 10 cities that experienced significant manufacturing job loss in recent decades.

The Industrial Cities Initiative (ICI) includes, Aurora and Joliet in Illinois; Fort Wayne and Gary in Indiana; Cedar Rapids and Waterloo in Iowa; Grand Rapids and Pontiac in Michigan; and, Green Bay and Racine in Wisconsin.  While each city has been blogged about before (see the “BLOG” tab), a complete set of more detailed profiles are now compiled into one report.

Collectively, the profiles provide insights from local economic development leaders on the cities’ actions in the wake of the job loss that have either helped or hindered redevelopment efforts.

The authors and contributors to the ICI do not pass judgment on individual cities. So, while we understand the temptation to simply link directly to just one city’s profile, we encourage readers to start their exploration of the ICI with the Summary.

The ICI looked at cities’ conditions, trends and experiences and concluded that efforts to improve their economic and social well-being are shaped by:

  • Macroeconomic forces: Regardless of their size or location, these cities are impacted by globalization, immigration, education, job training needs, demographic trends including an aging population, and the benefits and burdens of wealth, wages, and poverty;
  • State and national policies: State and national policies pit one city against another in a zero-sum competition for job- and wealth-generated firms; and
  • The dynamic relationship between the city and the region in which it is located: Regional strengths and weaknesses to a large extent determine the fate of the respective cities.

The ICI homepage provides access to the full ICI report, individual ICI city profiles and related research, and blogs from around the country about cities that share a manufacturing legacy.

Posted in Aurora, Cedar Rapids, Fort Wayne, Gary, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Industrial Cities Initiative, Joliet, Pontiac, Racine, Waterloo | Comments Off

Final Blog in Three Part Series: Reflections from Community Leaders Forum

CLF

Below is the final of three blogs reflecting perspectives on the Fed’s Community Leaders Forum, which took place on March 5 and 6 in Washington, DC. Our guest bloggers in order of posting are Michelle Hoereth of IFF, Renee Hatcher of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Sarida Scott of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit.

A key purpose of the Community Development function in the Federal Reserve System is to document trends, observations, and concerns of organizations serving consumers and communities. Information we gather informs our programmatic and research agendas. To that end, we invite perspectives of both newer and well-established private sector community development organizations, and build relationships with long-tenured, as well as emerging leaders in the field. 

The Community Leaders Forum, organized by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis and Chicago, was a dialogue with emerging leaders, and we are grateful for their participation and thoughtful input. The goals of the forum were to:

  • Strengthen the community development function through peer-to-peer learning that promotes applied research and innovative community strategies; and
  • Improve the Federal Reserve’s understanding of emerging trends and their impact on consumers and communities, in particular those traditionally underserved.

By Sarida Scott

In March, the Federal Reserve Board convened a Community Leader’s Forum, the second of four, in Washington, DC. This session brought together representatives from cities like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Memphis to talk about current community development issues and how Federal Reserve resources can be used to support work on the ground.

As the Detroit representative, the experience was beneficial in a variety of ways. Despite participating in a number of educational and informational sessions held by the Fed in Detroit, I was not aware of the extent of the Fed’s involvement in community development. It is helpful to have an understanding of the various ways in which the Fed connects with communities, which includes conducting policy analysis and producing research papers. This fact suggests that there are additional opportunities to connect with the Fed and influence activities designed to support the industry.

The other significant benefit was the opportunity to network with community development professionals from other cities. Hearing the stories of the challenges and of various solutions being employed provided great insight. While it was a reminder that our challenges in Detroit with respect to vacant property, blight, and development are on a significantly larger scale, it was at least comforting to know that we are utilizing or have tried solutions that are also being used by our counterparts. The conversations also sparked ideas for new efforts and initiatives. Of interest were the collaborative projects discussed that pull in different and sometimes unexpected partners in ways that are having great impact in neighborhoods.

Current challenges in Detroit include an overwhelming number of vacant properties and the accompanying blight issues. Faced with an inventory of approximately 70,000 vacant structures, there is no simple resolution to the problem. While funds have been funneled to the city from the federal government and other entities for demolition, that alone will not solve the problem. Recognizing that demolition is necessary in many cases, residents and organizations also continue to seek funds for home rehab and deconstruction work to preserve what is still a beautiful housing stock. Despite the demand and interest, these types of funds prove difficult to attract.

Additionally, engaging in a significant amount of demolition will result in enormous amounts of vacant land, land that will need some level of development. In a challenged city, one already facing bankruptcy, that level of development will be difficult to achieve.

Despite these stark facts, we are hopeful in Detroit. There is investment. There is great support from philanthropy. There is new leadership in the form of a mayor and for the first time in 100 years, a city council by district. And there is the community development industry that has remained committed to supporting neighborhoods and improving quality of life.

As the executive director for the community development trade association in Detroit, participation in the Federal Reserve Board’s Community Leaders Forum was an excellent opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and resources for our work. We look forward to continuing and fostering this relationship.

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Redefining Rustbelt: Mitigating Blight and Managing Vacancies in Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia

By Robin Newberger and Maude Toussaint-Comeau
The Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Chicago-Detroit Branch recently held a videoconference on “Land Use Planning: Aligning Investment with Vision” to share strategies related to blight mitigation, the management of vacant land and the development of commercial corridors. This was the third exchange between experts and stakeholders in a series between the four cities on strategies to attract residents and investments.
Each of the cities represented at the videoconference has confronted high numbers of foreclosed and abandoned homes and commercial vacancies that have resulted in widespread blight. Data from the US Postal Service (charts 1 and 2) shows little improvement in vacancy rates in these cities since 2011. For Detroit, the rate of residential vacancies is four times that in the US, and the rate of commercial property vacancies is more than double the national rate. Strategies to address abandonment, blight, and declining commercial corridors as such have been integral to these cities’ efforts to stabilize population and attract investment. The videoconference discussion focused on five particular land use strategies.
Chart 1
Click to enlarge
Chart 2
Click to enlarge
Source: USPS, downloaded through HUDUSER
Five Elements of a Comprehensive Approach to Land Use Strategies
(1) Data collection
Data collection and consolidating information allows cities to be more systematic about removing blight. It gives city agencies information about where to target abatement actions. A better understanding of the inventory also makes it easier to acquire privately-owned, tax-delinquent properties to assemble larger tracts that can be repurposed and redeveloped. Some specific efforts noted during the videoconference included:
• The Blight Task Force, in Detroit, which has organized teams to photograph parcels and document the characteristics of each property. This work is helping to develop a systematic and sustainable blight-removal framework for the city.
• A city of Cleveland program, through which the Cleveland fellows have developed a framework that prioritizes properties for demolition based on predetermined neighborhood- and property-specific factors. Relevant property data is fed into a transparent process for determining demolition priorities.
• A city of Philadelphia program, under the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, that makes vacant lot prices available to the public and publishes disposition policies on how to buy (in some cases, discounted) city-owned property.
• A Baltimore city contract with TRF (the Reinvestment Fund) for a market value analysis that helps the city understand its market dynamics and develop strategies to rebuild and stabilize distressed real estate markets.
(2) Zoning ordinances
All the cities have established some form of compliance-based code enforcement for abandoned property. The city of Philadelphia was noted for its successful anti-blight zoning ordinance. An analysis of the anti-blight initiative found that places where targeted enforcement took place had property sale prices roughly 30 percent higher on average, and fewer tax delinquencies, than places where no intervention of this type occurred.
(3) Land banks
Land banks allow the public sector to remove excess supply from the market, which in turn helps to stabilize property values. Land banks can also facilitate better analysis of where aggregating parcels can have an impact on neighborhood stabilization, which can accelerate overall real estate market revitalization compared with strategies involving piecemeal transfer or sale of land. Over the course of the meeting, representatives discussed various issues pertaining to the pros and cons (such as the added costs of property maintenance), and noted the following:
• The Cuyahoga County land bank (Cleveland) is one of the largest and, based on the volume of acquisition, demolition, and redevelopment (and other factors), most effective land banks in the country.
• Several land banks in the Detroit metro area are in the process of being merged together.
• Philadelphia passed legislation for the creation of a land bank in December 2013. The Philadelphia land bank will offer a streamlined process to people who apply for property, in contrast to the various agencies that follow different policies and systems for land acquisition and re-use.
(4) Green spaces and “un-development”
Traditionally, cities have viewed open spaces as public amenities and potential gateways to improve the appeal of neighborhoods. More recently, cities are relating open spaces to environmental sustainability. Cities that have lost substantial population have come to look at city landscapes from an ecological perspective, pursuing so-called “un-development” strategies that derive value from land otherwise perceived as unproductive. The aim is to transform open spaces for uses like storm water management and urban agriculture. Representatives discussed and highlighted some of the initiatives and issues related to green space:
• Baltimore’s Parks and People Foundation piloted an urban forestry initiative in the 1990s with help from the US Forest Service.
• More recently, the city of Cleveland moved from the practice of holding onto residential parcels (in their land bank) to selling to developers, and encouraging home owners to expand side yards and double their residential lots, if adjacent vacant properties are not located in an area targeted for development.
• In Baltimore, the city’s Office of Sustainability in the City Department of Planning developed the “Growing Green” initiative, which focuses on reusing vacant land, including the greening of neighborhoods. The Green Pattern Book, spearheaded by this same office, serves as a guide to encourage the planning and implementation of different green uses for vacant land.
• Economic developers in Detroit are also developing an environmental plan in conjunction with their blight remediation and demolition strategy.
(5) Business corridor development
The development of neighborhood business corridors is another strategy that cities are pursuing to mitigate blight. Some of these strategies cover multiple neighborhoods, involving investments in transportation routes to connect otherwise marginal areas with the economic hubs of a city. Cities are also deploying corridor strategies in middle market areas, where attention to a few storefronts is intended to shift the market trajectory for the surrounding neighborhood. Neighborhoods with unique architecture or historic character are also targeted for business corridors. These places can encourage creativity and provide a sense of “fun.” Developers hope to attract artists and a mix of tenants into these neighborhoods. Some of the discussions noted the following:
• Cleveland has invested in streetscape and in bus rapid transit to better connect businesses. It has reconfigured portions of West Shoreway freeway into an urban parkway, offering opportunities for the development of vacant land. Another project, “Opportunity Corridor,” connects impoverished parts of Cleveland to freeways and to the University Circle.
• In Detroit, Revolve Detroit at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation is focusing on two business districts. New occupants include pop-ups and jury-selected artists.
• Philadelphia is working on corridor development to fill storefronts with a combination of art and retail.
• Baltimore looks to bring in restaurants and other food-based businesses to encourage visitors and newcomers to go into different neighborhoods.
Conclusion and takeaways:
With respect to any of the strategies discussed during the videoconference, participants emphasized the importance of getting input from community residents. Openness and transparency allow the community to feel ownership and participate in the process. Baltimore’s experience with large-scale demolitions in East Baltimore offers an example of successful community engagement. Its demolition protocol was developed as a collaborative effort that brought the local community into the entire process – from site demolition, to the cleaning-up of a brownfield, to the design of the first new school in Baltimore city in 20 years. In a similar spirit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and Revolve Detroit have engaged neighborhood residents, local business owners, and property owners to build plans along designated business corridors.
A related message from the videoconference exchange was that blight elimination should be people-focused, and intended to improve the quality of life and bring about new opportunities for residents. The experience in the East Baltimore Revitalization Initiative underscores this point. Families relocated during that project moved into homes valued at considerably more than those they had vacated. These families, with the support of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, were provided an asset that could then potentially alter their lives for the better.
An overarching theme of the conference was that cities should make strategic decisions about where to demolish and redevelop, but also put in place programs and policies to encourage overall economic redevelopment. These include improvements in education, job training, and job creation, organically or by attracting and incenting employers.
Posted in Detroit, Foreclosure, Rust Belt | Tagged , | Comments Off

Second Blog in Three Part Series: Reflections from Community Leaders Forum

CLF

Below is the second of three blogs, that will be posted over a month, reflecting perspectives on the Fed’s Community Leaders Forum, which took place on March 5 and 6 in Washington DC.  Our guest bloggers in order of posting are Michelle Hoereth of IFF, Renee Hatcher of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Sarida Scott of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit.

A key purpose of the Community Development function in the Federal Reserve System is to document trends, observations, and concerns of organizations serving consumers and communities.  Information we gather informs our programmatic and research agendas.  To that end, we invite perspectives of both newer and well-established private sector community development organizations, and build relationships with long-tenured as well as emerging leaders in the field. 

The Community Leaders Forum, organized by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis and Chicago, was a dialogue with emerging leaders, and we are grateful for their participation and thoughtful input.  The goals of the forum were to:

  • Strengthen the community development function through peer-to-peer learning that promotes applied research and innovative community strategies; and
  • Improve the Federal Reserve’s understanding of emerging trends and their impact on consumers and communities, in particular those traditionally underserved. 

By Renee Hatcher

After first learning of my nomination by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (Chicago Fed) for the Federal Reserve Board Community Leaders Forum (CLF), I must admit that I was unsure what to expect from the experience. I had previously participated in programming hosted by the Chicago Fed. I served as a panelist during a Microenterprise Summit hosted by the Fed and attended a presentation on Gary, Indiana as a part of the Industrial Cities Initiative. Also, the Chicago Fed Community Development (CD) staff had proven very helpful in providing information regarding a new Community Development Financial Institution that I helped establish. However, I did not have a firm handle on the role of the Chicago FED in the community development sphere.

During the two-day conference, I had the opportunity to observe Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Janet Yellen’s swearing in ceremony, engage with Board Governor Sarah Raskin, and confer with community development practitioners from around the country. We discussed a variety of pressing issues affecting our respective communities including: vacant and “zombie” (i.e., where a financial institution begins but does not complete the foreclosure process, leaving the borrower, after vacating their home, unaware they are still responsible for upkeep) properties in low-moderate income (LMI) communities; the unmet needs of the aging urban core; the obstacle criminal records create in securing gainful employment; the workforce and opportunity mismatch; access to capital for LMI communities; the importance of public transportation planning in promoting access to employment opportunities; and the effect of sprawl on community development. I quickly realized during our discussions that many communities across the country are facing many of the same obstacles. I found solace in knowing that such engaging and knowledgeable individuals were working on community and economic development (CED) efforts in various local communities. Even more encouraging, we had an opportunity to discuss and share innovative solutions to common problems related to the foreclosure crisis, financial empowerment, urban revitalization, and microenterprise development as a tool for economic stability and growth. Also, I had the opportunity to build out my network of like-minded individuals that care about and work on CD. This included senior leaders within the Federal Reserve System, as well as other community leader participants.

While my prior experiences already proved the Chicago Fed to be a valuable facilitator and convener, participating in the CLF this spring gave me a better understanding of the Fed system. The Fed and Federal Reserve Banks can be a central resource to CD efforts. Particularly, the Fed has the expertise and bandwidth to provide qualitative and quantitative data on pressing issues facing LMI communities around the country. I learned of several publications issued by the Chicago Fed that I intend to use in my work. It was also my observation that the Fed is genuinely interested in better understanding emerging trends in distressed communities. This two-way exchange of information is vital to both practical, on-the-ground efforts of CED and research and policy development.

Largely, I had a very productive and rewarding experience participating in the CLF. The forum gave me an opportunity to take a step back and reflect upon my work. I currently serve as a staff attorney for the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. My practice is centered on community development law; providing pro bono legal services to LMI small businesses and entrepreneurs, community groups, nonprofits, and individuals interested in expunging their criminal history to create better opportunities in distressed neighborhoods. In doing this work, I spend a lot of time in LMI communities in Northwest Indiana (Gary, Hammond, East Chicago) spearheading the Initiative for Northwest Indiana (INWIN). INWIN supports a dramatic vision for redevelopment in Northwest Indiana. Participating in the CLF made me realize that the unarticulated “dramatic vision for redevelopment” is the continual creation of a more equitable community in Northwest Indiana. So much of what we talked about at the CLF was “equity”: the importance of designing public transportation systems to connect economically marginalized communities to regional job opportunities; the creation of workforce development programs that provide gainful prospects for those in distressed neighborhoods; and the capital and financial service needs of LMI communities to build assets and develop businesses. As CED practitioners, our primary objective is to ensure that development efforts and resources are used in a way that will positively affect the populations that we serve. The CLF gave me new tools to make equity an integral part of development in my community. Moving forward, I hope to develop a deeper partnership with the Chicago Fed and build on the relationships created during the CLF.

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Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Update

In the course of Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) field work throughout the Seventh District, CDPS contacts – in varying contexts – have voiced concerns. To gain a broader perspective on these concerns as well as other conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations and communities, CDPS conducts regular surveys of people representing organizations that serve LMI populations and communities in varying ways. Our survey respondents represent organizations in the fields of real estate development; facilities financing; financial counseling; economic development; banking; consumer advocacy; small business development; philanthropy; law; higher education; agriculture; manufacturing; and human services. This blog is a summary of responses from the latest CDPS Survey.

While the survey provides, by virtue of its nature and scope, more qualitative than quantitative insights, contacts noted many issues impacting (mostly) distressed single family (1-4 units) housing markets in their region.  With one or two exceptions, most of the housing market stresses mentioned in the January 2014 are still impacting the housing market (see chart).  Respondents still perceive the overall foreclosure rate as a serious problem (despite region-wide data indicating leveling or decreasing of both foreclosure start and inventory rates).  More in line with data tracked by CDPS, respondents perceive a degree of improvement in homeowners reaching agreement with lenders on workouts and modifications.  Respondent comments suggest the increase in the “other” category may relate to shortages of affordable rental property, population loss in certain areas, or lack of financing available for multi-family property.

Comparison Jan to April BBClick image to enlarge

Respondents’ perceptions around business loan demand in LMI communities differ by location as well as loan type.  Contacts noted a shortage of start-up and expansion financing for small businesses.  Others noted that banks were raising credit standards for small business, auto, mortgage, and agriculture loans.

business loans BB AprilClick image to enlarge

The survey ended with a general question about the biggest challenges or opportunities to sustained growth or revitalization in the communities served.  The responses varied greatly, but included:

  • A need for long-term strategies to address: poverty; high vacancy rates; and job creation programs;
  • Lack of skilled workers;
  • Concerns about high agricultural land prices;
  • Long-term unemployed;
  • Rural depopulation; and
  • Availability of capital.
Posted in Business Loans | Tagged | Comments Off

First Blog in Three Part Series: Reflections from Community Leaders Forum

CLFBelow is the first of three blogs, that will be posted over a month, reflecting perspectives on the Fed’s Community Leaders Forum, which took place on March 5 and 6 in Washington DC.  Our guest bloggers in order of posting are Michelle Hoereth of IFF, Renee Hatcher of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Sarida Scott of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit.

A key purpose of the Community Development function in the Federal Reserve System is to document trends, observations, and concerns of organizations serving consumers and communities.  Information we gather informs our programmatic and research agendas.  To that end, we invite perspectives of both newer and well-established private sector community development organizations, and build relationships with long-tenured as well as emerging leaders in the field.

The Community Leaders Forum, organized by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the Federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis and Chicago was a dialogue with emerging leaders, and we are grateful for their participation and thoughtful input.  The goals of the forum were to:

  • Strengthen the community development function through peer-to-peer learning that promotes applied research and innovative community strategies; and
  • Improve the Federal Reserve’s understanding of emerging trends and their impact on consumers and communities, in particular those traditionally under-served.

By Michelle Hoereth

In March 2014, the Federal Reserve Board hosted 13 rising community leaders from across the Midwest region for a peer-to-peer exchange. The goal of the meeting was to promote applied research and encourage innovative strategies to address the current trends in the communities that we all serve.  As a participant in the two-day meeting, I returned home with renewed energy and optimism about the future of community development, but also with a greater appreciation for the broader, systemic challenges we face in trying to create sustainable communities.

For most community development professionals, our commitment and passion for the field has not wavered over the years, but the tools in our toolbox seem to either not work quite as well or simply just are not enough.  We are constantly grappling with whether capital resources are shrinking or whether the problems in our communities are just continuing to grow.  Many of us acknowledge that we have become very sector driven, which has led to a narrow focus on a “single” problem that plagues a community.  We have backed away from the challenge of thinking more comprehensively about community solutions, which requires a “re-tooling” of our toolbox.  Perhaps the focus on one major issue at a time is less about a “retrenchment” from the challenge and is just simply more pragmatic.  Maybe our work is a function of available resources and the real innovation around community solutions must come from a multitude of strategic partnerships.

It was an incredibly enlightening meeting with several key takeaways.  The first takeaway is that there were key themes that surfaced from state-to-state – economic development, the link between transportation, employment, and affordable housing, asset building, and rebuilding communities.  Each theme was loaded with several sub-themes, but the major takeaway is that we all share these exact same experiences in our prospective cities and we need to collectively think about advancing the conversations towards a comprehensive solutions-based approach.

The second major takeaway is the need for greater innovation and creativity to move the community development pendulum to a point of sustained progress and success. Each city “representative” at the two-day meeting eloquently spoke about innovation across many sectors they are spearheading in their towns.  The challenge to us is to now find a way to bottle up that innovation and use it to help strengthen and in some cases rebuild our communities across all sectors.

The 13-member team of rising leaders also had the opportunity to spend time with Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin and discuss many of these emerging issues.  All of these issues seemed to resonate with the Governor and her responses and comments to our questions came from a place of sincerity and conviction that the Federal Reserve is committed to creating solutions.

At the conclusion of our meetings, without a doubt, we all increased our understanding of the broader community development issues that impact each of our cities.  With several Federal Reserve staff on hand, including two from Chicago, our discussions were productive, educational, and informative, to say the least.  We all ended the day thinking about how to re-tool our toolbox and approach our work from the perspective of trying to get out in front of the issues rather than continuing to play catch-up.  The community development field requires smart, innovative, and creative minds now more than ever and we all left feeling like 13 of those great minds just spent the last 48 hours together.  This would not have been possible without the Federal Reserve’s commitment to understanding our issues and being local engaged partners.

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The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership – A Showcase for Collaboration

By: Emily Engel and Jason Keller

Outreach into the communities that Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) serve have stressed the continued need for coordinated workforce development efforts in the Seventh District. To gain a broader perspective on these issues as well as other conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations and communities surrounding the city of Chicago, CDPS recently visited the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (the partnership). 

Introduced in July 2012, the partnership is a result of a coordinated effort between Cook County and the city of Chicago to broaden the reach of workforce development services for employers and job seekers by reducing costs, improving services, and engaging the business community. “As a human resource pipeline, The Partnership works with businesses, community colleges, workforce centers and delegate agencies to maximize human capital for high-demand industries including Healthcare; Hospitality; Information Technology; Manufacturing; Retail; Transportation, Distribution and Logistics; Business and Professional Services, and other important sectors of the area economy.”[1]

The partnership focuses on four different groups:  job-seekers; youth; employers; and the community. Each group’s needs are met through a myriad of tools including career counseling, basic skills assessments, and targeted rapid response workshops.  Throughout Cook County, there are ten workforce centers and two satellite centers, as can be seen on the map below[2].  The services offered at each center are free of charge.

Cook Workforce 1

Its services are available to all residents and businesses within Cook County, including Chicago and over 130 municipalities.  The partnership has recently focused on numerous policy changes that better align occupational training services with current and projected business needs. Through its Business Relations and Economic Development Team, the partnership has amplified private sector awareness of the region’s workforce resources and has led to deeper business engagement.  An example of an expanding initiative is the new On-The-Job Training program where businesses are not only reimbursed for up to 90% of new employee wages and the costs of training, but the training is designed to match qualified applicants with actual job openings.

On a quarterly basis, the partnership produces reports such as “Where are the Jobs?”  These reports pull information from Internet job boards to analyze where the jobs are and who is hiring in Cook County.  The top job postings by occupation and by top employers can be seen below from the partnership’s 2013 Report: 4th Quarter. [3]  This data helps public and private officials, economists, academics, and others to better understand hiring needs across the region.

Cook Workforce 2

After a recent meeting with the partnership’s CEO, Karin Norington-Reaves, CDPS learned that in its first year of operation the partnership worked with nearly 50 delegate agencies in administering $50 million of grant money while providing services to approximately 140,000 people.

Other banks within the Federal Reserve System are also working on workforce development issues around the country.  The Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Kansas City are sponsoring a national conference “Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century.”

 


[1] Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Overview & Resources, available at: http://www.workforceboard.org/media/1226/ccwpbrochurev20.pdf

[2] Locations on map can be seen in the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Overview & Resources, available at: http://workforceboard.org/media/1226/ccwpbrochurev20.pdf

[3] Where are the Jobs in Cook County?; Quarter 4, 2013, A summary of local job postings by occupation, employer, and skills needed, available at: http://www.workforceboard.org/media/5357/where-are-the-jobs-q4-2013_final.pdf

Posted in Industrial Cities Initiative, Skills Mismatch | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Update

In the course of Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) field work on varying projects throughout the Seventh District, CDPS contacts – in varying contexts – have voiced concerns that there is a lack of up-to-date skills among the unemployed. To gain a broader perspective on these concerns as well as other conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations and communities, CDPS conducts regular surveys of people representing organizations that serve these populations and communities in varying ways. Our survey respondents represent organizations in the fields of real estate development; facilities financing; financial counseling; economic development; banking; consumer advocacy; small business development; philanthropy; law; higher education; agriculture; manufacturing; and human services. This blog is a summary of responses from the latest CDPS Survey.

Most contacts underscored that many people in their community lack the skills needed to fill current positions in the workplace. While the manufacturing sector reported the biggest worker/skill shortage, other contacts mentioned the scientific and financial industries in particular as having trouble finding qualified applicants to fill open positions. One possible explanation for this mismatch is that schools stress the importance of college and often ignore vocational skills. Few students look into trade schools to help them learn the highly technical skills required for manufacturing jobs.

However, community colleges and companies are trying to help close the gap by changing their curricula. Contacts noted that community colleges are tailoring their classes to actual job openings, for example: offering welding classes; developing short term training programs to address the immediate need for specific machinists including CNC operators, welders, and industrial maintenance technicians; creating relationships with high schools to bring back vocational training; and coordinating with employers to make sure they are teaching the required skills.

Contacts mentioned the need for the employees to have basic skills and be ‘trainable’ for a company to invest into the workers future. If the employee has the basic skills then many companies are willing to train them. Additionally, a few contacts noted that training was also done through mentoring programs within the company. However, one contact noted that with the high unemployment rate (IA: 4.2%; IL 8.6%; IN: 6.9%; MI: 8.4%; and WI: 6.2% as of December 2013) they have grown accustomed to having over-qualified job seekers apply for their open positions.

CDPS has looked into the skill gap in the past and how community colleges have looked for ways to address it in a recent ProfitWise News and Views article “Community Colleges and Industry: How Partnerships Address the Skills Gap“. The department will continue to look into the skills gap in the future.

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Villard Square: Innovative Affordable Housing in Milwaukee Developed by Northwest Side CDC and Financed by BMO Harris and IFF

By: Emily Engel

After eight years in the making, The Villard Square GrandFamily Apartments, a first of its kind in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, opened in 2011.  This apartment complex focuses on a giving “grandfamilies” an affordable housing option. Grandfamilies are “families headed by grandparents and other relatives who share their homes with their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and/or other related children.”[1] 

The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC, profiled in a 2011 PNV article), which laid the groundwork for the project over several years and secured low-income housing tax credits and helped secure construction financing of $1.285 million from BMO Harris.  The bank construction financing would have been all but impossible to obtain, however, without a commitment for permanent (18-year-term) financing from IFF.  IFF is one of only a handful of CDFIs nationwide with the business model and financial heft to provide such long-term financing. [2] The library’s financing came from municipal bonds and new market tax credits.  

Across the United States 5.8 million children live in homes headed by grandparents. This number jumps to 7.8 million if you include homes headed by relatives other parents.[3] According to the 2010 Census, 78,351 children in Wisconsin (5.9 percent of all kids in the state) under age 18 live in homes where a grandparent or another relative heads the household.  Of those, 25,617 children live in homes headed by a grandparent.[4]  There is more information about grandfamily developments across the country in the “GrandFacts State Fact Sheet” posted on the AARP website

Grandparents raising grandchildren have to deal with generational differences as well as logistical, economic, and legal issues.[5]   In a tradeoff between time and income, younger grandparents may be forced to retire early, while older grandparents with fixed incomes may struggle to absorb costs of parenthood. Custody and guardianship can present hurdles and expenses stemming from the “lack of legal authority to make medical, school-related, and other decisions regarding their grandchildren.”[6]  Many grandparents also lack familiarity with generational norms of very young people. Finally, seniors often seek housing amenities for diminished mobility and emergency services, while children require space to run around and play.  With this demographic growing, NWSCDC together with Gorman & Company, envisioned a place where grandparents could raise their grandchildren in a safe environment that meets the needs of both generations. 

Villard Square amenities include a movie theater, community room, roof top deck and play area, fitness center, on-site supportive services liaison, [7] and a branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. Additionally, to make the complex more accessible to grandparents, the hallways are wide and have handicap accessible railings.  Also, all bedrooms have emergency pull cords.  The complex has features that cater just to the grandchildred including a playroom and on-site tutoring. [8]  The grandmother and grandson featured in the video explain why they enjoy living in this unique community.  This video also explains how this grandfamily-oriented residential complex has positively impacted the community.  For the first time in many years library card issuance has increased; Villard Square residents use the library as a both learning resource and community center.   

Other organizations involved in the center include Jewish Family Services, which coordinates social services and connects residents with local community resources.  In a press release at the time of opening of Villard Square, Sylvan Leabman, JFS President/CEO said, “We are excited about this new housing option that will create a unique intergenerational community for older adults and their grandchildren. We are pleased to be a part of a project that is the first of its kind in Milwaukee, where we will help fulfill the needs of non-traditional families.”[9]

Notably, all of the library metrics have increased – as well as the number of library cards issued, the number of books checked out, and computer usage are also up. A second, similar facility has broken ground for the East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library, which will be called The Standard.  The East Branch is, however, located in a more affluent neighborhood, and the apartments have market-based rents, but the developers noted that Villard Square was the inspiration for The Standard. 

There are facilities like Villard Square outside Wisconsin; the “GrandFamiles House” in Boston, for instance, opened in 1998. Boston Aging Concerns, Young and Old United, Inc. (BAC – YOU) along with the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development wanted to address the issue of grandparents raising a generation removed.  The home provides affordable housing in addition to social and educational activities for both grandparents and grandkids.  

The LEGACY Act (Living Equitably, Grandparents Aiding Children and Youth) will continue to help these communities flourish across the United States as the demographic grows.  “The LEGACY Act will build on the Grandfamilies House model and help organizations across the country build similar housing developments. There are four key components to the legislation. First, it would create national demonstration projects under existing HUD programs specifically to develop housing for grandparents and their grandchildren.  Additionally, the Act would make it easier for grandfamilies to receive family unification assistance, and would allow access to fair housing funds for education and outreach efforts about the legal issues surrounding these families. Lastly, the Act will provide HUD personnel with specialized training in working with grandfamilies.”[10]


[1] Generations United, available at: http://www.gu.org/OURWORK/Grandfamilies.aspx

[2] Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance, available at: http://nextawards.org/stories/villard-square-grandfamily-apartments

[3] AARP About GrandFacts, available at: http://www.aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/grandfacts-sheets/

[4] AARP GrandFacts, available at: http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/relationships/friends-family/grandfacts/grandfacts-wisconsin.pdf

[5] Mind the Gap, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, available at: http://www.bos.frb.org/commdev/c&b/2002/spring/gf.pdf

[6] New York State Office for the Aging, available at: http://www.aging.ny.gov/livableny/ResourceManual/Housing/III1m.pdf

[7] Villard Square GrandFamily, available at: http://m.villardsquare.com/amenities.aspx

[8] 2011 NCSHA Annual Awards for Program Excellence, available at: http://www.ncsha.org/system/files/Wisconsin_0.pdf

[9] Jewish Family Services to Provide Services for GrandFamily Project, available at: http://www.jfsmilw.org/news/press_releases/grand_families.htm

[10] Congressman Capuano Introduces the LEGACY Act to Provide Affordable Housing Opportunities for Grandparents Raising their Grandchildren, available at: http://www.house.gov/capuano/news/2002/pr032002.htm

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