In partnership with the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) and Clark University, CEDAC launched a series of workshops with community development corporations (CDCs) in Worcester in order to develop a shared agenda for continued City and State investment in affordable housing projects. We recently completed the second year of these workshops, with topics derived from evaluations submitted by the first year participants. The four two-hour trainings from January to May of 2019 focused on the critical topics of fundraising, board development, housing and public health, and affordable housing production.
The fundraising workshop was led by Sarah Tanner, a well-known and respected fundraising consultant based in western Massachusetts, who discussed the composition and role of the board and the need for a stronger narrative about the role of CDCs, among other issues. John Fitterer, Director of Operations for the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) also participated in this session, providing data on the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) fundraising by the Worcester CDCs.
The board development session was led by Ann Donner – formerly CEDAC’s workforce development manager – who covered the strategies for recruitment and orientation of board members. She further discussed the roles and responsibilities of board members and senior management in running effective, focused, and strategic board meetings.
The third session was led by Joe Kriesberg, President of MACDC, and Elana Brochin, MACDC’s new Program Director for Health Equity. Elana explained hospital investments in community health and the MA Department of Public Health’s Determination of Need and Community-based Health Initiative. She was joined by Casey Burns, Greater Worcester Community Health, and Kelsey Hopkins, City of Worcester Health Coordinator, in discussing the Community Health Assessment (CHA) and the Community Health Implementation Plan (CHIP) that all non-profit hospitals are required to prepare. MACDC sees these requirements as opportunities for CDCs to access resources and create strategic partnerships with hospitals.
The last session on affordable housing production included presentations by MHP, Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC), and Clark University. Sue Connelly, MHP’s Director of Community Assistance and Strategic Partnerships, presented state-wide housing data, specifically comparing Worcester to other areas of the state, and drawing from the Center for Housing Data, DataTown. Worcester is notable for its high number of millennials, its diversity, and, like most Gateway Cities, the age of its housing stock. Ron Barron, CMRPC’s Principal Planner, presented the scope and schedule of a study CMRPC is conducting for the City regarding the Impediments to Fair Housing in Worcester. The analysis highlights the growth in minority populations, the persistent clustering of poverty, and cost-burdened households in the neighborhoods around the city center. Kathryn Madden, Visiting Lecturer at Clark University, discussed the work of the CDCs in Worcester along with data on the market-rate and affordable housing production pipeline from 2015 to 2021.
According to these data, most of the investment in affordable units in Worcester is in rehabilitation of existing housing stock (1,023 units), and most of the investment in market-rate units is in new construction or adaptive reuse projects (1,371 units), including both completed and pipeline projects. In the last four years, the CDCs have developed 59 units of housing — predominantly rehabilitation projects — and have 166 units in the pipeline in proposed projects such as 92 Grand St and 126 Chandler St. Other for-profit and non-profit developers have also been investing in affordable housing in the City, with projects such as the Fruit Sever Apartments, Stratton Hill Park, the Lofts at Loom Works, Abby’s House, and the former Worcester Court House. The role of the CDCs also includes important community building efforts, including community gardens and open space projects, neighborhood clean ups, healthy eating initiatives, workforce training, cultural events, and recreational sports.
During the two-year process, over forty staff, directors, and board members from the six Worcester CDCs participated in the Worcester CDC Initiative workshops. The discussions, led by experienced practitioners, also helped to foster collaboration among the CDCs. Over the course of the second year, MACDC joined in the meetings and led one of the sessions. As a next step, MACDC has offered to convene future meetings of the Worcester CDCs to continue this collaborative effort. CEDAC staff will work closely with MACDC to address the common issues and challenges identified by the CDCs at the May 2019 session. We look forward to continuing to help plan and implement this important CDC capacity-building initiative in Worcester.