This week in community development: 2/28/14

Every week, Praxia Partners shares important community-building news. Check out what we’ve been reading this week.

Building community

  • Seattle has welcomed the Beacon Food Forest, the country’s largest food forest to date. The forager-friendly park supports healthy, local food production and is full of nuts, apples, pears, plums, grapes, berries, and vegetables. By working with community groups, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department, land owners, and a design consultant, the groups behind Beacon was able to establish not only the park, but also a community garden, kid’s space, and Gathering Plaza. The Beacon Food Forest is funded by donations. (NPR)
  • Communities hit hard by Hurricane Sandy are still struggling to recover and rebuild, however, some disturbing allegations are coming to light about discrimination and the way recovery funds are being allocated. From Shelterforce:

Data obtained by the Fair Share Housing Center show that the Christie administration has rejected African Americans seeking major post-Sandy rebuilding support at more than twice the rate of white applicants, and Latinos at 50 percent higher rates than whites. Adding insult to injury, the administration reportedly posted inaccurate information on the Spanish-language version of the state’s Sandy website and has no public plan for making whole the people who were harmed by the misinformation.

Fair and affordable housing

  • As Myron Orfield & Thomas Luce write in the Poverty & Race Research Action Council’s newsletter, “Diverse suburbs, communities where 20 to 60% of the residents are non-white, represent the largest single suburban segment.” This means that HUD, which enforces the Fair Housing Act, has been shifting its focus to the suburbs in its efforts to ensure that Americans are able to live in their community of choice.
  • A Harvard study indicates that Americans who rent are struggling with a surge in rental prices, thanks to an increase in demand in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. (JCHS Harvard)

Innovative finance and sustainable economic development

  • William Landes Foster, Peter Kim, and Barbara Christiansen’s article breaks down 10 nonprofit funding models, including “policy innovator,” “resource recycler,” and “local nationalizer.” (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
  • Dan Ehrenkrantz thinks business management should follow the lead of nonprofits. He writes, “in a world of fast-diminishing customer and employee loyalty, for-profits can learn substantial lessons from nonprofits in three areas: identifying and serving an irresistible mission that emphasizes a higher purpose, cultivating passionate employees, and keeping customers engaged and loyal. The practices of the best nonprofits in these areas are worth considering.” (Nonprofit Quarterly)

Economic opportunity

  • Mother Jones published “10 U.S. Companies That Pay a Living Wage.” The top three? Costco, the Gap, and the gas station/convenience store chain QuikStop. The piece notes, “Defying the stereotype that paying higher wages is bad for business, QuikTrip has expanded to 645 locations across 11 states.”
  • What if we raised the minimum wage of restaurant servers and others who receive tips? ROC United says 700,000 Americans will escape poverty. Check out the full infographic at the end of this post. (Scribd)
  • While many Americans loathe tax season, low-income households celebrate it because they usually receive a refund. Washington University and the company that owns TurboTax are working together to help those households save as much of that refund as possible. From the article: “The research suggests that many low-income households are already motivated to use their refunds to enhance their financial security—they just need support and tools that make saving easy.” (The Ford Foundation)
  • Brookings delved into the difference between low-wage workers in the suburbs and cities.  They found:
      • Two-thirds of all low-wage workers live in the suburbs, compared to 69% of the entire workforce who live in the suburbs. This indicates that there are far more low-wage workers in the suburbs than we may typically envision.
      • The most low-wage workers from the retail sector live in the suburbs, whereas the bulk of individuals working in cleaning and maintenance call metro areas home.
      • From Brookings: “As municipalities across the country examine ways to boost workers’ wages, these data indicate the geography and scale of low-wage work in America. Big-city campaigns to raise minimum wages might affect millions of workers, but would still miss the majority-suburban low-wage workforce in metropolitan areas. Conversely, coordinated efforts to push these increases beyond cities into surrounding suburbs acknowledge the new geographic realities of low-wage work.”

Environmental sustainability 

  • Community solar power continues to grow in popularity across the US. This week, we heard about a community solar farm constructed on the Orlando Utility Commission campus that sold out its shares in less than one week! (Solar Industry Magazine)
  • Google Maps can make sure you get to the dinner party on time, but now it can also track deforestation. Global Forest Watch is designed to spur governments an individuals to take action– Similar projects have helped Brazil’s government halt illegal logging.

INFOGRAPHIC: Who are Tipped Workers? by ROCUnited

What do you think was the most important community development story this week? Share your insights and thoughts below or by email.

For news about solar power and sustainability, visit Community Renewable Energy’s blog.

About Holly

Holly Jensen is a writer and poet who has worked with nonprofits and businesses for over a decade. She also serves as editor of The Ghazal Page, an international literary journal.
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