City Leaders Are Paving the Way Toward Financial Empowerment

Written by Megan Kursik, Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment Coordinator

Two weeks ago, I spent a busy three days in Seattle at a CFE Coalition forum, learning from city leaders working across the country to promote financial capability for their residents.

The Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition is a group of dedicated local elected officials and staff who lead initiatives in their communities that improve access to financial counseling, affordable banking products, small business support and longer term asset development. These leaders have also instituted local policy to restrict predatory practices, like high cost payday lending.

This year, the City of Lansing was invited to join the CFE Coalition after successfully launching a Financial Empowerment Center in 2013 and Lansing SAVE, Michigan’s first universal, automatic kids savings program in January! I got to tag along to the CFE Coalition forum with Amber Paxton, Director of Lansing’s Office of Financial Empowerment.

I learned so much from the discussions at the forum, I just had to share a rundown with CEDAM’s membership in Michigan. There’s something in here for everyone!


Jose Cisneros with Megan Kursik

I’m also excited to announce that CEDAM will be welcoming a founding member of the CFE Coalition, Jose Cisneros, back to his home state of Michigan for our second annual Michigan Financial Empowerment Summit in August!

As Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco, Jose established the first ever locally-based universal, automatic college savings program in the U.S. This year, the MI Summit will focus on building similar community-based children’s savings programs.

Find out more about the MI Summit here. I hope to see you there!

The Bright Side: Rural

We released a new series of videos about small towns and rural areas in Michigan. Learn how to bring investment to a small town and see how others found surprising opportunities in Michigan’s rural areas.

2 hussHuss Project, Three Rivers [watch now]

Visit a historic former school in Three Rivers and take a tour of the future community center and garden at The Huss Project with *culture is not optional.

3 conferenceMI Rural Conference, Thompsonville [watch now]

Each year leaders from small town communities gather at Crystal Mountain for the Michigan Rural Council Small Town and Rural Development Conference.

4 stormcloudStormcloud Brewery, Frankfort [watch now]

Go on a tour of Stormcloud Brewing Company, a local brewery in Frankfort specializing in Belgian-inspired ales. At the pub on the shores of Lake Michigan you can get beer, ale, mead, and great food!

5 olivetFarm to School, Olivet [watch now]

Kids in Olivet experience local foods during a farmer visit to their cafeteria on Farm to School month. Video produced by MSU CRFS.

6 cultivate miCultivate Michigan, Bangor [watch now]

Visit Michigan’s hispanic farming cooperative Farmers on the Move and hear about how Cultivate Michigan aims to help institutions purchase 20% of their food locally by 2020. Video produced by MSU CRFS.


7 milanEast Main Redevelopment, Milan [watch now]

Tour a model success story for any small town that wants to upgrade its downtown. The East Main Redevelopment in Milan is a full block historic redevelopment that will have 15 apartments and 8 storefronts.

The Impacts of Free Tax Preparation

by Ross Yednock, Program Director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition

“The income tax compliance system is represented by two separate, and distinct groups. The free preparation sites where IRS certified volunteers prepare and file taxes for no cost and the paid preparers who do the same service, for a cost. These are their stories.”

bookkeeping-615384_640Every year, more than 100,000 people in Michigan rely on free tax services to prepare and file their federal, state and city income tax returns. They come from all walks of life and all across the state. From Detroit to Traverse City, Benton Harbor to Cheboygan, workers, retirees, parents and all others go to free tax sites to save money on tax preparation fees and ensure they receive all of the tax credits for which they are entitled. Members of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition are committed to serving these taxpayers and during the first three months of 2015, I interviewed some of these taxpayers. Here are some of their stories.


accounting-57284_640Velma used to go to a paid preparer to file her taxes. She did it because that is the way she and her husband would file their taxes before he passed away. It only cost $92, not a lot considering all the forms that were used and the seemingly endless numbers that needed to be entered. Besides, her return always was about $98 or $99 dollars – more than enough to cover the fee with a couple of dollars left to spare. Then someone told her about the free tax services offered by Community Action in Adrian. She figured it would give it a try. That was four years ago. She has come back every year since and even brings along her friend so he can save money too.

“It’s great,” she said. “They ask questions about rent and heating costs that the other guy never asked. Now, instead of paying $92 so I could receive a return of $98, I get about $400 back and I don’t have to pay!”

dollars-426023_640Velma’s story is not unique. Unlike some paid income tax preparers, every volunteer tax preparer at the Community Action’s free tax site is certified by the IRS and trained to know about all the federal and Michigan credits for which people may be eligible. That is why Velma’s tax refund went up – she was getting the Michigan Property Tax Credit, something her other preparer had missed.


flag-216887_640A Vietnam veteran from Ypsilanti, Jerry used to be a computer programmer with a nice home in a middle class neighborhood. Then he got sick.

“I’m making a 1/16 of what I used to make before I got sick…my life has changed quite a bit,” he said.

Unable to work, he lost his home and ended up staying in shelters. That is where a program for homeless veterans in Washtenaw County found him. Thanks to their efforts and local community supports – including free tax assistance – he is now living in a Habitat Humanity home and back on his feet, despite the daily challenges.

“It is real frustrating… paperwork, taxes. I got a degree in computer science. I am not an accountant whatsoever. I know binary, octal, hexidecimal numbers all that but I can’t deal with forms like that,” he said. “By the time I am done (filling out all the forms), I am so wound-up and frustrated, so this helps tremendously. I’ve sent other people here before, at least a couple people every year and tell them where I get (my taxes) done and how great it has been.”

Jerry is grateful for all the help he has received and keeps the United Way’s 2-1-1 number on speed dial so he can get help when he needs it. As for how the United Way of Washtenaw County’s free tax program compares with the service he used to pay for he says “No difference at all. Actually nice people here. I haven’t had any one bad experience so far… (No difference) except for paying them a lot of money to do the exact same thing free (tax services) does.”


house-605227_640“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” That is what Liz had to say to the volunteers at the volunteer income tax assistance site run by the United Way for Saginaw County. Working as a customer service representative, she doesn’t make a whole lot of money or have complicated taxes.

“I own a home, but nothing special,” she said, but that didn’t stop the “big box” tax preparer she used last year from telling her it would cost $400 to do her taxes this year. The $250 increase from the $150 she paid in 2014 was more than she could pay. When she asked about the price hike, she was told that they “charge per form, not per return.”

bill-41817_640“I have a little deal where I have a 1099 this year,” she said. “That still seems way ridiculous to me just for one extra form…. I couldn’t afford it. This money I get back I use to pay my property taxes and I really need that because working minimum wage, I can’t hardly save enough to pay my property taxes.”

The free tax program not only saves her money on tax preparation fees, but also ensures that she gets all the credits for which she is legally eligible including Michigan’s Homestead Property Tax Credit and Home Heating Credit.

“I have my home and all my bills and the (heating) bill absolutely killed me (this winter),” she said. “I actually had to borrow money from family to help me pay my gas bill. They shut me off last year because I got behind.” She is hoping that this year, with the help of the Home Heating Credit, which is used to offset the cost of heating for seniors and lower-income households, will help her avoid a similar situation, again.

All of these stories come the MEIC’s Client Story Initiative. Throughout the 2015 tax season, the MEIC gave away 30 $50 gift cards to clients willing to share their story. For more information about the MEIC, please visit meic.cedam.info.

Placemaking Through Crowdfunding

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications and Training Specialist

Crowdfunding is a popular go-to fundraising method used by people to launch new businesses or projects, raise money to help distressful situations and almost every other imaginable circumstance. While many charitable projects have depended on donations in the past, modern crowdfunding has succeeded through the development of an online platform with different donation levels and a rewards system. Donations as little as $1 or $5 are accepted, providing a low-barrier to entry. Statistics show that overall more money is  raised through a lot of smaller donations rather than fewer larger donations.

arrow-21509_1280Organizations and other groups are now using crowdfunding as a strategy to make projects without formal funding a reality, and evolved to become a community-based investment. Participation is voluntary and is used to direct the development of their neighborhoods. While those with deeper projects have typically had more influence regarding funding decisions, crowdfunding and the internet help raise awareness about different opportunities and is a very low-entry way for a person to contribute and participate. Trends show that a little skin in the game helps a project because they are actively supporting it and have an invested interest in the project success.

Public Spaces & Community Places

Enter the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A long time investor in communities throughout Michigan, they are a funding source for community development corporations (CDCs) and other business development initiatives. As much as anybody, they want their investments to succeed and for communities to grow collaboratively.

Public Spaces & Community Places is their newer program in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League offering funds to communities across Michigan through a crowdfunding match campaign. The grant program is available to municipalities with projects that are designed to activate public spaces and include parks enhancements, trail expansions, outdoor plazas and other community places and are working with therestaurant-766050_1280ir communities for local momentum. To participate, a community outlines the details of their project and proposes it to the MEDC. Once approved, they work with the MEDC and Patronicity, a Detroit-based crowdfunding company focused on community development, to develop a crowdfunding campaign. Once launched, there is a specified timeline to raise money, with up to $100,000 matched by the MEDC.

Locally Driven Momentum

Since the program’s inception, the MEDC reports that 100% of municipalities have raised their goal funds, and speculate that all projects have gotten underway within 30 days of receiving funds. They have high hopes for the future of this program, and believe that successful implementation is tied directly to community collaboration.

Screen shot 2015-05-15 at 2.56.03 PM

The Beacon Soccer Field concept in Downtown Lansing.

One example of a project going on right now is in Lansing where they have a few days left to raise money to put a soccer field in an available parcel in an existing park downtown Lansing. The goal is to help connect youth and adults through health and fitness education, and provide access to those who otherwise are unable to afford participation. There is still time to participate in this campaign, and you can watch their video here.

See a full list of some of the different participating municipalities and their projects here.

The Implications for Michigan Organizations

While all organizations would love to be able to plan large-scale projects, smaller projects are more easily attainable and can be a catalyst for even more development once completed. The MEDC and MML are ahead of the game by offering the first program of its kind with potentially big impacts across Michigan. Not only are more communities able to participate, but this program helps organizations to better articulate and plan a project by developing a solid marketing plan based on well-crafted visions considering timelines, numbers and overall feasibility, with local support at the root of the effort. That’s half the battle of any project, and groups are getting help from the professionals and funders to leverage success. This process will prevent a lot of failed projects and feelings of detachment or disengagement.

marketing-toolkit-biggerFunders (even micro investors) want to see well-thought out plans and budgets. By creating a communications and marketing plan, organizations can understand how to find more sustainable funding, engage and reach their audience and grow their programming. CEDAM members can download communications and marketing planning toolkits for free to get started on some of this research.

So, what are the projects your community hopes to implement soon and do you have a plan for how to do it?

Have You Noticed Any Immigrants?


Graduation from a family English Second Language literacy class in Grand Rapids. Video

In Southwest Detroit, Bridging Communities began to notice that not everyone was able to participate in their neighborhood programs. The small nonprofit had been developing housing, running intergenerational programs, a time bank and services for the elderly for a long time. Over those years the composition of their neighborhoods changed. Children from many new immigrant families that observed separation of men and women in sports couldn’t be in sports programs because the boys and girls teams practiced in close proximity to each other. Second generation bilingual children moved out of homes, leaving behind seniors who only spoke Spanish. The culture of the area had become more diverse.

Arab American business owner Edna Zaid shows how her firm's videoconferencing system works in Commerce Twp.

Arab American business owner Edna Zaid shows how her firm’s videoconferencing system works in Commerce Twp.

Diversity brings great benefits – such as the fact immigrants in Michigan are 3x more likely to start businesses, 6x more likely to start high tech enterprises and therefore create jobs – but it also brings challenges like those Bridging Communities faced. Like the challenges East Lansing faced when it noticed a boom in high income international students who spoke English well, but not to the degree needed to read legal documents or understand establishing credit or purchasing a home. Like the challenges rural areas face where migrant workers have transitioned to being permanent residents or citizens.

There’s a price to doing nothing. Macomb County has a diversity initiative called One Macomb, and as part of this they give presentations to key employers about how to welcome immigrants. After a presentation at a hospital, the hospital’s HR director said that they wished they’d seen the presentation sooner. Two of their very skilled new staff had left their jobs and moved because their families didn’t feel like the people in their community wanted them there.

Devi grows and sells local food in Lansing. She is a refugee. Video

Devi grows and sells local food in Lansing through Lansing Roots. She is a refugee. Video

If people were going to feel unwelcome, it was not going to be in Southwest Detroit with Bridging Communities. They took action. They adapted youth sports programs and put adequate distance between teams so children following the new religions in the community could play too. They did not have the money to hire a bilingual staff member full time, so they hired a part time staff member. The new person trained other staff on how to direct Spanish speakers to days and times they could get in touch with the part time staff member. Bridging Communities also began new programs that would help the cultures in the area learn from each other, for instance, through cooking classes where one person teaches a recipe from their culture.

World Refugee Day in Lansing. Video

World Refugee Day in Lansing. Video

Over in East Lansing, the municipal government found out how expensive it was to have 12 single pages translated into 5 key languages of the international students and families living there: $5,000. The city declined that outrageous price and instead developed a partnership with Michigan State University, where students in bilingual classes translate the documents under their professor’s supervision. Another service that some municipalities use for ESL residents is video remote interpreting. This is a cost effective solution where you access a web service and an interpreter translates the conversation between both parties. It saves a lot of time and complication in the courtroom, as well as settings like hospitals.

ACCESS gives a walking tour of food businesses immigrants and their families started in Dearborn. Video

ACCESS gives a walking tour of food businesses immigrants and their families started in Dearborn. Video

In April 2015, Michigan lifted the restriction that said we couldn’t resettle any refugees who did not have a friend or family member in the area. Newcomers will be curious about how to start a new life here, meet people, invest their money in a business, a home, an education, a family.

Have the people you served changed?

Have you changed to include them?

2015 Community Economic Development Award Winners

CEDAM board and staff are pleased to recognize many people and organizations this year as key contributors to the community economic development field. Congratulations to all of our awardees!

Community Economic Development Leader of the Year


Each year CEDAM recognizes a Community Economic Development Leader of the Year: a member who has engaged in creative new programming, been involved in an exciting new development, or has generally proved to be a leader in the field. The past year has been an extraordinary one, and CEDAM would like to recognize two Leaders doing very different work in different sides of the state: Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) in Detroit and Neighborhood Housing Services in Grand Haven.

uniUNI is a model for urban, place-based, community economic development. Located in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood of Springwells Village, UNI has undertaken significant public space development, including restoration of a historic chapel as a community center and the creation or restoration of five public parks and play-scapes. UNI is invested in creating a higher education bound culture in their community and their youth apprenticeship program is one of the largest in Southwest Detroit. For UNI, community beautification is key to a neighborhood’s quality of life. Its youth mural program has created one of the city’s densest collections of public art and ongoing resident-driven efforts against blight. UNI believes that all urban neighborhoods should be generational places to live, work and play.

fecNeighborhood Housing Services (NHS) understands that making homeownership sustainable requires residents who are educated, so while NHS provides homeowner and foreclosure counseling and a DHS navigation site for people to sign up for their benefits, they have also integrated financial empowerment services into the mix. Through a new Financial Empowerment Center, Ottawa County residents can get a free appointment with a financial counselor to make and meet goals like reducing debt, increasing savings and improving credit scores. NHS partnered with the County Treasurer to refer people at risk of tax foreclosure to the Financial Empowerment Center to help them stay in their home, and also with a local judge to refer clients who are transitioning out of the criminal system and need to pay debts and get their financial lives back in order.

Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year


The Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year award goes to an organization or individual who has done the most to advance community economic development in Michigan. This year, CEDAM is recognizing two award winners, as they are both incredibly deserving: Marjorie Green and Jonathan Bradford. Both have spent their careers dedicated to community economic development, served as CEDAM board members and worked to improve Michigan for all of its residents.

marjorie-greenMarjorie has made a huge impact in the CED field across Michigan and Indiana. She spent a number of years at MSHDA as the Director of Community Development and then Director of Multifamily Housing and Construction. More recently she has been known for her work as the Community Investment Development Manager at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis (FHLBI), where she connected millions of dollars of much needed FHLBI funding to some of Michigan’s most renown affordable housing and community investment initiatives carried out by organizations like Avalon Housing, Dwelling Place, ICCF, Goodwill, HomeStretch Housing, and local Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

jonathan-bradfordJonathan has been the President and CEO of the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) since 1981, starting out with 9 employees reconstructing 3 single family homes a year. ICCF has now constructed or reconstructed over 660 units of housing. Today, ICCF employs 40 talented individuals who serve 2,200 households annually. The organization has become a model for affordable housing and community economic development, as its programs develop attractive ownership and rental housing and provide resident services that enable housing success and broader life accomplishment. Jonathan was also a founder of CEDAM and the first President of its board.

Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year


The Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year award is presented annually to recognize a MFPC host site dedicated to making a difference in the communities they serve and who exemplifies the spirit of national service. This year’s winner is Northern Homes Community Development Corporation located in Boyne City. Northern Homes is an organization who doesn’t allow its small number of staff to stop it from creating big improvements in communities. Northern Homes was incorporated 1998 and serves ten counties in northern Michigan with their Foreclosure Prevention programs.

Northern Homes has hosted Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps members since the program’s inception in 2009. Executive Director Jane MacKenzie and host site supervisor Alice Yeoman provide excellent support to their members. Current member Amy Evans is in her fourth year of service and has had the opportunity to take a variety of NeighborWorks trainings and attend MSHDA housing counseling certification due to Northern Homes’ support. Member Marsha Stahmer, who is in her first year of service with MFPC, has also received MSHDA housing counseling certification. It is clear that Northern Homes understands the value of MFPC members and invests in their professional development.

The MFPC members at Northern Homes build capacity in a variety of ways. Amy and Marsha facilitate financial literacy classes, host community forums in their service area, build relationships with County Treasurers’ offices and streamline the intake and triage process. “The AmeriCorps members have helped Northern Homes provide more services to more people. As a result of their service, we have been able to host 5 community outreach events to help us reach more clients and develop more community partnerships” says Jane MacKenzie, Executive Director.

New CEDAM Resources

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications and Training Specialist

Your organization has limited capacity and each person (if you’re lucky to have staff) is doing more than one job. In the nonprofit world, this is a common situation, with some of these extra “duties as assigned” beyond the scope of your skills and understanding.

CEDAM has identified areas where we can help you.


After a recent networking event at the University of Michigan, we learned that there are many Urban & Regional Planning Masters students who are interested in the community economic development field and want to hit the ground running. Knowing that many CEDAM members can benefit from this capacity, particularly from those with a background and interest, we created a members-only webpage with students who would love an opportunity to gain experience.

Whether you have an established internship program or not, it might be a good idea to take a look at the eager candidates and see if there’s a fit within your organization this summer or in the future.

As this program develops, we want to work with both universities and CEDAM members to fill a need in both organizations and opportunities for students to engage and learn about the industry. We are interested in hearing any feedback you may have regarding this new opportunity.

Visit this new web page with prospective interns here: cedam.info/interns.

Are you interested in posting an internship, or want to know more? Contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.

Marketing & Communications

We hear a lot that marketing and communications is a challenge for CEDAM members. There are little resources and understanding of how it works, and who has time for it anyway?

Honestly, you really can’t afford not to spend some time planning and understanding your marketing and communications. Taking some time as a collective organization to thoughtfully outline priorities and action items will save you grief in the long run, and provide measurable results that you can use to:

  • Build awareness, trust and clientele
  • Diversify your funding sources
  • Identify unrestricted funding
  • Reinvest more in your mission
  • And more!

To help you, we created a communication planning and basic marketing plan toolkit. Both are filled with worksheets, examples, explanations and guidance to help you make informed decisions with your limited resources and staff. At the very least, it can help ensure that your organization is all working toward the same goals

Visit this members-only web page to download the toolkits here: cedam.info/resources/library/marketing.

If you are interested in learning more about membership and the full range of benefits, please visit cedam.info/membership.

If you have any questions, or need help, please contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.


People & Places: Part 4 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

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The third in the four part series is by Aaron Goodman, the Community Engagement Manager at CDAD. 

People & Places

by Aaron Goodman

Last month, with the generous support of CEDAM, I had the privilege to travel to Washington D.C. and attend a convening of community development practitioners from across the county, the People & Places Community Conference. The conference title was truly apt and set the stage for workshops and discussions emphasizing community development’s mandate to not only build healthy and vibrant places in underserved neighborhoods, but to do so in true partnership and collaboration with the people who live, work, and play in the community.

The conference was an amazing opportunity to discuss the big ideas and principles of community development, breaking down silos between sectors within the industry, and focusing on the truly transformational potential of our work.  The lofty ideals were grounded in great breakout sessions focused on learning from the successes and challenges of so many inspiring advocates and leaders engaged in the real world work of building opportunity and community assets and power.

While attending the conference, I actively shared the experience via CDAD’s twitter account. To get a taste of the presentations and conversations that took place, please view this Storify from my three days at People and Places.

Coming from CDAD, Detroit’s association of community development organizations, I was eager to learn from those engaged in new models of community development across the country and look forward to applying this experience to our work in Detroit. With tracks focusing on “Community Control”, “Capital Flow”, “Neighborhood Level Economies”, and “Thriving People”, the breadth and depth of topics covered did not disappoint. The following are three of the recurring themes and learnings that I found most compelling throughout the conference.

Racial Justice and Building a Diverse and Inclusive Community Development Movement

People and Places was brought about by a unique collaboration of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), the National Urban League, the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD). In the opening plenary, NALCAB Director Noel Poyo stated that community development is “the next step in the civil rights movement” and the intentional leadership of these organizations focused the dialogue on racial justice both within the formal program and in informal conversations. Because so many community development organizations work and invest in communities of color that have faced decades of discrimination, segregation, red-lining, and disinvestment, our movement in inextricably bound with struggles for inclusion and justice both historical and present day. Community development has to walk the talk and working for racial justice does not just happen “out” in the community. Representation and inclusion of the communities we aim to serve must be ever-present in how our organizations operate internally as well. We often observe in Detroit and Michigan that community development organizations need to do a better job of hiring and developing leaders that reflect the communities they serve. The participants at People and Places demonstrated what the result of a concerted effort to recruit, hire, and develop talented community builders could be. It was truly inspiring to meet so many passionate and dedicated young leaders of color at the conference, who are doing the work to expand opportunities for decent housing, economic inclusion, and strong communities.

Transactions and Transforming Communities

The truth is that much of the day to day in the professional field of community development focuses on transactions: fulfilling program requirement to deliver community services, completing a real-estate deal to build affordable housing, seeking funding sources to keep the doors open. This was a recurring theme during the conference, as speakers and panels urged us to consider if such ‘transactions’ are serving the overall goal for creating transformation in our communities. Transactions are a necessary reality, but lose meaning if residents do not have access to participate and act as stakeholders in the process. At the heart of community development is the movement to put development decisions and future of neighborhoods in the hands of the residents. As a true community-led movement, we must re-emphasize organizing, community building, and engagement to ensure that the residents of the historically disinvested neighborhoods we work in are able to define their future and seize the opportunities to create more just and inclusive communities.

Community Development Response to Gentrification

Gentrification was a hot topic throughout the conference and was a particular focus of the ‘Community Control’ session track. There was robust discussion of the policy decisions that are driving rising housing costs in “hot market” cities such as D.C. and San Francisco and how community advocates and development organizations are working to preserve affordability and communities vulnerable to cultural and physical displacement. Examples such as negotiating for community benefits agreements (Sommerville , MA and soon in Detroit), establishing an affordable housing trust fund (funded for more than $100 million in D.C.), and creating Eco-Districts (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and coming to Detroit) were highlighted as community-based strategies to expand low and moderate-income housing options for those who are threatened by rising development pressures. The role of community planning and support for implementing these community identified priorities was emphasized as important for improving quality of life while also ensuring future inclusion as market conditions change. Community planning is a very important part of our work at CDAD and it was great to learn about the successes of Cornerstone West CDC in Wilmington, DE in creating the West Side Grows together Plan and then implementing the community’s vision. The nature of community change is certainly different in Detroit from other cities, and it is even a point of contention whether gentrification is happening in the city. However, it is clear that in target areas of intense investment such as Midtown and Downtown, housing costs are rising quickly and the threat of displacement for long-time residents is real. We are seeing the beginning stages of a process that has played out in the “hot market” cities. However, we also have a great opportunity in Detroit to proactively manage and plan for development differently and in a way that protects and includes existing low-income communities. It is the natural role for community development organizations to take this opening and to create inclusive communities of opportunity for all, and the time is now for Detroiters to take the lead.


People & Places: Part 3 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

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The third in the four part series is by Char Seise, the Neighborhood Development Coordinator with the City of Grand Haven

People & Places

by Char Seise

Have you ever tried to live within your means? If so, you’ll know that it is difficult because the kids get sick, the car breaks down or that old bill collector finds your new phone number. Maybe you have never had this experience personally, but many of the clients we work with struggle daily regarding their finances. So, what do you do? Many have found success in budget counseling through a local non-profit agency. But experience has shown budget counseling is different than Financial Coaching.

Financial Coaching is the process of working one on one with a qualified professional financial advocate that can help a person understand their finances in a way that will prepare them for making financial decisions for a lifetime. Financial Empowerment Coaches work with individuals to establish goals for savings, debt reduction, improving credit and evaluating financial products.

At the People and Places conference, I had the opportunity to present with other panelists from LISC and NEIGHBORWORKS about the value of integrating Financial Coaching services into existing programs and services. All clients that participate in the City of Grand Haven’s programs are expected to meet with a financial empowerment coach and establish their individual financial goals. Whether looking for down payment assistance to purchase a home or dealing with a financial crisis, residents within our county have access to FREE, personalized one on one coaching to set them up for achieving their financial goals.

Thank you NACEDA for the opportunity to meet other professionals that care about their communities and for bringing us all together to learn, grow and be inspired to continue this work and make a difference in our communities!