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Useful Community Plus
April 15, 2021

In This Issue: Challenging Your Neighborhood to Excel, Good Reading

April, 2021

Visit us at the Useful Community Development Website

Sports fans revel in their team being better than someone else's, but in communities, channel the desire to be "better than" productively rather than looking over your shoulder at some other neighborhood. Below are our discussion starters.

We know from psychosocial research that people will form allegiance to their "team" in a meaningless competition within a few short minutes! In experiments, people not only root for their brand new team of strangers, but they also punish the opposing team quite severely, even when they know the results don't matter.

Let's think of your neighborhood or community as your team. We suggest that at your next meeting, channel that energy to make your "team" better than another team into ways to improve your own previous best performance. How about being better than the other neighborhood teams in:

a. Making everyone feel welcome.

b. Identifying conflicts and de-escalating them.

c. Assuring that walking is safe and pleasant.

d. Patronizing your local businesses while challenging them to be better.

e. Planting flowers, or plants that slow down rain water runoff and thus flash flooding.

f. Keeping your starter homes affordable.

g. Involving kids and youth in your events and community organization governance.

h. Figuring out creative ways to maintain a mix of incomes and races or ethnic groups.

i. Enlivening any space, building, or lot that becomes vacant with a mix of temporary fixes and permanent solutions.

j. Preventing crime through zeroing in on the "what," "where," and "why" of actual crime instead of incubating a climate of fear everywhere in all situations.

k. Growing trust among all elements of your community by helping each entity or interest group perform better and act in a civic-minded way.

l. Requiring civility in neighborhood organization affairs and political debates.

m. Caring more about the children in school and youth sports than the adult dust-ups over policies, personalities, and egos.

n. Educating your residents about cause and effect in community development, thus eliminating counter-productive repetitive motion.

You could use this list as a conversation starter at your next committee meeting or neighborhood-wide conversation. Most of us have plenty to work on without putting down another neighborhood in the process.

We wrote a page about when to consider community land trusts in an urban setting. We plan one or more additional pages about rural CLT's and/or the land trust for conservation or sustainability purposes.

We also published a major revision to the government housing assistance page, incorporating the information from an older government grants page we once wrote.

As usual, we also answered some website visitors' questions:

Why do community development projects fail?

How can a city create a CDC?

Can a new residence be built on a narrow lot in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans?

Is a church parking lot a common area?

Is a city moratorium on development advisable?

How does zoning pertain to condos?

A short read about use of GIS (computer-generated mapping) to help describe the relationship between public health and housing triggered our imagination. Maybe you also can be inspired by this description of how GIS was used.

An excellent new report gives a good description of why and how communities of color and low-income folks are concentrated in specific geographies and isolated from the social networks they need. Authors propose an action strategy to build what they call community-rooted economic inclusion.

No less than the National Association of Realtors has recognized that yesterday's suburbs don't fit tomorrow's lifestyle preferences perfectly. Read this for a succinct description of ways to shape your suburb for 21st century tastes. (Besides, this dovetails perfectly with our suburban retrofit page and several others on our website.)

We also were impressed with a new article from Allan Mallach on the further decline of African-American middle-income neighborhoods in older American cities between 2000 and 2018. You can download the Making the Comeback report to read about what the data show and proposed solutions.

We will be back on a Thursday next month. Feel free to reply to this newsletter with comments. If you are asking a new question, please use the public-facing community development questions page on the website.

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