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Your December Useful Community Plus
December 28, 2023

Timely for New Year's: How to plan a new year retreat, and why board retreats are worthwhile, both articles from previous newsletters.

Get inspired about winter newsletter ideas.

Or visit our website's site map to find helpful articles for 2024.

Featured This Month: Structured Dialogue for Your Community

To get the new year started out right in your community, we suggest that it's time to practice civility and constructive dialogue. That's especially so if you have some conflict or lack of appreciation for abilities and differences.

Recently we became aware of Living Room Conversations, an organization that says it "works to heal society by connecting people across divides - politics, age, gender, race, nationality, and more – through guided conversations proven to build understanding and transform communities." They have put together more than 100 conversation starter kits for people wanting to explore topics ranging from civic to cultural or personal. The idea is that two people with different viewpoints each invite one or two others to come to the living room conversation. This is powerful stuff, most of it fairly specific to the U.S.

This method is somewhat similar to Everyday Democracy, an organization that has created Dialogue for Change, which is another structured conversation starter approach emphasizing active listening and other skills that are essential to problem-solving in a democracy, right down to your neighborhood level.

We also are fans of Essential Partners, a more serious approach requiring greater commitment. This group is part community engagement, part conflict resolution. They call their method Reflective Structured Dialogue, and there is an emphasis on longer-term relationships and coaching. Talk with this group if you have a heavy-duty controversy reaching the boiling point.

If you're deep into the subject of affordable housing in your community work, you will appreciate this must-read article about the complexity of the LIHTC process.

LIHTC is an acronym for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which now has an entire industry has been built up around it. As the article says, the entire affordable housing effort of the country is being channeled into LIHTC.

However, LIHTC limits innovation because to score well in the state-run competitions for these tax credits, only one type of project is basically in the sweet spot for funding in most states. Multi-family projects of more than 100 units score well, but other mixed-use or mixed-income housing usually doesn't score well.

Because of the difficulty of the process, requiring consultant help in most cases, housing developed by small CDCs or even small developers is not feasible because it can't compete with tax credit projects for money.

Read this article to figure out if this is happening in your community.


A new final rule for judging whether a bank complies with the Community Reinvestment Act will go into effect next April. Many advocacy and community development groups use the CRA provisions to pressure local or regional banks to make investments in community development. If your group is among those who have successfully used this tactic, it pays to understand the new CRA rule.


Lastly, we read an interesting article about parking experiments in some Canadian cities that started during the pandemic. Some cities discovered that the parking they once thought they needed could be reduced, while others have continued to build more parking. If your city is discussing parking, this well-written piece could help. (And on any given day, it seems like half the cities we work with are discussing parking!)

We will return with the next issue of Community Development Plus on a Thursday in January. Feel free to reply to this email if you have a comment. For questions, please use the public-facing page to ask your question. We answer them on a page that becomes viewable on our website.

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