Community Development Blog

Consumer Complaints against Banks: A Look at the Numbers

November 19, 2015

Consumer input has long been an important part of the free market system. It allows businesses to change and adapt products and services based on what individuals want and need at the time. With this in mind, the federal bank regulators set up a consumer help center where individuals can file complaints against banks if they feel that they have been mistreated in any way. How does it work and what have we learned?

What’s Next for U.S. Community Investing?

November 4, 2015

As impact investing activities increase, why is more of this mission-oriented capital not flowing to low-income cities and communities in the United States? Although domestic community investment has been around for decades, it is increasingly apparent that the necessary infrastructure to channel capital from traditional capital markets to community development organizations is lacking.

We Need to Prove Impact Investing Makes a Difference

September 4, 2015

Investors, grant makers, and nonprofit organizations need to have some way to assess, manage, and communicate their real impact. This can be especially difficult when the two worlds of investing and philanthropy get mixed together as an impact investment, which is meant to achieve a measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. William Burckart argues that it’s time for people interested in impact investing to adopt the ideas nonprofits are using to track progress.

Why the Fed Cares about Reentry of Ex-Offenders: Leveraging AB 109

August 25, 2015

The successful reintegration of formerly incarcerated men and women is one of the most significant challenges facing not only California, but the entire country. It is an issue that disproportionately impacts the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities. Many of the community development program providers that are engaged with improving opportunities for low-income people are now stretching to extend these services to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Setting Our Sights on Systems Change

August 24, 2015

Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America called for a broad range of sectors—including community development, public health, health care, education, transportation, urban planning, business, and others—to work together to create healthier communities. The call for this level of collaboration was groundbreaking, and its recommendations are critical to building a Culture of Health that enables all of us to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

How Can Native American Veterans Gain Access to a Benefit They Earned?

June 15, 2015

A federal program exists to provide more homeownership opportunities for Native Americans veterans on Indian reservations, yet less than one in six of the over 570 federally-recognized tribes have accessed the program. This is a program that Native American Veterans have earned but relatively few are able to enjoy the benefit.

Community Context Matters: Unpacking Common Trends in Community Development across the West

June 8, 2015

What is driving the pattern of extreme unaffordability in the western states? While the trend of too-high rents and too few units is consistent across our region, the factors behind the trend vary considerably depending on the location. Community practitioner responses from an ongoing Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco survey shed light on specific drivers of the affordable housing shortage particular to each area.

Building a National Equitable TOD Network

April 16, 2015

In just a few short years, the idea of pursuing community development in tandem with transit development has gone from being a novel and ambitious notion to conventional wisdom. What we now call “equitable transit-oriented development,” or ETOD, has evolved remarkably since 2008, when CDFI and transit sector leaders first gathered to explore how to finance such opportunities. But those of us working to make this a widespread reality know there are many challenges to creating smart, sustainable ETOD. This has been an important focus at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, where we are trying to make it possible for ETOD to revitalize neighborhoods and increase mobility and access for all residents.

A Loan in the Dark: The Difficulty of Determining Local Small Business Credit Needs

April 9, 2015

It should come as no surprise that small businesses play an important role in the U.S. economy. There are 28 million small businesses operating throughout the country, and they are responsible for nearly half of all private-sector employment and 63 percent of new private-sector jobs. Therefore, maintaining an atmosphere in which these businesses can thrive is essential to the health of the economy.

Building a Cross-Sector Coalition: Sustainable Communities for All and CA’s Cap-and-Trade Program

April 8, 2015

Why should community developers care about cap-and-trade and what do carbon emissions have to do with low-income households? As it turns out, the fields of environmental sustainability and community development have significant overlap, particularly in the area of transit-oriented development, where issues of affordability, equity, and displacement converge with concerns such as vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Poverty

April 7, 2015

Research shows that poverty in early childhood can have detrimental effects on a range of achievement, behavior, and health outcomes in adulthood. The time between a child’s prenatal year and 5th birthday is particularly critical, and incremental increases in parental income during this time period can have profound and positive long-term outcomes.

Veterans and Communities: Opportunities for Service and Collaboration

February 6, 2015

What is it like to be a young veteran in the United States? How do veterans reconnect with their communities, and what kind of work are they interested in? What are the greatest challenges in the readjustment to civilian life and in what ways can neighbors, employers, elected officials and others best support veterans in this transition?

Lessons on Age-Friendly Banking

February 5, 2015

A “silver tsunami” is coming; an estimated 95 million people will be over the age of 65 in the U.S. in the year 2060, comparable to the current population of California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas combined. In anticipation, some financial institutions and community organizations across the country are partnering to develop age-friendly banking products and services that better protect and preserve the assets of an aging population.

Education is Driving the Bus of Regional Economic Growth

February 2, 2015

A vital dialogue took place at the Fifth Annual Southern California Economic Recovery & Job Creation Summit in Los Angeles on December 4, 2014. The central thesis was the implication of the dramatic rise in poverty and its impact on future economic prosperity, particularly as it relates to regional job market challenges.

New CRA Resources for the New Year

January 27, 2015

Do you know your local bank’s CRA rating, or where to go to find it? Could you write a performance context for your bank’s next CRA exam? Most of us in the community development field are familiar with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) broadly, but the San Francisco Fed now offers resources for those who are interested in digging a little deeper into the CRA.

Innovations for Communities Working to Address Foreclosure Crisis

December 8, 2014

An iconic image of the 21st century recession is a boarded up house with a foreclosure notice pinned to its front door. The nationwide mortgage crisis, which began in 2008, has left behind thousands of evicted families and empty homes across the United States. If a foreclosed property was the image of the recession, now theoretically over, what is the post-recession’s photograph?

Data Use is Key to Improving Communities: New Book Challenges Policymakers, Funders, and Those Seeking to Broaden Opportunity to Work More Strategically

December 4, 2014

With 90 percent of the world’s data generated in just the past two years, a new book released today challenges policymakers, funders, and practitioners across sectors to seize this new opportunity to revolutionize our approaches to improve lives in low-income communities. What Counts: Harnessing Data for America’s Communities from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Urban Institute provides a roadmap for the strategic use of data to reduce poverty, improve health, expand access to quality education, increase employment, and build stronger and more resilient communities.

New Players and New Approaches for Improving Health Outcomes

November 19, 2014

The fields of health and health philanthropy have seen dramatic changes in recent years. Certain new players in health philanthropy – termed “nontraditional actors” (NTAs), to distinguish them from traditional health foundations – bring new approaches and priorities to the field. NTAs can have a significant impact on health and health care, especially if the extensive content knowledge of traditional health foundations informs their work, and by working with NTAs, traditional foundations can stretch limited resources and increase their own effectiveness.

The Rise of Single-Family Rentals in Arizona, California and Nevada

November 18, 2014

The geographies that were hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis are now struggling with the rise of investor-owned single-family homes. This tenure shift from ownership to rental was most pronounced in those areas that experienced severe price depreciation and offered an abundant supply of distressed property. This trend of growing absentee ownership raises important community development questions around the issues of neighborhood stabilization, rental costs, property maintenance, and lost asset building opportunities for potential first-time homebuyers.

Using Pay-For-Success To Increase Investment In The Nonmedical Determinants Of Health

November 3, 2014

Pay for Success is a new financial and contracting tool that pays investor-funded nonprofits for delivering measurable social outcomes. This approach, while still new, increases investment in evidence-based programs and creates investable opportunities for impact investors and potentially CRA-motivated banks as well. One particularly ripe opportunity for Pay for Success is in health improvement. “Using Pay-For-Success To Increase Investment In The Nonmedical Determinants Of Health,” written by Federal Reserve researcher Ian Galloway for the health policy journal Health Affairs, explores how Pay for Success could be used to increase investment in illness prevention, save health care costs, improve patient outcomes, and create a market that values health, not just health care.

Financial Literacy Needs a Facelift: A Networked Approach to Financial Capability in California

October 7, 2014

People typically pursue financial education on an as-needed basis and usually when there is a crisis or a big purchase involved. What it would take to get people thinking about their finances earlier on? How do we integrate financial capability into the everyday? The California State Controller’s Office is trying to promote financial capability via community networks rather than a standalone formal educational program. They will build a financial capability infrastructure enabling the experts and the high-touch community leaders to better serve communities by reducing program redundancies and increasing outreach.

Collaboration versus Competition: Lessons from a Banker for Hospitals

October 1, 2014

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hospitals are finding themselves in a similar environment that banks were when the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was passed in 1977. Hospitals now have a clear obligation to the communities (especially under-served ones) they serve through Community Benefits requirements, similar to the way banks are required to serve the needs of low-income communities through the CRA.

Rebalancing the American Dream: Forging Pathways to Financial Security

September 30, 2014

In the news and among the public, recent discussions have focused on the income gap between the rich and the poor in the United States. Yet the deep and growing divide between American households in terms of wealth – the sum of assets, such as retirement savings or a house, minus debt – has received less attention, even as it is proving deeply disruptive and quite difficult to reverse.  Accumulated wealth and diversified savings can be far more important than income for keeping household finances stable through volatile shifts in the economy.

Enhanced Supportive Housing as an Alternative to Skilled Nursing Facility Care

August 5, 2014

The Direct Access to Housing (DAH) program of the San Francisco Department of Public Health opened its first master leased, renovated single room occupancy hotel in January 1999 providing permanent supportive housing for 86 formerly homeless adults. With the expansion of access to health insurance in the majority of states in the United States following the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, there is increased interest in evaluating the DAH program to assess if supportive housing can help to achieve CMS’s Triple Aim (reduced cost, improved measurable outcomes, improved patient experience).

Business Lenders can still be Key Players in Alternative Loan Market

June 17, 2014

Many bankers will continue to build long-term relationships and educate borrowers about options, even if the financial products borrowers are seeking are not offered at their financial institutions. This relationship building is not part of the bottom line, but it is a part of the small business lenders’ practices.

Healthcare vs. Health

June 11, 2014

Infographic: These terms are often conflated, but they refer to two very different ideas. Understanding the distinction is an important step towards creating a marketplace that values health.

Health: The Untapped Market

May 14, 2014

The U.S. spends $2.7 trillion each year on health care—yet we are raising a generation of children who may live shorter and sicker lives than their parents. Recent changes in health care require a fresh, innovative look at how we leverage that capital and where promising investment opportunities lie to reduce health costs and improve lives.

Collective Action for Community Development

April 30, 2014

It’s not surprising that the idea of collective action has gained rapid interest and followers recently. The framework, which seeks to produce true alignment of purpose across related sectors working on social, economic, and environmental challenges, offers a great deal of promise for making significant improvements in the life chances for disadvantaged populations.

The Outlook on Pay for Success / Social Impact Bonds

April 29, 2014

The Housing California conference, an annual conference held in April with more than 1,000 participants involved in housing, included an informative session on the outlook on Pay for Success. Following is a summary of key highlights.

Homesick: The Continuing Need to Stabilize Neighborhoods

February 14, 2014

We all need a place to call home. Increasingly, a safe, decent and affordable home seems beyond reach for many Americans still struggling with foreclosure. Thankfully, nonprofit organizations have remained at the forefront, helping households and communities address the profound challenges and disruptions precipitated by the crisis and subsequent recession.

Innovating our Way out of Poverty

February 7, 2014

We should encourage bold prototyping, supported by a public-private finance system that emphasizes innovation, lifts up strategies that work best, and jettisons those that don’t. Specifically, we need an approach that rewards positive outcomes and encourages reasonable risk taking and experimentation among social sector service providers.

For-Profit Colleges and the Student Debt Crisis

January 10, 2014

Student debt is a growing issue, particularly as it relates to for-profit colleges and low- and moderate-income students. In this post, Laura Choi highlights striking statistics on the student loan debt burdening our nation’s LMI students.

What Happens in Vegas… Lessons on Cross-Sector Community Development

December 17, 2013

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Sin City’s slogan may be appropriate for thrill-seeking visitors, but the people who live here have an important story that needs to be told. Beyond the spectacle and extravagance of the Strip, Nevada struggles with the nation’s highest unemployment rate, one of the lowest high school graduation rates, the lowest share of young children enrolled in early childhood education, and the highest violent crime rate.

Health and Wealth Inequities across Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Stations

October 18, 2013

For many people living in the Bay Area, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is an integral part of everyday life (just ask anyone affected by the recent BART strike). A casual ride on any BART line reveals the economic disparity that exists between an affluent suburb, such as Pleasanton or Fremont, and the urban core of Downtown Oakland, but a little data can reveal how much deeper this disparity goes. Consider this: a short ride between BART stations can mean an 11-year difference in life expectancy.

Life Expectancy as a Barometer of Health and Wealth

September 23, 2013

The income of a county can often be directly correlated to the life expectancy of its inhabitants, pointing to a need for those in the community development field to rethink their traditional approach to health in low-income neighborhoods and embrace a more comprehensive, cross-sectoral attitude that addresses the “social determinants of health.”

Engaging Working Youth in the Financial Mainstream

August 26, 2013

There are almost 20 million employed youth in the U.S., and younger households are more likely to be unbanked. Earning a paycheck is a critical teachable moment and presents a unique opportunity to provide youth with access to financial education and quality financial products.

An Uneven Housing Recovery: Implications for Community Development

August 22, 2013

After years of gloomy housing reports, we’ve been seeing some promising signs of a national housing market recovery. However, these encouraging indicators mask the realities of what’s happening on the ground in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities that were disproportionately affected by the housing crisis. Complicating matters is the unprecedented role of investors in the housing recovery and the changing nature of local housing markets.

Beyond the Hype: The Promise and Pitfalls of Pay for Success

August 12, 2013

Interest in Pay for Success (PFS) financing tools, like the social impact bond, has been growing steadily since 2010. Many governments are exploring PFS solutions, including the State of California, which recently convened an informational legislative hearing to discuss the idea.

In his testimony to the Select Committee on Procurement and the Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee, Ian Galloway highlights four potential benefits and pitfalls, based on the most recent issue of the Community Development Investment Review, which explored PFS in depth.

The Chicago Regional Healthy Communities Summit Explores the Converging Visions of Public Health and Community Development

August 5, 2013

People who live in economically challenged areas endure more stress and demonstrate higher levels of mental illness, are more prone to serious and earlier onset of disease, and live shorter lives, irrespective of genetic predispositions. With these challenges in mind, the Chicago Fed’s Community Development and Policy Studies department partnered with the Illinois Public Health Institute and others to host the Chicago Regional Healthy Communities Summit. This two-day event considered more deeply the common interests among community development and health-focused organizations in the region.

New Role for Health Care Providers: “Hot-Spotting” Unhealthy Communities?

July 19, 2013

In his now legendary approach to urban medicine, physician and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantee Jeffrey Brenner, MD, pioneered the technique of hot spotting—making block-by-block maps of Camden, N.J., examining residents’ hospital costs and identifying the handful of patients who cycled in and out of those institutions and racked up stratospheric medical bills.

What if America’s hospitals and health systems used similar techniques to identify the nation’s poorest and least healthy communities—and then teamed up with local community development organizations to set them on a path to better health?

The New Era of Affordable Housing

June 6, 2013

Affordable housing development and finance models must evolve and expand to replace lost resources and meet growing and changing demand.

Transforming the Social Sector into a Competitive Marketplace

April 15, 2013

Pay for Success financing has the potential to improve the social sector’s effectiveness by rewarding programs that work, encouraging innovation, validating progress, and attracting private capital to the anti-poverty cause.

The Subprime Crisis in Suburbia

February 25, 2013

The vast majority of foreclosures have been in suburban areas, but the mechanisms for addressing the challenges associated with concentrated foreclosures are difficult to implement in suburban areas.

Vision During Crisis: Reinventing Neighborhood Revitalization

November 15, 2012

Vision During Crisis: Reinventing Neighborhood Revitalization, held in Los Angeles on March 1, 2012, was a call to action for principal stakeholders to create new approaches to neighborhood revitalization based on stabilizing the single-family foreclosure crisis.

Capital Markets for Impact at Scale

October 10, 2012

On October 1, 2012, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco hosted Capital Markets for Impact at Scale to showcase content on “institutional” impact/community investing and the effort to mainstream social capital markets.

Future of Economic Development and Revitalization Post Redevelopment

September 2, 2012

On September 6, 2012, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco hosted The Future of Economic Development and Revitalization Post Redevelopment to address the recent elimination of redevelopment in California and how this change might affect efforts to attract private capital and finance projects that in particular have benefited economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Community Development and Education

August 15, 2012

As summer draws to a close, kids across America are preparing for the inevitable: the start of a new school year. Whether they greet this season with dread or excitement, the fact remains that their educational experience will shape the course of their lives. Having the means to access and absorb high quality K-12 educational resources lays the groundwork for postsecondary success and ultimately higher paying jobs.

Dr.CRA: OREO properties as rentals?

August 13, 2012

Dear Dr. CRA,

Like many other banks, we have a large inventory of residential other real estate owned (OREO) properties. I’ve heard that rental demand is increasing in my market – vacancies are down and rents keep going up. Could we rent out our OREO properties as part of our disposition strategy, and if so, would we get CRA credit?

Foreclosured in 2009/10? Free Review

August 1, 2012

If you had a mortgage loan on your primary residence and believe you were financially harmed during the mortgage foreclosure process by any of 25 identified servicers in 2009 or 2010, you can request an independent review and potentially receive compensation. The review is intended to determine if borrowers suffered financial harm directly resulting from errors, misrepresentations, or other deficiencies that may have occurred during the foreclosure process.

The Impact of Data and Measurement

May 14, 2012

Peter Drucker, the famous management expert, is often quoted as saying, “What gets measured gets done.” Over the years, this adage has taken on different forms, including “What gets measured gets managed,” and “What gets measured gets funded.” The fact that this statement is so easily adaptable, and appropriate in any number of contexts, reveals the power of data and measurement to drive action. Within the community development field, the implications of Mr. Drucker’s statement are all too familiar.

Suburbanization of Poverty in the Bay Area

April 20, 2012

The shifting geography of poverty compels the community development field to reevaluate how we do our work because it signals important changes in the communities we care about. It remains to be seen if suburbanization will increase or diminish access to opportunity, but we can identify several challenges that the suburbanization of poverty presents, as well as possible ways to address these challenges.