Guidelines for Current Community Revitalization Program Grant Renewals

In 2005, the Surdna Foundation's Community Revitalization Program launched a five-year initiative to work in select U.S. cities to support efforts to create equitable, environmentally sustainable, mixed-income communities that provide residents with choice and opportunity. As we enter our final year of this effort, please note that we are no longer accepting new applications under these guidelines. The guidelines below are for grantees of our Community Revitalization Program that have been invited to submit grant renewal requests.

Within our five-year initiative, we seek to build communities of choice. Communities of choice are economically and culturally diverse, and provide a range of housing choices; promote development that is walkable, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective; support green building and energy efficiency in policy and practice; connect development to jobs and information through transit; and build equity into their systems, to ensure that all residents can benefit from a city's revitalization.

We believe that different market dynamics create different challenges for cities - every city is either growing or shrinking, attracting investments or experiencing disinvestment, gaining population or losing residents, experiencing a rise or decline in property values - and that the most effective efforts are tailored to those market realities.

Our goals are to help:

  1. Ensure that low- and moderate-income residents can continue to live and thrive in Strong Market Cities that are experiencing tremendous growth.
  2. Revitalize Weak Market Cities that are experiencing disinvestment, in ways that connect low- and moderate-income residents with opportunities to create and preserve wealth.
  3. Strengthen the Field of community revitalization to expand our collective ability to address the new realities of cities and the challenges facing low- and moderate-income residents.

Across each of these areas, we believe it is important to: respect community and grassroots perspectives; support multi-sectoral partnerships and strategies; support efforts that are innovative and can serve as national models; and connect grantees with each other as well as with thought leaders, networks and funders.

Strong Market Cities

For generations, cities have functioned as "transmission belts for mobility" providing immigrants with an opportunity to move up the economic ladder. However, as the demand for affordable real estate outpaces supply, low- and moderate-income residents are often economically disadvantaged and displaced - resulting in cities that lack economic, racial and social diversity.

We seek to minimize displacement, increase community participation, and advance equitable policy and practice that will make the market work for all residents. We currently make grants in Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Denver, and the San Francisco Bay Area to:

  1. Preserve and Increase Housing Affordability. We support organizations that advocate for the expansion of affordable housing policies and programs, and minimize displacement of low-income residents; strengthen strategic partnerships that can acquire existing subsidized and non-subsidized affordable housing units; and ensure that there is a steady pipeline of new affordable housing by increasing access to building sites and resources.
  2. Preserve and Increase Affordability through Income Preservation. We seek to reduce the cost of living by reducing household transportation and energy costs by linking land use to asset development through better integration of land use and environmental policies and programs, increasing public and private sector investments, and expanding policies and programs that will increase the capacity of government, developers and community-based organizations to plan and build affordable housing that is energy efficient and green, and in transit-oriented developments.
  3. Build New Voices for Equity. We seek to create a body of knowledge to frame issues of polarization, equity, displacement and global capital and its effect on neighborhoods; increase community-based organizations' capacity to engage in productive conversations about how benefits are shared and spread; improve access to the decision-making process by low income residents; understand the role of immigrants as economic drivers; and develop new leaders and campaigns to articulate needs and put forward policy agendas, and over time develop a robust national leadership network that incorporates new voices and can advance equitable policies that serve low income and immigrant communities.

Examples of Surdna's grantmaking interests include:

  • Housing Units: Innovative projects, technical assistance and policy/advocacy efforts that remove barriers to production and preservation (e.g., subsidies, restrictive zoning and land use practices, brownfields, availability of land, public support) and promote long-term affordability mechanisms (e.g., community land trusts and shared equity housing).
  • Income Preservation and Asset Development: Technical assistance, tools development and projects that decrease transportation and energy expenses through transit-oriented developments, green and energy efficient design; linking land use to community benefits; preserving homeownership through better access to low-cost mortgages and other wealth building opportunities.
  • New Voices: Advocacy, research, organizing and planning technical assistance that seeds the emergence of new voices in underrepresented populations to leverage government action and private investment into benefits for low-income people.

Weak Market Cities

Decades of declining population, property values, and jobs in Weak Market Cities have created a daunting cycle of poverty and disinvestment. Their tax base and infrastructure eroding, these cities struggle to serve more residents in need with fewer resources. Many residents have chosen to leave, and those that remain must pay more for fewer services even as their housing quality and employment prospects decline.

Our goal is to help revitalize Weak Market Cities through efforts that strengthen the local real estate markets and connect low- to moderate-income residents with opportunities to create and preserve wealth. We seek to stimulate the market, increase community participation, advance equitable policy and practice and encourage people with investment choices to stay or move into these cities. We currently make grants in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and New Orleans to:

  1. Improve Public Policies to Stimulate Reinvestment. We seek to reform local, state and national policies to improve efficiency and increase direct investments in Weak Market Cities.
  2. Promote Physical Development that Leverages Assets. We seek to promote revitalization efforts that are based on a solid understanding of the relative market strengths of city neighborhoods, that leverage and build on areas of market strength and/or community assets (i.e., parks, educational and medical resources, cultural institutions, transit networks), and act to stimulate subsequent private market investment in these places.
  3. Ensure that Redevelopment Efforts Help Preserve and Enhance Opportunity. We seek to promote physical revitalization efforts that build racially and economically diverse cities where residents are able to connect to opportunities and build and preserve their wealth.
  4. Advance a New Vision and Voice for Redevelopment. We seek to build a network of local, state and national leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors who can advance local, state, and national agendas and reforms in support of Weak Market Cities.

Examples of Surdna's grantmaking interests include:

  • Public Policy: Supporting advocacy efforts to promote policy and systems reforms; technical assistance to help local leaders improve policies and systems; and research to highlight issues, make recommendations and promote best practices to reform policies and encourage market reinvestment.
  • Leverage Physical Assets: Supporting neighborhood or citywide revitalization planning based on a market and asset analysis; technical assistance to grantees and local governments to develop and implement plans; and implementation of plans and the execution of projects that leverage assets and promote mixed-income communities.
  • Preserve and Enhance Opportunity: Supporting projects, technical assistance, advocacy and research efforts that demonstrate and promote physical redevelopment strategies that help residents preserve wealth or connect to economic opportunities, such as green building, transit-oriented development, mixed-income housing and community benefits agreements.
  • Advance New Vision: Supporting national research, communication, and coalition building efforts to advance local, state, and national agendas for Weak Market Cities.

Strengthening the Field

American cities today face different challenges and opportunities than they did when the community revitalization field was created over 40 years ago. While cities continue to be affected by their geography and history, their fate is increasingly impacted by larger forces including globalization, a growing economic divide, changing demographics, and federal policies. As a result, the context of the work for the community revitalization field has changed. While new tools and frameworks are being developed to meet these new challenges with increasing sophistication, there continues to be an urgent need to adapt to new realities and integrate related sectors to have significant and meaningful impact.

Our goal is to help strengthen and advance the ability of the community revitalization field to address the new realities of cities for low- and moderate-income people, by re-focusing national interest on the role of cities as economic engines and capitals of innovation and supporting the development of new tools and intermediaries to increase impact. (We seek to align this work with our core Strong and Weak Market Cities where possible, but this is not a requirement.) We seek to:

  1. Get Cities Back on the National Agenda: We seek to build broader support for cities to help improve urban conditions and better respond to the needs of residents and climate change.
  2. Increase Impact and Innovation in Community Revitalization: We assist in the development and dissemination of tools associated with green building, energy efficiency, transit-oriented development, employer assisted housing, community benefits agreements, etc. We seek to improve the capacity of practitioners by providing new tools and technical assistance.

Examples of Surdna's grantmaking interests include:

  • National Agenda: Supporting efforts that research messaging and media coverage to highlight the importance of cities; the development of a clear agenda that reforms practices and policies; and advocacy efforts that promote federal government investment in cities.
  • Impact and Innovation: Support of demonstration projects, technical assistance, advocacy and research by intermediaries that develop new tools in the areas of green building, energy efficient housing, transit-oriented development, employer assisted housing and community benefits agreements.

Generally, Surdna does not support: Rural housing; drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs/housing; supportive housing, homeless shelters and feeding programs; micro-lending and micro-business development.

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