The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents

The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Neighborhood Revitalization Report

Creating a Framework for Black Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires

Table of Contents

How to Read the Report

The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections. 

  • The Overview
  • The Relevant Context
  • The Ideas
  • The Analysis
  • The Recommendations
There are also references for additional research and a link to a glossary of terms 

SUCC3SS Idea Jam 

Neighborhood Revitalization Report

Overview – I

Domain Description 

Empowering Black Residents of the Westside, by leveraging existing resources to the benefit of Black residents of the Westside. Specifically home and land ownership.

Domain Vision

Greenwood 2.0, Westside, Pittsfield, MA.

Establish the Westside as a neighborhood that offers the highest quality of life to Black residents. Black community led reparations plan, to be a successful model for other similar communities. Transformational community change begins by disrupting the current allocation and distribution of resources.

Domain Area of Focus

Domain Areas of Focus

Economic Development: land and property acquisition and development; business development; homeownership and housing stability; financial literacy.

Political Representation: within existing bureaucracy; establish resident led organizations.

Environmental Justice: pollution remediation; neighborhood beautification; resilient landscaping.

 

Neighborhood revitalization must be comprehensive. A neighborhood is, in one sense, a physical and social manifestation of our shared values. It is our personal problem solving capabilities, applied to challenges on the neighborhood scale in collaboration with our neighbors. When determining the “how” of neighborhood revitalization, we must identify all the areas we can improve. Education. Career opportunities. Housing stability, affordability and quality. Safety. Community Identity. Etc.

What aspects of your neighborhood do you value the most, where might you improve your neighborhoods?

Domain Goals

  • Westside Neighborhood Community Land Trust
  • Westside Community Financial Institution, or partnership with GFCU (a federally certified CDFI).
  • Westside Community Development Corporation
 Station Activity: What would a black wall street look like in the westside to you?

(image source: Habitat for Humanity International, Neighborhood Revitalization Presentation. October 2019)

 

Relevant Context – II

National

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/07/10/slavery-reparations-bill-spurs-new-debate-other-nations-model/5396340002/

 

Assembly Bill 3121 State of California Legislature

Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposal For African Americans Act, H.R. 40, 116th Congress, 2019. (Previously introduced by Michigan Representative John Conyers.)

 

Senate Cory Booker proposed a “baby bonds” reparations plan. A study by Naomi Zewde, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Center on Poverty and Social Policy, of Columbia University, says as follows:

 

“I find that without the baby bond program, median wealth among young adult Caucasians is approximately sixteen times that of the young African Americans ($46,000 vs.$2,900). The baby bond program raises median wealth for both groups and reduces the disparity to a factor of 1.4… A baby bond program would considerably narrow wealth inequalities by race while simultaneously improving the net asset-position of young adults and alleviating the increasing concentration of wealth at the top.”

(image source: https://www.povertycenter.columbia.edu/news-internal/2019/1/18/cpsps-naomi-zewde-finds-that-baby-bonds-would-dramatically-reduce-racial-wealth-inequality Access 10/24/2020)

The city of Ashfield, North Carolina recently passed a resolution calling for a task force to be made that will specifically recommend targeted investments to reduce inequality. (See Research section for more detail.) 

Local

Market analysis shows the concentration of absentee landlords in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.  Simply encouraging homeownership is not going to cut it.  The abundance of available/developable land allows for an immense potential for affordable housing solutions.  Relevant funds have not been focused in this area, instead of being used to lure economic resources to the city rather than leveraging the local assets and resources available.

 

Analysis – III

Gap Analysis

A gap analysis is an examination and assessment of current performance for the purpose of identifying the differences between the current state of business affairs and where you’d like to be. It can be boiled down into a few questions:

Where are we now? Where do we want to go? What do we need to get there? 

 

Where are we now?

An examination of economic indicators shows that current programs, grants, and initiatives available to and for Black Westside residents are insufficient and improperly administered at bestB because the specific challenges caused by institutional racism are not publically and officially recognized by our city.  (Please refer to research section B.) 

 

What do we need more of?

  • Continue Advocacy and Organizing of Neighbors to prevent gentrification 
  • and come up with and implement their own plan.
  • Ensure that dollars spent on housing needs are not leaving our community.
  • Robust policies that encourage development of the resources we need (Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning, Landlord licensing/regulation, Increased tenants rights protections, rent regulations, etc).
  • Transfer of un/underused land for development purposes.
  • Cooperative housing/ownership models that allow for shared liability and responsibility of real estate assets. (Community Land Trust.)
  • So far behind in the race that you think you are winning.

Recommendations – V

To address the complex issues caused by housing segregation, redlining and disinvestment, and environmental racism, requires the mobilization of resources directed by community led utilization strategies. 

 

 Resource Mobilization Recommendations

The City of Pittsfield formally recognizes the detrimental impact housing segregation and Urban Renewal projects have had on Black residents of the Westside:

Recommendation 1

Reparations Resolution

  • Follow the lead of Ashfield, North Carolina, Chicago and Evanston, Illinois. Draft and pass a Reparations Resolution.

 

Recommendation 2

Establish a Commission

  • Establish a commission, whose members are selected by the Black community, to recommend investments in areas where a large disparity exists–such as property and land, education, criminal justice, health care. 

 

Recommendation 3

Advocate and Secure Funds

  • Advocate for and secure set aside funds in the Berkshire Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund to determine if there are any environmental causes for the disparity in life expectancy between residents of the Westside Neighborhood and the average life expectancy for the City. 

 

Recommendation 4

Organize a Westside Community Land Trust

  • To hold land in commons, while conferring equity of improvements to lessees.
  • Also functions as the Neighborhood Planning Commission.
  • Organization which can accept donations/transfers of un/underdeveloped, publicly and privately held, property.
 

Recommendation 5

Full Start-up Funding

 
  • Full start-up funding for a Westside Community Development Organization
  • Non-profit umbrella organization serves a vital function as “developer” of the Westside.
  • Community Design Lounge Program to incubate/ design, plan and implement community and neighborhood development plans and programs.  
  • Neighborhood Revitalization Plan
  • Neighborhood Programs around arts, education, recreation and events and wither programs

 

 

Recommendation 6

Affordable Housing Trust

The City of Pittsfield establishes an Affordable Housing Trust:

 

  • The mission of the Affordable Housing Trust must be to counteract the disproportionate impact of; the citing of Public Housing nearly exclusively on the Westside, and; historic covenants that explicitly and implicitly prevented Black Pittsfield residents from purchasing and developing properties outside of the Westside Neighborhood.
  • Current city leaders must advocate for the passage of bills S. 733 and H. 1769 in the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. These bills allow for the implementation of a fee charged to real property, single-family zoned, transactions (with particular exemptions). The fees collected are used to fund the Affordable Housing Trust.

Recommendation 7

Update Current Zoning Ordinances

Update the current zoning ordinances that are restricting development on the Westside:

  • For example; expansion of current “neighborhood business” spot zoning to include the entirety of Linden Street, all or part of Bradford Street, et al, and/or; develop a new business overlay district for the Westside, the preferable strategy. 
  • Designate the entirety of the Westside Neighborhood as a Smart Growth Overlay District, with a mandatory Inclusionary Zoning policy for all new residential development of any size. Allowing developers/neighborhood residents to leverage incentives the state of Massachusetts currently offers.

  • Concurrently organize and fund a to recruit developers and businesses; draft guiding architectural and streetscape design guidelines; research and write mandatory zoning ordinances that prioritize in-fill development that promotes mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented developments; and oversee maintenance.

 

Resource Utilization Strategies

 

Strategy 1

Establish a West Side Community Land Trust

  • Hold land in commons, while conferring equity of improvements to lessees.
  • Also functions as the Neighborhood Planning Commission.
  • Organization which can accept donations/transfers of un/underdeveloped, publicly and privately held, property.

Full start-up funding for a Westside Community Development Organization

  • Non-profit umbrella organization serves a vital function as “developer” of the Westside.

Strategy 2

Financial Institution

  • Community Development Financial Institution funding of community workshops

Some potential workshops:

  • Wellness courses
  • Financial literacy, and personal credit development strategies.
  • Intergenerational social programming
  • Community sourced art installations
  • Permanent community gardens, that pay gardeners  

 

Strategy 4

Design Lounge Funding 

  • A shared workspace for neighborhood residents and working groups to organize around an incubate-design-plan-implement process of community and neighborhood development.

  • Fundamentally disrupts the current process for neighborhood development. The ideas of neighborhood residents are not “prioritized”, “respected”, “canvassed”, “solicited”. Their ideas inspire, direct, and actualize development.

  • Indirect, and hard to quantify benefits of leadership, creative thinking, collaborative organization, are cultivated by neighbor residents for the benefit of their neighborhood.

 

Next Steps

  • Organize working groups.
  • Secure funding for Design Lounge.
  • Fund research into environmental pollution, akin to the East Branch of the Housatonic.

     

    📚 References

Locally: City of Pittsfield Office of Community Development. Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation. City of Pittsfield Community Preservation Committee. Greylock Federal Credit Union–a federally certified Community Development Financial Institution.

Regionally: Berkshire Regional Planning Commission 

State: Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

National: Office of Housing and Urban Development 

Bibliography

  1. Thompson, Nancy. Community Development Help for Neighborhood Leaders and Residents, 2010, www.useful-community-development.org/.

  2. Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations. “The Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations.” MACDC, 2020, www.macdc.org/cdc-theory-change.

  3. U.S. Department of the Treasury. Community Development Financial Institution Funds, www.cdfifund.gov/Pages/default.aspx. [Accessed October 2020]

  4. “Community Land Trust Program ~ Schumacher Center for New Economics.” Schumacher Center for New Economics, 30 Sept. 2019, centerforneweconomics.org/apply/community-land-trust-program/.

References

  1. 2019 Westside Learnings

Habitat for Humanity. Monroe, Tad. Neighborhood Revitalization Presentation. October 7th, 2019. 

  1. Westside Survey Results 2016

Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity. Westside Neighborhood Survey. Pittsfield, Ma. Westside Neighborhood. Updated 2016. Published, results distributed through public forums.

  1. Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: a Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright Publishing Corporation, a Division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.

  2. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Gray to Green: Increasing Healthy Equity in Pittsfield by prioritizing green planning in social and racial justice contexts. October 2019. Retrieved from:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Uvk0KR8LRlkyf0hSul0FILN5RgxXfiL0/view?usp=sharing [Accessed August 2020]

  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. Family Options Study: 3-year Impacts of Housing and Services Intervention for Homeless Families. October 2016. Retrieved from:

https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/Family-Options-Study-Full-Report.pdf [Accessed 2020 October.]

  1. National Housing Conference, Center for Housing Policy. The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health: A Research Summary. April 2015. Retrieved from:

https://www.rupco.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/The-Impacts-of-Affordable-Housing-on-Health-CenterforHousingPolicy-Maqbool.etal.pdf [Accessed 2020 October.]

  1. U.S. Executive Branch, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. The Importance of Housing Stability for Preventing and Ending Homelessness. May 2019. Retrieved from:

https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/Housing-Affordability-and-Stablility-Brief.pdf [Accessed 2020 October]

  1. City of Pittsfield, Department of Community Development, Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report, years 1998-2018.

  2. Black Economic Council and Team R3set, virtual SUCC3SS Idea Jam 2020.

 

Research

A) Zwede, Naomi. “Universal Baby Bonds Reduce Black-White Wealth Inequality, Progressively Raise Net Worth of All Young Adults.” Squarespace.com, Naomi Zwede, , Nov. 2018, static1.squarespace.com/static/5743308460b5e922a25a6dc7/t/5c4339f67ba7fc4a9add58f9/1547909624486/Zewde-Baby-Bonds-WP-10-30-18.pdf. [Accessed 2020 October.]

A further explanation of Senator Booker’s bill by VOX: 

Matthews, Dylan. “Study: Cory Booker’s Baby Bonds Nearly Close the Racial Wealth Gap for Young Adults.” Vox, Vox, 21 Jan. 2019, www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/1/21/18185536/cory-booker-news-today-2020-presidential-election-baby-bonds. [Accessed 2020 October]

Ashfield, North Carolina Reparations Resolution: 

https://www.scribd.com/document/468725433/Reparations-for-Black-Asheville (The resolution)

Burgess, Joel. “As Asheville Makes History on Local Reparations, Experts Disagree on Whether to ‘Applaud’.” The Asheville Citizen Times, Asheville Citizen Times, 16 July 2020, www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2020/07/16/asheville-makes-history-local-reparations-black-residents/5439784002/. [Accessed 2020 October.]

B) Median income for Census Tract 9006, that roughly overlaps the Westside Neighborhood, is 27,015, 54.7 percent of the median income of Pittsfield. Median income for Black households in Pittsfield–used as a reasonable proxy for Black residents of the Westside*–is 19,274.


38 percent of all the housing units in census tract 9006 are apartments (Defined as 3 or more units), a higher ratio than Pittsfield as a whole.

The median rent in census tract 9006 is 42.4 percent of median income.

 

75 percent of households making $20,000-34,999 in yearly income pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income towards rent, and 93 percent of households with less than $20,000 in yearly income do, in census tract 9006.

*Data for the median household income for Black Westside Residents (roughly census tract 9006 is not available), or the margin of error are so high as to indicate unreliability of the given figure. (For example in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars, non-family household income for Black residents of census tract 9006 was 26,964 +/- 66,689)

 

A review of the City of Pittsfield’s Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Reports dating 1998 to 2018 (2010 was not included) shows $33,410,479.84 of CDBG funding was spent benefitting persons of extremely, very and low income. A study compiled by the Department of Community Development, mapping properties that received grants and loans through the City of Pittsfield’s Home Improvement Program, covering the years 2009-2018 , shows 39 of the approximately 154 funded projects were located in the Westside neighborhood. (sources; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UiA_sjr6lcRzHI2ZioQKuxyPjumMCwMt/view?usp=sharing.

City of Pittsfield, Office of Community Development, Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation reports, 1998-2018, with the exception of 2010.) 

 

The Home Improvement Program offered by the City of Pittsfield only comprises a small portion of CDBG funded projects. What is intended to be shown is the lack of a meaningful program that addresses the disproportionate and racialized impact of housing segregation in Pittsfield.

 

🎥 Credits 

Idea Jam Facilitators

Analysts

John Lewis, R3SET
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Patrick Danahey, R3SET
Devin Shea, R3SET

Editors

Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET

Advisors

Segun Idawoo, BECMA
Malia Lazu, MIT

Glossary

Gap Analysis 

A gap analysis is an examination and assessment of current performance for the purpose of identifying the differences between the current state of business affairs and where you’d like to be. It can be boiled down into a few questions:

Where are we now? Where do we want to go? What do we need to get there?  

Table of Contents

About the SUCC3SS Idea jam

The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea Jam was a community event series designed to create a holistic, collaborative framework for a successful ecosystem for Berkshire Black businesses, community members, and the Berkshire County community at large.

The community came together using an Idea Jam methodology to est a vision of establishing the Berkshires as a model for Black Economic empowerment for counties across the North East.

The jams were held at the beginning of COVID-19, after transitioning the series from an in-person experience. 

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