Community development helps disadvantaged neighborhoods build up existing assets and attract new ones so that the people who live there can increase their wealth. Community development practitioners invest public and private funds to improve the places where people live, work, and visit. The tangible results are better and more affordable places to live, new and expanded businesses, access to jobs, safer streets, and more attractive public spaces.
Community development uses special tools (such as grant funding, patient capital, low interest rates, tax-exemption, tax credits) to invest in disadvantaged neighborhoods. These tools are necessary because, while every community has opportunities and assets to develop, some may offer smaller or slower financial return. This makes opportunities in these neighborhoods less attractive to mainstream developers. Yet the returns on community development can have a snowball effect. When a neglected home is renovated, the other properties on the block gain value, too. Likewise, when neighborhoods improve, they become attractive to new residents, new visitors, and new businesses that create new jobs. The result is an increase in local prosperity and economic competitiveness.
Successful community development must be place-based; it is defined by the opportunities and needs of a given neighborhood. Second, it must be community-driven; the residents, business owners, and other stakeholders in a community must participate in and contribute to the process. Third, community development must be comprehensive in its approach; it must take into account all aspects of a community (housing, businesses, jobs, schools, houses of worship, universities, etc.) in order to be successful. Finally, community development must be long-term; it takes time to find the best opportunities and to marshal the resources required to obtain lasting results – a place where residents are safe and comfortable, employment is plentiful, and no one is left behind.
For examples of community development in action, read about our members’ work.