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The Color of Money

Day four, article four

Self-help the aim
of non-profit housing corporations

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published May 4, 1988, Page A9

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bankers don't like to be the first to risk money in a neighborhood. They are more comfortable if others are taking a risk there, too.

Housing activists around the country are finding ways to make that risk more palatable.

The most popular way to do this is a combination of 1960s liberalism and 1980s Reaganomics. Called a community development corporation (CDC), a non-profit company uses government money and expertise to support private, non-profit efforts at self-help.

In Atlanta, for example, the successful South Atlanta Land Trust, which is redeveloping a Southside neighborhood, was sponsored by a CDC -- in Massachusetts, because Atlanta had none.

Something closer to home may be on the way. The Metropolitan Atlanta Community Development Corp. is being planned by a middle-class white female housing activist and a middle-class black male lawyer.

Lynn Brazen, the housing activist, is an economic development specialist for the Fulton County Department of Planning and Economic Development and a leading banking activist through the Atlanta Community Reinvestment Alliance.

Sherman Golden, the lawyer, is an assistant director of the same department and chairman of The Progressive Alliance, a leading group of young black professionals and executives in Atlanta.

Together they hope a CDC will:

-- Help neighborhoods form housing corporations.

-- Become a developer, sponsoring projects itself or with others.

-- Invest $1 million in non-profit and for-profit housing efforts.

-- Lend $50 million for single-family and multifamily housing.

A CDC was proposed in 1986 by Mrs. Brazen's reinvestment coalition, which was negotiating with Trust Company Bank over alleged redlining. The bank called other banks together in February 1987 to hear the proposal, but they rejected it.

The banks said they preferred to work on one of the CDC's goals through a loan pool for home loans, although the pool has not yet been formed. And they expressed skepticism about contributing to a development agency they did not control, noting dissatisfaction with previous development efforts to which they had contributed.

So Mrs. Brazen and Golden are starting their own CDC.

They hope it can act as an intermediary between local housing efforts and financiers, providing the credentials that can take neighborhood groups years to build.

Of the more than 3,000 CDCs nationally, the planners have chosen as a model the Boston Housing Partnership. Formed in 1983, it raised $37 million to fix up 701 housing units and is working on 1,100 others in a second phase.

So far Golden and Mrs. Brazen have formed a board with members from the city of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties, Citizens and Southern Bank, Decatur Federal Savings and Loan, housing developers, neighborhood and advocacy groups, and experts in law, insurance, real estate and finance.

Now they need money.

"What we have so far is a clear commitment from the local interest groups and the governments," Golden said. "What is not clear is the level of commitment from the banks and the corporations and the foundations. That is the hurdle."


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Reprinted with permission from The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. Further reproduction, retransmission or distribution of these materials without the prior written consent of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, and any copyright holder identified in the material's copyright notice, is prohibited.


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