A review of dozens of poor communities across the country found that families fare better economically in places where a far-reaching revitalization effort address multiple community needs at one time—affordable housing, safety, education, employment, and other basic services.
Conducted by the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), the in-depth study looked at 63 neighborhoods where the nonprofit has been investing for more than a decade and found that employment and incomes each grew by 9 percent more than they did in similar communities that were not part of LISC’s long-term investment strategy.
Michael Rubinger, LISC president and CEO, announced the results this week, explaining that the research quantifies what LISC’s staff had previously believed but only knew anecdotally—that the organization’s strategy called Building Sustainable Communities improves the quality of life for low-income families in a significant way.
“There is no one silver bullet to fix the problems facing our poorest communities,” he said. “We need to be working on multiple fronts at the same time. That means understanding how the different aspects of community work together to empower residents and fuel growth—from affordable housing and strong businesses to safe streets, good schools, better health and decent jobs. We need to consistently invest in those opportunities so that progress in one area is not undermined by decline in another.”
The findings hold critical implications for policymakers and philanthropic organizations focused on the ever-widening income inequality gap, Rubinger said, adding, “This is a real indicator that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Since launching the strategy in 2007, LISC has made $750 million in grants, loans and equity investments that not only directly funded projects and programs but led to a total of $3.1 billion in development in the 63 targeted neighborhoods.
The report highlights four of the 63 neighborhoods studied: Eastern North Philadelphia; Olneyville, just north of downtown Providence; Chicago’s “quad communities” (spanning four of the city’s South Side neighborhoods); and Southeast Indianapolis. All are places where poverty, blight and crime have deep, debilitating roots.