October 16, 2017

CDCs create stronger cities

Yvette Dyson

The City of Worcester contends with blighted buildings in our inner city neighborhoods fallen to foreclosure or with building owners without the expertise required to be a landlord. These boarded-up and dilapidated buildings bring a variety of illicit activities to neighborhoods. The years of disinvestment have challenged our inner city neighborhoods. Community Development Corporations have helped to change that cycle.

Often considered the developer of last resort, in reality the CDC's role is imperative to our neighborhoods. The economic impact is paramount. CDCs leverage state dollars with Worcester's federal HOME and Community Development Block Grant funds. Both sources are required by the federal government to be re-invested back into the poor neighborhoods of Gateway Cities, rebuild infrastructure, and utilize towards workforce housing. When blight is rebuilt by a CDC, the building is back on the tax roll. All CDCs pay property taxes despite nonprofit status. For Worcester Common Ground, Inc. this equates to $237,570 in taxes paid annually, including our subsidiaries. It provides workforce housing for residents to live and work in Worcester. It lessens safety concerns as it now becomes a well-managed site.

Additionally, Worcester Common Ground, Inc. (WCG) has created 25 first-time homeownership opportunities and those homeowners pay taxes to Worcester in an amount upwards of $100,000 per year. Having homeowners living on the premises stabilizes the neighborhood.

Finally, transforming these buildings into safe, clean and affordable workforce housing in turn creates further investment from surrounding homeowners and private developers. All working together, our efforts begin to transform a neighborhood that remains diversified.

Changing the perception of a neighborhood is no easy task. Bricks and mortar are not the single answer. CDCs stimulate resident-driven decisions bringing neighbors together. In neighborhoods dense with housing, it is most important to revive open spaces in which families, especially our children, can call their own. This, in turn, gives residents the option to become involved in a community effort. WCG takes great pride in working with our residents to secure open spaces. This year, we unveiled our bioshelter at our urban orchard located on Jaques Avenue. This has allowed our neighborhood to become part of something that will grow. We intend to involve our surrounding elementary schools, YMCA of Central Massachusetts and the city to partake in the evolving educational experiences. All of this will generate an impact that will change old neighborhood perceptions.

CDCs are the eyes and ears of the neighborhoods they serve. CDCs are approaching close to 30 years of service to the City of Worcester. The city and CDCs need each other.

Yvette Dyson is executive director of Worcester Common Ground, Inc.


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