Building Complete Communities, Not Just Affordable Housing

By John Moon

In places throughout the country, your zip code determines your health more so than your genetic code. Average life expectancy can vary by as much as 15 years in two adjoining neighborhoods. To reduce these alarming disparities, our community development team explores and promotes solutions that recognize how housing, transportation, and health are all connected.

A noteworthy example is the Lion Creek Crossings development, a former public housing project characterized by high levels of crime, poverty, and disinvestment. Three organizations — the Oakland Housing Authority, the Related Company of California, and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) — came together to redevelop 22 acres into 500 units of mixed-income and affordable housing with on-site resident services. Community members now benefit from an integrated after-school and summer program for k-5th graders, a fresh foods market, a 5.7 acre park, and a family resource center that provides health, employment and financial services. Lion Creek Crossings is a prime example of how to revitalize a neighborhood that is close to transit and allows for easier access to jobs, without displacing low-income residents.

Leaders from across the Federal Reserve recently had an opportunity to visit Lion Creek Crossings and engage with residents and staff of this model community. As one of those leaders, I was motivated by this first-hand exposure to how Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) investments can transform lives and communities. I see the CRA as one of the most important laws that ensures the flow of investment capital to improve low-income communities, and observing comprehensive community development in practice was important context to consider as we discuss CRA reform. In addition, we learned how the residents were deeply engaged in the financing that supported the development and also in creating a vision for their own community. Above all, the tour revealed how community investments can produce greater impact through resident-informed design.

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