In The Boston Globe: Groups that brought neighborhoods back from the brink should be lauded


Paul Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation, penned a letter in response to The Boston Globe article, Boundaries of Hope, on September 10, 2016. 

I WANT to praise the Globe for bringing to light the extremely negative effects of housing discrimination and misguided government housing policies, which have contributed to high degrees of racial and economic isolation and have depressed housing supply overall (“Boundaries to hope,” Page A1, Sept. 4).

However, it is ironic that one bright spot in this bleak landscape, the work of the Madison Park Development Corp., is decried by professor Myron Orfield as just part of a self-interested “poverty housing industry.” The idea that extraordinarily accomplished idealists such as Jeanne Pinado, chief executive of Madison Park, are part of some scheme to further racial and economic isolation is beyond absurd. Confronting the same discrimination that the Globe describes, activists turned their attention to something they could affect — the quality of life in their own communities.

Beginning in the late 1960s, residents began to form community development corporations in devastated urban neighborhoods across America. They fixed up abandoned buildings, built new housing on weed-filled empty lots, attracted commercial enterprises, and created critical institutions such as health centers and child-care facilities. Collectively, these community development corporations are a national force that has done something once thought impossible: bring back neighborhoods once given up for dead.

And as anyone familiar with cities knows, there is a world of difference between a poor community in chaos and one that is relatively stable, with decent housing, access to services, public safety, and community engagement. These are the kinds of neighborhoods community development corporations have helped create, against overwhelming odds. They don’t deserve the glib dismissal of some in academia.

By all means, let’s take on blatant discrimination and misguided housing policies. But let’s not blame those who figured out something immensely positive to do in the meantime.

Paul S. Grogan

President and CEO

The Boston Foundation


Here’s a link to the letter as it appeared in The Boston Globe.