Comprehensive Investment Spurs Community Revitalization, Study Finds

Comprehensive Investment Spurs Community Revitalization, Study Finds

Families fare better economically in communities where revitalization efforts address multiple needs — including housing, safety, education, employment, and other basic services — simultaneously, a report from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation finds.

Based on an analysis of data from sixty-three neighborhoods in which LISC has been investing for more than a decade, the report, Building Sustainable Communities: Initial Research Results (22 pages, PDF), found that the number of employed residents in communities with high and medium levels of LISC investment increased 9 percent and 3 percent faster than in communities that were not part of LISC's long-term investment strategy. The analysis also found that median household incomes in neighborhoods with high and medium levels of LISC investment rose 9 percent and 6 percent faster than incomes in neighborhoods where LISC was not an investor.

Case studies of four neighborhoods — eastern North Philadelphia; Olneyville, north of downtown Providence, Rhode Island; Chicago's "quad communities" on the city's South Side; and southeast Indianapolis —  illustrate how investments in physical infrastructure, including housing development, can help transform areas plagued by entrenched poverty, blight, and crime. According to the report, better housing, higher employment rates, and, in some cases, greater social and economic diversity lead to more vital business districts, safer streets, and improved schools and public services, although concerted action is needed to translate gains in one domain to gains in another.

"There is no one silver bullet to fix the problems facing our poorest communities," said LISC president and CEO Michael Rubinger. "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."