The ROC Local series explores housing, jobs, and wealth topics through a racial equity lens. Across 11 sessions, national research and practitioner experts provide guidance on how to frame, contextualize, and organize around a community challenge, centering racial equity in the process. The sessions provide solutions-oriented data, strategies, and best practices for addressing housing, jobs, and wealth equity at the local level. ROC Local is part of the 2020 ROC Cohort Program that provides 10 cohorts with the opportunity to connect, explore, and apply solutions on a housing, jobs, or wealth equity challenge in their community.
As small businesses across the country grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on their operations and revenue, existing disparities in access to quality credit by race, gender, and geography are compounded. This session provides insights on how existing debt levels, access to bridge financing, and quality credit impact the resiliency, stability, and growth of small businesses, both before and after the pandemic. The session also explores credit access as part of a larger entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The vulnerabilities resulting from homelessness have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of individuals in need of direct services, such as shelter, meals, and health care, have increased since the pandemic began, while the capacity of service providers to safely meet these needs has been severely constrained. Now more than ever, it is clear how critical health and housing are to the well-being and economic stability of individuals. Experts explore different strategies to respond to homelessness in communities in the face of a pandemic.
Small business ownership and growth builds economic mobility and intergenerational assets. In most cities, small businesses are also the largest job creators, particularly in communities of color and underserved areas. This session explores strategies for supporting the stability and growth of Black- and brown-owned small businesses and the impact on wealth equity.
Preserving and expanding the stock of affordable rental housing is essential for equitable and inclusive growth plans. Communities are facing the potential loss of existing low-cost units because of expiring subsidies, repair needs, and a constrained market. Additionally, uncertainty about the pipeline of new housing developments due to COVID-19 further intensifies the need for multiple funding streams to support the sustainability and development of affordable rental housing. Presenters discuss the following topics to implement local, innovative financing approaches to address affordable rental housing.
The polarization of the U.S. economy in recent decades has created scarcity in middle-wage jobs, driven down the real wages of those without a bachelor’s degree, and stagnated economic mobility for many low-wage workers. Experts detail two approaches for building workforce ecosystems that strengthen access for low-wage and undeserved workers to quality and family-sustaining jobs: a skills-based approach to occupational mobility and the creation of a human-centered approach to workforce development centers.
The vast majority of low-cost rental housing and homeownership opportunities exist in the private, unsubsidized market. In many communities, this housing stock is often old and in need of repair and improvement, and rising rents threaten affordability. Presenters discuss approaches to transform vacant, abandoned, and deteriorating properties into assets for communities, as well as strategies to support naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH).
COVID-19 is making it clearer than ever how economic insecurity for workers impacts our shared prosperity. As the economy begins to reopen and workforce recovers it is critical to center job equity and household resilience. Job equity means creating access to opportunities and quality jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage, have career pathways, and provide economic security for people who have historically not benefited from the labor market. This requires addressing the disparities that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and rethinking how workforce and economic systems have perpetuated these disparities. Data from previous economic downturns shows us that Black and Hispanic workers are often first to lose their jobs, and they recover assets and income slower than others. This session discusses how we can center those workers who are at most risk to build a more equitable recovery.
Maintaining the availability of affordable housing options continues to be a challenge for equitable and inclusive growth. All markets must modernize and streamline zoning procedures to facilitate new construction and development of units for low- and moderate-income residents. Experts in zoning reform provide an overview of how communities can rethink their approach to zoning to facilitate the development of housing types that are attainable to a wider range of income levels. Presenters explore how to help local actors formulate more inclusive and equitable zoning strategies.
Nationally, the need for housing attainable for residents at all income levels is a critical priority. Yet housing markets are inherently local, and solutions must be responsive to regional and neighborhood markets and priorities. This session parses the national conversation around housing affordability in terms that can inform local strategies and interventions. Presenters explore how these issues vary across housing market contexts.