Communities & Neighborhoods

Communities and neighborhoods can create opportunity for lower-income residents and reduce poverty through strategies that build on assets and resources, engage residents, foster partnerships, and facilitate access to jobs, programs and services.

  • Create high opportunity neighborhoods as part of urban revitalization and economic development strategies.
  • Build and strengthen community service hubs in high-need neighborhoods.
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    High opportunity neighborhoods offer access to quality amenities, like high-performing schools, safe streets, parks, affordable homes, social services, and a mix of jobs. Living in high opportunity neighborhoods can mitigate the negative impacts of being poor, especially for children, and help residents lift themselves out of poverty. However, many in the region do not live in high opportunity neighborhoods. In fact, about 25% of all residents, and 30% of children live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty where poverty rates exceed 20% and access to opportunities is limited. Taking steps to enhance neighborhood amenities, especially in areas of concentrated poverty, can increase the capacity of service providers while improving outcomes for residents in need.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Use data and information on the Numbers in Need website to strengthen the landscape of human services, aligning resources with need and expanding programs and services in neighborhoods where identified gaps or access barriers exist.

    Develop strategic partnerships that will have long- term impacts such as with public school districts, housing authorities, private developers, and city planners.

    Engage residents to ensure strategies and investments reflect their perspectives, priorities and needs.

    Expand mixed-use, mixed-income housing.

    Reduce blight and increase walkability along commercial corridors through green space, streetscape improvements, and public art.

    Apply place-based principles and processes of environmental justice through bottom-up community-led actions that shift production and consumption cycles from an extractive to a regenerative economy.

  • Potential Actors in the Community

    Public school districts
    Housing authorities
    Business owners
    Local and regional planning entities and individuals
    Cultural institutions

Models to Consider

  • Chicago Large Lot Program

    Chicago, IL

    Chicago's Large Lot Program was born out 2014's Green Healthy Neighborhoods plan, a long-term strategy for the use of vacant land in specific city neighborhoods experiencing population loss and disinvestment. The Large Lot Program targets neighborhoods where the city owns a significant number of vacant lots and lists those lots for sale for $1 under certain conditions to help return lots to the tax rolls, give residents greater control over vacant land in their neighborhood, encourage neighborhood wealth growth through increased property values, improve safety, and revitalize communities. The project website,, was created to facilitate the purchase of city-owned land by city residents, and provides users with an interactive tool to explore available and sold lots, and links to applications to purchase vacant lots. Funding for the online tool came from LISC Chicago and the Boeing Corporation, and was created using open data.
  • Fruit Belt Community Land Trust

    Buffalo, NY

    The Fruit Belt Community Land Trust was established in 2017 after years of community organizing. The Fruit Belt is a low-income neighborhood directly adjacent to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and a land trust for the nearly 200 city-owned vacant lots in the neighborhood will ensure housing affordability for future generations by preventing these parcels of land from being used for market-rate housing. The City of Buffalo has already agreed to transfer ownership of 50 of these 200 city-owned vacant lots over five years, and the Land Trust has partnered with Habitat Buffalo and Belmont Housing to build new affordable housing on these parcels. The Land Trust also recently received a $800,000 affordable housing grant from the State; some of these funds will be used to rehabilitate existing housing in the neighborhood. Besides being used for housing, the vacant lots can also be used for retail and services that are currently not available in the neighborhood.
  • Bailey Green

    Buffalo, NY

    The Bailey Green Initiative was created in 2008 by Harmac Medical Products, a manufacturing company headquartered on Buffalo's East Side. With the goal of restoring a safe, attractive community for residents to live and work in after decades of neglect, the initiative began with investments in green space and tree plantings. As the initiative evolved into a multi-faceted, collaborative effort, investments in the neighborhood around Harmac, where many of the company's 400 employees live, began to address pressing community needs such as housing, health and safety, healthy food access, community beautification, skills training, and improved infrastructure. In 2016, Harmac partnered with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, and several others, to help fulfil the community's vision, by creating affordable homes, green houses, and athletic fields. By 2018, the project saw some success with several owner-occupied affordable homes constructed in the neighborhood.
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    People living in or near poverty often face myriad barriers when trying to access helpful programs and services. These issues often stem from income and time constraints, and can involve limited transportation access, mobility challenges, language barriers, and more. These circumstances are more common for people living in poverty. Buffalo Niagara residents in poverty are more likely to have a disability, and less likely to drive a car, be fluent in English, or have private health insurance. Locating basic services in a single, one-stop location accessible to populations in need can help mitigate structural obstacles that otherwise prevent individuals from accessing programs they need.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Leverage and build capacity at existing venues and co-location sites that attract large numbers of vulnerable residents to community centers, senior centers, school programs and more.

    Reduce the stigma associated with getting help by locating information and programming at "neutral" sites such as a community centers, libraries or churches.

    Explore partnerships departments of social services, workforce trainers, youth programs, legal clinics, language and literacy trainers, credit counselors and others that would expand access to programs and services where gaps currently exist.

    Consider wraparound services to reduce access barriers such as multilingual services, childcare services, and evening and weekend hours.

    Consider a Community Resource Hub to raise awareness among residents of what's available and create a point of entry.

  • Potential Actors in the Community

    Community centers
    Senior centers
    Local government
    Foundation community

Models to Consider

  • Boulder County Housing and Human Services

    Boulder County, CO

    In 2009, Boulder County Colorado was the first county in the US to merge housing and human services into a single agency. Human and health services such as SNAP and Medicaid are directly related to housing services (Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers), so combining agencies could improve the quality of services for residents by supporting whole-person, whole-family services. Relationships between separate agencies in the past were disjointed at best and adversarial at worst, but after the merger, service providers found stronger, collaborative relationships between housing service providers and social service providers. Combining agencies also provided logistical benefits; all information about clients is now stored on a single database, streamlining the process of identifying need and eligibility and reducing the amount of work needed by both the client and the service provider. Overall, the merger has reduced costs for the agencies, while enabling the providers to serve the community more effectively and efficiently.
  • Hennepin County Human Services

    Hennepin County, MN

    Hennepin County Minnesota, home to the city of Minneapolis, recently decentralized the human services office from downtown Minneapolis into regional offices across the county. The county's $41 million plan to close the downtown central offices and expand into six separate locations began with the opening of the first regional hub in Brooklyn Center in 2012. Over the course of two years, the other hubs were opened with the goal of improving access to services by bringing them closer to where people live. Each center provides access to the full range of financial, social and public health services the county offers, such as access to medical, emergency, food assistance, child care, and homeless services. In addition to county-provided services, some hubs also include on-site services from non-profit partners specific to each community. The old central office was sold by the county to a private developer, helping offset some of the costs required to create regional hubs.

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