lution, and eventually creates those slummy streets. In e=ect,
a=ordable housing advocates have had to create an alternative
financial logic that daylights these human and ecological values,
dollarizes them, and organizes financing to support them.
Fuller Lofts was a project of Livable Places, one of many non-profit community development corporations (CDCs) working on
a=ordable housing around the country. I looked at a half-dozen
CDC-run housing projects in di=erent parts of LA. Most depend
on a tangle of funding mechanisms: federal tax abatements,
state programs, private nonprofits that channel grants and low-interest loan money. Fuller Lofts’ funding came from thirteen
public and private sources, including the biggest national non-profit, LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), established
in 1979 by the Ford Foundation. In 2006 alone, LISC directed
a billion dollars to a=ordable housing, generating almost twenty
thousand housing units.
Maybe it’s socialism: gov’ment getting its fingers into the
market, wasting money on the poor. Or maybe it’s capitalism —
creating buy-in for those previously excluded, turning the bar-rios bourgeois. I’m persuaded that it’s both, because practical
problem-solving like this has a way of undercutting ideological
abstractions. It’s putting people into houses, not into debating
points for talk-show wrangling. People who, in all their quirki-ness, will live there, conserving their wealth and family values
and liberating their possibilities. Real solutions have a way of
But they have a hard time transcending economics. The alter-native projects I saw were tiny islands in a sea of business as usual.
In Los Angeles, as of 2006, nine of ten homes built were “a=ord-
able” only to people earning more than $135,000 a year. They are
the people the existing market system sees. The rest are invisible.
And will probably remain so. At the first nudge of the general
economic free fall, Livable Places disbanded, sorrowfully blam-ing the “credit crisis,” changes in buyer qualifications, and the
shifting market. Fuller Lofts is neatly boarded up for now, a
colorful, empty, almost-finished testament to the di;culty of
matching money, good intentions, and the needs of ordinary
city dwellers. Exactly the same number of a=ordable housing
units are available there as in South Waterfront: zero.
some cdcs, ho Wever,
are pioneering approaches that success-fully combine the financial, ecological, and social elements. Doug
Carson lives in a Portland-area CDC project with his daughter
Beth (I have changed their names to protect their privacy). The
day I visit, Beth sits on the couch beside her pajama-bottomed
boyfriend, wrapped in a quilt with a wrinkly one-week-old on her
lap. Doug will be raising the granddaughter while Beth and the
boyfriend find their way. The TV is on. It’s noon.
Doug leads me quickly through my apartment tour. The unit
isn’t huge but feels solid, homey. Bedrooms are upstairs and
stepped-out from the main trunk of the building— eliminating
that oppressive apartment-feel of neighbors too close overhead