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Housing and Education

Listening to developer Richard Baron, Chairman and CEO, McCormack Baron Salazar, talk about the neighborhood transformations that he is managing and the comprehensive services he is coordinating for residents, while agencies continue to do what they have always done [working independently rather than together].  “We make very poor use of resources already available,” Richard said.

He is complaining about agencies and services not working together and the difficulty of “trying to get our arms around school districts.

“At neighborhood level, we’re trying to deal with the schools. And with respect to mobility, where we can get our hands on local schools and provide housing and services, we can stop mobility.  Now can we get them to college?”

Richard said, “We need more learning, more conferences like this.  Progress that we hope to have happen goes in fits and starts.”

But Warren Simmons, Executive Director, Annenburg Institute for School Reform, pushed back.  “What we don’t need is more conferences like this.  This is a decontextualized conversation.  It doesn’t help people in Harlem think about their opportunity to change transportation in Harlem.”

Local people need to present their work to an audience like this and get critical feedback to carry their work forward, Walter said.  We need to mutually build capacity.

When asked what one recommendation they would have for President Obama, Wendy Puriefoy, President, Public Education Network, gave an impassioned answer.  She refused to give a specific recommendation because she said our regulations must flow from our values.  “And this nation hasn’t decided whether it recognizes intellect.  The nation has to decide that the development of intellect is a vital business.  It is essential to the success of the nation.  Democracy is a complicated society and you can’t participate if you don’t have an education.”

Richard Baron offered up a recommendation. He suggested that the President issue a new set of regulations that would require a demonstration before a community gets money that all the agencies  had come together with a combined application of resources.  We need to deal with issues in a much more connected way.   That was the original purpose of block grant program.  But there is now so little integration of these programs.  Our regulations need to reflect a much more comprehensive view of what they are trying to accomplish.

Susan Zelman, SVP, Corporation for Public Broadcasting recommended that we adopt a national broadband policy so that poor neighborhoods can participate in broader way.

Model Cities was trying to introduce a new framework.  But it is an unfulfilled ambition.

Warren:  Listen to policy makers and they say nothing ever works.  But what are the capacities in communities that can effectively implement the policies?  We’ve created a lens that focused first on job-ready kids and now on college-ready kids.  But doesn’t evoke a conversation about students, families and communities.

If we want to create change, we must prepare agencies to do cross sector thinking and working.  Maybe we need an infrastructure to connect agencies with communities.

-- From the NYU Furman Center's Housing Policy Conference

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