Chicago’s New Communities Program (NCP) is turning 10 this year. The initiative has been pioneering comprehensive community development for the past decade, so I suppose that now is as good a time as any to become familiar with their innovative and highly successful approach to community investment and revitalization.
The New Communities program is a 10-year endeavor undertaken by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago (LISC) to work with 16 Chicago communities challenged by loss of ground, loss of diversity, and attempts at gentrification. NCP neighborhood efforts are led by a coalition of a neighborhood-based local agency appointed to take the lead on addressing issues and other local organizations and citywide groups that take on a supportive role. Partnerships between these groups and other nonprofits, businesses, government entities, and residents are highly encouraged. These coalitions also have the support of:
• Two full-time staff positions: an NCP director and an organizer.
• A pool of loan and grant funds to mount short- and long-term initiatives. The funds, distributed by LISC on a competitive basis, serve as seed money to leverage other public and private resources.
• Technical support and peer-learning opportunities, including planning expertise, trainings, access to subject-area experts and meetings with peers in other NCP agencies.
NCP’s 10-year anniversary was celebrated at the “Getting It Done II” conference put on by LISC and the Institute for Comprehensive Community Development. The Institute was formed in 2010 to share the successes and lessons learned from NCP and LISC’s Sustainable Communities approach to community development and urban revitalization. The NCP model has since been used in 20 additional cities around the country.
The NCP model has achieved great success over the last decade. The initiative has resulted in the addition of over 1000 housing units, including 130 affordable green homes, the resurgence of use of public spaces once underutilized because of the fear of gang violence, as well as the development of extracurricular educational opportunities.
It is easy to see how St. Ambrose reflects the values and successes of the NCP; providing housing programs and support to over 3,000 families each year, collaborating with local residents, community organizations, religious groups, businesses, government entities and financial institutions, and finding innovative solutions to Baltimore’s housing issues. Since its inception, St. Ambrose has been committed to strengthening Baltimore’s neighborhoods, and it continues to be a leader in neighborhood development.