The History of Community Development Corporations

By Erica Marie

Poverty can feel like a never-ending cycle within low-income neighbourhoods as these communities face economic and social hardships. The lack of affordable quality housing and commercial investment in these areas discourage the prosperity and growth of the neighbourhood. What currently exists in these communities are absentee or unresponsive landlords, high-priced convenience stores and pay-day loan and cheque-cashing services that further strain the limited resources of families. These neighbourhoods become unattractive to private investors and remain isolated from mainstream economic opportunities.

CDCs have been around since 1966 in the United States. Senator Robert F. Kennedy advocated for creating such organizations as part of his anti-poverty program to improve the neighbourhood conditions in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Today, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) continues to lead social initiatives through its financial empowerment and youth services, housing renovations, small business supports, and environmental awareness programs.

“The program for the development of Bedford Stuyvesant will combine the best of community action with the best of the private enterprise system. Neither by itself is enough, but in their combination lies our hope for the future.” – Senator Robert F. Kennedy

A decade later, a community development company made its first appearance in Canada in the form of New Dawn Enterprises. Established in 1976 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, this non-profit’s goal is to respond to the current needs of a community and work on change systems and structures that hinder Cape Breton’s growth.

Their mission of “engaging the community to create a culture of self-reliance” speaks to the core values of a community development company. They want to empower these families not only by assisting in renewing their communities but by working alongside them to get them involved in shaping the future of their neighbourhood. Rankin MacSween, the former CEO of New Dawn Enterprises, believed in the organization’s approach and said,

“The hope has always been that the community is truly powerful yet constrained, but that, if over time we could peel away some of those constraints, we could thrive, and be prosperous.”

The city of Edmonton recognized the value of a CDC. The founding of the Edmonton Community Development Company was a key recommendation in the End Poverty Edmonton Road Map approved by Council earlier in 2016.

The Edmonton CDC aspires to revitalize challenged neighbourhoods through residential and commercial real estate investments. Community members have voiced their concern about the negative impacts of problem and derelict properties. Buildings that have been neglected, used for squatting or drug use affect the quality of life of the residents within those neighbourhoods and create a burden on the city’s resources

Derelict Property number 8

Property #8: Edmonton CDC’s most recent purchase

With just five years under its belt, as part of their Project 10 initiative, they have obtained eight derelict properties to rebuild into quality homes for families. This Summer of 2022, a duplex in McCauley and Alberta Avenue will be on the market.

Duplex under construction in the McCauley area

Duplex under construction in the Alberta Avenue District

More work is ahead in establishing a significant impact within Edmonton’s central neighbourhoods. With People at the forefront of their mission, the Edmonton CDC is invested in finding solutions to enhance the community’s development.

Do you have a problem property in your community? Report it in our Derelict Properties Questionnaire.

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