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Since the late 1960s, community-based organizations (CBOs) have become increasingly responsible for implementing affordable housing policy. Scholars have referred to this process as the nonprofitization and devolution of affordable housing policies. This process has produced a community development industry system composed of CBOs, nonprofit intermediaries, private sector partners, and governmental agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. The emergence of the community development industry system has involved a shift in the focus of CBOs. In the past, CBOs were broad-based social change agencies that pursued comprehensive community development strategies with an emphasis on community organizing. Today, many CBOs are primarily engaged in affordable housing. Some scholars have raised concerns about the new emphasis on affordable housing and its implications for community empowerment and citizen participation.
There has been a great deal of scholarly attention paid to the evolution of the community development industry system. In large part, this research has focused on CBO performance and development of organizational capacity. One of the most cited articles dealing with this area of research is Norman Glickman and Lisa Servon's identification of five components of CBO capacity: resource, organizational, programmatic, networking, and political. Efforts have been made to measure each component. Much of this work has focused on a specific type of CBO, the community development corporation (CDC). There is also growing evidence of a trend toward CDC failure, downsizing, and mergers, and the general consensus is that although there is a select group of large, high-capacity CDCs focused on affordable housing development, most organizations are small and with limited capacity.
Much of what we know about the role of CBOs engaged in affordable housing activities has been based on scholarship focusing on the perspectives of CBOs or advocates for these organizations. Less is understood about how public administrators view the performance of CBOs. This article attempts to address the gap in scholarship by focusing on how local public administrators perceive the performance and capacity of CBOs engaged in affordable housing activities. The implications of these perceptions for the broader community empowerment and citizen participation goals of CBOs are discussed in the final section.
A National Survey
This research is based on a national survey of public administrators responsible for implementation of affordable housing programs in cities with a population of more than 100,000 (N = 243). The survey was administered between November 2006 and February 2007. At the end of this period, a 42.8 percent (n = 104) response rate was reached. The survey included seventy questions measuring public administrators' perceptions of local CBO performance, capacity, and funding. The survey also included questions about local governance structures.
2000 U.S. Census data were also collected pertaining to the demographics of cities where local public administrators were surveyed. Table 1 summarizes these data and compares the averages for all of the cities in the survey population (N = 243) to those for the cities (n = 104) that returned surveys.
Table 1 indicates that the cities where …