Living Cities, a consortium of twenty-two large foundations and financial institutions, has announced grants, loans, and program-related investments totaling up to $82 million to five U.S. cities — Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, and Minneapolis-St. Paul — through its new Integration Initiative.
Through the initiative, which supports the development of innovations that address intractable problems affecting low-income people, Baltimore was awarded $19 million for efforts that focus on creating job opportunities and improving neighborhoods in Central and East Baltimore. Detroit, which was awarded $17 million, will use its funds to support development along the Woodward Corridor, where it hopes to create a model for Rust Belt cities that concentrates population and activity in sustainable corridors, expands opportunity for low-income residents, and reuses vacant land. Minneapolis-St. Paul, which was awarded $16 million, will use its funds to preserve transit-accessible affordable housing, help small businesses weather transit corridor construction, and expand transit-accessible job opportunities for low-income people.
Cleveland, which received $15 million, will work with large regional institutions — including the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and Case Western Reserve University — to implement procurement, hiring, employee incentives, and capital investment programs that create local jobs and businesses benefitting low-income people. And Newark, which received $15 million, will work to alleviate the environmental conditions that create barriers to residents' advancement by establishing a "wellness economy" through investments in housing, public safety, access to health care, green space, fresh and healthy foods, and employment.
The Integration Initiative is designed to leverage the financial investments, influence, and leadership of Living Cities members in creating new frameworks that advance solutions to complex problems. Through the initiative, local leaders are encouraged to work together to challenge obsolete conventional wisdom, "rewire" the systems that are critical to making the nation's cities places of opportunity for low-income people, and catalyze the private market to work on behalf of low-income people.
"The underlying principle of our initiative is that to do this work, you have to have the public sector, the private sector, local philanthropies, and the nonprofit community all at the same table talking about solving the problem," Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht told USA Today. "It's not about funding projects but about funding systems....We hope it's going to be a model for other cities."