The Nonprofit Quarterly or NPQ, in their article, “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Community Development Leaders Weigh In,” shares about a group of community development CEOs of color who shared their thoughts on President Biden’s infrastructure bill.
The Nonprofit Quarterly is a nonprofit magazine publication providing research-based articles and resources to educate the nonprofit sector.
Specifically, NPQ asked the respondents the following questions:
- What is the most transformational aspect of the infrastructure bill?
- What is missing from the bill that is important to include?
- What conversation should we be having about the infrastructure that we are not having?
Here are the responses:
Marietta Rodriguez, NeighborWorks America
According to her, infrastructure investment should be a product of a cross-sectoral collaboration from governments, businesses, and non-profits to address social and economic gaps.
She thinks that Infrastructure investments should stem from a ‘comprehensive and coordinated response” and prevent siloed solutions. There is a need to come together and “weave together our collective knowledge and power.”
Dr. Akilah Watkins, Center for Community Progress
What stands out for Dr. Akilah Watkins is the bill’s expansive view of “infrastructure” that recognizes housing, neighborhoods, and community as essential. A vital component is the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA), a targeted tax credit to spur rehab and development in “weak market” communities, revitalize and expand equitable community development.
What is missing is in the bill for her is the ‘Restoring Communities Left Behind Act,” which can provide flexible local funding to close the racial homeownership gap and expand access to safe and affordable housing in small to mid-sized cities with the greatest need.
Lisa Rice, National Fair Housing Alliance
For Lisa, the infrastructure bill can be transformational when it first correct past harms to the communities caused by biased infrastructure bills like the National Highway Acts that places people of color at a disadvantage.
Discriminatory policies incorporated in previous infrastructure projects had deprived people of color – Latino, Asians, and Native Americans, quality infrastructure like sewer systems, storm and flood protection systems, roads, green spaces, clean air, safe drinking water, and other services. And as a result, they have exposed these communities to climate change hazards and increased pollutions.
Therefore, the bill should be crafted through an equity lens to rectify and dismantle unfair government policies, implement fair and equitable housing, build strong and healthy communities, and include accessible infrastructure to serve people with disabilities.
Tony Pickett, Grounded Solutions Network
Like Lisa, Tony reflects on the past harms that Infrastructure developments, specifically the construction of the national Interstate Highway System, which has displaced Black communities and devalued their assets. Many have suffered from chronic respiratory illnesses due to poor air quality for many generations.
For him, conversations surrounding President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill should “focus on clearly illuminating this rare opportunity to direct public investment with a racial equity lens, simultaneously expanding access to wealth and economic vitality for future generations.”
He adds that “the proposed federal transportation infrastructure expenditures should be viewed as only the first wave of public investments contributing to reparations, reducing the racial wealth gap, and achieving economic justice for communities of color.”
For decades, the US has been burdened with its aging infrastructures’ economic and social costs from collapsing bridges, pothole-ridden roads, unsafe drinking, congested roads, and many others.
The country could fix and upgrade its infrastructure through the Infrastructure Bill, maintaining its competitive and economic advantage.
As these community leaders have highlighted, improving the US infrastructure provides the opportunity to go beyond fixing or upgrading physical structures and address social and racial injustices in the past and the present.
Inclusive and collaborative planning can ensure that infrastructure investments are equitable and address past wrongs and ensure that historically disenfranchised communities and people with disabilities can have equal access to quality infrastructure and services.
The broader range of views and opinions highlighted in the article also points to the importance of comprehensive community consultation as part of infrastructure asset management practice.