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Honoring Mel King

On March 14th 2019, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) honored Mel King at its 40th anniversary celebration at the MIT Samberg Conference Center. King -- a community organizer, former State Representative, and Professor Emeritus at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning -- crafted the state legislation that created CEDAC in 1978. CEDAC is a community development financial institution providing financing and technical assistance to community-based and other non-profit community development organizations in Massachusetts. In addition to Mel King, CEDAC was joined by DUSP Professors Emeriti, Langley Keyes and Tunney Lee, both of whom promoted and led state and local community development activities, including the visioning and creation of CEDAC.

The event’s main program was modeled on DUSP’s ‘lightning talks,’ three-minute presentations that communicate research and work in layperson language to promote sharing and collaboration across groups. The presentations focused on affordable housing preservation; supportive housing; and early education facility development. Speaker teams, composed of current and former CEDAC staff members as well as community partners, addressed the 40 years of engagement and evolution with these fields, future challenges, and the synergistic relationship for non-profits and the communities they represented. Many CEDAC staff members and leadership are DUSP alumni/ae, including Sara Barcan (MCP ’94), Janelle Chan (MCP ’07), and Roger Herzog (MCP ’87).

“Mel King provided the inspiration and vision for the community development movement, with his experiences 40 years ago fighting for community control of development. Mel’s role as an elected official in helping to create a state infrastructure to support community development, including CEDAC, was instrumental,” said Herzog, Executive Director of CEDAC. “The Massachusetts system serves as a national model of community development, and we are honored to have the opportunity to celebrate his contributions as we mark our 40th anniversary.”

The venue for the 40th anniversary event at MIT speaks to the Institute’s role as the space where the idea for a public/private agency that provides technical expertise to non-profit community development organizations was first discussed during the weekly sessions that King hosted for 25 years while teaching at DUSP and leading the MIT Community Fellows Program. These weekly sessions were called the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Group where King cooked breakfast and led discussions between community activists, planners, and students. A regular participant of the sessions, MIT doctoral student, Carl Sussman, became the founding Executive Director of CEDAC and later played a pivotal role launching and leading its affiliated organization, the Children’s Investment Fund, one of the few community development finance institutions across the nation focused exclusively on meeting the physical capital needs of early care and education programs.

The MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), founded in 2007, is the direct MIT descendant of the Community Fellows Program. CoLab facilitates the interchange of knowledge/resources between MIT students and faculty with community organizations, to build practicable models of economic democracy and self-determination. CoLab’s Mel King Community Fellows Program (MKCF), provides participants with an opportunity to examine innovative approaches to development using markets as an arena for pursuing social justice.

“The CoLab’s Mel King Community Fellows Program embodies Mel King’s approach to planning and community development through his championing of cities and the communities that comprise those cities,” said Dayna Cunningham, Executive Director of CoLab and MIT Sloan Alumna (MBA ’04). “The MKCF honors Mel’s legacy by gathering current and future leaders of community-based work and providing them with the space to collaborate, learn, and refine their efforts for a range of social justice pursuits.”

In the 40 years since CEDAC was created, the organization has committed over $402 million in early stage project financing, and has helped to fund the creation or preservation of nearly 50,000 affordable housing units across the Commonwealth. Additionally, CEDAC manages a number of supportive housing bond programs on behalf of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), with commitments of more than $490 million over the past thirty years. These bond programs include the Housing Innovations Fund (HIF), the Facilities Consolidation Fund (FCF), and the Community Based Housing (CBH) program.

To learn more about CEDAC’s mission and current projects, click here.