From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Now Is the Time to Take Radical Steps Toward Housing Equity
Date June 3, 2020 12:29 AM
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[Housing under capitalism produces inequality, houselessness, and
chronic displacement on a grand scale. It also makes strangers of
those who remain in place. ] [[link removed]]

NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE RADICAL STEPS TOWARD HOUSING EQUITY  
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Chris Tittle
May 6, 2020
Yes! Magazine
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_ Housing under capitalism produces inequality, houselessness, and
chronic displacement on a grand scale. It also makes strangers of
those who remain in place. _

Noni Session, surrounded by other staff owners of East Bay Permanent
Real Estate Cooperative, speaks at the People Powered East Bay coop
launch party in Oakland, California, in December 2018., Erin Conger

 

For 400 years, American capitalism has thrived on racial exclusion and
resource extraction, first through the theft of Indigenous land and
Black labor, and more recently, through what Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
has called “predatory inclusion”: financial policies and practices
designed to siphon wealth out of Black and brown communities through
predatory loans, targeted disinvestment, and financial deregulation.
The private housing market now simultaneously “includes” people of
color while continuing to enforce segregation through new forms of
redlining
[[link removed]] and displacement
[[link removed]].

Nowhere is this intersection between racism and an economy built on
plunder more evident today than in the housing market. Decades of
racist policy and market practices have created a massive racial
wealth gap, one that could take nearly as long to close as it took to
abolish slavery
[[link removed]].
And it’s not really going in the right direction: By some accounts,
the subprime mortgage crisis produced the greatest loss of Black
wealth in modern history, while the wealth of the Forbes 400 richest
Americans has grown by an average of 736% over the past several
decades.

While private homeownership has been an engine of middle-class wealth
creation for White America, the last 10 years have made it clear that
it’s primarily been an engine of wealth extraction for communities
of color and poor communities (read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case
for Reparations
[[link removed]]”).
This isn’t new: In addition to violent dispossession, one of the
primary ways that White settler-colonists took control of Indigenous
land throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was through the
“allotment system
[[link removed]],”
the forced conversion of communally held tribal land to privately
owned plots that could then be purchased, often under false
pretenses.   

The housing market will never provide housing for all. Housing under
capitalism produces inequality, houselessness, and chronic
displacement on a grand scale. It also makes strangers of those who
remain in place. According to the Haas Institute for a Fair and
Inclusive Society, Oakland’s Black population has declined by 27%
since 2000 in a kind of reverse migration back into racially
segregated rural and suburban communities.

Noni Session, executive director of East Bay Permanent Real Estate
Cooperative
[[link removed]],
grew up in the West Oakland flats, a third generation West Oaklander.
“When I came back from grad school and research in 2011, I saw a
city that I didn’t recognize,” she told _Oakland Magazine_
[[link removed]].
Social scientists have recently coined a new term to describe the
sense of “homelessness without leaving home” that frontline
communities around the world are experiencing as a result of climate
disruption, ecological collapse, and mass migration: solastalgia
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the pain of staying put. Whereas nostalgia describes a longing for a
lost past, solastalgia describes a lost present and grief for an
unlivable future.

In 2018, Sustainable Economies Law Center worked with Session and
other community members to launch the East Bay Permanent Real Estate
Cooperative: a Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led “movement
cooperative” designed to stabilize communities facing rapid and
racialized displacement. By removing housing from the speculative
market
[[link removed]] and
asserting permanent community control through cooperative ownership,
EB PREC:

• CREATES HOUSING SOVEREIGNTY AND COMMUNITY WEALTH NOW by
purchasing multiunit buildings to prevent eviction of working class
tenants, turning renters into stewards of community land and housing.

• DEVELOPS COMMUNITY CAPACITY FOR GOVERNANCE OF LAND AND
HOUSING through EB PREC’s unique multistakeholder cooperative
structure
[[link removed]],
where neighbors are empowered to come together to purchase buildings
and cooperatively govern a community-owned enterprise.

• BUILDS NEW COMMUNITY-CONTROLLED INSTITUTIONS positioned to demand
and receive an influx of private and public capital, as bold new
policies, such as U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Homes For All Act, call for
billions in public money to flow into communities for affordable
housing.

The alternative to a profit-driven housing system is
community-controlled social housing. House by house, block by block,
community land trusts and cooperatives have been attempting to
democratize and decolonize their relationships to land, housing, and
community. Now, nearly 300 community land trusts exist across the
country
[[link removed]].
These grassroots organizations are exercising their right to the city
by meeting fundamental needs for housing and contesting for public
resources.

And neither is this new: I recently visited the South Carolina Sea
Islands, one of the few places where “40 acres and a mule” was a
brief but actual program of land reform after the Civil War. For the
Black leaders who met with Gen. Sherman in 1865, emancipation from
slavery was not enough on its own to liberate people. They recognized
that collective liberation required a self-determined relationship to
land and control over the means of production (read Ed Whitfield’s
“What must we do to be free? On the building of Liberated Zones
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A hundred years later, the vision remained the same. The modern
community land trust movement traces its roots to rural Georgia, when
civil rights organizers Shirley and Charles Sherrod created New
Communities Inc
[[link removed]]. as
a sanctuary and radical experiment in mutual aid in response to
violent White backlash from local landlords and farmers.

Tenant- and community-owned housing still only meets a tiny fraction
of our housing needs, though. Looking to international examples from
Austria to Sweden to Uruguay, as well as our own New Deal past
[[link removed]],
the housing justice movement now has a detailed program to deliver
homes for all (read People’s Action’s Homes Guarantee
[[link removed]]).
The formula for today’s freedom call is a massive reinvestment in
green public housing construction; plus a major increase in support
for community-owned housing; backed by tenant protections and
anti-displacement measures. The right to housing is a precondition for
any kind of just transition, and collective control of land and
housing is an assertion of those rights. Even with a massive program
of publicly owned and financed social housing, the right to housing
will still be asserted through local institutions that are accountable
to and led by the most affected communities. Projects such as EB PREC
are building “powerful places” in opposition to the “placeless
power” of multinational financial institutions and hedge
funds.   

A just and livable future demands a radically democratic present.
There’s no more strategic or morally imperative place to practice
that future than our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities. We can
decarbonize a significant swath of the economy while democratizing
development and building community power from the ground up. A livable
future is also about decolonizing and decommodifying our relationship
to place, disrupting the logic that drives both the extraction of
resources from the earth and the extraction of profits from renters,
poor people, and communities of color. Land is a living, breathing,
wild, teeming community of life. When we treat it as a site of loving,
meaning, and belonging rather than a site of extraction and exclusion,
“homes for all” becomes not just a political slogan, but a
statement of interconnection with all life. 

_A version of this article was originally published by __Sustainable
Economies Law Center_
[[link removed]]_. It
has been updated and published here with permission. _

 

Chris Tittle [[link removed]] is
the Director of Housing and Land Justice at Sustainable Economies Law
Center. He is an attorney, organizer, and facilitator based in
Charleston, South Carolina.

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