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How Marginalized Communities Are Getting Control over Development

Jared Brey

In Next City, a look at how the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust is working to keep housing permanently affordable in Richmond, Virginia, and why for The Democracy Collaborative's Jarrid Green, efforts to promote community control of land and housing have to be situated within the long history of displacement and dispossession that has affected communities of color for centuries.

[...] Maggie Walker Community Land Trust is trying to make sure that there are some homes available for people in Richmond whose incomes aren’t growing at the same rate as housing costs. It’s one of a handful of efforts highlighted in a new report from the Democracy Collaborative called “Community Control of Land & Housing: Exploring strategies for combating displacement, expanding ownership, and building community wealth.”

The report is an effort to showcase trends and strategies in the U.S. that shift the dynamic of control from private developers to communities as a whole, says Jarrid Green, a senior research associate at the Democracy Collaborative and lead author of the report. The report highlights five strategies: community land trusts, limited-equity cooperatives, resident-owned communities, community benefits agreements, and land banks.

But the report begins with a sweeping discussion of the history of displacement in the land that became the United States, starting with the arrival of the very first white settlers in the 1600s.

“Even a cursory look at public policy decisions in the United States over the past 200 years reveals that deeply entrenched racism have profoundly shaped and continue to shape our current system of land and home ownership, access, and valuation,” the report says. “It has also enabled elite and corporate interests to obtain ownership of vital assets in the very communities that have suffered from a history of disinvestment, neglect, and public abandonment — often in the name of renewal and revitalization.” [...]