August 8, 2019

Community Ownership and Land Trusts: Power-building Solutions for America’s Housing Crisis

In June 2019, Neighborhood Funders Group's Democratizing Development Program joined grantmakers and community leaders from across the country for a three-day convening in Santa Fe, NM, at the “Nuestro Corazón” People’s Assembly, hosted by Chainbreaker Collective and Right to the City.

As part of the convening, a funder track brought together key allies in philanthropy interested in taking a deeper dive on alternative land and community ownership housing models. The funder track was an impactful opportunity to engage colleagues, hear from community leaders, and discuss concrete opportunities to support the movement for community control of land and housing.

Community Visioning for Health, Housing, and Local Community Land Trust

The convening kicked off with Tomas Rivera, Executive Director of Chainbreaker Collective, providing local context for Santa Fe. He shared that Chainbreaker's local organizing strategy initially focused on transportation, climate change, economic justice, and voter engagement. As they saw how much transportation costs affected their members' ability to afford housing, the organization evolved to address local housing protections.

In one of the communities Chainbreaker organizes in, Hopewell-Mann, residents face the greatest risk in the city of being gentrified out of their neighborhood. Residents in nearby communities also lack key resource investments to support health, well-being, and sustainability. Chainbreaker, in collaboration with Human Impact Partners and the Santa Fe Community Foundation's Health Equity Partnership, researched demographics and public resource allocations in Hopewell-Mann compared to other neighborhoods. The resulting report, Equitable Development and Risk of Displacement, found that Hopewell-Mann is the poorest neighborhood in the city, with a median income of $21,000 and historic disinvestment; there are virtually no parks or open spaces in the neighborhood despite its large youth population. Recent upscale private development indicate the neighborhood, with its majority Latinx population and high rate of housing cost-burdened residents, is in danger of gentrification and displacement.

A circle of people stand outside around a campus map of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Community residents and leaders are seeking to change things. Adjacent to Hopewell-Mann is a vacant 64-acre property owned by the City of Santa Fe. The site has been an underused community eyesore since 2009, when the Santa Fe University of Art and Design broke their lease. Keeping in mind that the lot is 1.1% of the total land in Santa Fe, neighborhood residents asked themselves in community meetings, “What would we do if we could control the land? What would we do if we could control the narrative?" Their goal is to work with the City of Santa Fe and turn the site into a community-controlled land trust.

Given how the community land trust model is an appealing mechanism for maintaining and expanding the stock of affordable housing, the People's Assembly convening funder track created more space with funders to galvanize support and resources for community organizing, planning, and technical assistance for land trusts. Community leaders also plan to leverage this financial commitment to get support from the City of Santa Fe.

Perspectives from the Field

The rest of the convening also featured a powerful slate of speakers from community groups around the country working to organize support from local and national philanthropic institutions. The organizers spoke to how coordinating with funders to invest in local housing solutions takes time, relationship building, networking, and trust. They described how it also takes deep meaningful alignment, savvy funder organizing, and proactive alignment strategy to move resources to community partners. Unfortunately, gentrification and displacement are happening faster than foundations can come together to co-invest in campaigns, strategies, and local solutions.

  • Shoshana Krieger, Project Director of Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA), works on securing tenants rights in Austin, TX, where low-income communities and communities of color have higher percentages of renters, similar to most cities that have over 50% renters. Shoshana spoke about the lack of funding in the South for tenant organizing among residents who are harrassed, bullied, and neglected by apartment management. Despite little funding and limited eviction protections, BASTA has built a strong base working with regional partners in twelve cities and nine states.
  • Breonne DeDecker, Program Manager at Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI) in New Orleans, LA, shared a compelling story about the systemic impacts of the permanent displacement of 100,000 Black residents from the city after Hurricane Katrina. In response to growing housing needs, JPNSI has focused on developing community land trusts and permanent affordable housing to create sustainable, democratic, and economically just neighborhoods and communities in New Orleans. According to Breonne, JPNI has struggled to attract funding as foundations saw affordable housing as the government's responsibility and did not see enough return on their investment.
  • Jennifer Arnold is the Director of Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (United Renters for Justice, or IX), a new organization founded to build community power to change the local housing system in Minneapolis, MN. She explained how their class action lawsuit against a negligent landlord won $18 million for his tenants in June 2019. Now that the landlord is beginning to sell off his properties, IX is trying to secure funding and a purchase agreement to buy the properities and set up a housing cooperative.
  • Nola Miguel, Director of Globeville Elyria-Swansea Coalition and associated with the Colorado Homes for All chapter in Denver, CO, highlighted something we always ask: “Housing is accessible, but for whom?” The city is planning a large redevelopment project in Nola's community, setting it up for real estate speculation, gentrification, and increased housing costs. While the Globeville Elyria-Swansea Coalition secured a $2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a member-led community land trust project, Nola noted that it is still not enough to truly address the city's housing crisis.
  • Cynthia Strathmann, Executive Director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) in Los Angeles, CA, shared that tenant protections are not actually easier in blue states. With California being such an expensive place to live, land acquisition is very difficult. In response, SAJE worked with their members and coalition partners to develop The People’s Plan: A Community-Centered Approach to City Planning. The plan calls for city leaders to create policies that would protect South LA residents and ensure they have equitable access to healthy opportunities.

A group of people stand outside a three-story apartment complex.Right to the City's Malcolm Torrejón Chu highlighted the differences and similarities between these stories around organizing, tenant protections, and housing solutions from across the country. Malcolm said of the Right to the City (RTTC) Homes for All campaign, ”We were tired of fighting one house at a time, so we are building a trans-local movement infrastructure to create the transformation we want to make.” The coalition's power was evident when SAJE and BASTA joined RTTC and Chainbreaker in Santa Fe to canvass 10,000 households, totalling 80,000 people. RTTC’s vision is to build a national federation of groups to reclaim and take control of 1 million acres of land and move millions of dollars to community-driven and community-led investment to ensure that everyone has a safe, dignified, and affordable home.

Mantra or Motto: “Moving Resources to Support Our Organizing”

The People's Assembly convening was an extension of years of funder organizing work to move more resources in support of local housing justice solutions and tenant protection efforts. Working with place-based and national funders on housing justice is critically important for leaders sharing strategies, lessons learned, funding gaps, and the benefits of investing in community organizing.

One of the main gaps highlighted at the convening was the need to figure out how to better leverage the investment side of philanthropy for housing solutions. Philanthropy has limited impact investing for housing at scale because the sector is working from a different set of assumptions of risk tolerance. How might funders invest in supporting a local land trust through impact investing? How can national funders be useful in a local context, and how can our networks be useful to advance investments in local projects?

Nwamaka Agbo shared her Restorative Economics framework and raised other important questions for the sector, including, “How do we move money in ways that allow those at grassroots level to have power and authority?” Philanthropy should consider investing deeper into community stewardship projects that could result in self-determination, community sovereignty, and building power. Building political power to defend the right to housing takes shifting the conversation from charity to wealth-building.

People stand and talk under a tree by an empty plot of land.

Philanthropy not only needs to listen to and take the lead from grassroots communities to reshape their grantmaking practices for their 5% tax deductible giving, but also immediately divest its endowment from investments that continue to exacerbate harm to marginalized communities.

We can no longer have foundations that claim a commitment to social and racial justice values give grants to criminal justice organizations with their right hand while investing in private prisons with their left hand. We cannot have philanthropic partners that support environmental and environmental justice organizations but invest in "clean" coal and fracking.

The call to action for philanthropy in this political moment is to move resources into the democratic control of local communities at a scale commiserate to addressing the systemic harm and economic impacts of policies and practices that have extracted from and exploited low-income, immigrant, black, brown, trans, and indigenous communities.

In short, it's time to #MoveTheMoney.

November 23, 2021

Looking back & what's ahead: NFG's November 2021 Newsletter

As we're approaching the end of the year, our team at Neighborhood Funders Group has begun reflecting on the many ways we've been organizing with funders to move more money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice. In this month's newsletter, you'll find our highlights from 2021 and a glimpse of what to expect from each of our programs in 2022 to get you excited about continuing to co-conspire with the NFG community.


  

AMPLIFY FUND

  • In 2021, Amplify Fund distributed $3.6m in general operating grants to our 56 grantees in 8 places, including $700k in capacity building grants and collaboration grants; we hope you consider co-funding these amazing organizations with us!
  • We also worked on a more public presence this year by creating and distributing videos about our grantees and our grantmaking model, and by publishing in a major magazine.
  • Next year will be a big transition: our grantees are leading our theory of change refresh, our Steering Committee is doubling down on efforts to shift our field towards racial justice and power building, and we are fundraising (i.e., encouraging you all to join our Steering Committee) to ensure the Amplify Fund continues for years to come.

 

DEMOCRATIZING DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

  • This year, the Democratizing Development Program (DDP) brought community and philanthropic leaders together to advance BIPOC organizing and policy solutions for land, housing, community ownership, and power.

  • ICYMI: check out our sessions on Addressing the Housing Crisis in New York and Beyond, which featured tenant leaders and advocates in New York State who are building power to address the housing crisis, and Philanthropy and the Case for Reparations in collaboration with the Decolonizing Wealth Project, featuring organizations that are advancing reparations as a strategy to heal, restore, repair, and rebuild communities.
  • In 2022, DDP will be engaging local and national-level funders interested in learning how to be more aligned with movement priorities, with a focus on power building strategies for housing justice. Our sessions will share experiences of how funders have approached partnership and power-sharing with community organizations, and outcomes that are possible through this approach.

 

FUNDERS FOR A JUST ECONOMY

  • Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) focused our efforts this year on learning from movement partners who are building a powerful movement for inclusive worker power, considering both rising fascism and the new federal administration, and sharing how funders can support multiracial, multi-gender movements toward policy wins that build community and worker power, combat austerity policies, and support transformational and longer-term strategies toward racial, gender, climate, and economic justice.
  • We did this through many programs and reports this year. Don’t forget to rewatch and re-read some highlights, including the March Policy Briefing and learning about the amazing local organizing in Nashville, Houston, Washington DC, and Southern California’s Inland Region.
  • Next year, FJE aspires to double down our efforts to organize funders to resource grassroots power building, address racial capitalism, and commit more money to movement organizations that are boldly organizing to improve the quality of life, health, and working conditions of Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, low-income communities, and queer, trans and gender non-binary people. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming meetings with the US Department of Labor (every few months) and FJE’s annual Policy Briefing in March 2022.

 

INTEGRATED RURAL STRATEGIES GROUP

  • Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG) deepened its roots in rural community-led work with the launch of our Movement Advisors Committee; launched the Resourcing Rural Organizing Infrastructure: A New York Case Study report containing analysis and funder recommendations for supporting rural communities; and continues to support funders in actualizing these recommendations and the guidance of our Movement Advisors by developing a Rural Equity Funding Toolkit that includes a funder self-assessment and set of resources.
  • IRSG will be hosting its flagship annual event — the Multiracial Rural Equity Summit — on December 9. We invite any funder interested in learning the critical role rural communities play in advancing justice and equity to join us. For a taste of what we’ll dig into at the Summit, check out this 10-minute video on how funders can support place-based rural community power.
  • In 2022, IRSG will live into its charge to mobilize philanthropy by launching a New York Rural Organizing Funding Portfolio, offering funders of all types the opportunity to resource rural community organizing across New York State in a strategic, coordinated portfolio. We will also be hosting workshops and learning communities to mobilize philanthropic resources to build rural power with our Rural Equity Funding Toolkit.

 

MIDWEST ORGANIZING INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDERS

  • In 2021, the Midwest Organizing Infrastructure Funders hosted our first events, which have already moved resources to organizing and power building work in the Midwest. We also launched our first campaign and worked to deepen our relationships with funders to better understand Midwest-specific needs around moving resources to movements for racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.
  • To connect with us, please read our November newsletter and email Amanda Hwu to learn more about opportunities for engagement.
  • In 2022, we will be launching our inaugural Coordinating Committee to guide the vision and priorities of this new program, continuing our racial justice campaign for Black farmers, and designing and hosting interactive spaces for funders to deepen their engagement with grassroots organizing infrastructure in the Midwest.

 

PHILANTHROPY FORWARD

  • In 2021, Philanthropy Forward hosted virtual sessions and peer coaching spaces for the 16 CEO Fellows in Cohort 3. We hosted Network Gatherings for 50 current and past Fellows to deepen their work and analyses on racial & gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy.
  • To learn more about Philanthropy Forward, please see here; and get more info about Cohort 3 here. Please contact Adriana Rocha for any additional questions.
  • In 2022, we look forward to launching Cohort 4 and continuing to provide programming for Cohort 3 and the Philanthropy Forward network.

 

NFG is offering a few more opportunities this year to co-conspire with us! Keep reading to find out more about IRSG's Multiracial Rural Equity Summit, and funders — don't miss our final Member Connection Call of the year on December 1.

At this Member Connection Call, we'll ask you to share how you've centered care in your grantmaking and/or what you've shifted at your foundation to fund BIPOC communities to build power. Share what support you may need as a grantmaker to fund racial, gender, economic, and climate justice with even more resources so that BIPOC communities, low-income communities, workers, migrants, rural communities, people with disabilities, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, women, and all of our communities thrive in a liberated world where we are all well, where we are all cared for, and where there is abundance for all.

In solidarity,

— the NFG team

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October 28, 2021

Philanthropy’s horoscope for care + liberation: NFG's October 2021 Newsletter

I’ve been on NFG’s staff team since July 2019 — popping into your inbox (whether you knew it was me or not) as one of the behind-the-scenes creators/writers/editors of our monthly newsletters and other communications pieces.

In addition to being NFG’s Director of Membership and Communications, I’m a puppy parent, an avid car camper, a chaser of sunrises & sunsets, and one of many queer folx who leans on astrologer Chani Nicholas to help me ‘discover and live out my life’s purpose.’

For those of you who are not astrology aficionados, we’re now in Scorpio season (I’m an Aquarius sun, Gemini rising, and Cancer moon). And Chani’s horoscope for me this season really struck a chord; here’s a snippet:

“In astrology, the house we associate with physical ailments is also the place where we toil. This Scorpio season, you’re called to investigate how the two interweave. How do your work habits and expectations impact you physically? Where does stress live in your body? How does it let you know?

By gathering the morse code of your heart beats, your nerves as they rustle, or the needling heat of a back ache, you transfigure these inconveniences into valuable data: into information you can pivot from. By heeding the complaints of your body, you leave an offering at the steps of your most precious temple — you.”

This invitation to collect the data from my body, locate where I feel stress, and explore the interconnectedness between my work habits & expectations and my body’s aches, pains, fatigue, satisfaction, etc. is a welcome and timely one.


Over the past year + some change, the NFG team has begun to explore what it means to create & steward our culture of care. We are still in the nascent stage of defining NFG’s culture of care and how it will & can evolve. So far, this has looked like the following:

  • Annual self-care stipends for staff
  • Flexibility with annual professional development funds and the ability to repurpose some of those funds for our individual wellness
  • More administrative closures at the end of the year and at other times of the year (NFG closed for 3 weeks at the end of 2020 and will be closed from December 15, 2021 - January 4, 2022)

We’re continuing to imagine what kind of world is possible — and what role philanthropy plays in moving all of us toward liberation — when we honor the data from our bodies, dismantle the oppressive structures that aren’t serving us at work or in any parts of our lives, and truly center care for ourselves as individuals, in our teams, with our movement leaders & grantees, and in our communities.

I’m ruminating on questions like:

  • How do we center care in our work as we all grapple with white supremacy culture characteristics of urgency, quantity vs. quality, and perfectionism?
  • How and where do we incorporate care into schedules that have many folx in 4, 5, or 6+ zoom meetings a day? What is the toll of the way we work on our bodies, minds, and spirit?
  • How is care reflected in our organizational policies, in our theory of change, and in our values and work culture? Where can care be more deeply rooted in these aspects of our organizations?
  • How do we fully resource our team as humans to show up as their full selves and feel fully supported to do their best work (which also means taking breaks and pausing and resting and honoring whatever data our bodies tell us)?
  • How does care, wellness, and the ability to be well show up in philanthropy (or not)? And what does that mean for NFG as we strive to fulfill our mission to organize philanthropy to support grassroots power building so that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities and low-income communities thrive?
  • How can our practices of care at NFG and across the philanthropic sector ripple out so that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, low-income communities, workers, migrants, rural communities, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, women, and all of our communities thrive in a liberated world where we are all well, where we are all cared for, and where there is abundance for all?

Last week, NFG’s President, Adriana Rocha, and I hosted our October Member Connection Call, where we asked grantmakers who joined us from Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York: how you are caring for yourself, your team, and the movement leaders & grantees that you're supporting as we move through Scorpio season to the end of the year? Members shared ideas and practices including: creating care packages for team members; organization-wide pauses & sabbaticals as a call to rest (see this article from Headwaters Foundation on sabbatical, shifting culture, and systems change); starting the day with a walk outside instead of emails; centering healing justice in our work; and extending care into grantmaking by providing wellness grants (shoutout to NFG’s Amplify Fund!).

I pose this same set of questions to you: 

  • How are you caring for yourself?
  • How are you caring for your team?
  • How are you caring for movement leaders and grantees as a grantmaker?

Send me a note to let me know; we’ll keep sharing these strategies for care in NFG’s communications.

And funders: please join us on December 1 for NFG’s final Member Connection Call of the year, where we’ll continue this conversation on care + liberation, as well as reflect on what you’ve done/learned in 2021 to shift your grantmaking to move more money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.

Sending all the good & nourishing vibes your way,

Courtney Banayad
she/her
Director of Membership and Communications
 

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