By Coy McKinney of SW Action
The Southwest neighborhood needs a community and justice-oriented approach to development. For too long, for-profit developers have been allowed to shift the relatively diverse demographics of our neighborhood into one that is predominantly wealthy and White, with retail that caters to those spending habits. In some instances, developers have been able to acquire public land, at virtually no cost, to build more expensive market-rate housing and expensive shops and restaurants (developers acquired The Wharf for $1, for example; and acquired the parcels at 4th and M Streets SW, for $10each).
These developments represent lost opportunities to address the challenges of our neighborhood in an equitable and community-oriented manner. We cannot expect decisions driven by a capitalist system that obfuscates racial justice and exacerbates economic inequality to address our needs. This is why SW Action is pushing to expand the Douglass Community Land Trust (DCLT) into Southwest. The expansion will allow the community to determine how land should be developed and how best to address the needs of our neighborhood.
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit organizations governed by a board of community members, including CLT residents and public representatives, that address the need for affordable spaces while ensuring that units managed by the land trust remain affordable.
A 2018 study from Grounded Solutions looked at over 4,000 shared equity units, like CLTs, in 20 states over 30 years and found that 99% of the units avoided foreclosure. CLTs maintain affordability by using a resale formula that determines the maximum price a CLT property owner can sell their property. The resale formula is designed to provide a fair amount of wealth creation for the sling household/owner while at the same time keeping the property affordable for subsequent buyers/occupants. Thus, the unsustainable, unethical practice of treating housing as a commodity is rejected for an approach that prioritizes long-term affordability.
SW Action is calling for the expansion of the DCLT into Southwest – specifically at the current site of the fire truck repair station at M and Half Streets SW. Sometime in the future, the fire truck repair station will be relocated to another part of the city. When that happens, we are calling for that land to be transferred to the DCLT, which would be stewarded by a SW Chapter of the DCLT, and for the DC government to set aside an appropriate amount of money to invest in its development. While the specifics of what would be featured at this SW CLT site are still to be determined, the effort will center on and seek to uplift working class, historically underserved, predominantly Black Southwesters, since they have borne the brunt of social injustice for decades.
SW Action is committed to bringing DCLT to Southwest and has begun reaching out to resident council presidents at James Creek and Greenleaf Gardens. We will continue to seek input and contributions from public housing residents for how best the land can improve their lives. The petition we created has already received support from Pastor Monica Raines at Christ United Methodist Church and Co-Pastor Ruth Hamilton at Westminster Presbyterian Church. SW Action believes this is a project our entire community can get behind and hopes that you will add your name to the petition.
As Mehrsa Baradaran writes in The Color of Money, “The sooner Americans recognize that the fate of [B]lack America is tied to the fate of [W]hite America, the faster it can achieve true democracy and shed the weight of historic injustice.” Likewise, the sooner we realize our collective liberation will come from us cooperating rather than competing and putting people over profit, the sooner we will see our society transform into something more just and spiritually rewarding.