Preserve existing affordable housing and protect residents from involuntary displacement
The organizing necessary to build community-controlled housing models and fight for the policies that help make them possible require community stability and an end to involuntary displacement. The following policies will help stabilize communities to put them in the position to organize and build community-controlled housing models.
PUSH Buffalo; Source: wbfo.org
Give residents and communities a right of first refusal in private building sales
- In Washington DC, since 1988, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) has enabled more than 3,700 tenants to become owners of their properties. When a property comes up for sale, the tenant association has the first right of refusal. Typically, if a majority of tenants wish to buy a property, they will partner with a nonprofit housing developer to secure the financing necessary to make the purchase. An additional benefit of the legislation is that the leverage of a right of first refusal gives tenants leverage even if they don’t choose to buy; for instance, tenants can require that developers agree to keep their properties as rental accommodations rather than convert buildings to condominiums. Washington DC’s Douglass Community Land Trust is set to acquire a 65-unit apartment building in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood, in part thanks to TOPA.
Adopt and enforce rent control, just cause eviction, and tenant right to counsel
Rent control takes many forms, but provides a quasi-property right for tenants by limiting the ability of a landlord to raise rates indiscriminately. As such, rent control can serve as an important vehicle for stemming the tide of gentrification and resident displacement.
- In 2017, through a campaign that included collecting enough signatures to trigger a ballot initiative, the community group Homes for All Newark won a landmark rent control victory for renters in Newark, New Jersey. Under the new rules, landlords were required to 12 months worth of rent to rehab a vacant property before being allowed to increase rent a maximum of 10 percent. The ordinance also enabled residents to bring rent control complaints to city council. Previously, residents could only settle their rent related complaints in court which was prohibitively expensive for many renters due to legal fees. Homes for All Newark, however, has had to remain vigilant to protect these rights. In 2019, the Newark City Council stripped itself of the power to hear and rule on rent control disputes. Homes for All Newark is currently organizing against this new development.
Preserve zoning statuses for affordable manufactured housing.
Remove local regulatory barriers to accessory dwelling units and encourage state adoption of accessory dwelling unit acts.
- “California has been passing laws which make it less difficult to add an ADU to your property, and applications are keeping pace….The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, which has existed for over two decades, has created the Roots and Returns co-op to facilitate ADU construction. The Arizmendi Association itself is a meta-co-op, made up of six cooperative bakeries, a landscape design cooperative, a construction cooperative, a development and support collective, plus its newest addition, the Roots and Returns Cooperative. By using the construction skills of its worker-owners and its administrative support around financing and accounting, co-op leaders believe it is in an optimal position for creating affordable housing ADUs in the Bay Area. The Roots and Returns co-op draws up a contract with property owners, then finances and constructs each ADU. Interestingly, the co-op retains ownership of the structure itself and pays rent to the landowner. In practice, this is similar to how an affordable housing community land trust operates.” (Source: https://www.shareable.net/a-bay-area-housing-solution-with-worker-empowerment-built-in-roots-and-returns-co-op/)