Learning from the East London Community Land Trust!

On Wednesday of October 9th, 2013, Picture the Homeless was privileged to meet with folks from the East London Community Land Trust. We first learned about this incredible organization last year, at the National Community Land Trust Network‘s annual convention, where dynamic organizer Dave Smith led a great workshop detailing the long hard victorious struggle to create a community land trust in an expensive urban landscape where people said the model simply could not be done. Their experience resonated with our own local efforts to create community land trusts as a tool for stopping displacement and housing homeless folks for two reasons: (1) London and New York are both considered too developed and expensive to support alternative models, and (2), the East London CLT was born out of a grassroots community organizing group.

After the meeting with the East London CLT reps, PTH member Arvernetta Henry wrote “I had the wonderful opportunity to engage in open conversation with a group of young women from Europe. I marvel at the thought that people travel great distances to visit us and share strategic methodologies towards successfully creating community land trusts.”

Mrs. Henry, a leader in our local community land trust work, went on to say “These young women are struggling with the same issues that our housing campaign had to find solutions to. Including: how do you get the support of politicians who usually have close ties with real estate and are against housing for low-income people? Who funds community land trusts? What populations will have access to the housing you create? What do you consider “affordable” housing, and what formula do you use? Etc. As I join the conversation I am aware that with housing alternatives, society always finds ways to oppress new ideas, especially if there’s no profit to be gained.”

“We shared some of the ways we had gotten support from some of our council people, but also shared that we have a long distance still to travel! We suggested that they visit a community land trust in Manhattan called Cooper Square, and speak to some of the board members and long-time tenants and activists.”

“This conversation was beneficial to both groups, since we exchanged information on our interest in community land trusts and who will benefit and gain – and I know our people who really understand, all people desire and deserve decent housing.”

We also learned a lot from their efforts, like the importance of cultivating deep and substantive relationships with developers, the need for concrete vision as opposed to abstract ideas, and how to frame community land trusts as part of a “more holistic vision of the city.”

All of us at Picture the Homeless are really excited to be working with such powerful people who share our passion for community land trusts, and to stay in touch as their work and ours continue to develop.