Resist Gentrification Action Summit: We Shall Not Be Moved, We Will Improve


Amid growing concerns about gentrification, nearly 50 organizations joined Housing Is A Human Right for a historic conference in Leimert Park, Los Angeles on December 2, 2017. The Resist Gentrification Action Summit drew more than 800 activists and residents to discuss how to combat the housing affordability crisis in their neighborhoods.

The day-long summit at Audubon Middle School centered on a series of plenary talks and breakout sessions on protective strategies and community wealth building — emphasizing how communities must not only fight gentrification but also improve their neighborhoods on their own terms.

Lessons From the Summit

The current initiative to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and support Proposition 10 offers us an opportunity to strengthen protections against rent increases. The Costa-Hawkins Act is a statewide law that forbids local governments from implementing real rent control, or even applying existing rent stabilization measures to newer buildings. We must repeal Costa-Hawkins so our localities can enact the protections against rent increases we need.

Building Tenant Power: Tenant Organizing and Fighting Evictions
How can tenants organize to fight landlord harassment, rent increases, and evictions; to improve living conditions; and to defend their rights? The Los Angeles Tenants Union (LATU) and Eviction Defense Network led a session on how to build a tenant organizations, how to fight eviction, and why tenant organizing is essential.

Getting Legal Protections for Renters: Rent Stabilization, Just Cause Eviction, and Right of First Refusal Campaigns
Uplift Inglewood, Housing Long Beach, and Glendale Tenants Union discussed current campaigns to pass rent stabilization, just cause eviction, and other renters rights ordinances, at the local level. (‘Right of First Refusal’ would help prevent Ellis Act evictions and the displacement of tenants through condo conversions.)

Stopping the Criminalization of Black and Brown Lives, A Tool of Gentrification
Black Lives Matter, Youth Justice Coalition, the Alliance for Safety and Justice, and the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s Fight for the Soul of the Cities discussed organizing to resist criminalization — from gang injunctions and broken windows policing, to the criminalization of poverty and riders on the transit system — and to redirect government priorities.

Taking Back Housing through Direct Action & Encampments
Reclaiming housing and public space through direct actions and encampments has been carried out by the lowest-income communities around the world, but not nearly as widely in the U.S. That has changed in recent years, with unhoused communities, people facing forced displacement from public housing or by foreclosures, and others, occupying homes and land to uplift the human right to housing. The Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Oakland’s Poor Magazine, and Portland’s Right to Survive shared more about these efforts and how this approach can be expanded and improved on in Los Angeles.

Fighting the New White-Washing: Art Galleries, Stadiums, & Transit-Oriented Displacement
Defend Boyle Heights and the NOlympics LA campaign discussed the role of art galleries, stadiums, and transit system expansion in gentrification, displacement, and cultural erasure. We can do something to fight it.

Our Voice in Planning: Stabilizing Our Communities through Community Planning and Zoning
How can we fight displacement by altering our government planning and development approval processes — as well as organizing around our own community planning platforms? Crenshaw Subway Coalition, Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment, and Pico Neighborhood Association discussed tools and mechanisms that our communities can leverage, including legal challenges to development, neighborhood stabilization plans, development moratoriums, and calls for affordable housing based on “neighborhood median income.”

Fighting Wall Street Landlords, Real Estate Speculation, & Other Corporate Takeovers of Housing
We cannot stop gentrification without uprooting the financial structures and processes that are accelerating it. We must stop the unprecedented corporate takeover of housing in the U.S.! Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment-Los Angeles (ACCE) broke down the role international investors, big developers, real estate speculation and AirBnB play in causing today’s housing and gentrification crises. Panelists also shared how we can fight the takeover of single-family homes and apartments by new Wall Street landlords and private equity firms, like Blackstone.

Fighting the Deportation of Immigrant Communities, a Tool of Gentrification: Strategies to Challenge ICE Efforts
Even as U.S. policies abroad destabilize the homelands of many migrants, deportations are tearing apart immigrant communities and enabling gentrification in Los Angeles. Migrants experience a cycle of repeatedly having their homes taken away by U.S. colonialism here and abroad. While the debate on immigration reform continues in D.C., grassroots residents and community leaders continue to organize against deportations. Pedro Trujillo of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Monika Kirenga of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Ricardo Mireles of Academia Avance School, and attorney Clemente Franco discussed migrant rights and how to fight deportations.

Fighting for Gender & Racial Justice: Gentrification as a Feminist of Color Issue
Black women were among those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis: they were targeted by predatory mortgage lenders, accounting for 49 percent of all those issued subprime loans in 2006. Queer youth of color are especially at risk of homelessness, while most people lacking adequate housing are single-parent families. Black Women for Wellness and NYC’s Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment (FIERCE) led a discussion on how gentrification impacts women and queer people of color; why fighting for both gender and racial justice matters; and what we can do about it.

Community Wealth Building is an economic development movement that strengthens our communities through broader democratic ownership and control of business and jobs. It builds on local talents, capacities and institutions, rebuilding capital to strengthen and create locally owned family and community-owned businesses that are anchored in place, and provide true benefits to communities.

The community wealth building field includes a broad range of models and innovations that have been steadily growing power over the past 30 years or more: cooperatives, employee-owned companies, social enterprise, land trusts, family businesses, community development financial institutions and credit unions, and more. They are a means to build and restore local health and wealth primarily for residents.

Check out what we learned in the breakout sessions below:

Reimagining Public Housing: Models that Work in the U.S. and Abroad
What does community-controlled, quality public housing look like, and how can we get there? We learned about ongoing organizing efforts by public housing residents of Pico Aliso; LA-Mas’s campaign to expand Section 8 housing by increasing affordable Accessory Dwelling Units; and models for quality and affordable socialized housing from other countries.

Progressive Banking & Investing: Credit Unions, Public Banks, Pension Fund Investments and a People’s IPO
How can banking institutions, and financial investments operate in a manner that uplifts the people instead of simply profiting the rich? In this session, we discussed efforts to create a People’s credit unions, state-owned banks like the Bank of North Dakota, and San Diego’s Market Creek Plaza (the “People’s IPO”).

Community Land Trusts: Community Ownership as a Means for Improvement
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) allow land to be taken off the speculative real estate market and placed under the trust or stewardship of a non-profit community-controlled organization. The housing in the land trust then can be leased to homeowners or renters at affordable prices. This panel featured a discussion about CLTs with TRUST South LA, Beverly Vermont CLT, East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), and the first executive director of the country’s most successful CLT — Dudley Street CLT in Boston.

Cooperatives: Sharing the Benefits of Business & Housing
How can ordinary people pool together their limited resources to create the affordable housing and good jobs in democratic workplaces that we need? Few of us can afford to buy a building by ourselves. But dozens of us can get together to collectively purchase property, and create affordable mutual housing associations and housing cooperatives, where rents are governed by need, not profit. In this panel, NYC’s Community Assisted Tenant Controlled Housing (CATCH), SoLA Food Co-op, and Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC-LA) discussed mutual housing associations, food cooperatives, and cooperative workplaces.

Evolution and Critique of Community Benefits Agreements
Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) and Development Agreements (DAs) were originally created as a short-term strategy that community groups, unions, and other stakeholders could use to gain concessions from developers. Negotiated benefits have included local hiring, internships, job training funds, small business loans, relocation resources, health services and affordable housing construction. Here, members of the UNIDAD Coalition and Black Worker Center assessed the strengths and challenges in applying this strategy over the last 15 years in South Central LA, through examples such as the USC Village, Palmer’s Lorenzo, and the “Reef” developments.

Ensuring Wealth Transfers: Creating Wills & Trusts, Insurance, and Avoiding Scams
Too much of the limited wealth that people of color have in America is lost to probate or confiscated in exchange for access to long-term care services from the government, due to a failure to establish financial instruments, such as a wills, living trusts and a financial plan. Financial planner Dr. Dominique Reese of Master My Money University and Dr. BJ Hawkins, a strategist for intergenerational wealth transfer, shared how to create wills, purchase insurance, and avoid financial scams, to ensure that our limited wealth is protected, wisely invested, and passed down.

Another World is Possible: Just Economy Models and Movements Outside of the U.S.
Models and movements from outside the U.S. offer great examples of social housing organized around human needs, not profit; strong rent control protections that keep apartments affordable; public and cooperative banking that limit the power of ‘Wall Streets;’ as well as government regulations that control rising housing prices fueled by real estate speculation, luxury development, and AirBnB. Stepping out of a U.S.-context where we are taught to accept our government’s for-profit, market-based approach to treating housing as a commodity rather than a human right, we can learn a ton from other movements’ visions and demands.

Sites of Local Resistance

This historic summit was a collaborative effort of 48 organizations:

Convening Organizations: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment-Los Angeles, Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance, CDTech, Crenshaw Subway Coalition, Eviction Defense Network, Fannie Lou Hamer Institute, and Los Angeles Community Action Network

Supporting Organizations: Advocates for Black Strategic Alternatives, African American Cultural Center, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Association of Black Social Workers-Greater Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, Black Women for Wellness, The Church Without Walls, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Coalition to Preserve LA, Community Coalition, Creating Justice, Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles, Glendale Tenants Union, Holman United Methodist Church, Housing Long Beach, Housing Now, Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment, Idle No More Southern California, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Inquilinos Unidos, Labor/Community Strategy Center-Fight for the Soul of the Cities, LA Voice, Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers, Los Angeles Tenants Union, National Action Network-Los Angeles, NAACP-Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch, People Organized for Westside Renewal, Pico Neighborhood Association, SEIU United Service Workers West, SoLA Food Co-op, Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Southern California, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, T.R.U.S.T. South LA, UFCW Local 770, Union de Vecinos, Uplift Inglewood, Venice Community Housing, Youth Justice Coalition

Special thanks to the Summit’s Planning Committee, volunteers, facilitators and speakers, the team at AHF’s Housing is a Human Right and AHF Worldwide, Taco Interactive, Local Astronauts, LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna, and Audubon Middle School.