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2022 Grants Challenge

Community-Powered Housing in Northeast LA

Idea by LA Más

Northeast LA has long been home to working class communities of color and is now experiencing rapid market-driven changes. In a system where private ownership is prioritized over community and connection, these changes threaten the housing stability of longtime residents. LA Más will organize with residents to imagine an alternative – one that honors local culture, restores relationships with land, and centers working class renters. Join us as we dream up and build a community-powered housing initiative with and for our Northeast LA community.

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What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Housing and Homelessness

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Other:: Northeast LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Northeast LA is rapidly changing as new investments come into neighborhoods that have long been home to working class communities of color. LA River revitalization efforts and market forces have made the region popular for land acquisition and development, leading to higher property values and rents. Meanwhile, the pandemic and inflation have exacerbated housing insecurity, with growing rental debt and household costs. While there are public programs created to curb these pressures, at its root, the housing system is not designed to support the most vulnerable. Cities like Los Angeles have been planned in ways that disinvest in the working poor and people of color, yet are eager to invest when there are opportunities for profit. As the housing crisis threatens to push entire communities out of their neighborhoods, it’s imperative to reimagine another way – one that honors local knowledge and culture, restores relationships with land, and centers those most vulnerable to displacement.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

LA Más is piloting an alternative to traditional forms of affordable housing: a community-powered housing solution that centers working class renters of color in Northeast LA. For the past year, LA Más has created a housing advocacy space, where community members discuss housing priorities, values and solutions they want to see. LA Más shares resources on topics such as tenant rights, cooperative living models, and policies. This has built a foundation for residents to shape and lead a neighborhood initiative that offers options for housing stability, affordability and the right to permanence. To actualize this vision, LA Más will carry out the following activities: • Leadership Development | From its housing advocacy space, LA Más will identify resident leaders interested in shaping the new initiative. LA Más will host trainings to share examples of communal housing solutions and facilitate collective decision-making. • Program Creation | The program will be refined during the grant period, but could involve community members buying a property together. LA Más will refine program details with resident leaders and identify partnerships (which could include property owners willing to sell for a community purpose or tenants interested in buying their building). • Community Stewardship | The goal of the program will be for community members themselves to steward land and housing. LA Más will support the pilot’s sustainability by seeking funding and establishing infrastructure.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

LA Más seeks to demonstrate a model in which community expertise – not funding opportunities, for-profit developers, government agencies or politicians – shapes housing solutions. Through this initiative, working class renters of color are creating neighborhood stability on their own terms through organizing, honoring cultural ways of living, and reconnecting with land and one another. We acknowledge our relationship to land is extractive – characterized by indigenous displacement, private land ownership in opposition of community and connection, and market-rate housing inaccessible to the working class. LA Más sees collective investment as a powerful alternative that reimagines a relationship to land that is not based on individual ownership but prioritizes the collective. With so many other communities in LA County, especially other historic neighborhoods of color, also experiencing rapid displacement, this program is part of a growing movement to reclaim the places we call home.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Phase 1 | As part of our leadership development efforts, we will invite feedback and create trainings iteratively. Metrics include: • # of residents who show up to 75% of trainings • Depth and specificity of feedback provided by participants • # of resident leaders committed to program creation Phase 2 | Residents will shape the vision while LA Más provides infrastructure to facilitate partnerships and help identify resources. Metrics include: • % of resident leaders in agreement about program details • Feasibility of identified property to be program host • Clarity of parameters for who property will serve Phase 3 | In order for community stewardship to be successful, parameters will be established to ensure clear program leadership. Metrics include: • % of funds raised to finance hard costs • Level of commitment and alignment in new partnerships • Clear distinction of roles between resident leaders and future tenants

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 50

Indirect Impact: 200