August 18, 2017

As a Boston neighborhood renews, local advocates fight against displacement

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Community organizers in Boston want to ensure that all residents have an opportunity to take part in local renewal. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Local development: Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood has a history of activism surrounding local development. In 1970, local activists stopped an enormous freeway construction project, but not before the state had seized local land and cleared it, leaving vacant lots. Now, some of those activist groups and new local community development corporations are creating new developments in order to bring renewal to the neighborhood. In 2016, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced “Plan Dudley,” a neighborhood renewal effort. “Dudley is on the cusp of the kind of renewal it’s been hoping for for decades,” Kathy Kottaridis, executive director at Historic Boston Inc., told Next City. “But the question is, who will live here? Who will the development and expansion benefit?” The neighborhood is majority-minority, and has struggled in recent decades. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, white households in Boston have a median net worth of $247,500; black households have a median net worth of $8. Community development corporations with roots in old Boston activism, such as the Madison Park Development Corporation, are building mixed-income residences and helping locally-owned supermarkets expand. “We’ve been a vanguard of being anti-displacement,” Brooke Woodson, Madison Park’s vice president, told Next City. “Residents who grew up here should be able to stay here.”

Tenants’ rights: New York City will now guarantee legal representation for low-income tenants in housing cases—a legislative first for the nation. Last week, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio signed the legislation into law, stating that “stopping wrongful evictions from happening makes both ethical and economic sense.” According to the the mayor’s office, only 1 percent of tenants had access to legal assistance in Housing Court in 2013. The new law will serve 400,000 tenants across New York City. Legal representation in housing cases can determine more than just whether or not a tenant is evicted. “There’s some tenants who may not be able to stay in their units, but the attorney may be able to keep the eviction off their records,” John Pollock, a staff attorney for the Public Justice Center, told CityLab. “They may be able to find them alternative housing. They may be able to get them into subsidized housing. They can arrange a soft landing in so many ways.”

Kickstarting in Maryland: A new crowdfunding platform is launching in Maryland with an emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurs in their startups and business endeavors. Similar to existing platforms such as GoFundMe, iFundWomen will give donors certain benefits for their support: t-shirts, merchandise, and access to events, among other tiered benefits. iFundWomen is currently accepting its first class of entrepreneurs: the deadline for entry is Aug. 30. The platform will launch almost a month later, on Sept. 28. “Women are starting businesses at two times the rate of men, and operate with only half of the working capital,” Karen Cahn, the founder of iFundWomen and a former Google and YouTube executive, said in a statement. “So it’s critical that we partner and mobilize our collective resources to help close the female funding gap.”

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project