community control of land essays

The Linchpin of a Just Housing System

A vision is rooted in the belief that housing is a human right, not a commodity to maximize profit. Homes For All believes it is possible to create a just housing system in which everyone has affordable and dignified housing.

This article is part of the Under the Lens series

community control of land essays

Our vision is rooted in the belief that housing is a human right, not a commodity to maximize profit. We believe it is possible to create a just housing system in which everyone has affordable and dignified housing.

Our vision is rooted in five interrelated principles, which we believe must guide and be ingrained within a housing system if it is to be truly just and provide affordable and dignified homes for all. We call these principles the Just Housing Principles:

  1. Community Control: Housing and land should be owned and controlled through democratic structures and processes by those who live there, while upholding all of the Just Housing Principles.
  2. Affordability: Housing must be truly affordable. After paying housing costs, including utilities, people must still have enough to cover all other basic needs such that they can thrive now and throughout their life.
  3. Permanence: People’s homes need to be protected from market forces causing displacement and from changes in government policy that jeopardize their housing security over the long term.
  4. Inclusivity: Housing must be inclusive. Historically marginalized populations including across race, class, and gender must be affirmatively outreached to, included as residents, and participate in decision-making related to the housing and community. Housing, by its location and design, must foster the inclusion of its residents.
  5. Health and Sustainability: Housing should foster healthy, sustainable communities. This includes an approach to maximize the wellbeing of residents, ecological design and construction, climate resiliency and clean, renewable energy and safe, affordable water systems.

We see community control as the linchpin upon which all the other principles are made possible. For us, community control requires both community ownership and democratic control by those who live in the community.

However, community control alone is not enough. We have countless examples throughout history where community control has led to injustice. For example, white communities in cities throughout the United States, like Chicago and New York, used their control and privilege to carry out their racist beliefs and practices, removing and excluding Black families from their communities using harassment and violence.

We do not see community control in a vacuum; community control as a core principle must exist within a vision and alongside other principles that are rooted in justice and equity. All five of our Just Housing Principles must be practiced together to achieve our vision. Community control without racial justice and inclusivity will perpetuate racism, which remains deeply embedded in the current housing model.

Furthermore, our vision speaks to community control being absolutely pivotal for the millions of families and people who have not had control over their land and housing to date but instead have been marginalized based on race, gender, and/or class. Community control operating within our vision and set of principles translates to real power for people and communities to shape and create their homes, their communities, and their towns and cities.

This power lies at the heart of the alternative models for permanently affordable democratic housing we explore in our Communities Over Commodities report, and this power is what makes these models so effective in providing just housing. These models can meet not only housing needs but also, by being rooted in community control over land, they can help to address the multiple needs people have—such healthy, affordable food; recreation; clean renewable energy; and freedom from police and ICE repression.

There are several alternative models that align with this vision of providing decommodified housing based on bottom-up community control.

Other Articles in this Series

community control of land essays

  • Corbin Hill Food Project Land Transfer

    May 2, 2018

    To the Corbin Hill Food Project, community control over land manifests itself not only through land ownership but also through the emergence of a food system that is guided by values of sovereignty, racial equity, and shifting of power.

  • Community Rights and Urban Land

    May 2, 2018

    The contemporary American understanding of community control over urban land is rooted in post-war organizing against government-driven redevelopment and bank-driven financial disinvestment. Broader movement groups, like the Chicago chapter of […]

  • Co-ops: Resistance to Living in the Land of the Lord

    May 2, 2018

    For Section 8 recipients, a step toward economic mobility (and community control) can be limited-equity cooperatives. A Section 8 voucher can be used to pay some of the monthly carrying costs of a co-op unit.