Mary Vogel/PlanGreen Testimony to Portland City Council on Relocation Assistance Proposal – Feb. 2, 2017
To even begin to solve the housing crisis, a whole new system of land tenure is needed. Relocation assistance for involuntary displacements of tenants seems like a fine and just idea–until you hear the landlords side and their schemes for getting around your proposed ordinance.
I didn’t come prepared to testify today, because under the current system of housing, both sides have compelling arguments. As long as we continue to pursue a housing system that sees housing as a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit, as long as we see it as a builder of individual wealth through the accrual of speculative value, there will be such dilemmas. These are dilemmas that cannot be resolved under the present system.
However, there is a whole new system of land tenure that has been around for over 50 years and built a tremendous body of law and custom as well as homes on the ground. That system provides security, equity and legacy to the resident, but the greatest part of the increase in value accrues to the entire community through the Community Land Trust. I wish I had some easy solutions for getting to there from here. I’m afraid that my best idea didn’t get traction and fizzled at the end of the primaries. That idea was to get Bernie Sanders, who played an important role in founding Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, VT —now the largest Community Land Trust in the nation—to talk about this new model of land tenure to his young followers during his campaign. (See Housing Affordability – Put a Bern on It.) He could have opened so many eyes to a different system and created tremendous demand for it.
We could have built on that demand to pull Portland Community Land Trust (now Proud Ground) out of its role of needing to chase after attention amongst all the various non-profits pursuing affordable housing dollars. We could have expanded its mission from a provider of home ownership opportunities for a tiny percentage of working class people to a central role in our strategy to address housing affordability with a whole new system of land tenure.
At this point, in an overheated market, I’m not sure how we get there from here. But WE CAN FIGURE IT OUT COLLECTIVELY. Each of you on the City Council commands far greater media and public attention than I do. If each Council Member learned all you can about the CLT model—perhaps sending one of your number to Burlington, Vt. to visit Champlain Housing Trust as well as the CLT experts at Burlington Associates—meanwhile each of you study their web sites and start talking and talking about the need for this new model, .
In closing, I want to quote a Jan 17 post from Bob Morris, a friend on Facebook: What a great time to be alive and an American! There are as many opportunities now to take an active part in making our country better and living up to our highest ideals as at any time in my life. Who will be our new Freedom Riders, lunch counter sitters, voter registrars, river keepers, forest conservators, wild animal protectors, peace spreaders, truth speakers. I can’t wait to meet them. What will you do? I will add to Bob’s list Community Land Trust builders. . .
Feb 19, 2017 Addendum to the above testimony:
I was delighted to find out yesterday that Vancouver, BC has been working on a plan to do what I am calling for–on the scale I am suggesting. A Speculation-Free Zone, an article in The Globe and Mail describes the efforts of the Vancouver Community Land Trust Foundation to become an alternative to the speculative model of housing. Their vision is to become the largest CLT in North America.
NYC Opens Door Wide to Community Land Trusts in Next City also shows the momentum of the CLT model as cities seek to find systemic solutions to their housing crisis as it is finally becoming obvious the patchwork solutions are not working.
In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked for the Institute for Community Economics, the pre-imenent group building the CLT movement in the US for several decades. I am available to consult on this model through my business, PlanGreen–if there is interest.