Things have really been moving at Green New Deal Housing! We’ve been connecting with the community, tabling at local events, breaking ground for our first home, talking with neighbors and this month, we hosted our first of many Community Engagement Summits and, “oh what a night” it was!
The purpose of this Engagement Summit was to convene a group of stakeholders— community members as well as local housing organizations—to engage in a collaborative effort to inform and shape the programs Green New Deal Housing will develop to recruit and support our home buyers.
Our goals include creating a process that:
Identifies and collaborates with stakeholders from the communities we wish to serve
Recruits and engages potential homeowners and community members who remain excluded from the opportunities they desire
Creates a fair and transparent application and selection process for homebuyers
Provides ongoing support for new homeowners
Connects with existing home-buyer programs and resources currently available
We understand that some of the most crucial and constructive outreach and engagement we can develop focuses on the building of trust and relationships with the people most impacted by the issues we seek to mitigate. We aim to shape processes, programs and outcomes that are equitable and tailored to respectfully meet the needs of the people we serve.
To that end, the Summit was kicked off with a short overview of Green New Deal Housing, an explanation of why we were all gathered together and what we hoped to accomplish. We sat in groups of three or four at a community center to discuss housing, while we could hear the neighborhood children laughing and playing just outside. We did a couple of hands-on activities that explored what owning a home meant to us as well as what the road to home ownership was like in their experience, (i.e. was it smooth or bumpy, easy or filled with twists and turns, what hurdles did they have to overcome, etc.). If people already owned a home, we asked what they encountered on the way to home ownership, and if they didn’t own a home yet, what are the things that might be holding them back. Each group talked amongst themselves, drew pictures, wrote down their thoughts, and shared their experiences and/or dreams with the full group.
As you can imagine, the conversations were rich and the reports were full of life stories, of struggles and of triumphs: of single parents working two or more jobs, struggling to provide a safe, secure place for their family to live; of first time home owners who were overwhelmed with the “fixer-uppers” that they purchased and all the repairs they had to make; of how buying the first home was a stepping-stone enabling one person to buy their next, better home; of how a sharecropper’s daughter, and single parent, somehow found a way to buy her first home and how that first step had brought generational wealth to their family for the next three generations; of stories of discrimination; as well as of stories of those who were not sure if they were ready to “put down roots” in this region yet or who are not sure they want to “own” a house at all.
We shared information and experiences from the local home organizations. We heard how several participants had been through programs that organizations like 1Roof offers for first time home buyers; about programs for down payment assistance and how to navigate special programs from the county, state or federal government, or other non-profit organizations like Community Action Northland. Those information-filled conversations were followed by discussion about exposing the gaps in the current system and where Green New Deal might be able to help fill in those gaps.
At the end of the night, the conversations continued as we shared a dinner catered by two local small businesses. This is what community is all about. This is what Green New Deal Housing is all about. And this was …Oh what a night!
Want to get involved? This July construction begins on our pilot construction project, the Evergreen House, in the Central Hillside neighborhood. The home will be sold to an income-qualified buyer with household income at or below 115% of the median in Duluth. We are forming a Steering Committee to help outline our home buyer recruitment and selection strategy, advise on creating the content of a GNDH Home Buyer’s Resource guide, and vet ideas about financial subsidy mechanisms. If you’d like to be part of the process, or are interested in owning a New Green Deal Home, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org