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On the way to urban commoning? Anti-eviction struggles and the Community Land Trust in Oakland

Authors: Laura Flierl*, Free University of Berlin
Topics: Urban Geography, United States, Land Use
Keywords: Community Land Trusts, Participation, US non profit sector, commoning, decommodification of housing, neoliberalizing cities, financialization, community control
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Confronted with city administrations either unwilling to contend with market rationalities or barren of funds to compete with skyrocketing housing prices, anti-eviction struggles in the Bay Area and cities elsewhere are increasingly turning towards community land trusts to defend those most affected by gentrification: Black and Immigrant working class communities living in inner city neighborhoods. Linking up with local land trusts and pressuring a new class of corporate landlords to stop rent increases and sell their properties, tenants – and the non-profits organizing them – succeed in some cases: The land trusts buy the homes for inflated prices, setting up those affected by displacement with mortgages and enabling them to become homeowners, while keeping the rights to the land permanently in their hands, in the ‘community’, and supposedly outside of the speculative grasp of the market. Based on field research following anti-eviction organizing in Oakland in 2018 and 2019, this paper wants to tease out in how far these struggles can be seen as laying stepping stones towards socializing housing and taking back community control over land in the context of a deeply neoliberalizing city. Probing into their political practices with the analytical concept of ‘participation’ in mind, this paper wants to specifically zoom into firstly, the complex role of the organizer and non-profit structures in US community organizations, and secondly, the ability of tenants to collectively participate, control and determine housing in their communities through the CLT’s internal governance structure, before lastly taking into account the OakCLT’s financial infrastructure.

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