The National Low Income Housing Coalition has selected the winners of the 2014 Organizing Awards - the State and Local Organizing (SLO) Award and the Resident Organizing (RO) Award. NLIHC will present the awards to the winners at the 2015 Housing Legislative Forum in Washington, DC on March 1.
The SLO Award recognizes outstanding achievement in community organizing on affordable housing at the state or local level. This award, created in 2009, serves to honor and encourage the advocacy work of NLIHC member organizations. The 2015 NLIHC State and Local Organizing (SLO) Award will be presented to the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land (TBVL) of Philadelphia, PA for their successful effort to create the nation’s largest municipal land bank.
Starting in 2010, TBVL united 47 Philadelphia community groups dedicated to addressing such issues as neighborhood disinvestment, abandoned properties, blight, crime, and resident displacement in gentrifying areas. Led by the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, TBVL trained grassroots advocates, planned and conducted media events, organized citizen lobby days, and developed a clear legislative solution with city planners and staff.
In January of 2014, Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation to create the Philadelphia Land Bank to oversee more than 10,000 vacant properties throughout the city, making it the largest municipal land bank in the country. The new entity will distribute abandoned properties to organizations and developers for new affordable housing, urban agriculture projects, and neighborhood economic development. TBVL advocated for and secured provisions in the legislation that will ensure transparency of Land Bank operations and community representation on the Land Bank’s board. The Land Bank recently finished its first strategic plan and issued its initial request for proposals. TBVL’s organizing efforts and dedication will soon begin to show tangible results in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.
The NLIHC Resident Organizing Award recognizes outstanding achievements in community campaigns that are resident-driven. The 2014 RO Award goes to Community Housing Partnership (CHP) of San Francisco, CA for its Fair Chance Campaign that resulted in a local ordinance to ban discrimination against ex-offenders in applications for affordable housing and employment.
CHP’s efforts in San Francisco involved a staff of three organizers working with and on behalf of more than 50 formerly incarcerated residents of CHP properties. CHP’s Community Organizing and Resident Engagement (CORE) Program mobilizes the active, ongoing, and issues-informed participation of more than 1,300 low income residents in CHP’s organizational governance and on policies that affect low-income residents city-wide.
To pass the Fair Chance Ordinance, CHP’s resident leaders conducted a peer outreach campaign between 2012 and 2014 that resulted in more than 2,000 residents sending postcards supporting the ordinance to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Resident leaders served as a key resource for media reports on the impact of housing and employment discrimination against ex-offenders. The coalition to pass the Fair Chance Ordinance grew as a result of CHP organizers working with resident leaders to hold four City Hall rallies and two community teach-in events. The initial draft of the Fair Chance Ordinance addressed only the issue of employment discrimination, but affordable housing was added after the insistence and advocacy of CHP’s resident leaders.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Fair Chance Ordinance on February 4, 2014. It is now illegal for any affordable housing provider or private employer in the city to inquire about criminal history on an initial application. Ex-offenders will now be considered on their merits rather than being immediately dismissed for past indiscretions. Mayor Edwin Lee signed the ordinance while standing with formerly incarcerated resident advocates from CHP and other community organizers. CHP’s CORE program leaders and organizers continue to recruit new members and develop their next campaign.
Congratulations to the 2014 State and Local Organizing and Resident Organizing honorees!
For more information about the Philadelphia Land Bank: http://www.phillylandbank.org/
For more information about San Francisco’s Fair Chance Ordinance: http://bit.ly/1vrqF6t