Key Takeaways from the 2024 Just Economy Conference

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This month, PEL Lab Leaders Shiho Fuyuki and Njuguna Gishuru joined the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and Headwater People to attend the 2024 Just Economy Conference in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Over 1,100 attendees representing community, business, philanthropy, and government filled conference sessions and ballrooms with hopes and dreams of a nation that not only promises but delivers opportunities for all to build wealth and live well. 

Here are a few highlights and takeaways from some of the breakout sessions that PEL attended: 

Community Land Trusts Building Complete Neighborhoods

Speakers from Urban Land Conservancy, Rondo CLT, Champlain Housing Trust

  • A key example shared was the reparative development framework by Rondo CLT in St. Paul, MN, which centers culture, dignified labor, and shared ownership. This framework can help CLTs address past harms and injustices faced by marginalized communities.
  • Commercial CLTs can help create complete neighborhoods by providing affordable space for services like healthcare, education, job training, and small businesses. They can also play an important role in community revitalization efforts by stabilizing land values, preventing displacement, and fostering locally-owned businesses and community anchors.
  • Successful commercial CLTs require creative financing strategies that blend multiple sources of funding, including low-cost loans, grants, program-related investments, and revolving credit facilities.
  • Building strong relationships with community members, institutional partners, funders, and local government is important for establishing and sustaining a commercial CLT.

Community Wealth Building and Health Systems

Speakers from Healthcare Anchor Network, Kaiser Permanente, Maggie Waker CLT, Obran Coop

  • Affordable housing and addressing social determinants of health like housing instability, education, and transportation are important for improving community health outcomes.
  • Partnerships between healthcare organizations, community land trusts, realtors, and funders can help increase access to affordable homeownership opportunities.
  • Community land trust models like Maggie Walker CLT in Richmond, VA aim to keep housing affordable for multiple households over time.
  • Cooperative business models and worker ownership can help build wealth in marginalized communities and center workers’ voices.
  • Founded in Baltimore, Obran is the first worker-owned cooperative conglomerate. Their model prioritizes the lived experiences of workers through democratic ownership and control while leveraging its portfolio of small businesses. This unique holding cooperative structure allows it to find, acquire, and hold profitable small-to-medium-size businesses and real estate on behalf of its worker-owners. They want to impact sectors like home healthcare and logistics where communities of color are overrepresented as workers.
  • Healthcare anchor institutions can leverage their role in the community to advocate for policies and funding that address issues like unemployment, underemployment, and job quality.

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Building a Suite of Policy Solutions for Long-term Wealth Building

Speakers from Partnership for Community Action, Prosperity Now

  • Pursuing both baby bonds and guaranteed income policies can address both immediate needs and long-term financial security for families.
  • Engaging a broad coalition, including banks, businesses, and other groups, can build bipartisan support for policies.
  • Highlight personal stories and community impacts to address criticisms of policies.
  • Ensure policies are inclusive of communities with disabilities through task forces and advocacy.
  • Develop effective messaging around concepts like economic mobility and investment in local economies to appeal to conservative legislators

Sustaining Affordability: The Role of Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) in Washington, D.C.

Speaker from the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development

  • Tenant agency laws like the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) in DC have significantly contributed to preserving affordable housing stock by enabling tenant associations.
  • Successful tenant protections require funding for community organizing and engagement work to educate residents about their rights.
  • Bringing together diverse stakeholders, like developers and advocates, can lead to new solutions through open dialogue and understanding of different perspectives.

Banking on a Better Future: How Public Banking Can Transform the Financial Industry

Speakers from: Rise Economy, New Economy Project, California Public Banking Alliance, SEIU

  • Public banking has the potential to create a more just and sustainable economy by investing in community development and climate change mitigation.
  • Initiatives in California and New York are working to establish public banks at the city and regional levels to keep public funds local and aligned with climate and social goals.
  • Public banks can save taxpayer money by reducing borrowing costs and fees compared to relying on Wall Street banks. They also leverage public deposits to support more community projects.
  • Speakers advocated for public banks as a way of addressing issues like racial inequity in access to capital, financing for small businesses and affordable housing, and divesting from fossil fuels.

Understanding How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Access to Housing 

Speakers from Tech Equity Collaborative, Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America, Zillow

  • Third-party tenant screening companies are using algorithms and predictive analytics in ways that lack transparency and accountability, increasing the potential for discrimination.
  • AI and algorithms are being used widely in housing and finance and come with risks of bias, unfair treatment, and potential harms if not developed and used responsibly.
  • Regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau need to provide clearer guidance and rules to ensure algorithms in these critical areas do not exacerbate existing biases or discrimination.
  • Developers have a responsibility to consider fairness and mitigate harm at all stages of machine learning model development and deployment.
  • More research and data is needed to understand the real impacts of algorithmic decision-making on tenants, consumers, and communities.
  • Advocacy is needed to establish pre-deployment testing standards, oversight, and accountability for algorithms used in high-stakes areas like housing and lending.

We are grateful to DON for the opportunity to learn about various Community Wealth Building initiatives and strategies that center BIPOC communities across the country!