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REPARATIVE GROUND
 

By Jamaica Reese-Julien, Maria Machin, Marc Schultz, Cade Underwood, and Diyi Zhang
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Reparative Ground is a redevelopment proposal intended to serve the community of Oakland, CA, harmed by the Alameda County prison industrial complex with the central ideals of Reparative Justice and Housing First, by establishing limited-equity cooperative homeownership, providing affordable rental housing, and creating worker-cooperative job opportunities.

 

This project aims to build resilience by establishing a Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (PREC) to address housing and environmental needs. It seeks to repair the harm done to Oakland’s vulnerable communities by investing in community wealth building institutions while divesting from the prison-industrial complex. Alameda County contains over 9,000 people experiencing homelessness, 75 percent of Black renters are rent burdened, and Native and Black poverty rates are 27.04 percent and 24.88 percent, respectively.

 

This project is in southwest downtown Oakland, CA, next to the Nimitz Freeway. The current site contains the Oakland Police Administration buildings, a former jail building, the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse, and the Sheriff Department building. The current site and surrounding neighborhood are clear indications of how carceral institutions create surrounding economies catered to supporting and profiting off of those same institutions. Within the study area, there are 213 businesses that directly profit from carceral institutions and many more that indirectly do. In fact, there are five bail bond businesses directly across the street from our site and eleven total in the neighborhood.

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Above: The site and surrounding neighborhood are marked by businesses that profit from carceral institutions.

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Above: An aerial shot shot of the now disused police and jail complex that exists on the site.

 

Source: Urban Land Institute

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The carceral system in California is heavily invested in exploiting prisoners for labor and debt. While the jail on our site area was removed several years ago, the police institutions currently on our site contribute to incarceration in the current sixteen jails and prisons in Alameda County, serving a population of 1,629,615 people in an area of 739 square miles. The highest paid incarcerated individuals earn less than $1 per hour for their labor.

 

Reparative Ground invests in the community by replacing carceral institutions with almost 700 units of equity-building cooperative housing and over 90,000 square feet of worker-owned cooperative businesses. It is intended to be a place of healing for communities originally belonging to the site, impacted by a system which has historically stolen and profited from them.

 

Moreover, Reparative Ground will provide 346 units of affordable rental housing, including 208 units affordable to “Extremely Low-Income tenants” (below 30 percent of Area Median Income). These tenants will be supported with direct opportunities for worker cooperative ownership and avenues for homeownership equity building.

 

Through its unique equity structure, Reparative Ground ensures that residents have real financial stake in their community, providing stability and profits even during economic downturns. The cooperative also includes opportunities for living-wage work with worker cooperatives that ensure profit-sharing and provide necessary services to residents.

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Reparative Ground builds upon the work of legendary Oakland activists Elaine Brown, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Alicia Garza. It seeks to provide housing and quality public space while building community wealth. As the site moves away from the prison industrial complex paradigm, Reparative Ground aims to secure equitable access and participation to develop a safer, more supportive future for the communities of Alameda County.
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Through its unique equity structure, Reparative Ground ensures that residents have real financial stake in their community, providing stability and profits even during economic downturns. The cooperative also includes opportunities for living-wage work with worker cooperatives that ensure profit-sharing and provide necessary services to residents.

The heart of Reparative Ground is a Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (PREC) model. Coined by the Sustainable Economies Law Center and first enacted by the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (both native to Oakland), the PREC model aims to permanently take land off the speculative market and into community stewardship. A PREC simultaneously de-commodifies land, enables community control for structurally excluded communities, thereby disrupting the root causes of racial inequality. Unlike a conventional housing cooperative, which is formed to provide housing to a defined group of residents, a PREC could be described as a “movement cooperative,” because it is designed to provide housing, build a large membership base, and serve members’ collective goal to transform their neighborhoods and systems of finance and land ownership.

 

PRECs can be understood as combinations of Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives (LEHCs) and Community Land Trusts (CLTs), where limited equity protects residents from individual unit market speculation, by-laws secure land from speculation and allow for community ownership in perpetuity. Although proponents of traditional homeownership wealth-building argue that limited equity is an obstacle to historically disinvested communities, research shows that limited equity cooperatives are more stable and efficient models for oppressed communities to build wealth. Homeownership wealth-building narratives help overcome market fluctuations and exploitative lending practices, thus challenging the ways in which racism and classism are baked into property valuations. Limited equity cooperatives provide a much safer, supportive model for building individual wealth while developing community space and cooperation.

Reparative Ground is financially feasible without indebting the cooperative to outside investors. By leveraging grant funding, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, local affordable housing trust funds, profits from retail and rentals, and low-cost FHA housing loans, Reparative Ground can move forward with affordable member-owner equity down-payments.

 

We propose that local governments make a financial commitment to the residents of Reparative Ground to help their community re-build. Reparative Ground proposes that the City of Oakland directly support these communities’ efforts to build equity by waiving all costs for building permits and fees, providing the city-owned land parcels free of charge, using their $169 million Capital Improvements budget to contribute two $20 million grants to construction (one for each phase).

 

Some grants that could be used to subsidize affordable housing production are the HomeKey Capital Grant, the CA Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Grant, CA Transit-Oriented Development Housing Program Grant, CA Home Investments Partnership Program Grant, and the CA Permanent Local Housing Allocation Grant. In accordance with its commitment to equity, the cooperative mission rejects the use of outside investor equity capital beyond the use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The PREC units require 3 percent-10 percent down payments from residents. Initial member-owner equity will contribute an estimated average of 6.5 percent of total unit equity. In addition, the PREC follows the local East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative’s model of accepting local investor and owner donations of $1000 each for 1.5 percent returns.