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Building the Future

Grassroots Reflections on Social Housing

a partnership with the Center for Popular Democracy, the Action Lab, Alliance for Housing Justice, Debt Collective, Urban Democracy Lab, Initiative for Community Power, Policy Link, Housing Now!, and Tenants Together

May 2024

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As the U.S. housing crisis deepens and the impact of climate change makes it harder for tenants to find safe housing options, the demand for bold action that provides us with stable, healthy, and truly affordable housing grows ever stronger. Housing should enrich our lives, not the pockets of wealthy investors. That's where social housing – housing for people, not profit – comes in.

In this new report, "Building Our Future: Grassroots Reflections on Social Housing," Climate and Community Project joins with allied organizations to take a comprehensive look at the urgent need for transformative housing solutions driven by communities and for communities – solutions which prioritize those most impacted and most in need.

Our vision is rooted in a powerful movement led by tenants and unhoused people, guided by the fundamental belief that housing should be controlled by the people who live in it. This report delves into the principles of social housing: deeply and permanently affordable, publicly or collectively owned, and democratically controlled by residents.

The impetus to deliver on social housing is already abundantly clear, and the climate crisis adds even more urgency. Tenants and unhoused people are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. And the housing sector itself is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The private sector’s focus on for-profit luxury construction is not only failing to meet our affordable housing needs, but is wasteful and unsustainable, and leading to cheap design practices that further harm the safety and health of tenants in our climate crisis. Government-supported, not-for-profit social housing, with a focus on repurposing vacant and empty buildings, is needed to not only create climate-adapted communities, but also to mitigate emissions.

Highlights from the Report:

  • Real Stories, Real Solutions: Frontline activists share their experiences, challenges, and victories in advocating for social housing. From tenant unions and rent strikes to legislative wins and public housing initiatives, these grassroots efforts showcase the diverse strategies and shared commitment to decommodifying housing.

  • Wins Across the Country: Hear about how California’s SB 555 mandates a government study on 100% affordable and below-market social housing, how Los Angeles’s Mansion Tax will generate revenue to pilot social housing projects, how Seattle established the Seattle Social Housing Developer (SSHD), and how Kansas City secured a $50 million bond for affordable housing.

  • Principles of Social Housing: Learn about the core tenets that make social housing a viable and just alternative to the current profit-driven system. Housing should be deeply affordable, community-controlled, and rooted in equity and racial justice.

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