On Sherman Ave NW, a familiar story is unfolding...
In a small apartment building, a group of Black and brown, low-income tenants have been surviving and confronting health and maintenance issues, loss of income, family emergencies, and many more layered crises during the pandemic. Tenants are now under pressure to pay rent owed from the last year of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the landlord is hoping to sell the building for $2.5 million, a sale that would result in the residents' displacement, the conversion of the building into overpriced units, and the cycle of gentrification we know all too well in Ward 1.
However, the tenants and the Ward 1 effort of the DC Mutual Aid Network are mobilizing to make a different ending to this story possible.
The residents are exercising their TOPA rights and working with the Howard University Fair Housing Clinic to keep informed of their tenants' rights and advocate for health & safety needs.
Together with a group of organizers from the DC Mutual Aid Network in Ward 1, we seek to purchase the building and establish a limited-equity housing cooperative and community mutual aid hub. We are calling this building we are dreaming of Baldwin House.
We invite our friends, family, neighbors, and all those who find solidarity with us to help us build a nest egg for this project. We are seeking to raise an initial $300,000 by December 31 to provide immediate support to the residents and take foundational legal, financial, and logistical steps to acquire the building. These funds will help us know that we can do this as a community. Ultimately, through a combination of individual giving, organizational support, grants, and loans, we are seeking to raise $1,187,500 in total by early 2022 (yes, so much! so fast!) to cover the down payment, closing costs, initial renovation & furnishing costs, and support for residents.
“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”
– James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
More about Baldwin House:
Our Mission: To ensure and sustain our collective liberated future in the Howard University neighborhood of Ward 1 and across DC in which safe, stable, and healthy housing, housing communities, neighborhoods, and organizing spaces are grounded in Black, Latinx, native Washingtonian, and other frontline leadership - centering communities that have been historically excluded from generational property ownership. The goal is to create a model of intentional collective living and collective spaces that allow communities the safety to grow, create, and thrive and provides an alternative to break the cycle of displacement and gentrification. Baldwin House would serve both as an affordable residential cooperative and as a commercial hub for Ward 1 Mutual Aid operations, where residents and neighbors contribute to the space.
Our Vision: To learn and practice how to build a concrete alternative to commodified, displacement-driven housing and development through the purchase, renovation, transition, and collective & cooperative care by a mutual aid group of a multifamily and office building that would otherwise contribute to gentrification, significant harms to resident health and wellbeing, and community cultural loss.
More about the organizers:
The Ward 1 effort of the DC Mutual Aid Network is a grassroots, community-led effort taking care of each other and keeping our city as safe as possible. We recognize mutual aid is a universal practice that has deep roots in Black and Brown communities that have continued to be excluded from government assistance. Mutual aid is needed because we know we can’t rely on local government to meet all our needs with both urgency and dignity. That’s why the DC Mutual Aid Network exists.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Ward 1 Mutual Aid Network has been purchasing and sharing food and supplies, running errands, providing cash assistance, supporting local artists and street vendors and farmers, organizing tenants in private and public housing, showing up with our time, skills, and resources for students and unsheltered/unhoused neighbors, and deepening our political education. And so much more.
Beyond this pandemic, we are building a future that we want to see. We are administering services in a way that is not paternalistic, and grounded in a community advocating and providing for itself. We are providing resources that trust that people make the best decisions for themselves about how to spend those resources. We are non-hierarchical and decentralized, as we believe that the people closest to the problem are best positioned to design a response.
Mutual aid is solidarity work, and we are all volunteers. 100% of your contributions will go directly to the work and no one profits or makes an income from this work. Mutual aid is also founded in community accountability and decision-making.
Want to contribute in other ways?
Are you interested in making a big one-time contribution (more than $1,000)? We can avoid fees by having you donate directly to our bank account! Contact us here: [email protected]
Do you have time, energy, skills, and/or expertise to contribute to the project of acquiring and building Baldwin House? Contact us here: [email protected]
Are you interested in supporting the Ward 1 Mutual Aid Network? Learn more here: https://www.patreon.com/W1MutualAid
What Can We Grow From Crisis by Pete Railand
Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible by Molly Costello