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Tools for Systemic Change: Assessing the Impact of The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

On June 24 at 6 p.m. join Greg Watson, Director for Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and former executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative as the BSA Placemaking Network dives into equitable placemaking and community development. The DSNI’s  community land trust (CLT)  is considered as one of the nation’s most powerful examples of the effectiveness of CLTs as a tool to facilitate the development of affordable housing in low-income communities. The Dudley Town Common, the Don't Dump on Us campaign, urban village visioning process established placemaking and community gathering opportunities as integral part of the project. Dudley PRIDE also known as "People and Resources Investing in Dudley's Environment" was created in to bolster placemaking in the neighborhood.

An extraordinary confluence of events led to the residents of the Dudley Street Community encompassing parts of Roxbury and Dorchester gaining control over the land and subsequently the development of their neighborhood that for decades had suffered decline resulting from racist activities and policies including redlining, disinvestment, abandonment that culminated in widespread arson-for-profit in the mid 1980s. For communities of color with little economic clout and a history of political and social marginalization, control over land is a significant source of power and empowerment for residents.

Is it possible to quantify the impact of the DSNI experiment? A spatial analysis of variables like homeownership rates (measured by owner-occupancy data), vacant lots, building values, land values, and foreclosures, shows that CLTs can stabilize neighborhoods by maintaining housing affordability.  The tradeoffs with this model of “gentrification without displacement” are lower housing values and wealth accumulation. This kind of information will prove helpful to other economically stressed communities in Boston and elsewhere determine if such a strategy is a viable option for them.

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