This project was developed by first-year students from the MS Design and Urban Ecologies program from 2013 to 2015 in Bushwick. This woking-class neighborhood has been one of the most contested areas of North Brooklyn in recent years. Rezoning processes and profit-driven developments have made residents and local groups question the goals and outcomes of current housing policies and urban practices taking place in the city. Displacement in the name of development has become a policy.
The first phase of this long term project, From Urban Homesteading to a New Ecology of Housing, was initiated as part of a first-year studio of the MS Design and Urban Ecologies program in the spring of 2013. It focused on a city-wide investigation of the current housing condition, homelessness, and structural vacancies, as well as the successes and failures of federal and local urban homesteading programs. Considering the dire situation in Bushwick that came out from this investigation, the project focused on this neighborhood to create affordable and community-control housing. As part of this project, students learned from and collaborated with residents, grassroots groups and long term community organizations in the district of Bushwick. The research and housing proposals were disseminated in The Right to Housing Gazette Vol 1 (see publications).
The second iteration, Alternative Housing Models as an Urban Anti-Displacement Strategy, continued in the fall of 2014. This project aimed to develop comprehensive research on housing and urban restructuring processes in Bushwick. As part of the research, a participatory neighborhood survey was organized in collaboration with North West Bushwick Community Group. Community members and students walked block by block to identify and categorize vacant properties as well as new housing developments. Furthermore, considering those vacant properties, students envisioned alternative housing models providing permanent affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. They designed a number of strategies for community-based access to housing, renovation, and infill of existing housing stock, structured around the provision of public grants, loans, sweat equity subsidies and expertise to low-income families willing to renovate existing vacant dwellings towards shared homeownership. Most of the proposals promoted community participation, ownership, and management as part of a long term strategy to generate local development without displacement in this district. The research and design proposals were published in The Right to Housing Gazette Vol 2 (see publications).
The third iteration, Revisiting Housing Cooperatives as an Alternative Housing Model, took place in the fall of 2015. It delved once again into housing, but this time it focused on affordable housing opportunities in Bushwick and especially on Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives, a housing model providing shared ownership and permanent affordability. For this research, students collaborated in a National Coop Research project led in this city by the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) and the Solidarity Economy Project. Students and UHAB’s members interviewed a number of shareholders to unearth their narratives and learn about the benefits, challenges and socioeconomic impact of limited-equity coops. The research and design proposals of this project were published in two booklets. One included the outcomes of the research on limited equity cooperatives while the other one offered an overview of affordable housing in Bushwick, as well as some proposals to expand limited housing cooperatives in this district. In the design phase of this last iteration, students collaborated in an ongoing project led by a local partner Riseboro Community Partnership and UHAB which aims to create a community cooperative which consists of a single housing cooperative holding a number of buildings and leasing to a Community Land Trust.
Gabriela Rendón, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Community Development
Spring 2013: Stefano Aresti, Joshua Brandt, Braden Crooks, Kaitlin Killpack, Katya Levitskaya, Alberto Salis, Gabrielle Andersen, Charles Chawalko, Bonnie Netenel, April De Simone, Farhat Topuz, Charles Wirene, Shirley Bucknor, Caitlin Charlet, Jonas de Maeyer, Wendy van Kessel, Luca Filippi, Jessica Kisner Giraldo, and Thomas Willemse.
Fall 2014: Darcy Bender, Mariana Bomtempo, Max Freedman, Shibani Jadhav, Tait Mandler, Gamar Markarian, Michel Stepniak, Alexander Valencia, Drew Vanderburg, and Alexandra Venner.
Fall 2015: Jakob Winkler, Michaela Kramer, Isabel Saffon Sanin, Sruti Penumetsa, Heming Zhnag, Ruchika Narendra Lodha, Paul Kardous, and Priya Pinjani.
Towards a Right to Housing (2016)