How this has worked in D.C. :
Washington DC has already had success with cooperative housing across all eight wards. This includes some LEHCs, such as the MLK Latino Cooperative--established in 2006 on 11th Street in the Shaw neighborhood. Tenants in a building scheduled for demolition were able to exercise their TOPA rights to buy the building using bridge loans, which were later replaced with a lower-rate long term $8.4 million acquisition loan from the DC department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), followed by a $6.5 million loan for renovations. All 73 units were maintained as affordable and sustainable housing
and economic development of the area was supported by restoring a dilapidated historic building, preserving some of the economic and cultural diversity in the neighborhood, and promoting homeownership for Washingtonians.
Signature Policy Proposals:
- Work with local contractors to develop mixed-income housing cooperatives across the district. According to the latest figures available, there are approximately 52,000 dedicated affordable housing units across the district. These are overwhelmingly located in Wards 7 and 8, which leaves a severe shortage of opportunity for people of low- and moderate-income to live in the North and West parts of the city (for example, there are only 470 units located in Ward 3, compared to upwards of 15,000 units in Ward 8). Dedicated mixed-income housing cooperatives will allow people of all incomes to become residents and partial owners of housing developments. According to the latest Census data, approximately 42% of occupied households in D.C. are home to families. Therefore, the cooperatives will contain units large enough to accommodate multi-person households, and a percentage of the units will be reserved to meet the housing needs of this demographic.
Expand opportunities for wealth building and home ownership for public servants within the district with the establishment of community land trusts, similar to the Douglass Community Land Trust in Anacostia. This model will also be used to address the need for senior housing. The benefits of community land trusts are numerous. They ensure the sustainability of affordable housing by capping the resale value of homes located on the trust, they allow for shared-equity between the community and individual homeowners, and they have been shown to have rates of foreclosure up to 90 percent less than that experienced by homeowners with traditional loans.
How this has worked in D.C. :
Worker cooperatives have a rich history in D.C.. To combat disproportionate access to fresh food in Black neighborhoods in the 1970’s, residents in these neighborhoods created grocery store cooperatives. Initiatives like the Fields of Plenty Grocery Store and the Martin Luther King Co-Op provided the goods needed to meet the needs of the community, all while encouraging wealth building for their employees through a cooperative model. The D.C. area has many similar initiatives going on today, and with effective support from the city, these businesses will have the resources to grow, and many more can start.
Signature Policy Proposals:
- Provide necessary training and resources to facilitate the development of worker cooperatives within the District. Since this is a unique approach to small business management, Jeanné recognizes that there is a need to ensure that effective training is available to all who take on this cooperative employment model. To meet this need, Jeanné proposes that the city provide educational and training resources, such as general information sessions, individual and group coaching on financial literacy and best business practices, assistance with applying for licenses and permits, and financial support for newly developed cooperatives. This support will be crucial in the start-up phase of new worker cooperatives, and will be available for up to five years for each business.
- Implement innovative revenue earning initiatives to support the development of worker cooperatives and the sustainability of other small businesses owned by Washingtonians. High start-up costs are one of the most frequently cited reasons for not starting a business. With traditional funding sources, some may find it difficult to obtain the funding necessary to get their business off the ground, especially for an untraditional business model such as a cooperative. Consequently, there must be a dedicated source available to meet this need. Jeanné proposes the use of innovative methods, such as mini-bond programs to raise revenue that will be earmarked to support pre-existing businesses in their conversion to cooperative models, as well as newly developed co-ops. These bonds will allow everyday citizens to invest in the economic sustainability of their communities without the risk of other types of investments. Funding from these initiatives will also be used to support traditional small businesses in D.C. that are owned by Washingtonians.
Create special incentives and funding for worker cooperatives. In order to ensure their lasting sustainability, Jeanné proposes that special incentives be created for businesses that implement a cooperative model. This includes granting them preference in competitive bids for city goods and services. Also, to ensure that all groups are duly represented, funding for these efforts will be set aside specifically for groups that are underrepresented in small business ownership, such as women, minorities, and immigrants. According to a report by the DC Policy Center, D.C. ranks lower than surrounding areas in the DMV region with only 9% of its small businesses (with more than 5 employees) being owned by women. The share of minority-owned businesses (8%) is also poor, compared to the rest of the metroplex. A dual-approach of incentivizing members of underrepresented populations to start small businesses following a cooperative model and setting aside funds with the sole purpose of helping them achieve this goal would drastically improve the District’s ranking in these metrics.