There is development happening all over the city. It’s not just orange cones blocking streets, but cranes at work constructing new business and housing. Yet, on the Northside we continue to be surrounded by empty lots and storefronts that have been boarded up waiting for someone to realize a dream and make it come true. The dream of being an entrepreneur or homeowner. A dark reality facing many working poor, housing insecure, and low income folks in the city, particularly here, is that they are pushed out for progress. These families and individuals (often black and brown families, elderly and/or disabled) don’t have secure housing and are thus seen as a means for others to make a profit.
Co-operative housing is one way to drive a stake in the ground for community to have a say in the types of development it needs and wants. Multi-use is another, along with land trusts, net zero housing, quad plexes, rent to own; housing should have a multi-layered solution to respond to the diverse needs of the community.
The Folwell neighborhood specifically has more than 40 city/county/privately owned empty lots. Penn Ave is nearly bare on the Folwell side in regards to businesses. With the neighborhood sitting around 50 percent rentals, recovering from the 2011 tornado and healing from the foreclosure crisis, we must ask ourselves, “What kind of community do we want to build that is equitable and just for all people?”
Communities themselves should be the leading voice and power behind what is developed on their blocks. Historically, development doesn’t work that way. Folwell would like to be a force in changing that. In order to create a neighborhood based on the desires of its community, it must take the time to learn and understand the needs and demographic of that community. To know the history and struggles that the community has endured. The ways and means that housing and development have been used as a tool to isolate some (traditionally black and brown families) and benefit others (historically white). We must invest in building relationships and initiatives around the community that already exists here, before they are lost to developers. Communities rallying around empty lots and empty storefronts brings a chance to say that we as a community have the opportunity to decrease the alarming gap in racial inequity around housing and business ownership.
This summer, the Folwell Neighborhood Association will be out door knocking in order to meet the people that make up this great little Northside neighborhood. We are hiring four folks to work 10 hours a week for three months to come and meet you (inquire about the job with Dani at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website for the job description).
We’re doing this to learn about who you are and what you need from your neighborhood association. This is a chance to understand what hurdles or barriers families face in housing stability, what systems stand in the way of creating community led development. Folwell has a chance to direct this conversation, not respond to it. So if you are anything like me and you don’t often open the door when someone comes knocking, we hope you will this summer. We are coming to the doors and will be hosting pop up block parties all over the neighborhood. We hope to get to know you this summer!