Hi friend,

The Democratizing Development Program hired its next full-time director in June. And it’s me, Chimene Okere (follow this link for pronunciation). There’s so much work I’m excited to partner with you on. But before the emails proliferate, webinars start, and scheduling requests begin, I want to begin with gratitude for the folks who have led this program prior to my arrival. The team that launched NFG’s place-based and housing working groups and eventually developed programming that took members to Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and the Bay-area continues to inform the work DDP will do.

My priority will be to deepen and support you all to move larger grants, more quickly to powerbuilding organizations advancing housing justice. But I don’t believe this can happen in isolation. The size and scale of the issues we see in our economy can’t be addressed by one institution alone. Unending displacement and gentrification, soaring rates of unsheltered homelessness and evictions, and the increasing precarity of safety for women, youth, and LGBTQ folks at home mean that our housing economy is failing to provide safe, dignified homes for all.

At DDP, I am motivated to support you all in building a community where we can leverage our institutions' resources, back each other up to resource housing justice, and invest in the next generation of philanthropic leaders to move the work more boldly. If you’d like to catch up with me 1-on-1, feel free to use my Calendly here.

Community Ownership Learning Series
Launch Date: Fall 2022 - 2023

The Democratizing Development Program will undertake a learning series to understand what models of community control are advancing housing justice. We’ll consider strategies for growing community control as well as the obstacles and tensions for philanthropy in supporting these models, in collaboration with funders supporting community land trusts in Pittsburgh, PA and land reclamation projects in Richmond, VA. The series will launch this fall and continue into 2023.

Sign up


Resources and Updates

Reporting on Stemming the Tide - Profit maximization has no place in homes. What Houston’s fight to end homelessness reveals about poverty and economic insecurity. And finally, a film about  Evanston, Illinois project to address the roots of the racial wealth gap.

  • In July, Partnership for Dignity and Rights published From the Ground Up: Community Centered Policies to Scale Equitable Development. The report highlights how organizers in Baltimore City are disrupting the real estate industry’s control of the city by securing public resources to invest in community land trusts. Watch the webinar recording here. Speakers include: Sofia Lopez, Deputy Campaign Director of Housing for the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), Tomás Rivera, Executive Director, Chainbreakers Collective, and Dr. James DeFilippis, Associate Professor, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
  • Dive deeper into national trends that impact housing affordability and availability. In Congressional Testimony to the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, you can hear how corporate landlords are exacerbating displacement and what can be done about it. Speakers include: ACRE’s Sofia Lopez, Brookings Institution Jenny Schuetz, and Dr. Elora Lee Raymond from Georgia Tech University. They share how residents in cities such as Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Memphis, and Atlanta are being coerced into markets where Wall Street-based landlords are putting profits above people. Dr. Raymond’s research also shows a significant increase in evictions after institutional investors purchase homes in a region in comparison to neighboring communities.
  • In Last Week Tonight, June 19, 2022, John Oliver reports on why calls for building more housing isn’t an answer to make homes available for all. This video does a good job explaining what private equity firms and Wall Street companies have to do with the rapid decline in housing for working class communities. Curious what policy solutions can slow the wave of evictions  and forced displacement? Oliver speaks to those in the last 10 minutes of the segment.
  • How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own, from The New York Times describes a multi-year campaign to address chronic houselessness in Harris County. Ana Rausch, President of the Houston Coalition for the Homeless, states, “Think of the homeless system in America as an emergency room for a triaged slice of poverty. What Houston has achieved is to get itself far enough along in addressing the challenge that we can hope to begin to think about the pipeline to homelessness.”
  • In Repairing A Nation and Fighting Online Disinformation, Farai Chideyai speaks to the filmmakers of a new documentary, The Big Payback. Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow, along with a key voice from the film founder and executive director of FirstRepair, Robin Rue Simmons. The film follows the growing movement for reparations for centuries of government policies blocking Black wealth.

Movement Updates

  • Our partners at HouseUS held a webinar in June that discussed how deep organizing can lead to tangible improvements in the lives of renters in hostile communities. HouseUS grantee, KC Tenants, published "The State of Missouri Tenants: Listening to Tenants in America’s Heartland”. The report answers questions such as: What does it mean to center the experiences of tenants? How can funding deep listening, base building, and leadership development disrupt cycles of economic insecurity that leads to violence and generational poverty? What do the shared experiences of people living in trailer parks, public housing, and rental apartments reveal about solutions to economic insecurity?

  • Funders Together to End Homelessness published its new New Strategic Framework, a roadmap for how they want to show up and contribute to the collective work for housing justice – by elevating pro-Black and pro-Indigenous solutions that realize housing justice as racial justice, carrying out an unapologetic justice stance, and moving with intention to uplift well-being and model wellness and liberation.
  • Last month, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Arcus Foundation, and Ford Foundation held a fireside chat about the path to queer liberation in the face of coordinated state-level legislative attacks. Moderated by Manuela Arciniegas (Program Officer, Ford Foundation), these extraordinary leaders speak candidly about the challenges of shedding white patriarchal norms from the LGBTQ movement and the importance of engaging a multi-racial, multi-generational base to build sustainable power.

Screentime and Snack Recommendations

Music that has been feeding my soul

  • Turtles All the Way Down- Sturgill Simpson
  • Operator- Jim Croce
  • Photographs & Memories- Jim Croce
  • Time After Time- Cyndi Lauper
  • Neon Moon-with Kacey Musgraves- Brooks & Dunn, Kacey Musgraves
  • Just Fine- Mary J Blige

Snacks for the home or office

  • Cold Brew Coffee & Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Dessert from Trader Joes
  • Pitted Medjool Dates (stuffed with goat cheese ideally)
  • Any version of french fry

Multimedia that is helping me thrive