Lexington Housing Justice Collective
Political Values Statement
“Indigenous peoples have always lived on the land that is now called Kentucky, and continue to live here today. The place we now call Kentucky is primarily Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Osage land. A commonly cited claim many Kentuckians heard in history class growing up is that this region was merely a hunting ground. This claim is a myth, perpetuated at first by land speculators who wished to improve land sales, and still today as a way to absolve settler colonists and their descendants from grappling with their history of land theft, genocide, and white supremacy. The continuation of this myth is harmful for all of us. Indigenous peoples have lived on the land now called Kentucky for at least 12,000 years. Over thousands of years, various indigenous nations and cultures have called this place home–many with overlapping histories and territories. Those that avoided/survived forced relocation still have a large presence here, but not an effortless one. The Trail of Tears is only one piece of a very painful history for Natives on the land that would become Kentucky; assimilation and suppression are common experiences that were necessary for survival. For many Native peoples in Kentucky, this meant traditions kept quietly, languages passed on a few words at a time, hidden preservation of connections. They are still here. In the 2010 Census, there were a recorded 31,335 Native Americans living in Kentucky.
Lexington, Kentucky sits on Shawnee and Eastern Band Cherokee land.”
–Adapted from Kentuckians For the Commonwealth Indigenous Lands Acknowledgement, compiled by Tiffany Pyette (Eastern Band Cherokee) and Mikaela Curry, with help from Wendy Warren and Nikita Perumal. The history of colonization, forced removal, white supremacist violence, and land specualation in Kentucky and Lexington are important to Lexington Housing Justice Collective’s work. We cannot have housing justice without land justice; we cannot have land justice without decolonization.
- Housing is a human right. Everyone deserves safe, accessible, sustainable, and permanently affordable housing. We must end homelessness in Lexington, KY.
- Housing policy must be racial justice policy. The US government, real estate industry, banking industry, and white people must pay reparations to Black and Indigenous people for generations of white supremacist land and housing policy. Reparations must include decolonization: unceded land must be returned to Indigenous control. Housing in the US is built on white supremacist foundations. Lexington was literally built by Black people enslaved by white European settlers, often sold at market in the middle of downtown at Cheapside. Since Europeans first violently settled the land, racial capitalism has coerced people of color, especially Indigenous and Black people, into living only in certain places in the US. This coercion has been through theft of Indigenous land, white supremacist violence and terror against Indigenous and Black people, redlining1, predatory lending, gentrification, and more. Our housing policy must be decolonial, anti-gentrification, anti-displacement, and anti-segregation.
- Every person should have access to social housing:2 housing that is decommodified, resident-controlled, socially equitable, and pro-social (defined below). This may include public housing, Community Land Trusts, limited-equity cooperatives, and other not-for-profit housing when they are resident-controlled, integrated along race and class lines, and integrated with public services and amenities.
- Housing must be decommodified. Too often, the profit that housing gives owners is prioritized over the shelter that housing gives residents. Housing should be shielded from the profit motive. Taking housing off the profit-driven market is the best way to ensure permanent affordability.
- Residents should control housing. The interests of landlords and tenants are in tension. Landlords want profits; tenants want a decent place to live. Because landlords have more power, their interests prevail. Consequently, landlords neglect necessary repairs, residents are forced out by rising rents and harassment, gentrification transforms neighborhoods against the community’s will, and housing prices exceed quality. Putting control of housing in residents’ hands will fight gentrification and ensure housing meets residents’ needs and abilities.
- Housing must be socially equitable. In large part because of neighborhood segregation, schools today are more racially segregated than they were in 1968.3 Both poverty and affluence are highly concentrated.4 Racial and class-based neighborhood segregation are stark representations of deep racial and wealth inequality. We must fight gentrification so people can remain in their communities, while integrating middle- and high-income communities, as well as white communities, so all people have access to them. The US must pay reparations for its white supremacist history and present, including by returning land to Indigenous control.
- Housing should be pro-social. Racist and classist systems have disinvested from low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color. That has limited these neighborhoods’ access to public services and amenities, such as well-funded schools, libraries, parks, and public transportation. These public goods and amenities should be integrated into housing plans.5
- Homelessness is a failure of our political, social, cultural, and economic systems, not of individuals. Homelessness in the US is a consequence of white supremacy, racial capitalism, the prison-industrial complex, cis-heteronormativity, settler colonialism, ableism, ageism, environmental racism, homelessphobia, imperialism, xenophobia, patriarchy, and classism. Ending homelessness reduces the harm of these systems of domination but does not abolish them. The world we need has none of them. We are antiracist, decolonial, feminist, queer, crip, anticapitalist, and non-hierarchical. We act in solidarity with people working to dismantle all systems of domination and create alternatives.
- We need social movements to win housing justice. People without housing and tenants must be organized for us to win.
- The housing crisis worsens the climate crisis, and the climate crisis worsens the housing crisis. We must act now to transform our economy so people already harmed by the climate crisis are supported and the worst potential impacts of the climate crisis are averted. We must decarbonize housing, build green housing, and ensure climate refugees quick access to permanently affordable, safe, accessible, sustainable housing. Our work is part of climate justice and just transition movements.
- The appropriate response to harm is justice and accountability, not punishment. We use transformative and restorative justice processes to repair harm by centering victims and community. The prison-industrial complex–prisons, police, detention centers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the carceral state–make homelessness worse and disproportionately lays the burden of homelessness on people and communities of color. Permanently affordable, safe, accessible, sustainable housing for all; along with healthy, affordable, culturally relevant food; and healthcare and education that are decolonized and universal keep our communities safer and more vibrant than the prison-industrial complex can. We are non-collaborationist, working in opposition to the criminalization of homelessness and poverty. Our work is part of the movement to abolish the prison-industrial complex.
- We fight for the Homes Guarantee. The Homes Guarantee is “the plan that will ensure every person in the U.S. has safe, accessible, sustainable, and permanently affordable housing.”6 The Homes Guarantee calls for the construction of 12 million publicly-funded units of social housing, a national tenants’ bill of rights, reparations, housing built to the highest environmental standards, and an end to homelessness. Our work is part of the national movement for a Homes Guarantee.
1. Between the 1930s and 1968, banks systemically refused to give loans to anyone who applied to buy a home in majority-black neighborhood. This was called redlining. For an introduction to redlining, see here https://www.theroot.com/redlining-the-origin-story-of-institutional-racism-1834308539 For an in-depth look at how redlining shaped Louisville, see here https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=a73ce5ba85ce4c3f80d365ab1ff89010.
2. Learn more about social housing at https://www.cssny.org/news/entry/social-housing-in-the-us, https://www.cssny.org/news/entry/how-social-is-that-housing, https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/2018/04/05/a-plan-to-solve-the-housing-crisis-through-social-housing/, and https://homesguarantee.com/.
4. This is true in Lexington. See “Mapping a Segregated City: The Growth of Racially/ Ethnically Concentrated Poverty & Affluence in Lexington, 1970-2014,” Lexington Fair Housing Council, at https://lexingtonfairhousing.com/resources/reports/.
5. For an excellent example of housing integrated with public services and amenities, see the Alt-Erlaa housing complex in Vienna. https://spfaust.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/alt-erlaa-architecture-that-serves-a-social-purpose-social-housing-that-looks-feels-like-luxury-housing/ Alt-Erlaa is representative of Vienna’s social housing system, in which 60% of Viennese residents live. Learn more at https://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-affordable-luxurious-housing-in-vienna.html.
6. Learn more about the Homes Guarantee at https://homesguarantee.com/.