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In Richmond, California, the Haas Institute has partnered with community leaders and organizations to create strategies to further belonging in the face of persistent racial inequities and displacement. Three related projects unfolded through participatory process to develop policies, creative arts, and new organizational infrastructure.

In early 2018 community leaders launched a new hybrid organization, the Richmond Community-owned Development Enterprise (RCDE), with the goal of ensuring the needs of Richmond residents who have been historically left out of the benefits of new development are central to the city’s emerging projects. Economic development projects are too often planned by private developers and arrive ‘fully baked’ by the time community members find out about the project. The creation and vision of the RCDE was to restructure that process so that development planning begins with an inclusive community vision, a clear commitment to social equity, and a process for remaining accountable to impacted residents.

The Haas Institute provided research support to the development model of the Richmond CDE model—Eli Moore, Derrick Duren, and Nwamaka Agbo worked with local leaders to provide information on existing development trends and developed case studies of equitable development enterprises.

Framing this work, Agbo noted: "During a time of growing economic inequality, displacement of low income communities of color, and ecological degradation, we need models like the RCDE that lift up community-owned and governed projects."

Another project in Richmond this year was the Staying Power Fellowship, which brought together a group of six residents to carry out their own research, creative arts, and community organizing related to themes of belonging and displacement. The fellows were nominated and supported by community organizations Safe Return Project, RYSE, and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Staying Power Fellows explored their own experiences through writing and photography, interviewing fellow residents, and researching historic policies like redlining and other policies related to housing and development. They developed insights from their research into creative arts pieces, including the Walking Testimonies poetry book and a "Know Your Rights" mural, among other projects.

The Haas Institute's Richmond team also wrote and published Housing Policy and Belonging in Richmond, a report that shares data, stories, and policy recommendations rooted in the Staying Power fellowship and related research by the Institute and its community partners. The report provides context on the roots of the housing crisis, data pointing to critical issues in the city and region, a framework for developing inclusive housing policies, and specific policies that Richmond could adopt to achieve a more fair and inclusive city.

“The theme of belonging emerged as central to addressing housing needs,” said Sasha Graham-Croner, one of the Staying Power fellows. “Belonging within a city is not about being born there. It is not even about owning a home there. Belonging represents the communal spaces that are genuinely inclusive and supportive to all."

This piece was originally published in the Haas Institute's Spring 2018 news magazine.