A Refreshing Perspective

The Lora M. Robins Speaker Series is an event I look forward to each year, especially this year’s session on “The Crisis of Urban Education” featuring Dr. Chris Emdin. Charged with leading the Virginia Department of Education’s efforts aimed at advancing equity, closing achievement gaps, and decreasing disproportionality in student outcomes – I was intrigued to hear from the professor who wrote the book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education. In my work at the VDOE, we had recently received recommendations from The Taskforce to Diversify Virginia’s Educator Pipeline and held a statewide convening on minority teacher recruitment.

The timing was perfect. What could we learn from Dr. Emdin about delivering engaging and culturally relevant instruction that supports learning and success for students of color? All I can say is – I. Was. Not. Ready! Dr. Emdin was a refreshing perspective. His remarks were compelling, honest, inspirational, and provocative. Chris challenged our traditional thinking about teaching, and student learning. Reality Pedagogy needed a larger audience – and I knew just the forum.

We were in the early stages of planning a statewide conference on equity. I knew that we needed to incorporate Reality Pedagogy into our convening. LMR and the Robins Foundation were instrumental in making the connection that allowed us to secure Dr. Emdin as a keynote for the inaugural Virginia is for All Learners: Education Equity Summer Institute – a convening of more than 500 educators from across the Commonwealth. Our overarching goal was to explore the implications of institutional racism in public education and raise state discourse around policy and practices that positively affect equity outcomes for Virginia’s public school students (K-12). Our conference focused on public policies influencing equitable outcomes for students; how social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care are essential strategies to addressing achievement gaps; and finally, how educator preparation programs must engage in the equity conversation to affect student outcomes across the state.

I was so excited to bring Dr. Emdin to our conference where he was able to share his research and pedagogical practice with educators and education leaders from across the state. Chris made quite the impression on our conference attendees who shared their enthusiasm for #HipHopEd and #EdEquityVA all over social media. Many superintendents and school division leaders expressed appreciation.

While our work to advance education equity across the state continues, we have a new spark in our step thanks to Chris’ thoughtful keynote and ongoing support of our work. Kudos to LMR and Robins Foundation for bringing this outstanding scholar and practitioner to our attention!

Leah Dozier Walker, MPA
Director, Office of Equity and Engagement
Division of School Quality, Equity, and Instruction
Virginia Department of Education

From Immersion to Action

Maggie Walker Community Land Trust as a Solution to Neighborhood Gentrification

Many LMR Quest alumni no doubt recall that initial seminar day when participants first broke out into their “immersion groups” to analyze and report on a topic of general interest to the region.  Confronted with such broad subjects as “transportation” or “housing”, the first step was narrowing to something manageable.  As wet-behind-the-ears members of the (best!) Class of 2016, our group tackled the housing topic by drilling down on a very specific but innovative solution being brought to bear on the expansive affordable housing challenge our region faced.  The specific challenge was gentrification, i.e. the pricing out of existing residents due to rising home values, and the potential solution was the use of a “community land trust.”  Here, we figured, was something innovative worth spotlighting to our classmates.  We never could have predicted how quickly this nascent idea would blossom into one of the region’s most potent tools for affordable homebuying!

Since the last census, many neighborhoods across RVA have undergone growth and revitalization.  While this is good news, it can produce the side effect of placing an increased burden on existing residents.  Our rising rents and home purchase prices have decreased the supply of affordable housing, which is struggling to keep pace.  In the context of homebuying, a common affordability solution is to provide grants or forgivable/low-interest loans.  One limitation to this approach is that the benefit must be replicated each time a property changes hands, as there is no longer-term protection to preserve affordability, or more importantly, to prevent displacement.

The concept of a community land trust takes a different approach.  The CLT is typically a non-profit that acquires land and either constructs or rehabilitates homes in neighborhoods confronting a dramatic rise in property values.  When a CLT home is “sold” to a qualifying homebuyer for an affordable price, the CLT retains ownership of the land and imposes restrictions on the future sale of the property, including a resale formula that ensures future affordability on each successive sale.  This ensures that the benefit of the affordability is passed on into the future.

Around the same time as our Quest immersion research in 2016, a group of affordable housing thought-leaders convened to explore a possible CLT in RVA.  This effort stemmed in part from the seminal 2015 Housing the Richmond Region Report by the Partnership for Housing Affordability, closely affiliated with the Richmond Association of Realtors and its CEO, Laura Lafayette.  This group leveraged the expertise and commitment of pillars in the non-profit affordable housing community such as Metropolitan Richmond Habitat for Humanity, project:HOMES, and others, to strategize how to implement a CLT for this region.  Soon the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust was born!

What began as a glimmer of an idea has over time become an important tool in the effort to preserve affordability in neighborhoods undergoing acute home value appreciation.  The organization started small, beginning with the acquisition of a single parcel and groundbreaking on its construction of a new home in Church Hill on June 5, 2017.  Today, the MWCLT expects to acquire over fifty properties a year for the next several years.  There are several essential ingredients to the immediate success of the organization.

  • Controlling Acquisition/Construction Costs. For the model to succeed, the CLT must have an inexpensive means of acquiring land and constructing or rehabilitating residences.  Thanks to a partnership with the City of Richmond, the MWCLT has been designated as a land bank for the City’s formerly tax delinquent and City-owned vacant properties, offering an important pipeline of properties without the burden of significant acquisition costs.  This innovate approach marks the first combined CLT and land bank in the nation.  Likewise, partnerships with Habitat and Project:HOMES provide an affordable means of securing quality rehabilitation and construction on these parcels.
  • Funding Partners. Private partners such as the Virginia Credit Union and Bon Secours have provided essential support in the form of unrestricted operating funds to facilitate the acquisitions and construction, as well as other support.  Over the long term, cultivating a dedicated group of corporate and individual support will remain critical.
  • Professional Expertise. Since its inception, the MWCLT has relied upon the indispensable strategic guidance of HDAdvisors, its president, Bob Adams, and his team, who have set the organization on a path for sustainability.  Similarly, the MWCLT brought on Nikki D’Amado-Damery to serve as Community Coordinator, with an office located in Church Hill, one of the organization’s priority neighborhoods.

While our immersion group cannot claim any special impact on the MWCLT’s early efforts, our goal was to illuminate to our peers the depth of the gentrification challenge and the unrealized potential we saw in the CLT model.  The implementation of that model, which has expanded from Church Hill to Randolph to even 9 homes in Chesterfield, offers a compelling solution to a vexing problem facing many in our community.  While much remains to be done, the MWCLT and its partners deserve to be recognized as innovative leaders in the fight to preserve housing affordability in greater Richmond.

For more information about the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, please visit their website at maggiewalkerclt.org.

Preston Lloyd, Williams Mullen
Class of 2016

Data Makes a Difference

Just prior to Thanksgiving I led the Homeward staff in hosting our 11th annual Project Homeless Connect (PHC). This event matches clients with volunteers in a partnership to connect adults experiencing homelessness to as many on-site services as possible in one day. This year at PHC we saw over 400 volunteers connect 552 people from our community to services offered by nearly 50 providers in areas such as health, housing, dental, employment, and benefits.

As Executive Director of Homeward and an LMR Member (Class of 2011), I understand the value of connecting and educating community leaders to serve the greater community. One idea our organization would like to share with community leaders, is the importance of data to drive impact and achieve results. To best serve the needs of our community we need to listen but we also need to observe and analyze what the data tells us. Though our organization’s process of data collection, analysis, and responsive planning, we continue to reimagine how we can use Project Homeless Connect to collectively meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. Our recent work revealed that 80% of people experiencing homelessness are unemployed or underemployed. In response to this data we added new employment service providers to PHC and continue to build partnerships with workforce development organizations throughout the region.

One of our upcoming events that provides community-level data on homelessness is our winter Point-in-Time count. This periodic count of people experiencing homelessness in Greater Richmond helps Homeward, our partners, and community volunteers understand the changing nature of homelessness in our region. The data collected from this event is compiled both locally and nationally to inform programs, planning, and funding. You can see first-hand how we collect the data that informs our work by volunteering at our winter Point-in-Time count. Join us in our efforts to prevent, reduce and end homelessness, but also use this as an opportunity to think about how your own organizations and businesses can collect and better utilize data. For more information about this event, please contact our Community Engagement Coordinator Michael Rogers at mrogers@homewardva.org.

Kelly King Horne
Class of 2011

Are we prepared?

This past February we cancelled an event titled Convening Leaders: Emergency Preparedness. Our intent was to bring together LMR members with those serving in Fire & Emergency Services alongside the Central Virginia Emergency Management Alliance (CVEMA) to discuss what community leaders should be prepared to do in case of a major emergency in the Richmond region. This event was cancelled as a result of low registration but after the recent devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma we would like to bring this topic forward once again and ask, are you ready?

An evacuation of the Virginia coastline would send many people to and through the Richmond region. What resources do you have available to potentially support evacuees? How could you step up to the challenge and set an example for future leaders to follow? Should the Richmond region also be evacuated, where will you go and how will you get there? Which of your neighbors may need assistance and how would you help?

To learn more about your locality’s emergency plan, visit the
CVEMA website and click on your locality. There you will find information on how to contact your local emergency management team as well as more information on your locality’s emergency management program. Be sure to look for links to their social media pages and sign up forms for their local notification system. Get ahead of the storms, and for the safety of your loved ones create and communicate your own emergency plan today.