Earlier this week, a small coalition of housing justice advocates in Broome County announced a new paid opportunity for residents that are passionate about expanding safe, healthy, affordable housing choices in the area.
The group, the Steering Committee of the emerging Broome Community Land Trust (CLT), is now seeking applications for its first-ever Broome CLT Ambassador Program, which will run approximately from June through August.
Selected Ambassadors will receive training in housing justice, how a community land trust works, community organizing, and other topics. Ambassadors will earn $1,000 for approximately 40 hours of commitment over the three months.
The Ambassador Program is being funded by a grant secured from Enterprise NY, which will help the Steering Committee form and launch a new community land trust in Broome. To become fully-incorporated as a nonprofit, the group will also need to recruit and train an inaugural Board of Directors.
According to the group’s website, the goal of the Ambassador Program is to “develop board members for the Broome CLT, or simply great allies to help us fight for housing justice for all.”
The application deadline is Friday, May 8, and interested residents can submit an application online at www.broomeclt.com, or call (607) 269-7709 to schedule a phone interview.
According to the group’s website, other projects are planned as well, such as a Youth Story Corps and Eviction Mapping.
More than half a dozen CLTs already operate in communities across NY, including Buffalo, Rochester, and Schenectady. To learn more about community land trusts or how to get involved in the Broome CLT initiative, check out the group’s website.
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I had a brief email exchange with Binghamton resident Ebony Jackson, the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Broome CLT, about the Ambassador Program and the overall goals of the Broome CLT. Her answers are below.
Who should apply to become an Ambassador?
EBONY: We are encouraging parents who want to be involved in community development and grandparents who are thinking about the future of their grandchildren. We want professionals and paraprofessionals who are interested in alternative types of reinvestment. We want the executive who understands gentrification and wants to eliminate barriers to financial stability. We want community workers who see and want to stop extraction in lower earning neighborhoods. We hope from these applicants and the selected Ambassadors, we can recruit a Board of Directors comprised of people who care deeply about how the community looks, and who want to explore together the best ways to create safe, inclusive, and equitable neighborhood development.
What is the overall goal of the program?
EBONY: While we want to expand quality, permanently affordable housing choices, the ultimate goal of the program is to build community. This sudden onset of COVID-19 has created a world-wide momentum around creating community again, and to do it with a focus on dignity, equity, opportunity, and justice. No one that I know is looking forward to going back to “normal,” which left too many people behind. We are all very much looking forward to the new normal, but we’re going to have to organize and work together to accomplish that, and we see the Broome CLT as being a part of that movement. This isn’t a complete list, but the new normal will have safe, energy-efficient, healthy housing built or rehabbed from old housing stock with mixed use neighborhoods that offer all the services and amenities we need to thrive individually and collectively. We want schools with farm fresh foods and hospitals and clinics that are culturally-sensitive to not only people who live directly in the city of Binghamton but also our rural and suburban neighbors. Currently, low income families all over Broome county pay rent, pay utilities, and are still cold some winters. There are families all over Broome county that have to choose between paying the rent or buying necessities. Broome CLT’s goal is to break down barriers to a safe and healthy lifestyle for all families and we are starting with housing.
Why are you involved in this work?
EBONY: As a single mom living in the city of Binghamton, I moved 13 times in 16 years due to the various obstacles poor people face. No cause evictions, unsafe living conditions, inability to pay—and the list goes on. I have also been homeless. I was so excited to be nominated to chair the Steering Committee because I understand the confusion and sleepless nights as well as the stress that homelessness and housing insecurity causes. And I am excited to see the community decide what a strong healthy neighborhood looks like. We do not have to sit around and take what is prescribed for us just because we are low income families. We can come together and build community-owned houses, decide who we sell them to, and determine what we pay to live there. That is the type of future I and the people I know dream of for our children.