We did it! Community bought a full block in the Central District!
After nearly two years of advocacy, an entire block in the Central District has officially been protected from market rate, predatory development and instead transferred to Black community ownership!
Africatown Community Land Trust (“ACLT”) officially closed on the $14M property on 16th and Yesler last week!
An entire block in the Central District has been protected from market rate development and instead will go to Black community ownership towards Bennu Community Homes.
In the coming months, we’ll continue to unpack and amplify this remarkable story. But for those just tuning in, here are a few reasons why this $14M land acquisition is such a massive success for the City of Seattle and Washington State:
1. Staving off gentrification.
The Central District (CD) is the historic home to Washington’s oldest and largest Black neighborhood. Centuries of racist covenants and anti-Black racial hostility drastically narrowed places where the Black community could call home. In spite of such hostile and adverse circumstances, Blacks in Washington created vibrant Black communities in the spaces afforded.
While the CD used to be 73% Black, today its Black population is under 18%. Chronic underfunding, predatory development, damaging public work projects (e.g., the i-90 lid), and other land use decisions have led to the dislocation, displacement, and disintegration of the Black community there. Black people in the CD have been impacted by a myriad of structural and institutional anti-Black racist policies e.g., weed and seed, over-policing, discriminatory practices leading to racial segregation, and economic exclusion. All of this has led to vast disparities in education quality, employment, environmental safety, affordable housing, community safety, health, wealth and more.
So, while this property acquisition doesn’t fix this gigantic issue, it does help slow the trend. Not only does this transfer stop the development of a full block of market rate apartments (which would only further hasten the whitening of the CD) but it also transfers ownership of that full block to the Black community!
2. Immediate relief for 125 neighbors experiencing homelessness.
ACLT Community Homes will be a 24/7, enhanced shelter home that will offer culturally responsive, trauma-informed care and wraparound services including health, education, employment, and housing navigation resources. As we approach the coldest months of the year, 125 beds for our unhoused neighbors' will be available this month!
3. The first Black-owned, Black-led unhoused service provider of scale in Washington State.
There are currently no Black-led unhoused service providers of scale in Washington State, even though Black people are significantly overrepresented in the unhoused population. Black people make up 13% of Seattle’s overall population but nearly 40% of the population experience homelessness.
What’s the result? An industry dominated by large white-led nonprofits with little to no accountability to the Black community with neither the cultural competency or vision to service a majority non-white population.
Bennu Community Homes breaks this disturbing model by empowering Black community and Black-led organizations to serve our people directly. The purchase affords the opportunity to prototype holistic, culturally-competent care. ACLT and its other Black partners add necessary to voices to the industry towards changing the system for the better, for all of us.
4. Cross-community partnership.
Partnered with the City of Seattle, Africatown facilitated multiple community engagement sessions to ensure participation from important community stakeholders. Without the involvement of the Japanese and Pan Asian community, Indigenous Duwamish community representatives, neighbors, renters, homeowners, and local service providers, this would not have been possible. Huge thanks and congratulations to the community on this incredible milestone!
We were the leading advocacy organization on this project. With countless community members, we helped mobilize tens of thousands of people and nearly 50,000 actions demanding equitable development of this block.
Together, we demonstrated the power of community voice. We can move away from the current Jim Crow apartheid state toward a new normal rooted in equity.
This is what Black organizing does.
This is why Black organizing matters.
It truly takes a village.
Keiro on Track to Empower and Bring Together Communities of Color
A property that once provided shelter for Japanese American war veterans is likely to become the site of subsidized housing that could be owned by Black community organizations. After a long journey through multiple phases and owners, the now-shuttered Keiro Rehabilitation and Care Center is currently on its way to be sold to Africatown Community Land Trust, a consortium that promotes the return of gentrified Black people to the Central District.
Project at Former Keiro Site to Honor Indigenous, Pan-Asian Communities
King County Equity Now announced on July 3 that Shelter Holdings agreed to halt its development of the former Keiro site—nearly a full block, situated squarely in the Central Area. After immense public pushback from the Black community for Shelter Holdings’ role in gentrification and the Central Area’s displacement, Shelter Holdings agreed to transfer the property to the Black community.
Help Build Black the Block
In 2020, Black community mobilized tremendous community support to halt the predatory development of the Keiro site—nearly a full block in the heart of the Central District. This historic, cross-community, anti-gentrification project has received huge support from City and State officials. We’re now in the home-stretch to make this national model a reality. Use your voice in support, below.
Celebrate A Few Black Finance Wins As We Approach Our 1-Year Anniversary
Just a few latest land wins:
- $150 million in increased community development for affordable housing from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission;
- $27 million for Africatown Plaza towards Black community-centered spaces and replicable, scalable models to halt the impacts of gentrification; and
- $4.5M for the Keiro project (plus halting a full block of predatory development in the heart of the Central District to create the opportunity for Black community equity in the first place).