Stories of Justice
The most recent Durham CAN public assembly took place at Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church on October 26. At least 30 representatives of ERUUF were present. The candidates for mayor and city council were invited to hear about and support Durham CAN's agenda for change. All the candidates as well as several city officials who were not up for election attended. The assembly included over 600 people from congregations and neighborhoods of Durham.
As attendees, we heard a moving speech from Dr. Rev. William Turner about what it means to care about community in a speech titled "Why We are Here". Durham CAN leaders then presented a slideshow of accomplishments including the Fayette Place repurchase, Durham Station, and plans and negotiations for affordable housing on the Jackson St. property near downtown. We also heard from members of the Durham Community Land Trust. The following is an excellent documentary about Fayette Place and Durham CAN's involvement: Fayette Place.
CAN also used the opportunity to launch our new jobs campaign, an exciting new endeavor.
As for the public accountability portion, each of the candidates for city council and mayor answered "Yes" to all of the items on Durham CAN's change agenda. See below for specific details on this agenda.
Last but not least, the representatives of ERUUF were asked to rise as a beautiful tribute was offered to Amassa Fauntleroy, a long time supporter of Durham CAN.
Thank you to everyone who was present at the assembly. Durham CAN is an organization of people. Our power is in numbers.
by Heather Ladd
Durham CAN Agenda for Change:
1. Prevent displacement of economically disadvantaged residents from their homes: Durham has a significant shortage of housing affordable to very low income households, primarily renters, who earn less than $25,000 a year. As a result, some 27,000 low-income households, most of them renter, pay over 30% of their income for housing. Durham is losing affordable housing much faster thn we can replace it. In June, with CAN's support, the Mayor and City Council doubled Durham's 2017-18 budget for preservation and creation of affordable housing to over $5.6 million. Last year the Durham Community Land Trustees (CAN member Institution purchases, and made permanently affordable 53 homes in NorthEast Central Durham, Without a Self-Help Loan, and DLCT's quick action, the current resident would have lost their homes. These homes urgently need significant repair. Over the next two years, DCLT aims to renovate them, while maintaining affordable rents so that no one will be displaced or live in hazardous conditions. Durham CAN alls all Mayoral and City Council candidates to invest Designated Hosing Funds to complete the repairs for these homes by 2019 and to keep them affordable to low income residents for generations to come.
2. Prevent evictions: Durham County has the highest eviction filing rate among North Carolina's ten largest counties. From July 2015 to June 2016, there was one eviction case brought to magistrate court for every twenty-eight Durham residents. On average, 887 eviction cases were files each month in that one year period. We have heard from cash strapped landlords/property owners who often have no alternative, but to pass the cost of repairs onto tenants. Eviction are often the direct result of sudden increases in rent. In the past the city has successfully experimented with providing funding to owners of existing income restricted affordable housing to update and rehab their units. In those cases the city required the unites receiving
financing be kept affordable for a certain period of time. We want the city f Durham to build on this ad hoc investment and establish a dedicated pool of loan funds for owner of existing affordable rental units to bin units up to code, while requiring keeping rents affordable. Durham CAN calls all mayoral city council candidates to support the establishment pool of revolving loan funds to maintain rents affordable and support landlords/property owners in making much needed repairs.
3. Invest in more land for affordable housing: The city of Durham faces a number of hosing challenges, including a significant shortage of affordable rental housing for very low income households and rapidly rising housing costs in many historically affordable communities, particularly in central Durham. Public agencies, colleges and universities in Durham are also seeking to address workforce/student housing. Durham CAN calls all Mayoral and city council candidates to use the leverage of the city government to co-convene other interested parties such as Duke University, NC Central University, GoTriangle, The State Employees Credit Union, SelfHelp Credit Union to create a joint affordable housing fund to be used to purchase available parcels and use it as a central land bank.
4. Double summer jobs: Every year thousands of youth get disconnected from opportunity The Summer Youth Employment Programs help increase participants' income, develop young people's skills and networks to improve their labor market prospects, and offer constructive activities to promote positive behavior. The YouthWorks program is a partnership between the City of Durham, Durham County, the Durham Public School's Career and Public Education Program involved. All three entities agreed to each fund 50 paid youth internships. Out of the 904 youth completed applications into the program, a total of 525 were called for an interview. Sadly, only 202 were places into summer internship. This is a travesty. Durham must do better than this. Durham CAN calls all mayoral and city council candidates to agree to double the current city investment on this program and to double the current number of hired youth with city funds.
5. Connect ex-offenders with jobs: When ex-offenders reintegrate into our community, they face a number of barriers to employment. By providing ex-offenders with the support and services they need to find and maintain employment, states can reduce recidivism. Even with marketable skills, people who are released from prison often need information and guidance to navigate the job market. To serve the needs of businesses and ex-offenders and their families, the city of Durham can further promote effective placement services from reintegrating ex-offenders by expanding partnerships with employers and improving the range of available placements. Durham CAN calls all mayoral and city council candidates to support the piloting of an apprenticeship program to connect those previously incarcerated with training, work experience and the opportunity for future employment.