Includes DUE projects Urban Industrial by Caitlin Charlet, Travers Martin, Katie Killpack, Jessie Metts and Laura Guzman as well as Mapping the Housing Crisis by Rethink the Block!

Today’s urban struggles are forcing us to look into new approaches for providing adequate housing and working conditions. Housing in many parts of the world is unobtainable or insufficient. Despite governmental efforts and international aid programs to countries, there is still a big struggle for adequate shelters.

What are new guidelines that could be followed on creating new locally based educational programs for ecologically sustainable communities in today’s global cities? How urbanities can have local access and control over life’s essential resources: food production, water security, waste management, autonomous energy, and bioremediation of toxic soils? How could people with limited financial resources approach building their own systems with low cost, accessible, and recycled materials? These resources may appear to be too complex, however the daily lives of people and communities demonstrate that these topics cannot be investigated separately.

In my thesis I will demonstrate how the lack of authoritative and “legitimate” social services provides fertile conditions for housing and labor to take root, based on a system of self-autonomy and integrated modalities.

I will pursue a praxis and comparative analysis oriented upon a local community engagement: as an active member of the NYCCLI (New York City Community Land Initiative), I will be collaboratively with the initiative members developing educational toolkit, a handbook that will help visualize the way CLT could work as a potential mechanism for preserving long term housing affordability in the gentrified neighborhood. My thesis document will include text, diagrams, and visuals representing the processes surrounding formation of the East Harlem Community Land Trust. In addition to that I am planning to carry out the research on urban social movements with focus on housing issues showing historic moments that helped shaping some of the most successful CLT models in New York and beyond city borders (for example Cooper Square CLT, Dudley Street CLT, etc). The research will take into account different political, economic, and historic circumstances.

The visual toolkit will work as education learning manual and a teach in template used by the NYCCLI members during the outreach campaigns in East Harlem as well as it will be geared toward replicating the model in other neighborhoods with similar housing issues while trying to find alternative ways in affordable housing solutions. The toolkit will target both; the landowners who seek to preserve long time housing affordability as well as tenants searching affordable dwelling. It will help to convey to its targeted audience the needs and the benefits of forming a CLT and being a part of wider CLT community.

A common thread that emerged from Rethink the Block’s research was the need to expand the scope of understanding around the complex array of issues, structures, and stakeholders that influence the housing and development sector. As a result, a central focus of our thesis project will be the designing of a creative campaign that simplifies the complexity of this sector and offers a scope of opportunities for individuals and organizations to learn, network, and identify points of engagement.

Utilizing various mediums such as workshops, literature, panels discussions, theater, oral history, design and art capacities, the campaign will be divided into two sections:

Section 1: Knowledge is Power
This section provides a contextual lens of the stakeholders, structures, and impact of housing and development initiatives from a federal, state (New York), and local (New York City) level by using a combination of the previously described mediums. We will cite several examples (e.g. Prutt-Igoe, Amalgamated, Melrose Urban Renewal Plan, La Central, etc..) to assist in the analysis. We will share the functionality of the terrain and breakdown the various mechanisms embedded in the housing and development process.

Lastly, this section will identify crisis points (e.g. race and class struggles, disinvestment, affordability, gentrification with displacement (residential & commercial), access, etc.) derived from the material presented, as well as those shared from “participants” engaged in the campaign. Further, we will share the different perspectives and opinions from think tanks, academics, organizations, and individuals regarding these identified crisis points.

Section 2: Fertile Ground
This section highlights progressive practices or initiatives (both internationally, and locally) growing out of the housing/development terrain to address some of the identified crisis points. An alternative socially innovative housing model that combines the different practices and initiatives will be applied to an actual space located within the East Tremont section of the Bronx.