I’m hearing the term resilience a lot lately. It refers to the capacity to survive and thrive in the face of stresses or threats. Cultivating resilience goes beyond preventing disaster or mitigating its effects. It means empowering people, organizations and communities to rebound from adversity, adapt to change, and innovate for the future. It involves developing inclusive leadership and strong partnerships and inspiring hope and sustained commitment.
Resilience is a good term to describe how SCC is responding to the stresses of gentrification and the threats of displacement. SCC is cultivating resilience among individuals and families.
- New programs make us a more resilient organization.
- Our organizing campaigns are making Somerville a more resilient city where everyone, including immigrants, people of color and others most vulnerable to displacement, can prosper.
- And we are building a resilient community of residents who have the power and the sustained stamina to steer the path of change.
Resilient Tenants, Homeowners and Job Seekers
SCC’s affordable housing developments protect families from the threat of displacement despite rising rents. Moreover, these homes remain affordable indefinitely, even if current residents choose to move.
SCC is also building resilience through our Economic Opportunity programs. Financial Literacy program participants master budgeting, credit management and savings techniques to confront financial challenges strategically. The First Source Jobs Program equips job seekers with skills to find employment and training to command better wages so that they can afford the cost of living in Somerville.
First-Time Homebuyer classes help people gain the security of homeownership and the opportunity to benefit from increasing property values. Equally important, relationships with staff and among peers build self-confidence and leadership skills, providing more tools for resilience.
New Programs to Promote Resilience
SCC has been practicing resilience by introducing new approaches to the organization’s ongoing work to promote housing affordability and career development.
The 100 Homes campaign is an innovative strategy for intercepting the speculative housing market. SCC buys properties when they come up for sale with funds from the Somerville Housing Trust Fund and Community Preservation Committee and a line of credit from the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation. These units become part of the permanently affordable housing stock for Somerville residents. (Read more about this initiative.)
This fall, SCC launched its first sector-based employment training program in partnership with Bunker Hill, the Metro North Regional Employment Board and the City of Somerville. The 10 members of the inaugural cohort of the Culinary Arts Training Program are acquiring the skills and supports to pursue careers in the restaurant and hospitality sector.
The five months of hands-on kitchen training, job coaching, career readiness training and job search support will prepare them to take advantage of the anticipated growth of jobs in these fields.
Organizing for a More Resilient Somerville
SCC has also been at the helm of efforts to make Somerville a more resilient city. Organizing campaigns have won new policies that will compel developers to invest in the people of Somerville as well as the potential to profit from Somerville’s growing prosperity.
SCC’s Affordable Housing Organizing Committee (AHOC), filed a citizen’s petition with over 500 signatures that led to the adoption of one of the nation’s strongest inclusionary zoning requirements. The new inclusionary zoning law, enacted in May 2016, mandates all developments to ensure that as much as 20% of the units are affordable to low- and moderate-income households
In December 2017, citizens petitions and testimony at public hearings led to the establishment of City’s first Jobs Linkage fee that will exact $2.46 per square foot from commercial developments of over 15,000. The fees will be allocated to the Job Training Trust Fund, that once established, will culminate an organizing campaign initiated in 2014. Organizing efforts also convinced the Board of Aldermen to increase the affordable housing linkage fee to $10.00 per square foot for development over 30,000 square feet.
Coalition Building for a Resilient Community
A community is resilient when its people share a common vision for the future and have the power to work together to realize that vision. SCC has been a major force in building the Union United coalition of residents, local businesses, and community-based organizations fighting for development without displacement in Union Square. Members of Union United have joined other neighborhood groups and residents to establish the city’s first Neighborhood Council. Over 700 neighbors voted to elect the council’s board of 15 diverse members and it is poised to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with the primary developers.
Celebrating Victories to Sustain Resilience
Finally, SCC recognizes that celebration is the fuel of resilience. At our annual Members Meeting we honored SCC member Afruza Akther for her exemplary resilience. Afruza has led her family through struggles with housing and employment and she has led our community as a member the Union United Steering Committee and now as a member of the Union Square Neighborhood Council.
We applauded the new affordable housing, the advocacy victories, and fundraising campaigns. And we ate and danced and laughed because having fun together spurs us on to continue the effort.