Vermont Racial Justice Housing Jam: Increasing Equity in Vermont Housing Public Speaker Series Kicks off on November 3

Press Release
October 18, 2022
Erin Riley, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, 802 828-5061; @email

Vermont Racial Justice Housing Jam: 
Increasing Equity in Vermont Housing
Public Speaker Series Kicks off on November 3

On November 3, the public is invited to participate in the first of a four-part series examining how racial inequities impact access to housing in Vermont. The initiative has been coordinated by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, working in partnership with Abundant Sun, Champlain Housing Trust, Downstreet Housing & Community Development, RuralEdge, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, NeighborWorks America, and Vermont Housing Finance Agency, with additional support from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

The public speaker series has been developed by Abundant Sun, together with the Vermont Racial Justice Housing Jam, a committee of community members with lived experience and representatives from nonprofit housing organizations. Local, national, and international speakers will address selected topics focused on increasing racial justice and equity in Vermont housing.  All sessions are free and open to the public, and will be held via Zoom.  A discussion will follow each presentation.

Beginning on November 3, 2022 and continuing through February 2023, the four public speaking events will explore the roots of racial discrimination in housing policy and practices; the ways current systems continue to reinforce oppressive practices; the real impacts of racial inequity on daily life and economic well-being; and new efforts and ideas that can help to change the tide. The goal of the initiative is to identify actions on policy, programmatic and cultural levels to expand access to affordable housing for all Vermonters.

Vermont Racial Justice Housing Jam

All presentations are free and will be held online via Zoom.
To reserve your place, visit The Housing Jam website.
Follow the Vermont Racial Justice Housing Jam on social media @vthousingjam

November 3, 2022: Speaker Session 1
Laying the Foundation: Equitable Housing 101, Identifying the Issues
Shanti Abedin, Vice-President of Housing & Community Development, National Fair Housing Alliance, Washington, D.C., USA
Emcee: Dr. Jude Smith Rachele, CEO of Abundant Sun

This session will provide an overview of historic challenges and an examination of opportunities to increase racial equity in Vermont’s affordable housing development system. The meaning of terms such as “equity” and “white supremacist culture” will be explored. How might language and culture in the housing field reinforce built-in assumptions and create barriers to housing access? Share your experience and engage in the discussion!

December 1, 2022: Speaker Session 2
Changing the Plan: The history of racial injustice in Vermont housing
Tony Pickett, CEO of Grounded Solutions Network, Washington, D.C. USA
Emcees: Dr. Jude Smith Rachele, CEO, Abundant Sun and Liz Curry, Principal, CommonLand Solutions, LLC

Community land trusts play a significant role in building equitable communities. We will discuss how trusts address the impact of restricted access to housing and “home” on black and indigenous people and people of color in the U.S., including New Americans, people who are not proficient in the English language, migrant workers, and others. We will also explore the historical systemic barriers and racist design of the US real estate, urban planning and housing finance systems. What are the housing challenges faced by BIPOC Vermonters today, and how can community land trusts help?

January 12, 2022: Speaker Session 3
From Slavery to Tenancy: Balancing power between tenants & landlords

Speaker:  Dr. Ted Rutland, Associate Professor, Concordia University, Canada
Emcees: Dr. Jude Smith Rachele, CEO, Abundant Sun and Xusana Davis, Executive Director, Office of Racial Equity, State of Vermont

The history of tenant-landlord relationships is inextricable from that of race and class. For slaves, housing had been an aspect of their captivity. Overnight, slaves became tenants. Contemporary landlord practices and the laws that govern them exist along this continuum of violent inequity. How does this history influence internal governance and practices within housing organizations? In landlord practices? Among tenants? In community relations?

February 2, 2023: Speaker Session 4
De-Commodifying Our Right to Shelter: Reparations, Land use, and Alternate Systems of Housing

Speaker: Dr. Valesca Lima, Assistant Professor at Dublin City University, Ireland
Emcee: Dr. Jude Smith Rachele, CEO, Abundant Sun

Housing is a basic human right that has been commodified within the context of European colonialism. As we have explored in this series, racial injustice historically has made it difficult for racially marginalized groups to access equity required for homeownership, and/or leasing.  Consequently, racial inequity has resulted in greater housing insecurity. How can we in Vermont improve our housing system so that housing becomes a basic human right that is satisfied and not denied?