The Minneapolis People for Liberation and Solidarity (MPLS) Initiative stands for returning the power to run Minneapolis to control by the people and communities in which they live. First and foremost, civilian control of police, but also community control of land use and development. Community Land Trusts (CLTs) provide a means for community members to take control of the land on which they live and love. The CLT model has a history in Minneapolis. The City of Lakes Community Land Trust has been operating for 20 years in the Powderhorn and Seward neighborhoods. Other land trusts have formed around Minnesota. The Trusts are non-profit organizations with a board elected from the communities that reside on the land the Trust controls. Trusts have been used to protect natural and historic spaces, as well as to blunt gentrification and provide universal housing. I propose that Minneapolis establish a Residents Land Board with the mission to encourage and facilitate the creation of more Community Land Trusts in Minneapolis to serve more communities. The RLB will be the primary municipal council responsible for providing affordable and safe housing for every resident. The RLB would be comprised of elected Commissioners representing geographic and demographic constituencies in the city.
Because the land on which Minneapolis exists belongs to Native peoples it is important that design, organization, and function of the RLB be lead by the Native commuity. Because the MPLS Initiative will be built on a foundation of reparations, respect, and solidarity, it is also important that Black residents of Minneapolis have a foundational role on the RLB. Beyond that, this privileged voice will stop talking about how the RLB should be structured or how it will make decisions. Instead, I’ll talk about the how the CLT model might be used to provide community control of land use in Minneapolis.
The interests of more communities would be better served by a network of Community Land Trusts in Minneapolis. Each built by one or another group of residents and organized to manage land for residential, agriculture, industrial, or cultural use. Other CLTs will be organized by demographic communities, places of worship, or any other group. The city government should encourage formation of CLTs in every part of the city and for community management of land for many purposes. Counteracting gentrification and working to provide universal housing for every resident of Minneapolis has been a major function of CLTs. Building healthy soil in the Parks, Community Gardens, as well as Urban and Organic Farms, could be enhanced forming CLTs with nearby farms and farmer collectives. Leaving particular parcels undeveloped urban wild spaces. Setting particular spots aside for memorials, monuments, public rituals or celebrations. Providing space for neighborhood markets, small businesses, and community meeting spaces. All of these could benefit from a CLT.
Each CLT will be managed by a board chosen by the people in the community that formed the Trust. The RLB will work to coordinate Trust efforts and integrate their functions with other municipal boards and councils. The RLB will make certain that each CLT has maximal connection to city services and access to resources. The Board will review and analyze land use and highlight any changes that need to be made. The RLB will issue Requests For Trusts targeting the required land use, and let the communities form new, or expand existing, Trusts to fill the needs of the entire city.
Whatever form the Residents Land Board has when it is convened, the over-arching goal will be to return control of the land to the people in the communities that make up Minneapolis. Because land – stolen and withheld – is at the root of the white supremacy that so permeates our city, state, nation, and culture, it is appropriate that RLB be centered on Black and Native lives. Community control will be multi-faceted because each Community Land Trust will be managed by community members and the RLB Commissioners will be elected by residents. This change in land stewardship will bring back the knowledge and experience of people that have been disempowered, exploited, and oppressed for many generations. It should be an act of acceptance, atonement, and intentional healing. May it become a seed from which proper reparations will grow and blossom all across the state and nation.