Musings on Radical Real Estate - The Law Center Hosts First Community Discussion

It’s been a month since our radical real estate law school launched! We recently hosted a web discussion that focused on the central questions of this program - what IS radical real estate and how do we work towards it? The discussion included most of our team at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, members of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EBPREC), Community Vision, along with special presentations from an attorney and a scholar.

The discussion invited everyone to introduce their personal connotations on radical real estate. Many shared how we tend to view property as something you can exclude others from because we see it as a thing we can own. Yet, property is a right. Radical real estate invites us to shift those relationships from a right to exclude others towards a right from being excluded by the land. There is an interplay between our relationships to each other and the law that needs to be paid attention to.

Many also believe that the immediate usefulness of land to sustain us is more important than how much the land is worth on the market. With that in mind, a lot of us began to ask “is the law conducive to radical land relations?” Imagination under our current legal frameworks, which are largely informed by the market, will always result as myopic it seems. So then how do we begin forming these new frameworks?

Some attendees invited the group to think of why we are using the word radical at all. How can we use it to help us ground our work, rather than allude to something incendiary?  Radical as a way to bring us to the root of our problems, and to the essence of our needs - shelter, food, and belonging. While these needs should not be radical in our imaginations, they are the goals to achieve.

...[P]roperty is a right. Radical real estate invites us to shift those relationships from a right to exclude others towards a right from being excluded by the land.

The idea of rematriation was a central theme in the conversation. Rematriation is the process of returning land to its original stewards and inhabitants. Many participants reminded us that completely different ways of looking at the world have existed for millenia. This idea is coming into popular consciousness largely through the efforts of Native Americans in the so-called United States and Canada reclaiming space in discourse. These, we believe, are better suited to disrupt existing land relations. Rematriation goes beyond shifting land ownership, and towards completely transforming it. It abolishes the idea of property as a thing, and instead looks at stewardship as a responsibility to the land led by the wisdom of indigenous people. This shift then creates the space for radical relationships to happen unhindered, and allows us to look at other interlocking struggles through a new lens, like the long overdue reparations for Black communities, and the dispossession migrants have faced and continue facing.

Towards the end of the discussion, we began connecting all our ideas with the intention of bolstering our curriculum.With many more questions to ask now, our process remains continuous. It is in the interest of the Radical Real Estate Law School (RRELS) to create a legal education informed by broad community participation. We are looking to foster more complex, connected, and adaptive systems of thinking.

Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: