Boston, MA- Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

Location Boston, MA (the Dudley Street area located in the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston)
Name The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) and the Dudley Neighbors Inc. (DNI, this is DSNI’s CLT)
Date Initiated 1984
Shared or Co-Governance The DSNI is based on a shared co-governance structure.  It emerged as a collaboration between the local residents of Dudley, a philanthropic organization (the Riley Foundation), the state and local government (the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the State of Massachusetts), and other community organizations and leaders.  Its core mission is to empower Dudley residents by allowing them to remain in control of the development and maintenance of their own community; their core slogan and mission is “development without displacement.”. A Declaration of Community Rights, which all members of the Dudley community live by, was written by and for the community residents in 1993,  and the “master plan” implemented by the CLT created by DSNI (Dudley Neighbors Inc.) to guide the community revitalization effort was written by community members as well. Their original and ongoing focus, and what DSNI has come to represent, is a priority for giving neighborhood residents greater control and voice over their community’s affairs, which is evident in the way in which DSNI is operated and controlled.  There is ample opportunity for community involvement and input in DSNI, and in every way, the DSNI is based on a co-governance, community empowerment model, from the election of the Board, to the ways in which is chooses which projects to undertake.  In perhaps its largely undertaking, gaining the power of eminent domain, a variety of actors were involved: a consulting firm, over 200 residents of Dudley, the newly elected Mayor of Boston (Ray Flynn), community organizations, and the staff and leadership of DSNI. DSNI is democratically governed, organized and run so that each cultural-ethnic grouping present in the Dudley community gets an equal voice. The Board has 35 seats and of those 35, 20 are reserved for community residents.  Of these 20, 4 seats are for Black residents, 4 are for Latinos, 4 are for residents with a Cape Verde heritage, 4 are for white residents, and 4 are for youth (ages 15-18) living in the community. Of the remaining seats: 2 go to community development organizations, 2 for local religious organizations, 7 for partner organizations, and 2 for small businesses in the community. Once in place, these 33 members then elect 2 additional members from those who wanted to participate on the board but weren’t elected, for a total of 35.  The vast majority of those who serve on the board are actual members of the Dudley community.  The Board follows a community-led planning process, which establishes the annual goals for DSNI, and works hard to ensure “resident leadership” of all DSNI projects and initiatives. They also create and maintain many collaborative relationships with those in the non-profit, government, and private sectors. Their annual reports boasts of the widespread and robust involvement of residents, elected officials, resource providers for home improvements, lenders, and other providers in their DNI annual meeting, which typically include over 150 attendees.  Their shared governance structure is also visible in their annual budget: approximately 63% of their funding comes from corporate and foundation grants, while the remainder comes from the government, special events, individual donations, and earned income. Their funders, which are listed in their annual report and on their website, include a hodge-podge of corporate, non-profit, and government sector individuals and entities. Even the allotment of houses is done in a collaborative, fair way through a lottery system.  Everyone interested in purchasing one of Dudley’s affordable homes has their name placed in a hat; a random one is selected and that family is invited to purchase the home. If they are unable, another name is pulled until an owner is established.
Relationship to State The state and local governments have been essential partners to the DSNI from it’s very beginning and remain in close partnership with the Dudley community.  Only through the city of Boston was DSNI, through its subsidiary (Dudley Neighbors Inc), able to gain the power of eminent domain to establish the Community Land Trust and take ownership over more than 30 acres (and control of over 60 acres) of vacant land located in the Dudley St neighborhood, an area referred to as the “Dudley Street Triangle.”  This was the first time in the nation’s history that a non-profit organization had received this typically government-only power, an enormously powerful tool. One of the primary reasons DSNI was able to gain this power was because of the support they gained from the newly elected Mayor of Boston, Mayor Ray Flynn, who ran on a reform platform in 1983 and came into office with a priority for rehabilitating low-income African-American and Latino communities in the Boston area. DSNI seized on this, and quickly struck up a partnership with Mayor Flynn, who easily offered his full support and backing to their ambitious endeavors.  Since then, the local and state government have continued to offer their support, financial and otherwise. Government funding provides over a third of DSNI’s annual budget, and the Community Investment Tax Credit, signed in 2012 by Governor Deval Patrick, helps incentive private and corporate donors to give to DSNI. In multiple interviews conducted with DSNI leadership, the interviewees discussed the at times contentious relationship with the local and state governments, but also, their ongoing collaboration and support by the government, which was viewed as helpful and essential.  In one interview, Mr. Bayoan stated that “it’s important to collaborate with the government because they can help get our projects done more quickly.” He also reported that in at least one instance, the city had given additional vacant land to the DSNI to manage and control, viewing them as best placed to do this given their past success; and he also noted that two new community gardens were being supported by a federal grant called Choice Neighborhood.
Pooling of Social and Economic Resources The primary goal of the DSNI is to create affordable housing for the residents of the Dudley Street area and to prevent displacement in the rapidly gentrifying city of Boston.   They succeeded in this goal, creating 225 new affordable homes, which are sold or leased at affordable prices to the residents of Dudley. Their stated goal, in the 2014-15 Annual Report, which is the most recent report posted on their website, is to create another 1,000 new housing units in the 10 years moving forward.  Providing housing has removed the fear of displacement among the community members and built a culture of civic engagement, which is encouraged by a culture of empowerment and community participation cultivated by DSNI. The DSNI works to pool social and economic resources among community members through the extensive and diverse variety of initiatives and projects that they are constantly launching in collaboration with community organizations and NGOs.   For example, Dudley Children Thrive is a project that connected parents, residents, and early childhood organizations as partners dedicated to developing creative ways to build, support, and engage families as critical first teachers. First Teacher, another DSNI initiative, is focused on helping parents and guardians of young children to prepare those children for kindergarten and beyond. The Fairmont Cultural Corridor is a creative initiative that helps to beautify the neighborhood through art.  It hired four community-based Artists-and-Residence to paint murals and create other art projects around the community. Other projects help to plant and maintain Dudley’s many gardens, provide job training skills to the adult residents, expand literacy among the children, improve the nutritional and environmental health of the community, and help families make and meet their economic, educational and professional goals. All of these projects work to level the playing field among the Dudley area residents, to help elevate and strengthen their status in all sectors, and to ensure that not only are everyone’s basic needs taken care of, but that everyone is thriving and empowered. The costs of living in the Dudley community are kept at a minimum to ensure that everyone can live comfortably and equally and, where possible, people are given opportunities to pay through donating their time. For example, in the 10,000 square foot Dudley greenhouse, any resident can use space to grow their own food without any payment provided they donate 2-4 hours of their time each month.  Those living in one of the affordable homes pay a small fee to lease the land their home sits on (which is owned by the CLT); which according to one of the interviewees is $49/month. And members pay very low dues to be part of the community, around $10/ year.
Local Need(s) or Services Provided DSNI serves an enormous variety of local needs for the residents of the Dudley St. area, not least of which includes the provision of affordable housing, which can be leased or owned.  Moreover, DSNI organizes and implements a huge variety of programs, offerings and initiatives each year, as previously discussed. These programs offer a range of services to the community, including specific programs for children, adolescents, adults, and elderly.  Through active collaboration with many community groups, private sector entities, churches, NGOs, and government agencies, DSNI offers their residents assistance with job training, nutrition and health services, guidance on preparing for a secondary and post-secondary education, early childhood interventions, intern and mentorship opportunities, access to gardens and Greenhouse farming, and at times job opportunities, among many other ongoing and periodic services.  These projects and initiatives are intended to help empower the community, to raise them up economically, educationally, spiritually and in every conceivable way, and to fend off the contagion of gentrification, an ever-spreading phenomenon in and throughout the Boston area. The DSNI Board, which oversees everything that DSNI does, has three broad strategic areas of focus: (1) sustainable economic development; (2) youth training and leadership; and (3) community empowerment.  Each of these areas serves a different need in the local community and each offers a range of services designed to advance each area. Everyone who participates in the Dudley Community has equal access to all the services, projects, campaigns, initiatives, and meetings offered by DSNI, and in this way, offers the possibility of serving the community in an enormous variety of ways, not least of which includes helping them feel part of a broader, closely-knit community that is tied together by shared ideals and values, and a commitment to resisting the forces of  privatization and gentrification.
Digital Infrastructure, Open Data, Other Aspects While DSNI maintains an active online presence through its Twitter and Facebook accounts, I have not found evidence that it specifically focuses on expanding digital/online access to the Dudley community as part of its mission.  Nor did this topic arise in the three interviews conducted with DSNI staff. However, I would not be surprised if they have partnered with an organization to do just that, as they are engaged in so many partnerships to provide high-quality resources and services to the community.
Comments The DSNI resulted in drastic changes to the Dudley Street neighborhood.  Before and after pictures can be viewed here.

Three lengthy interviews were conducted with three different staff at DSNI.  They can be accessed here.

DSNI is among the most “robust” case studies that likely exist in the United States due to its longevity, ambitions, success, scope, size, and the unprecedented nature of its receipt of the power of eminent domain by the City of Boston.

References and Sources DSNI Website: here.

Dudley Neighbors Inc. Website: here.

Abraham, Yvonne.  2014. “Trust and Transformation in a Roxbury Neighborhood.” Boston Globe, July 24.  Accessed May 20, 2018.

DSNI’s facebook page: here.

DSNI’s Twitter: here.

Email: urbanvillage@dsni.org

Dwyer, Lee Allen.  2015. Mapping Impact: An Analysis of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Land Trust.  MA Thesis in City Planning, MIT, available here.

Taylor, Elizabeth A.  1995. “The Dudey Street Neighborhood Initiative and the Power of Eminent Domain.”  Boston College Law Review. V. 36, n. 5 (September), 1061-1087.

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550 Dudley St Roxbury, MA 02119




Project Details

Added: 8.06.18
Co-City: