Hi All! I hope everyone’s second week is going well.
I’m Caitlin and I am working at Bridging Neighborhoods, which does several housing programs for people in the Delray neighborhood affected by environmental injustice. Bridging Neighborhoods runs an environmental mitigation program, a home repair program, and a home swap program. A lot of their work involves construction and contracting, which I don’t know much about, but it seems very interesting so far. I wasn’t anticipating getting to learn about that so I’m really excited to be in a space where that stuff is happening! This summer I will be conducting interviews, doing data analysis, and researching Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs).
CBAs form when coalitions of community groups negotiate for benefits from developers building on land in their neighborhood. Bridging Neighborhoods was formed as part of a CBA that the community negotiated for in response to the construction of the Gordie-Howe International Bridge (a new bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada). I’ve learned that the first formal CBA was only created in 2001, which means research about them is still emerging. It also means that there isn’t a set formula for the agreements, so communities can negotiate for what is best for them, be it environmental protection tactics like buffering, first-source hiring programs, or home repair programs like the one Bridging Neighborhoods runs. I’m fascinated by the potential CBAs have to put tangible power into the hands of community members. It’s also interesting to learn about the unique challenges they present too, since CBAs rely heavily on interwoven relationships between municipalities, residents, and developers, and require clear accountability and enforcement measures. I think that the room for creativity with Community Benefits Agreements is very exciting, and I feel lucky to be learning from Detroiters who are leading the way in this relatively new way of looking at land-use.
So far I’ve really been enjoying getting to know the other fellows! I feel like I lucked out with the group of people here. Everyone’s nice and also accomplished but still approachable. I like my coworkers a lot too. The office environment is great, and I appreciate that people want to get to know me and offer advice. Today we went out to lunch and ate some delicious Mexican food. Afterwards we did some flyering. I speak Spanish and I got to use it today while talking to some residents. It felt really good to be useful in that way.