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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 50 Rebecca Fletcher Equity Trust TURNERS FALLS, MASSACHUSETTS “We’re all in this together!” Rebecca Fletcher says. “Each life creates ripples outward, and we are all dependent upon the land and communities that sustain us.” Fletcher is one of the employees of the nonprofit Equity Trust Inc. in Massachusetts, where she combines compassion and optimism to help groups that protect farms and afford- able housing. “I get to talk with organizers all over the country who have land-related interests and problems, and hear the stories of their remarkable projects,” the thirty-year-old says. “I provide counseling, technical consulting services, and education, using shared-equity models of ownership for housing and for farms. Using community land trusts and other ways of combining public and private ownership, the benefits of land can be shared more broadly and equitably.” Solidarity economics—social and economic justice—are the mainstays of her philosophy. From the time she was six until she was nine, she spent one night a week on a lumpy fold-out couch at a homeless shelter where her mother worked the Saturday overnight shift. On Sundays, she played with the kids at the shelter. “Poverty, homelessness, and malnutrition could never be faceless or abstract for me,” Fletcher says. A focus of her work is community land trusts, or CLTs, through which residents can own the houses, but not the land itself. CLTs can be used for housing and other purposes like farms; they lease land to a co-op or another nonprofit, and set resale formulas so residents can make a reasonable profit on the sale of a house, but not a “windfall,” she says. A project close to her heart is near her home in Northamp- ton. She helped develop the nonprofit Grow Food Northampton in 2009 when prime agricultural land came on the market in town. Grow Food raised $670,500 in eight months and bought 121 acres. There are seventeen acres for community gardens and land for commercial farms—the first of which signed a ninety- nine-year lease and sold harvest shares to two hundred families, including twenty-four households with very low incomes that Grow Food subsidized. Another project close to home is the Holyoke Community Land Trust in South Holyoke, which provides quality homes to low- and middle-income families. “The HCLT is commit- ted to preserving the affordability of housing,” she says, “one owner after another, one generation after another, in perpetu- ity.” It was originally formed in 1992, but a combination of economic and social factors caused the HCLT to go dormant for several years. Fletcher and others, however, collaborated to revive the land trust and it is once again a vital part of the community with plans to add two new homes. Fletcher is a member of the Transatlantic Network 2020, an initiative of the British Council. Members are chosen for their high levels of accomplishment in their field and the expecta- tion that they will “continue to develop and lead their sectors in the long term.” TN2020 aims to develop networks across Europe and North America “to incite grassroots actions on global issues,” and has 150 members, mostly in their twenties and thirties, from twenty-four countries. The project, as its name implies, is meant to end in 2020. PHOTOBYGREGNICHOLS