Affordable Housing and Co-Op Sustainability
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To support our mission and ensure the stability of the business, The Compost Cooperative is establishing a housing co-operative to create housing security for our members. In the two and a half years we’ve been in business, only one in ten of our formerly incarcerated apprentice worker-owners has had access to safe, affordable housing. People coming out of jail require housing that is safe and secure; without it, risk of re-incarceration greatly increases. Covid-19 has amplified the marginalization of a group of people who already face legal discrimination and exploitation. As part of a larger effort to create a cooperative ecosystem that empowers and supports our members, and those who face barriers to ownership in work and in housing, the Compost Co-op has a goal of purchasing by the end of 2020 a multi-unit building (or land that can accomodate multiple living spaces) that would provide affordable housing for our members--and are seeking your support to make that happen.
GOAL 1: $70,000 by December 1st, 2020 to be prepared to place down payment on building
GOAL 2: $100,000 by March 15th, 2021 to cover for renovations
GOAL 3: $400,000 by August 31st, 2021 to eliminate reliance on a third-party lender
Prefer to mail a check? Please mail to
The Compost Cooperative
P.O. BOX 792, GREENFIELD, MA 01302
[Image: 5-gallon bucket labled Compost CO-OP sits on the grass in front of a house]
How You Can Help
-Join the movement to build real alternatives to incarceration, such as meaningful, living-wage work and affordable housing
-Contribute financially to the purchase and renovation of affordable housing stock for Compost Co-op worker owners. Anything you can afford will go directly to the purchase price of the building
-Share this letter with your networks, friends, and family and explain why this mission is important to you
Driven by racial and environmental justice, the Compost Co-operative diverts food scraps from the landfill/incinerator while building living wages and opportunities for ownership among people coming out of jail. We serve more than 100 residential, commercial, and institutional customers in Franklin County, MA, and are helping to turn more than 150,000 pounds of waste per year into soil-enriching, carbon-sequestering compost.
[Image: Black woman wearing blue gloves, an orange mask, and Compost Co-op hoodie shovels compost into boxes in a truck bed]
History & the Present
The Compost Cooperative was developed inside the Greenfield Jail by a group of incarcerated people and educators to address the lack of living-wage work for folks getting out of jail and prison. Finding living-wage, meaningful work, especially in a rural community with limited public transportation, is just one of many obstacles to freedom that people face after being released from jail. Obtaining a driver’s license, navigating social services and the requirements of parole and probation are also challenges; missteps can lead to re-incarceration. But the foundation of rebuilding one’s life post-incarceration--the basis of a real alternative to incarceration--is safe and affordable housing, which we define as costing no more than 25 percent of take-home earnings.
Since the Compost Co-operative opened in 2018 we have had the opportunity to work with ten amazing apprentices, all of whom joined us within a year of their release from jail. Each one has brought their talents, perspectives, and dreams to this collective effort. While working with the co-op, apprentices and worker-owners have experienced homelessness and housing insecurity. One lived in an unheated garage for part of a winter, when life at the shelter got too stressful. Another returned to his room at a halfway house for veterans and found his roommate dead of an overdose. To save on rent, a third moved into the apartment of a cousin whose partner was selling drugs. Only in early August 2020 did the first apprentice at the co-op move into housing that is both affordable and safe.
Housing insecurity disrupts people’s strides towards becoming owners of the Compost Co-op. Only when apprentices and worker-owners have safe and affordable housing will the business be sustainable. We can’t realize our mission without that foundation. That’s why we have decided to establish a housing cooperative, raise funds, and purchase a building that can safely house our worker owners. And we need your help.
[Image: 8 seagulls flying, perching, and eating a pile of food and lawn scraps, and cardboard boxes]
We are a worker-owned, for-profit business that partners with other local businesses, funders and non-profit organizations that share our mission. Through our fiscal sponsors we have received local and national support from social justice foundations (Claneil Foundation, Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice, Haymarket Fund, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, among others). These funders recognize the relevance of the cooperative economic model to groups that face oppression and legal discrimination (such as being excluded from state-run housing) as well as the need to address climate disruption and food waste.
Identifying affordable housing as key to our stability and the success of all our worker-owners marks a new stage in our development. In addition to providing affordable housing, the purchase of a multi-unit building in Greenfield will allow The Compost Co-operative to establish a stream of revenue that will support the business and allow us to create even more worker-owner-track jobs in our community. With housing costs in Greenfield already unaffordable and on the rise, we are committed to maintaining access to affordable housing while also allowing our members to build equity.
[Image: Black man in blue gloves, mask, headband, and compost co-op hoodie points at trash can while standing on the truck lift. Back of truck and 5 other trash cans present]
We Are Searching For the Right Space!
We are actively seeking existing multi-unit properties in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Options on the market are currently quite limited but our partnership with fellow worker-owned co-op, Oxbow Design Build has opened up options to consider major renovations and new construction. We are excited to be partnering with them on this initiative to create safe, sustainable, and affordable housing in Greenfield.
With your assistance, we will be able to:
-Purchase a multi-unit building in Greenfield, MA
-Ensure that 1 apartment is available for housing-insecure worker owner by end of 2020
-Increase the sustainability of The Compost Co-op by having a revenue stream from current tenants’ rents
-Reduce our reliance on third-party financing and channel funds that would have gone to interest payments into maintaining affordable housing
-Establish a permanent office space for the Compost Co-op
-Take the next step in establishing a cooperative eco-system to support our current and future members.
for supporting our work to develop REAL alternatives to incarceration and stop the intergenerational cycles of incarceration in our town.
[Image: Point of view from drivers side looking to passenger side. Latino man stands just outside truck door, wearing black compost co-op t-shirt, white mask, and multi-colored hat. His fingers are interlaced in front of him, elbows bent.]
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