The Center's Community Inclusion and Economic Development program engages in cases and initiatives as an advocate for marginalized communities, helping them to organize and pursue equitable provision of services and the right to fully participate in the local political and social processes. The Program's current advocacy agenda includes the representation of families and community organizations for the purpose of:
- Ensuring access to municipal services and benefits and healthy living conditions for low income and minority communities;
- Protecting and maximizing the property assets of minority landowners; and
- Combating housing discrimination and residential segregation.
Municipal exclusion originates in America's history of racial discrimination and residential segregation. For decades, low-wealth, minority communities have been intentionally underdeveloped economically and isolated socially and physically from neighboring non-minority communities. This pattern is repeatedly reinforced as towns extend their municipal boundaries to promote new economic growth. By avoiding the incorporation of low-wealth and minority communities these towns leave the residents within the communities on the fringes of or surrounded by the municipal boundaries. Residents in the excluded community have no right to vote and receive no, or very few, basic public services. While the lack of public water and sewer is often the most pressing and visible of missing services, these communities also lack adequate police and fire protection, garbage collection, road maintenance, street lights and recreational facilities. Finally, excluded communities are often the site of landfills and waste transfer stations.
- Collaborate with community and other local partners to seek access to water and sewer and eventual annexation;
- Further expand the statewide collaborative of excluded communities focused on seeking to provide relief for their neighborhoods, protect their resident's property, and achieve municipal inclusion;
- Provide legal representation and technical support in community based efforts to prevent attempts to locate landfills, transfer stations, and other environmentally hazardous installations;
- Increase public awareness about historic and ongoing trend of municipalities and counties opening landfills and waste transfer stations in minority communities.
Waynor Road, Jackson Hamlet, and Midway Communities (Moore County)
In 2004, the Center started partnering with excluded communities in Moore County, NC. Since then, community groups in each of these neighborhoods have made significant progress towards securing municipal services and, in Waynor Road and Midway, annexation. With the assistance of the Center and other advocacy organizations, these Moore County communities have been empowered to advocate for themselves with tremendous results. Although they are at varying stages of their progress, each now works towards complete incorporation into their neighboring municipalities, community development and neighborhood revitalization.
Rogers Eubanks Community (Orange County)
Wedged between the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, NC, the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood is a historic, 150 year old African American community that has borne a substantial burden of the County's landfill and solid waste operations for nearly forty years. In 2009 the Center partnered with Rogers/Eubanks Neighborhood Association to prevent the expansion of solid waste operations in the neighborhood through the siting of a waste transfer station. The Community and the Center are now working toward securing full water and sewer service.
Lincoln Heights (Halifax County)
While this excluded community does receive water and sewer service, it does not benefit from municipal police and fire protection and other key services. The adjacent municipality, Roanoke Rapids consistently denies the neighborhood's requests for annexation neighborhood, despite the fact that it has been the site of at least three of Roanoke Rapids' landfills in the last 50 years. Now the city proposes to further burden this historic African American community with a waste transfer station. Together with the community and the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Center will challenge this injustice at municipal, state and federal levels and, if necessary, in the courts.
Cameron Heights (Hoke County)
Cameron Heights community has been plagued by many of the ill effects that accompany municipal exclusion including dilapidated housing, illegal dumping of trash, and increased criminal activity. In collaboration with the Center, members of the Cameron Heights Community Action Project Board of Directors performed a community needs assessment to identify and prioritize issues important to residents. The Center assisted the community association in securing grant funding and creating necessary legal documents to address the health and safety issues of dilapidated housing. The early results have been dramatic, two decaying structures have been removed that were unsafe, eyesores, and had been magnets for illegal dumping and other crime. One of the lots will become a community garden. In collaboration with NC RCAP and the Center, the community association has begun to conduct the necessary surveys and gather the engineering data to secure funding to provide sewer service for the community.
Varying forms of housing discrimination continue to plague North Carolina and the Center is committed to reversing residential segregation and ending housing discrimination both through individual client representation and efforts at legislative reform. The Center has represented individual and organizational victims of housing discrimination and recently successfully settled a case in Moore County on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.
- Pursue impact housing discrimination litigation on behalf of clients in North Carolina communities;
- Research the purported exhaustion requirement under the North Carolina Fair Housing Act and develop a strategy for removing this roadblock to discrimination claims;
- Further integrate housing discrimination efforts with those surrounding public school segregation and re-segregation.
The Center is engaged in multiple initiatives designed to stem the tide of rapid decline in minority land ownership and to protect and maximize the value of the rescued property. The Center acts as legal counsel and provides technical support for minority and low-income families seeking to protect their family-owned land from foreclosure, eminent domains, and, more commonly, partition sales of property passed through generations without wills. As a member of the Heirs Property Coalition, the Center collaborates with national partners to identify and tackle litigation, legislative reform, and scholarly study related to heirs' property, and in particular to the preservation of heirs' property within many of its current low income and/or African-American client communities.
- Provide legal representation, support, or advocacy to families or communities facing imminent threats of land loss because of discrimination, fraud;
- To explore innovative solutions to minority property ownership issues and pursue the adoption and enforcement of model laws that protect the interests of low-wealth, minority landowners; and
- Explore and promote innovative ownership structures and development strategies for minority landowners and communities, e.g. conservation easements, limited liability corporations, or heritage tourism.
- Prevent the creation of additional heirs' property by hosting pro bono will drafting clinics.
Fall Break Wills Trip
To augment its heirs' property work and formulate a proactive approach to land loss among African American and low-income communities, the Center for Civil Rights began the UNC Wills Project, a collaborative partnership with the UNC School of Law and Legal Aid of North Carolina to craft a student-led, pro bono project that provides underserved and low-income families with critical legal documents. The project dispatches 20-30 students across the state during their spring and fall breaks to set up mobile legal clinics to draft wills and other advanced directives for low-income and elderly residents.
In the three wills trips to date, the UNC Wills Project has served 127 clients and students have drafted over four hundred wills and advanced directives. In October of 2010, the project returned Moore County and hosted a clinic in Richmond County for the first time.