Stop The Eno River Association's Evictions of Durham Families!
Eno River Association Board and Staff
Sign and share to stop the Eno River Association (ERA) from displacing our Durham neighbors!
The Eno River Association has enacted a plan to informally evict seven tenant households from Open Air Camp Road in North Durham. The homes are inhabited by long-time tenants, who are majority families of color, as well as disabled tenants, a veteran with cancer, a single mom with five kids, low-income residents on fixed incomes, children, babies and elders. ERA is moving to displace them in an unnecessary sale to the State to give forest rangers, who are sworn police officers, free housing off these tenants’ backs even though the tenants have collectively invested much more than ERA has ever paid on these properties. The families were also told by management on multiple occasions that they would never have to worry about displacement since ERA is a non-profit land trust organization. Some of them have been in their homes 15-20 years and paid $100,000 to $208,000 into their homes. They would have never stayed that long if they knew they could be displaced, especially during the worst housing crisis of their lifetimes.
If ERA wishes to simply expand the Eno River State Park, they can easily subdivide the vacant land from the houses and turn the houses over to the biggest investors – the tenants – using the shared equity model laid out by the Durham Community Land Trust, which leaves the land as preserved conservation land and ensures the houses will always remain in the hands of low income residents and families. (However, we encourage them to turn the excess vacant land around the homes over to Indigenous stewardship or grant cultural easements to historically dispossessed groups.) ERA should have shifted these homes over to tenant ownership long ago instead of collecting rent and ignoring necessary repairs, mold, unsafe drinking water, and other habitability issues. They’ve stated that their mission to protect land is necessary “due to colonial practices” that have “dispossessed many peoples of color.” We call on ERA to take the ethical road, stay in line with that mission, and to stop these evictions. Dispossessing these families to give the state their homes IS state violence! Together we can protect the land and Durham tenants’ homes!
*For questions about this campaign or how to get more involved in supporting these families, contact us at EnoRiverTenants@gmail.com. Follow the campaign on Twitter @EnoTenants.
Eno River Association Board and Staff
From: [Your Name]
Dear Eno River Association (ERA) Board and Staff,
We support the Eno River Tenants Association, which includes all seven tenant households facing informal eviction by your organization, and urge you to stop the displacement by rescinding all notices to vacate immediately.
The transfer to the state is not a done deal. ERA board can simply take the ethical road and carry out the tenants' demands:
1) Rescind the notices to vacate. Tenants get to stay in their homes.
2) Turn the houses over to tenant ownership using a shared equity land trust housing model -- the homes will remain affordable in perpetuity, and the land is preserved in trust.
3) Bring the homes up to healthy habitability standards using the profits you’ve made off of us in rent.
4) Consider turning the excess vacant land on these parcels over to Indigenous stewardship! (Amendment: Should land return prove to be too onerous at the present time, consider granting cultural easements to Indigenous or historically dispossessed groups in Durham).
5) Show us all documentation regarding the sale of our homes, including ones that would prove you are legally bound to the decision to turn the homes over to the state. If you can’t, immediately carry out the four aforementioned demands.
The homes are inhabited by long-time tenants, who are majority families of color, as well as disabled tenants, a veteran with cancer, a single mom with five kids, low-income residents on fixed incomes, children, babies and elders. We value your efforts to expand public park land, but you can do so by subdividing the vacant land of these parcels, while keeping all the tenants in their homes, which you’ve never intended for public access. ERA tenants, some of whom have been in their homes 15-20 years, have collectively invested much more than the organization has ever paid on these homes. We urge you to take the ethical road and let them stay rather than handing the homes over to the state as free housing for sworn police officers and state employees off the tenants’ backs. A non-profit land conservation organization shouldn’t be in the business of eviction, especially given the fact that affordable housing waitlists are either closed or are 4-7 years long, and thus there are no real options for many of these families to stay in their neighborhood or the city amidst this devastating housing crisis.
ERA tenants and supporters urge you to transfer the homes over to the tenants, the biggest investors in these homes, using the shared equity model laid out by the Durham Community Land Trust, so that they can become rightful owners. This arrangement will leave the land as preserved conservation land and ensure the houses will always remain in the hands of low income residents and families. V.S. Rich, the management company representing you, told the tenants they didn’t have to worry about displacement and told some that a rent-to-own arrangement was possible. If this was done from the beginning, the tenants could have been using their invested funds to also make the necessary repairs that your organization has neglected to do. Instead, ERA let several of these homes fall into disrepair, with leaky roofs, mold, rotten steps, unsafe drinking water and other habitability issues that have negatively impacted these families. With several households individually paying between $100,000 to $208,000 during their tenure, we also urge you to use the profits you’ve extracted via rent to fully fund the necessary repairs, to reimburse tenants who paid for their own repairs, and bring the homes up to healthy habitability standards.
Your organization’s land acknowledgment states, "The mission of the Eno River Association includes the protection of the natural, cultural, and historical resources of the Eno River Valley. That protection is mostly necessary due to colonial practices and an economic system of land use and ownership that has often degraded our environment and dispossessed many peoples of color." We demand that you stay in line with your mission by stopping your dispossession of ERA tenants, including many tenants of color, elders, disabled tenants, vets, tenants with chronic illness and cancer, children and babies. Their collective investments in these homes, including years of land stewardship by some of them within the surrounding Eno River State Park, should not be capitalized on for a "job perk" for forest police. The state can and should find vacant homes to house their rangers and staff. This portion of the park already has a ranger resident. Displacing tenants from the homes they've invested in to give others free housing off their backs would be an enactment of the extractive colonial practices and state violence you claim to oppose.
Regarding ERA’s misleading statements: ERA never told tenants, the people most impacted by this deal, that they intended to sell to the state and that rangers would get their homes for free, even when they did a walk through of each of the houses this past June. The tenants explicitly asked management if they should be worried, and they said “no”. However, Jessica Sheffield, Executive Director of ERA, is now saying this was always their intention and that “State Park staff aren’t paid at a level we believe is fair, and we are glad the park will offer them this housing as part of their compensation package.” This heartless response disregards the lives, dignity and investments of the families living in these homes and ignores the trauma that ERA is inflicting upon them. Sheffield is also publicizing that she’s helping tenants find housing, yet the resources she’s given include two orgs who have no available housing and another with waitlists that are years long. None of the efforts they’re advertising have led to adequate housing at similar costs. The truth is all seven families will face exorbitant rent hikes, and some will be forced out of the city altogether should ERA follow through with this plan.
ERA tenants are a valuable part of their neighborhood and Durham. Some have deep roots in our city dating at least as far back as the early 1900s. They’ve made a life on Open Air Camp Rd. with the understanding that you would never displace them. As Durham residents, we value the preservation work you do and ask you to preserve these Durham families in their rightful homes. No evictions! No displacement! All of us deserve a living wage and secure housing. Together we can preserve land and these tenants’ homes!
Eno River Tenants Association and Supporters