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This article summarized models of community-centered projects that use alternative sources and methods of financing and resourcing to realize projects.

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Financing + Legal Resources
Community Centered Reits
Crowdfunding Small Businesses
Seattle & WA Models
Research Orgs + Institutions
Case Studies

Alternative Financing + Legal Resources

Alternative Ownership Advisors

Alternative Ownership Advisors helps founders and owners of private companies design and implement ownership, governance and financing solutions that align with mission and protect independence.

Boston Ujima Project

Boston Ujima Project Fund pools dollars from community members, supporters inside and outside of the city, and foundations, into one fund. With their grassroots partner organizations, Ujima hosts neighborhood and city-wide planning assemblies with hundreds of residents to create shared values and plans for the local economy. Guided by the community-created plans, the local finance professionals and Ujima members who comprise the Ujima Fund’s Investment Committee (IC) review investment opportunities, conduct due diligence and make recommendations to members before all investments come to a member vote. Boston Ujima Project’s Art + Cultural Organizing Platforms

Communities of Opportunity

Communities of Opportunity are a growing movement of partners who believe every community can be a healthy, thriving community, and that equity and racial justice are both necessary and achievable.

Real Estate Development - Equitable Development Workshop

Equitable Food Oriented Development 

Equitable Food Oriented Development is a multiracial coalition of community food systems practitioners and leaders driving food-oriented development as vehicles for shared power, cultural expression, and community asset-building.

The EFOD Fund is an alternative form of finance for community-led, justice-first, food-based community economic development. It prioritizes the expertise of BIPOC practitioner-leaders as designers and decision-makers. Loan committee and fund board are comprised of EFOD leaders and funding/financing allies. Eligible candidates include community-led, food-based community and economic development organizations or enterprises whose work aligns with the EFOD criteria and falls along a spectrum of maturity levels.


Purpose - Steward-ownership is shifting the tide away from value-extraction and short-termism towards stewardship, independence, and long-term purpose.

Radical Real Estate Law School

Radical Real Estate Law School is a community of learning and practice building a comprehensive library of resources and tools by implementing diverse models of real estate stewardship and then spreading a transformative vision for humanity’s relationship to land through advocacy and movement-building.

Resilient Communities Legal Cafe

Resilient Communities Legal Cafe is a first-come, first-serve, donation-based legal advice session. Legal advice covers the following: starting a worker-owned cooperative, converting an existing business into a cooperative, organizing a housing cooperative, or founding a nonprofit or other social enterprise.

Seed Commons

Seed Commons is a national network of locally-rooted, non-extractive loan funds that brings the power of big finance under community control.

Shared Capital Cooperative

Shared Capital Cooperative a national CDFI loan fund that connects co-ops and capital to build economic democracy. Working with capital invested by the cooperative sector and its allies, we provide financing for the expansion and startup of cooperatively-owned businesses and housing throughout the United States.

Transform Finance

Transform Financing  is a research and implementation partner that supports investors and social change actors to challenge legacy investment approaches, seed transformative investment models, and build movement power.

Conversions to Employee Ownership - Developing resources on financing other forms of alternative enterprise ownership, from steward ownership to different kinds of cooperatives to community ownership.

We Own It

We Own It is a national network that stands together with co-op member-owners working to reform and make positive change at their co-ops.

Community Centered Reits + Housing Co-Ops + Land Trusts


ArtSpace creates, fosters, and preserves affordable and sustainable space for artists and arts organizations. Artspace works in three major areas: Consulting Services, Property Development, and Asset Management.

Community Arts Stablization Trust

Community Arts Stabilization Trust Community Arts Stabilization Trust purchases and leases space for the exclusive use of nonprofit arts organizations.

Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative provides a vehicle for residents to exercise neighborhood control and access to resources.

East Bay Permanet Real Estate Cooperative

East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is a community-centered development co-op democratically run by People of Color. They remove land and housing from the speculative market to create permanently affordable, community-controlled homes.

Grounded Solutions Network

Grounded Solutions Network is a national nonprofit membership organization of community land trusts, municipal housing programs, and nonprofits that support housing with lasting affordability. You may also find more information at Grounded Solution’s Community Land Trust Resources.


Nico is a neighborhood investment company in Echo Park, Los Angeles, that makes it possible for people who love their neighborhood to build a long-term financial stake in their community by investing in local real estate.

NorthEast Investment Cooperative

NorthEast Investment Cooperative is a cooperative that allows residents of Minnesota to invest financially to collectively buy, rehab, and manage commercial and residential property in Northeast Minneapolis.

San Francisco Community Land Trust

San Francisco Community Land Trust is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create permanently affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income people through community ownership of the land. Guided by the principles of anti-displacement and racial justice, SFCLT stabilizes neighborhoods and creates greater access to housing and homeownership opportunities with a focus on BIPOC communities previously excluded from access to wealth, and in particular, access to homeownership opportunities.


The Community Investment Trust (CIT) is a low-dollar, loss protected investment opportunity for all residents. Through the CIT, investors build equity in a thriving and diverse commercial property.

Trust South LA

Trust South LA is a steward for community-controlled land; to be a catalyst for values-driven, community-serving development; to build awareness and community leadership in issues of housing, transportation and recreation; and to create programs and initiatives that encourage community building and economic opportunity.

Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Urban Homesteading Assistance Board supports tenants and cooperative homeowners at every stage of resident controlled affordable housing

Crowdfunding Small Businesses


Localstake - Invest in local businesses, commerce, food and drink companies


Mainvest - Mainvest is an investment platform that connects brick & mortar businesses with investors who care.

Seed at the Table

Seed at the Table a mission-driven equity crowdfunding platform committed to connecting diverse entrepreneurs with non-accredited investors looking to obtain equity and/or debt exposure at modest investment amounts. Video Interview 

Small Change

Small Change is a real estate investment crowdfunding platform. They match investors with developers raising funds for transformative real estate projects, to build better cities everywhere and to provide everyone with the opportunity to invest. They also have a section dedicated to creative economy projects.

Seattle + Washington State Models In Alternative Financing

Africatown Community Land Trust 

Africatown Community Land Trust  is working for community ownership of land in the Central District that can support the cultural and economic thriving of people who are part of the African diaspora in the Greater Seattle region.

Community Credit Lab

Community Credit Lab enables regenerative Lending Programs at the direction of Lending Partners that represent communities facing barriers in the financial system. We enable lending programs that reverse traditional financial risk/return analysis to support people with affordable credit.

Community Roots Housing 

Community Roots Housing - As a PDA and a CDC, they provide programs, offer services, and engage in other activities that promote and support community development. 

Community Real Estate Stewardship Team 

Community Real Estate Stewardship Team (CREST with Puget Sound Sage) CREST is a nine-month long learning circle, designed to support and train grassroots organizations led by and for low-income communities and communities of color in pursuing community driven development, land stewardship, and strategies for long-term affordability.


Frolic, based in Seattle, develops creative development models, that helps people and communities build long-term affordable, cooperative housing.

Homestead Community Land Trust

Homestead Community Land Trust  preserves and advances access to permanently affordable homeownership as a means to create thriving, equitable and inclusive communities. Partnering with modest income households (who earned less than 80% area median income), they create a large portfolio of permanently affordable homes in Washington State.

Washington CLTs

List of CLTs in Washington CLTS(25+) from Schumacher Center for a New Economics whose mission is to envision a just and regenerative economy; apply the concepts locally; then share the results for broad replication.

Pacific Northwest

List of CLTs in Pacific Northwest (30+) from The Northwest Community Land Trust Coalition which supports and enhances the activities of the community land trusts (CLTs) based in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Montana so that they can provide permanently affordable access to land for housing and other community needs that serve low- and moderate-income members of their communities.

Northwest Cooperative Development Center

Northwest Cooperative Development Center is a non-profit organization devoted to assisting new and existing cooperative businesses in every sector with a special emphasis on Resident Owned Communities, home care agencies, and converting existing businesses into worker-owned or community-owned cooperatives.

Rainier Valley Community Development Fund

Rainier Valley Community Development Fund is a self-sustaining, community-controlled financial institution that preserves and strengthens cultural diversity, long-term livability, and economic opportunity for Rainier Valley residents, businesses, and institutions.

Seattle Peoples Economy Lab

Seattle Peoples Economy Lab is a unique community-based network that both initiates projects in response to community demands and provides services to government agencies, community and nonprofit organizations, and other stakeholders that are values-aligned and in line with our mission and vision. We seek to push the boundaries of what’s possible for a Just Transition to local, community-centered economies that are equitable, democratic, and regenerative.

Spokane Workers Cooperative

Spokane Workers Cooperative is buying and building some of Spokane’s most iconic businesses, and turning them over to employee ownership and control.


Ventures empowers individuals with limited resources and unlimited potential to improve their lives through small business ownership.

Research Orgs + Institutions

Beloved Economies

Beloved Economies is a collaborative research project culminating in a book, podcast, and set of tools that demonstrate what’s possible for our shared economic future —and why changing the way we work matters in getting us to a better place.

Democracy at Work Institute

Democracy at Work Institute supports worker ownership to be the superior business model for creating jobs with dignity, fair compensation, and opportunities for wealth­ and skill­building.

Solidarity Research Center

Solidarity Research Center a worker self-directed nonprofit that develops solidarity economies using data science, story-based strategy, and action research. We work at the intersection of racial justice and solidarity economies.

The Community and Worker Ownership Project

The Community and Worker Ownership Project supports efforts percolating around the nation and New York City focused on worker-owned cooperatives, economic democracy, and community planning.

Case Studies


Alumni Projects


?ál?al ("home" in Lushootseed)- co-founded by alumna Colleen Echohawk formerly with Chief Seattle Club- The building features 80 studios of affordable housing, a primary care health clinic, cafe and art gallery, private meeting and gathering spaces, and social services.

Image Description: Colleen Echohawk, former Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club is pictured wearing a green sweater and beaded jewelry.

Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery

Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery - Co-founded by alum Jake Prendez- serves as the Latinx/Chicanx arts hub of Seattle. They strive to provide a welcoming space for the community to celebrate cultura.

Image Description: Jake Prendez and Judy Avitia-Gonzalez, Co-Directors are pictured side by side surrounded by brightly colored art and merchandise inside Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery.

The Liink Project

The Liink Project is a grassroots community effort co-founded by alumna Stephanie Morales, as a platform to elevate Black creatives and entrepreneurs and to build community through art. in the Greater Seattle Area.

Image Description: Storefront of The Liink Project is pictured with white walls, windows, trees and shrubs on the sidewalk.

Seattle Projects

Estelita’s Library

Estelita’s Library - co-founded by Edwin Lindo and Dr. Estell Williams- is a community library and online bookstore with books focused on social justice, ethnic studies, and liberation movements. Estelita’s Library received a grant from a pilot project by the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture called Tiny Cultural Spaces. The 225-square-foot space with a 330-square-foot deck was designed by an all-womxn crew of youth students at Sawhorse Revolution, a nonprofit that teaches high school students carpentry and architecture by building projects that make a tangible difference in their neighborhoods. After three years, the process for transfer of ownership will begin, and in five years or less, Estelita’s will own both the building and the land. (Source: South Seattle Emerald) *Were alumni involved with this? May be good to highlight the tiny cultural spaces program

Image Description: A small grey building with a slanted roof and sign labeled “Estelita’s Library” with an image of a fist in bright pink

Africatown Plaza

Located at Central District Seattle, Africatown Plaza is a 7-story, mixed-use, $60 million project that will provide 126 units and flexible amenities designed to restore Black and Pan-African communities that have been displaced from the Central District of Seattle. The community-centered design will provide a 7-story building with a mix of affordable housing units, a community room, office, retail spaces, and open plazas for community and resident use. The ground floor and outside space will host a public art project curated to honor the legacy of Black families in the Central District. The plaza will also include retail space for local Black-owned businesses and a community space for use by residents.

  • (Magnitude) Sq. Ft: 103,000 sf

  • Cost: $60 million

  • Key Takeaways:

    • DREAM Collaborative is providing art curation and interior architectural services for the common spaces and residential units.

    • Africatown Plaza celebrates the core values of African American place-making. By engaging the community in a series of conversations and workshops, the Plaza’s design goals focus on uniting the community through Afrocentric inspired spaces for events, connection, and storytelling.

    • The project is being developed by Africatown Community Land Trust, whose mission is to acquire, develop and steward the land in Greater Seattle to empower & preserve the Black Diaspora community.

    • Design Partners include: GGLO, David Baker Architects, Site Workshop

Rainier Avenue Radio

Rainier Avenue Radio Purchases The Historic Columbia City Theater “...the Cultural Space Agency and Rainier Avenue Radio are proud to announce their partnership, and their purchase of the historic Columbia City Theater. Through the creation of the New Columbia City Theater Trust, cultural community members and neighbors will have the opportunity to be direct owners of, and investors in, the property.”

National Projects


Located at Traverse City, Michigan, Commongrounds is a 4-story mixed-use building currently under construction and scheduled for completion in Fall 2022. More than a building project, Commongrounds will be a backbone support for space and activities integrating wellness, arts, family, and food to help people and organizations be healthy, connected, creative, and inclusive.

  • (Magnitude) Sq. Ft: The 47,467-square-foot, 57-foot-tall building will house five businesses on the first and second floors, atop underground parking

  • Cost: $15.7 million

  • Key Takeaways:

    • Commongrounds is developing a building owned by its tenants and their community (investors) — which will be a backbone support for space and activities integrating wellness, arts, family, and food to help people and organizations be healthy, connected, creative, and inclusive.

    • Commongrounds has over 600 community owners, 132 of whom have become community investors that have invested a total of $1.4 million to support the $15.7 million project. Commongrounds’ approach will help build community wealth as a portion of earnings on the investment in the building are distributed to the 132 community investors who contributed a minimum of $500 each after securing ownership in the co-op by purchasing $50 shares.

  • Funding sources:

    • Community investors

    • Coastal States Bank

    • U.S. Department of Agriculture

    • Michigan Economic Development Corporation

    • Grand Traverse Brownfield Development Authority

    • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program

    • $1.5 million gap loan from IFF by the Rotary Charities of Traverse City (Source: IFF)

East Portland Community Investment Trust

Located at East Portland, OR, East Portland Community Investment Trust, is a mid-century commercial retail mall in outer Southeast Portland with approximately 26 to 30 businesses and nonprofit tenants which required maintenance and tenant improvements.

  • (Magnitude) Sq. Ft: 29,000-square-feet

  • Cost: $1.4 million (2014)

  • Key Takeaways:

    • Mercy Corps NW’s first Community Investment Trust is the East Portland CIT, located at Plaza 122. East Portland CIT purchased a commercial lot to establish accessible real estate investment opportunities for low-income individuals in East Portland, Oregon.

    • East Portland CIT emerged from a two-year research effort to identify the needs of the surrounding community.

    • It was funded through an interest-only bridge loan of $900,000 at 6% from Beneficial State Bank, a CDFI. (Northwest Bank later provided mortgage financing and a Direct Pay Letter of Credit.) Subordinated loans of $115,000 each at 4% from two impact investors. A subordinated loan of $123,000 at 2% from Mercy Corps Northwest, plus an additional $97,000 subordinated loan from Mercy Corps Northwest, used for deferred maintenance, totaling $220,000.

    • Three hundred to 500 Portland and Gresham residents within four zip codes can follow a long-term path to collective ownership of this building in their neighborhood for as little as $10 and up to $100 per month. By December 2019, Plaza 122 was profitable with 95% occupancy by a mix of for-profit and non-profit tenants that reflected the multi-national, multi-ethnic character of the community. The share price increased from $10 to $15.87 as of January 1, 2020, with $140,000 of community shares.

  • Lessons Learned:

    • Mercy Corps Northwest was successful because of their knowledge of the local market, local partners, and experience fundraising and raising capital.

    • This project lacked start-up equity investment from a foundation which could have yielded a higher return for investors

    • Comprehensive case study for reference via Transform Finance. Read more case studies & listen to interviews with funders, investors, community developers, and grassroots partners via Grassroots Community Engaged Investment.

Boston Midway Artists Collective

Boston Midway Artists Collective - In 2014, the artists organized to purchase the building, making it a permanent rental artist-controlled building, run by a board of directors, elected in part by the artist residents themselves. John Barros (former Boston Chief of Economic Development) is working on developing an organization similar to CAST/The Cultural Space Agency.

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