Founded in 2019, ESHJ works to empower residents of St Paul’s Greater East Side.

As an active player in housing policy conversations in Minnesota, the Center is part of many active community groups working for greater housing stability across the state. One such group, located just a few blocks away from our Payne Avenue office in St. Paul, is the East Side Housing Justice (ESHJ) Coalition. Founded in 2019, ESHJ works to empower residents of St Paul’s Greater East Side with regard to their housing situations. We recently sat down with program co-directors Sidney Stuart and Ismail Khadar to discuss the group’s work.

“The East Side Housing Justice Coalition is all about breaking down policy silos,” says Stuart. “So we have you, at the Homeownership Center, bringing issues around ownership to the table. We also have groups that work in the rental policy and organizing arenas, as well as District Council representatives, local Realtors® and community investment organizations. The goal is to see housing as the wide-ranging continuum that it is, and to approach housing challenges with an eye toward leveraging that continuum as we look for potential solutions.”

ESHJ is officed out of the East Side Freedom Library located in the heart of St. Paul’s East Side. The program grew out of an idea sparked by East Side real estate broker Seanne Thomas, who organized a series of community conversations around Minnesota’s racial homeownership gap in 2018. Those discussions blossomed into educational programming covering not only homeownership, but also the rights of tenants, the issue of homelessness, the pursuit of equitable real estate development, housing cooperatives and more. Over the last four years, ESHJ has organized free community housing summits, film screenings on housing issues, first-time homebuyer workshops, renters’ rights training sessions and more.

The mission of the ESHJ Coalition is to amplify the community’s power to shape neighborhood development; advocate for and with renters, homeowners, and those who are unhoused and highly mobile by advancing policy change; educate and activate the East Side of St. Paul and the broader community; and catalyze community-driven, anti-racist, sustainable affordable housing solutions that flip the script from development that happens to communities, to development that is shaped by communities. ESHJ envisions East Side neighborhoods where all residents have access to safe, stable, affordable housing, and the power to shape equitable community development.

“The problems we see around housing instability on the East Side are not new,” says Khadar. “What we’re trying to do with the ESHJ Coalition is to raise the profile of these problems in order to spur policymakers to act. And the most effective way to raise the profile of a difficult issue is to enlist multiple voices via coalition building. We have much more power when we collaborate together. And historically, real change has always come from hard work at the community-level.”

For more information on the East Side Housing Justice Coalition, click here.