In the early 1990s, a group of housing activists from Washington, D.C. traveled to Johannesburg to help start the first housing cooperatives in South Africa’s history. These activists were from Washington Innercity Self Help, or WISH, a community-based group that directed much of its work towards helping low-income tenants purchase their buildings from their landlords and form limited-equity housing cooperatives – collectively owned housing that, because of restrictions placed on resale prices, would be affordable to poor people for years to come. For WISH, limited-equity co-ops were one solution to displacement -- and they also served as a structure within which people could learn small-scale democracy that could pulse out into their surrounding neighborhoods, and enable local people to be empowered in their city at a larger scale. This paper tells the story of when WISH was invited by a group of Johannesburg tenants to help form housing cooperatives, and theorizes this trans-Atlantic organizing work as a form of what Cindi Katz calls countertopography.
Huron, Amanda. 2016. “Struggling for Housing, from D.C. to Johannesburg: Washington Innercity Self Help Goes to South Africa.” In Derek Hyra and Sabiyha Prince, eds., Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C. New York: Routledge, 86-106.