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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

A worker-owned co-op is giving Baltimore’s vacant homes a second chance

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for when a city contains more than 13,000 vacant homes and some 20,000 empty lots.

Instead, Baltimore’s vast vacant housing landscape has ushered in waves of new ideas — and people, all hoping to slice off a piece of the pie.

WaterBottle, a worker-owned cooperative, is one such example. It includes a property management division and construction service under its umbrella and spreads control of the operation among its employees, with no formal hierarchy and a one-person, one-vote system of governance. It owns 22 properties in West Baltimore, where it’s restoring dilapidated buildings and renting them out with first dibs offered to the workers.

Most of the co-op members — carpenters, builders, project managers and general contractors among them — come from nontraditional backgrounds. Some fell into the work after previously being incarcerated and encountering difficulty landing employment. Many are recovering from substance use disorder and saw their personal stories reflected in the act of rehabilitation work. And others have immigrated to the U.S. and need not only jobs but safe and affordable housing. The business has about 30 employees.

Read the rest at The Baltimore Banner


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