Right to the City Alliance

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The Right to the City Alliance (January 2007 – present) is a social movement that emerged as a response to the mass displacement of people because of gentrification.[1] RTC is an alliance of over 45 racial, economic, and environmental justice organizations that share common guiding principles and framework of change. The name was inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s book Le Droit à la ville (Right to the City). RTC’s human rights agenda focuses on 12 platforms, is composed of 45 member organizations, and possesses 23 ally organizations.[2]

Right to the City[edit]

The right to the city is a concept coined by Henri Lefebvre in his 1968 book Le Droit à la ville. Lefebvre has an idea of space that encompasses perceived space, conceived space, and lived space.[3] He believed that the everyday concrete environment we live hinges on our mental representations of the space as well as our social relations within that space. Thus, for him, city planning was not the singular placement of material space within a city, but the consequences of these material spaces in the urban life. Two central themes in Lefebvre’s work is the idea of the city as an “oeuvre” (a collective artwork) and appropriation within a city.[4] Lefebvre considered a city actively shaped by the people within it through participating in public life and appropriation of time and space in the city. By appropriation, Lefebvre meant that everyone should have the inalienable right to use any and all space within the city for his or her daily life. He believed that the appropriation of the space was more important than who owned the actual space, thus prioritizing use value over economic value. He believed there was a centrality to space, where inner cities should be the epicenter of all interaction and creativity.

Lefebvre's idea of the “right to the city” has been integrated into modern, urban movements as a plea for a new kind of urban politics and a critique on urban neoliberalism.[5][6] The most common modern interpretation of his concept comes from David Harvey in his article “The right to the city,” where he notes that the phrase ‘right to the city’ is an empty signifier that lacks meaning.[7] Harvey does not believe that the right to the city is a privilege that already exists, but a collective struggle people face to produce and create life within the city and decide the kind of urbanization they want.[8] He believes capitalist urbanization lacks ‘the right to the city.’ The RTC uses ‘the right to the city’ as a call to action for people to produce the living conditions that meet their need by taking back their cities.


RTC arose when the Miami Workers Center, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, and Tenants and Workers United convened a meeting in Los Angeles amongst 20 community organizations from 7 cities to start the alliance.[9][10] Since then, RTC has a national governance structure, a network of regional member organizations, and thematic working groups that engage with academic, professional, and community leaders. RTC continues to follow their model of a more democratic form of democracy in their internal processes. They hold annual meetings with their steering committee, staff, and representatives to discuss the vision for RTC where everyone has to reach a consensus through trust, reflection, and listening.

The Right to the City Platform[edit]

The RTC's platform to urbanize human rights consists of the following principles of unity:

Land for People vs. Land for Speculation[edit]

The right to land that serves the interests of the community and not of the market.

Land Ownership[edit]

The right to permanent ownership of land for public use.

Economic Justice[edit]

The right of marginalized communities to an economy that gives them the same opportunities as other communities.

Indigenous Justice[edit]

The right of indigenous people to their ancestral lands.

Environmental Justice[edit]

The right to sustainable and healthy cities and reparations for the legacy of toxic abuses.

Freedom from Police & State Harassment[edit]

The right to safe neighborhoods and police force that works for all communities.

Immigrant Justice[edit]

The right of immigrants to housing, employment, public services, and protection against deportation.

Services and Community Institutions[edit]

The right to have transportation, infrastructure, and services that support working class communities.

Democracy and Participation[edit]

The right of the community to have control over its city and governance to have full transparency and accountability.


The right to communities of color receiving reparations from institutions that have exploited or displaced them.


The right to support cities in different nations, without state invention.

Rural Justice[edit]

The right of rural communities to protection against environmental degradation and economic pressures that force migration to urban areas.

Taking Action[edit]

Working groups[edit]

RTC holds urban congresses in various cities so that people can share frameworks and models for change with each other. Currently, their priorities are working groups on civic engagement, ecojustice, and Boston and Los Angeles regional organizing.

Homes for All[edit]

RTC launched Homes for All (HFA) in response to the housing crisis through their Land and Housing Working Group. HFA is a national campaign that is looking to put together a comprehensive housing agenda that talks about issues of public housing, homelessness, and rentership in American cities.[11] Their mission to protect, defend, and expand housing for low-income communities is three-fold: engage in local and national-level organizing efforts, change local policies, and shift current housing conversations away from foreclosure and towards public housing.[12][13]

Member Organizations[edit]

ACE Alternatives for Community and Environment

ARISE for Social Justice

BWA Boston Worker's Alliance

CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

Causa Justa :: Just Cause

Centro Autonomo

Chainbreaker Collective

Chinese Progressive Association

Colorado Progressive Coalition

Community Justice Project

Community Voices Heard

Cooperation Jackson

CLVU City Life/Vida Urbana

DARE Direct Action for Rights and Equality

Detroit People's Platform

East LA Community Corporation

Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island

Esperanza Community Housing Corporation

Esperanza Peace and Justice Center

FFLIC Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children

FIERCE Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment

FUREE Families United for Racial and Economic Equality

GOLES Good Ole Lower East Side

JFREJ Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance

Miami Worker's Center

Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Neighbors United for a Better Boston

New England United for Justice

New Florida Majority

New Virginia Majority (Statewide)

Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

Occupy Our Homes Atlanta

Padres y Jóvenes Unidos

People's Coalition for Equality and Justice

Picture the Homeless

Queens Community Civic Corporation

Right to the City Boston

Right to the City Vote

SAFE Standing Against Foreclosures & Evictions

SNOL Springfield No One Leaves

Strategic Actions for a Just Economy

Teachers Unite

Tenants and Workers United


Well House

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Community organizing in the United States". Community Development Journal. 50.
  2. ^ "Right to the City". righttothecity.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  3. ^ Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space.
  4. ^ Boer, R.W.J (2009). "The Right to the City as a Tool for Urban Social Movements: The Case of Barceloneta" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Pierce, Joseph; Williams, Olivia R.; Martin, Deborah G. (2016-03-01). "Rights in places: An analytical extension of the right to the city". Geoforum. 70: 79–88. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.02.006.
  6. ^ Purcell, Mark (2002). "Excavating Lefebvre: The right to the city and its urban politics of the inhabitant" (PDF). GeoJournal.
  7. ^ Harvey, David. "The Right to the City" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "The right to the city as an anti-capitalist struggle | ephemera". www.ephemerajournal.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  9. ^ "The Right to the City Alliance: Time to Democratize Urban Governance | Planners Network". www.plannersnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  10. ^ Fisher, Robert (2013). "'We Are Radical': The Right to the City Alliance and the Future of Community Organizing" (PDF). Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare.
  11. ^ "Homes for All-About Us".
  12. ^ Arena, Jay (2013-12-01). "Foundations, nonprofits, and the fate of public housing: A critique of the Right to the City Alliance's We Call These Projects Home report". Cities. 35: 379–383. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2012.10.007.
  13. ^ Sinha, Anita; Kasdan, Alexa (2013-12-01). "Inserting community perspective research into public housing policy discourse: The Right to the City Alliance's "We Call These Projects Home"". Cities. 35: 327–334. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2012.10.008.