Ella Jo Baker Cooperative Opens its Doors

What do you call affordable housing advocates, environmentalists, concerned parents and political and social justice activists who all live on the same block in Columbia Heights? You call it the Ella Jo Baker Cooperative, a diverse, sociallyminded intentional community.

Named after Ella Jo Baker, a famous civil rights leader who died in the late 1980s, the cooperative was conceived by longtime neighborhood activists that sought to create a community of citizens actively engaged with the community.

After identifying six abandoned houses along the 2500 block of University Place and Clifton Street in Columbia Heights, and after securing the development services of Manna, Inc., their plan was well underway.

LISC then provided a loan to help Manna acquire the six properties from the D.C. Housing Authority and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, as part of the Scattered Sites Public Housing Demonstration Program. On December 4, 2003, Manna and the Ella Jo Baker cooperative residents celebrated the Grand Opening of the 15-unit, permanently affordable cooperative. Residents of the cooperative have since forged partnerships with area nonprofits and are expected to dedicate time and energy to the community.

Cooperative co-founder Ajowa Ifateyo explains, “This whole process has been interesting and exciting – but it has also been a lot of work. It is great to be with likeminded people as well as serious activists who recognize the importance of creating permanent affordable housing. We want to make a lasting impact on the community.” In March, some residents began to move into their units, and by the end of the year all will be moved in.