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Interview with Rebecca - Commonlands

Last week we spoke with Rebecca Lamis of Commonlands, an organization that is creating an accessible and scalable cooperative housing program that provides home ownership for low-income families and vulnerable communities through the use of blockchain.

If you want to read more about Commonlands, check out their website. If you want to know what Rebecca thinks about the blockchain industry, continue reading our interview below:

1. What is the story behind Commonlands?

The housing industry hasn't radically changed in the US since the 1950s. Several issues have hampered communities for a long time, and due to Covid, the situation got worse. More people have been recently affected either by facing evictions and sometimes not having sufficient government support.

I started doing different research across several success models around the world to scale community benefits and in summer 2019, I started to see an interesting compatibility with blockchain. At that time I was doing a lot of research about the best options for affordable houses for the masses in the US.

The cooperative housing model I found was very interesting. It is a traditional building but it works as shared equity where people still own the house and essentially communities take over property management. A great example is Coop city in NY where there are 60,000 residents. A cooperative structure is similar to the DAO model. Similarly, it really surprised me how a DAO may help a community-run project scale the model in seamless fashion.

At its core, Commonlands aims to turn one million families into first time home owners through community owned cooperative housing over the next five years. The last four years have been spent on community research and work in various DAO and blockchain projects.

2. Why are you interested in blockchain?

I think over the next 20-30 years, most industries will be put on the [block]chain and one of the first to pivot is going to be real estate. The housing model could work as a DAO or not, but regardless, I think it would benefit from having blockchain features. Commonlands intends to start in 2022 in Philadelphia and aims at having a presence across 20 major cities by 2027. Moreover, for us to get there, it's vital that all communities are connected on-chain and also give them opportunities for financial education and literacy. Start to implement blockchain, crypto and DAOs and see how it can positively affect their lives.

I think over the next 10 years, houses will be tokenized. Wyoming just passed a DAO approval. We’re working with CityDAO. It is an exciting time for blockchain as a whole. Blockchain can seamlessly prove ownership and give power to the people while simultaneously creating a more structured organization for communities and connecting to various cooperative houses across cities. It will also be interesting to see how the banking industry will be affected - loans and other real estate aspects - and how blockchain eliminates middlemen and democratizes some aspects of it.

​​3. What was your first experience with crypto-currency or blockchain?

It was a couple of years ago, I got into the Tezos world first. I was sharing the project idea with my dad, Jonas Lamis, who’s the founder of StakerDAO [and Tezos Capital]. He helped me a lot in understanding the industry, he loves new ideas, and he also connected me with a couple of people within the blockchain industry that provided me with very valuable initial feedback which eventually helped me grow.

4. What do you consider to be the best blockchain project (other than your own) and why?

CityDAO, I’m very interested in them. Their Discord community is very connected and active. It is the first big legalized real estate holding entity, so hundreds of people are thinking about the same way to try and build something awesome.

In terms of blockchains I’m very excited about Polkadot. A great team overall. One of the other ones that I’m watching is Layer 2 Harmony. We’re going to build a big portion of on chain aspects in Harmony. I met the founders a couple of weeks ago and I was blown away by their community and founders, so much commitment and excitement about what they’re building.

5. What would you change about industry?

I think it is important that the industry leaders make an active effort to give educational resources and financial resources to all populations, especially in low-income communities. I’m worried about who first is going to start taking that step. That’s one reason that we focus on housing, trying to build people together and grant them different types of resources available. It took me around a year to get a grasp of the whole blockchain industry, DeFi, cryptos, there is a big gap and we need a push from our leaders.

Blockchain empowers individuals and hopefully will create even more job opportunities. The whole aspect of decentralization can make a big impact. For example in unions, I think it can create a big impact by connecting small businesses with communities. It can provide financial education, home ownership real estate to the community.

6. What would you like to see implemented in blockchain? Either in your own project, in your favorite blockchain or in blockchain in general.

A couple of things. A pivot toward DAOs. It is an interesting model that hasn’t been fully explored. I think cooperative DAOs can form an interesting structure of membership forms, especially for people that care about humanitarian aspects.

7. What is a question you most often ask in relation to crypto currencies and blockchain?

Something I am always asking myself with any project I am working on is: "how do we ensure the services, products, and/or technology we are building is easily accessible to working people?". There has been little work done by the crypto/blockchain community as a whole to create a higher standard and expectation for bridging the educational gap for individuals that are Web 2.0-based and are just now learning and understanding Web 3.0. We all know what power blockchain holds for the future of the world and all the major industries in our capitalist economy, so we want to ensure that as Web 3.0 continues to grow, it is accessible for anyone and everyone. There is about to be an entirely new and global job field surrounding blockchain technology, so let's ensure those that need it most can participate in it.

8. What is the most common problem you have with blockchains/cryptocurrencies and how do you solve it?

As the blockchain community grows, there seems to be a lack of infrastructure surrounding the educational needs to bring on more developers, miners, farmers, etc. I personally feel there are two key ways to mitigate this. First is the need for a larger educational program that the entire blockchain community supports, and buys into. Imagine if there was a 3 month educational program that once completed, you received your solidity developer certificate, and was equipped to develop at most on chain organizations. There is a reason there is a shortage of solidity developers, we have not figured out a way to bridge the educational gap for conventional developers and engineers and bring them into our new ecosystem. The second part of this is that each blockchain-based organization needs to put more time and energy into a greater outreach plan for their product or service. I want to see more work done with bringing Web 2.0 developers and users into the Web 3.0 community. To do this, it is vital that organizations are actively working to find these new community members through various outreach and marketing efforts done both virtually and in-person. An entire generation of developers are going to be left behind if we don't give them the opportunity to begin learning and building on the blockchain.

9. Where do you think that blockchain could be best utilized?

Finance and education. I think along with real-estate they go hand to hand and also all of them have a strong influence on our way of living. By decentralizing these industries, I think we’re going to see a natural effect that will trickle down to smaller industries. In my dream world, it comes from a humanitarian perspective and turns this power to communities.

10. Where do you see the future of blockchain?

Having DAOs as legal entities and integrating them with cooperatives and non-profits. More access to education and boosting DAOs to apply in cases like crowdfunds. Blockchain is starting to bring people together to solve real world problems, so they’re excited about our project and scalability will help us give access to the masses and give educational resources to people so that they can understand our industry.

A big thank you to Rebecca for having this interview with us. Go ahead and check out Commonlands to see all the interesting things they are doing with blockchain and the housing market.

Do you know of an interesting blockchain project that would be interested in having an interview with us? Feel free to send me an email, we’d love to hear your thoughts and publish them on our blog.

To read more about Tezos and the TezEdge node, subscribe to our Medium, follow us on Twitter or visit our GitHub.

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