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Picture the Homeless
Community Land Trust Update: Mid-Atlantic CLT Convening
By Ryan Gibbs, Member of Picture the Homeless and Co-Chair of the Board of Directors
Today Kendall Jackman and I were invited to represent Picture the Homeless at the Mid-Atlantic Community Land Trust convening held at the Ford Foundation to have a discussion with CLT’s in our area. There were four CLT’s represented along with a representative from the National Community Land trust Network and other allies.
The goal of the Mid- Atlantic convening were: to understand the work of Community Land Trusts in the Mid-Atlantic region; to share stories of successes and difficulties to identify possible ways to collaborate; and to brainstorm tools we need in area where resources do not yet exist.
The four CLT’s then had the opportunity to explain to the rest the group: Why and when CLT was founded; Guiding Values; Major Successes; Top 2 or 3 Challenges; What opportunities do you see where you work; Goals for 1 to 2 years.
For a group of homeless people working not only on creating a community land trust of our own, but also fighting to make governments include the CLT model as one important strategy to combat the housing crisis, hearing these insights from four dynamic CLTs was invaluable. Here's some of what we learned from each:
The Women’s Community Revitalization Project:
1. They were founded in 2010 because the people in the community got mad due to gentrification happening in the area.
2. Their guiding values were to stop displacement and that housing stay affordable having community input and self-determination
3. Their major success was community building leadership development
4. Their challenge was how do you pay for the work
5. Their opportunity was having a Land Bank
6. Their goals were to develop and acquire a Land Bank Bill, to help start 2 new Community Land Trusts, and having 25 new units in their Community Land Trust.
Diamond State Community Land Trust from Delaware:
1. They were founded in 2006 to make housing affordable because their Area Mean Income is $300,000.00 while salaries average $30,000.00
2. Their major success was having 27 units of housing. We were told that the foreclosure crisis allowed them to grow.
3. The challenges they faced were staff turnover, organizational capacity and the denial of zoning for 50 units in s. Delaware
4. Their goals included to hire a new Executive Director and to raise money to continue their efforts.
Cooper Square Community Land Trust:
1. They were founded in 1959 in the context of urban renewal. In the 1980’s they got a Mutual Housing Association.
2. Their guiding values included economies of scale in order to support goal of long term affordability, and checks and balances through structural governance.
3. Their major successes included winning Scatter-site Co-ops from Attorney General which was the first time permission was granted, they created scale to share costs, and 85% of their tenants signed purchase agreements, and having Cooperative ownership.
4. Their top challenges included the conversion of rentals to Co-ops, where are development opportunities? And renewing the Community Land Trust Board
5. Their goals included to transfer city-owned land in order to make affordable housing and to win long term affordability of these new affordable units.
Essex Community Land Trust:
1. 4 urban communities and 18 suburban – how to create affordable housing in the suburbs diverse planning group started meeting 2-3 years ago.
2. Their guiding values include not competing for development dollar – partner with CDC’s, to counterbalance gentrification in suburban, to provide and secure opportunities, and finally to work with groups anchored in the community.
3. Their major successes include the CDC community is on board with Community Land Trust idea, An executive Director was hired in September 2011, they became incorporated, they won national CHIP grant – which started in April 2012, and they will add Community Land Trust to homeownership classes.
4. Their top challenges include recruiting potential buyers, needing to start this , they don’t have earned income ( they are not developers), they would like to know what if anything else exists besides developer’s fees and grants, partnership with CDC’s, being able to gain political support, and heavy hitters are supportive.
5. Their goals include receiving their 501©3 status and having 20-30 units of housing in 1 year and double that in year 2.
In addition, we heard from Community Voices Heard (Newburgh), which has gotten a Land Bank tasked with creating affordable housing...
1. Their guiding value is to offer homeownership for low-income people in Newburgh
2. Their major successes include receiving successful organizing victories and building strong leaders in the communities.
3. Their top challenges include having property taxes increase 7 %, the fact that their city is broke, having a Land Bank that is totally transparent – mistrust, building political support for Community Land Trust’s in this tight economy, not having the capacity for the amount of work that’s needed, and not having a relationship with local government.
4. Their challenges include sustaining the 1300-1600 Co-ops (30,000 units of housing) UHAB, having a stewardship model, they sell goods and services to generate revenue for their buildings and others, Scale is key, and overseeing compliance for other Co-op buildings, they believe too many New York housing decisions are made in Albany. There is tension between scale and organizing – geography – number of units, and getting the data that you have received work for you, resources to start trust (acquire property) is easier to get than resources to sustain the stewardship.
Not only did we learn about a ton of great stuff that's happening, we built a ton of great relationships. Our common ideas include there is far too much vacant space, working together is a way to gain political support, the partnership of all of us in the room will be a powerful source, we share the same values around community and justice, we can have the land trust be a total community vehicle, we have financial models, we all would like to create a different less competitive culture, having an inter-relationship within the systems around us – bring down cost of housing verses raising people’s income, tax credits and Community Land Trusts go together, political education and organizing to influence policy. Together we can have the capacity in order to seize opportunities, such as having an “Interim facility”. Together we can buy properties in bulk, we thankfully have Dudley Learning Center as a resource:
a. Tools & training
b. Technical assistance in New Orleans and Detroit
c. The community in Community Land Trust
d. Visitor and speaker programs – the business model
The documentary “Holding Groun,d” telling the beginning of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, and “Gaining Ground,” coming out in the fall, tell their stories of what occurred to the community as the foreclosure crisis hit in 2008.