Arts-Oriented Land Trusts Preserve Affordable Cultural Spaces

A community land trust in San Francisco is buying up properties with the goal of preserving affordable spaces for arts and culture.

2 minute read

December 14, 2020, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


San Francisco Density

rutlo / flickr

Founded in 2013 with a $5 million grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) acquires Bay Area properties to run in collaboration with local cultural organizations. Much like a traditional real estate operation, CAST monitors available properties and potential buyers, but also keeps an eye on cultural institutions that face displacement and works to preserve arts spaces before they’re lost.

The trust currently owns four properties, two of which will be purchased at cost by their resident organizations in 2022. The others will be leased to arts and culture groups at low cost. "Plenty of organizations can’t afford to own their own or have made the decision not to own property but really benefit and want a long-term, stable, below market-rate lease that is affordable for them," CAST executive director Moy Eng told Next City. Having a guarantee of low-cost rent can help nonprofit institutions stay afloat and maintain their roots in the community. To help counter the astronomical rents that have increasingly pushed artists out of San Francisco, the trust is also planning its first affordable residential project.

Other cities have taken notice of CAST's innovative model, which brings together philanthropists, property owners, and municipal agencies to preserve legacy properties and acquire new homes for arts and artists. In Seattle, a newly formed public development authority called the Cultural Space Agency will focus on "preserving [the] city’s cultural spaces, building community wealth, and investing in cultural communities of color," signaling an increased awareness of the contributions of arts and culture to a thriving city.

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