Community Land Trusts Fight for Neighborhood Affordability

The increasingly popular community-oriented mechanism makes neighbors into property owners and preserves affordable housing in perpetuity.

2 minute read

April 17, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Chinatown gate, Boston

Wangkun Jia / Chinatown, Boston

An article by Alexander Thompson and Jocelyn Yang highlights the benefits of community land trusts, which “are pursuing a novel solution to the nation’s affordable housing crisis: They’re buying their own properties to preserve them as affordable housing in perpetuity and give residents more say over what happens in quickly changing neighborhoods.”

“As neighborhoods change and gentrify really fast, the idea of having community control and having more say about how neighborhoods are changing and who’s going to be able to live in the neighborhood over time, from an affordability perspective, I think becomes really important,” says Beth Sorce, who works with community land trusts nationwide at the Grounded Solutions Network, an affordable housing advocacy group.

Imported from Israel’s kibbutzim in the 1970s by Charles Sherrod, the community land trust concept focuses on affordability and community control. Land trusts “reduce the discrimination baked into that system and empower communities to actively fight it,” says Andre Perry, a housing policy expert at the Brookings Institution. “The trust, which is governed democratically by residents and neighbors, can decide to whom the dwelling can be sold and at what price, usually through a covenant in the lease. This ensures the property remains affordable.”

The article highlights Boston’s Chinatown Community Land Trust, which has acquired seven units, and several other trusts around the country. “Really, land trust leaders say, homeownership is just one aspect of their focus on what [Sheldon Clark, who recently served as president of the board of the Douglass Community Land Trust in Washington, D.C.,] calls the “big C” in community land trusts: the community.”

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