Land Trusts Put Commercial Real Estate in Community Hands

A growing movement to create community-owned commercial spaces could shift power away from institutional landlords.

2 minute read

November 9, 2022, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Brick storefronts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fernando Garcia Esteban / Philadelphia storefronts

A community ownership model for commercial real estate could provide a way for neighborhoods to take control of local development and put resources back into the community rather than into the pockets of absentee landlords or investment corporations. Writing in Next City, Oscar Perry Abello describes the movement to put real estate ownership in community hands.

“In Alaska’s largest city, the Anchorage Community Land Trust acquired nine properties over the course of 2005-2011, using all private funding. The properties now house space for seven nonprofit organizations; a building that houses the CLT’s office and a training center and art studios for Alaska Native and American Indian artists; a restaurant; a credit union; and also the 28,000 square-foot Grow North Farm and farmer’s market.” In Philadelphia, “The Kensington Corridor Trust is one of several community-owned or community-led commercial real estate entities at various stages of formation and implementation across the country, and they’re starting to get more notice.”

“Ownership over commercial corridors is an important factor for the development of neighborhoods, but it hasn’t been the focus of as much policy as affordable housing or homeownership. Due to historic – and ongoing – barriers in access to credit or opportunities in commercial real estate, it’s common for commercial corridors in Black or Latino neighborhoods to remain in the hands of property owners who no longer live in those neighborhoods, if they ever did.”

According to a Brookings report, just 3 percent of Black households own commercial real estate, with an average value of $3,600 as compared to 8 percent and $34,000 for white households. Proponents of community ownership say it allows residents to determine how properties will be used and ensure that tenant businesses serve local needs.

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