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Explained: the Power and Potential of Community Land Trusts

A clear, detailed explanation of community land trusts—a growing model for retaining affordable housing and neighborhood character in the face of gentrification pressures.
July 8, 2015, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Alana Semuels writes about the strength of community land trusts in combating gentrification and providing affordable housing and other community benefits.

Semuels starts the story with the example of the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation (GNDC), which is working in East Austin and recently enabled the first community land trust home in the state of Texas. "Mary Ybarra bought the home for $150,000 in 2012, and pays $815 a month on her interest-free mortgage. (GNDC loaned her the money, since it was difficult to get a loan for a land-trust home.) At the time, nearby homes were going for $350,000, which would have been out of reach for Ybarra, a single mother who works as an administrator in an office."

Semuels also includes a lot of clear passages to explain how community land trusts work. SO according to Semuels's explanation, a community land trust is "a local nonprofit acquires a parcel of land and pledges to use it for purposes that benefit the neighborhood, whether that be food production or affordable housing." Samuels continues with the explanation: 

"In the housing model, the nonprofit builds a home on the land and sells it to someone in need. But the nonprofit retains ownership of the land that the house sits on, leasing it to the homeowner for a designated time period, typically 99 years. Dividing the structure from the land has two important benefits: It ensures that the land won’t be sold to developers by keeping it in the community’s possession, but still allows people to buy a home and earn equity on the structure."

The article goes into a lot more detail about the kinds of neighborhoods where community land trusts are working as well as some of the regulatory and market hurdles they face in achieving success. 

Full Story:
Published on Monday, July 6, 2015 in The Atlantic
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