What are they?
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a method for communities to collectively own and control land. By owning the land, the community, rather than private interests, are able to determine how the land will be utilized to serve the community's needs. CLTs limit the re-sale of property on the land, allowing for permanently affordable homes and retail/office spaces, through minimal initial investments. CLTs are rooted in racial justice, thus are a great tool for reversing decades of racial discrimination in access to housing and small business opportunities.
Why we support them
CLTs are well-tested and proven tools for affordability and community control. CLTs have been found to be more resilient during times of instability, like recessions and gentrification. For example, a 2018 Grounded Solutions study, looking at over 4,000 units, in 20 states, over 30 years found that 99% of the units avoided foreclosure. CLTs are operated by and for the community, so they can be great at addressing community needs.
CLTs are also a prudent financial investment in affordable housing. For example, let’s say there is a home valued at $555,000. To make it affordable to someone at 50% AMI, it will require an initial subsidy of $393,000, making the sales price $161,700. (* value of home appreciation is based on 3.4% compound annual growth rate [CAGR] - data for DC shows last 10 year CAGR to be 3.4% for condos/co-ops; 10.2% for single family detached; and 7.3% for townhomes. So a 3.4% change is reasonable/conservative)
Following a traditional market approach:
After 7 years, the market rate price of the home will be $632,000 and will require an additional subsidy of $454,022.
After 14 years, the market rate price of the home will be $721,278 and will require an additional subsidy of $523,838.
After 28 years, the market rate price of the home will be $937,373 and will require an additional subsidy of $696,294.
Following a CLT model:
After 7 years, the cost of the home will be $178,679 and will not require any additional subsidy.
After 14 years, the cost of the home will be $197,440 and will not require any additional subsidy
After 28 years, the cost of the home will be $241,079 and will not require any additional subsidy.
How do they work?
CLTs are non-profit organizations that own land and lease access to the land at affordable and below market prices. CLTs do not treat housing as a commodity or an investment tool, but as a place for people to live, contribute to their community, and use the money at their disposal for other aspects of their life. The make-up of CLT boards are, generally, 1/3 industry professionals, 1/3 community members, and 1/3 lessees on the land.
Our idea (the petition)
We would like to expand the Douglass Community Land Trust into the Southwest neighborhood at the current site of the fire truck repair station (1101 Half Street SW). The site would be under the stewardship of the Southwest chapter of the Douglass CLT, which would be comprised of Southwest residents, and be responsible for integrating the site into the community.
The fire truck repair station is planned to relocate, making the land available for redevelopment. Instead of the government leasing the land for $1, like they did for the Wharf, and the community not getting much in return, we believe the land should be owned and controlled by our community. To make this happen, we'll need to show the Council that this idea not only makes sense, serves justice, and is backed by the Southwest community. To show your support, please sign our petition below.
Support from Ward 6 Councilmember, Charles Allen
On June 3rd, 2021, Councilmember Charles Allen wrote a letter to the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development calling for the office to consider adopting a CLT approach to the parcel of land.
In January 2022, Councilmember Allen responded to a questionnaire from DC For Democracy about alternative affordable housing models saying:
"I agree that we need to keep looking at new ways to create housing. In Southwest Ward 6, where development has created extreme housing pressures, the District must both safeguard low-income and public housing that already exists, and also expand affordable housing using all available tools. One such site is the future redevelopment of the FEMS repair shop. Located on M Street SW and adjacent to Lansburgh Park, it’s positioned to be a central site with great community amenities nearby. This is why I sent a letter asking DMPED to explore using a Community Land Trust (CLT) model, similar to the Douglass Land Trust, to rethink the housing possibilities on this site. I wasn’t totally satisfied with the answer, but I will continue to push DMPED to consider a CLT at this site, and I will work with leaders across Ward 6 to identify other areas where something like a CLT makes sense."
Support from Council Office of Racial Equity
The D.C. Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE), whose mission it is to eliminate racial disparities and achieve racial equity in Washington, D.C., recommended that public land should be developed, “to include innovative, long-term models such as coops and community land trusts to address the current racial disparity in homeownership rates,” and cited our advocacy as an example (link to source).
Background + Additional resources
The first CLT in America was created by civil rights advocates in 1969 to help protect Black farmers in rural Georgia (link to story). Since then, they have been used in a variety of ways to create community-controlled spaces that offer opportunities for affordable homeownership and affordable space for local and small businesses to operate.
Washington City Paper: Douglass Community Land Trust Wants To Lead The Way In SW.
DC Line: Community advocates pitch alternate affordable housing model for city-owned site in Southwest DC
CLT 101 via the Douglass Community Land Trust.
Article on Houston trying to build the largest CLT in the country.
The Southwester Op-ed (May 2021): It's Time To Bring Douglass Community Land Trusts To Southwest.
The Southwester Op-ed (March 2022): Expanding a community-led model for permanently affordable housing