February 14, 2019; Columbus Business Journal
In Columbus, Ohio, a community land trust is being launched to address housing affordability proactively by creating permanently affordable housing within mixed-income neighborhoods.
Recent NPQ coverage of homelessness has stressed both the extreme nature of America’s housing crisis as well as the need for nonprofits to work effectively with governments and business to implement new models and best practices.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described homelessness as the “the greatest moral and humanitarian crisis of our time.” Los Angeles may be at the epicenter of the homelessness wave—the area has experienced a 75 percent growth in homelessness over the past seven years and has the highest rate of unsheltered people in the country—but this is a nationwide problem, and a growing one.
Some communities have had success in addressing homelessness. For instance, the city of Norman in Cleveland County in Oklahoma has effectively ended veteran homelessness. Their success—as of this time last year, Norman was the seventh community in the nation to reach federal standards and benchmarks from Built for Zero, a national effort to end chronic and veteran homelessness—has been credited to cooperative efforts of local agencies, nonprofits, and government officials.
“It is because of our relentless community-wide effort…that we have reached such a significant goal,” says Norman’s mayor, Lynne Miller.
Yet homelessness is just one aspect of a broader crisis of housing affordability, as dramatic price increases have spawned a historic gentrification trend. The 2015 report Gentrification in America by the Governing Institute showed that nearly 20 percent of neighborhoods with lower incomes and home values experienced gentrification since 2000, compared to only nine percent during the 1990s. This has doubled the pressure on affordable housing stock and has forced advocates both to deal with the homelessness crisis in front of them and work to forestall gentrification.
The issue of middle-income families slipping into housing precarity is not new, but it has intensified. One promising approach to address the root causes of housing affordability is the community land trust (CLT). As NPQ noted last December:
With a CLT, the homeowner owns the home, but the trust owns the land underneath the home; a deed or contract sets forth the rights of each party. As with a fee-simple house, the homeowner retains the rights to privacy, to exclusive use of the home, and to bequeath the property to heirs. But the trust has rights, too. Most notably, it can set a resale formula to preserve affordability, set limits on capital improvements (again, to preserve affordability—hard to do that if you allow teardowns and the replacement of modest homes with McMansions), insist on repairs (to preserve the long-term value of the housing for future owners), and set limits on refinance.
Over the past couple of years, CLT efforts have been expanding in a number of places, including the state of Florida; the San Francisco Bay Area; Buffalo, New York; Washington, DC; Philadelphia; New York City; Reno, Nevada; and many others.
Now, another such