Regional collaboration on shared equity
A Regional Coalition for Housing, Eastern King County, Wash.
A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH) in Eastern King County, Wash., is a multi-jurisdictional agency whose members include county and city governments. Created in 1992, it determines future resale prices using a Consumer Price Index, REI Seattle/Everett Real Estate Report (mean sales of eastside cities) and the HUD Seattle/King County median income to maintain affordability for homes created through its housing trust fund, as well as through inclusionary zoning, density bonuses and other municipal programs. The increase in price upon resale is limited to an average of the percentage increase in AMI and the percentage increase in home resale prices. This approach has the potential to sustain affordability indefinitely, but most of the contracts are written to lapse after 30 years. On the first sale after the affordability contract lapses, sellers must return any proceeds beyond what they would have earned under the AMI index approach back into the Housing Trust Fund, increasing funding for new affordable housing construction.
Beecher Cooperative, Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., the Beecher Cooperative operates 63 owner-occupied units. The maximum price for which residents may resell their shares is calculated based on increases in the Consumer Price Index. Because most low-income families could not afford to buy shares in the co-op even with these price controls, the Beecher Cooperative also includes 18 units with project-based subsidies for families earning less than 60 percent of AMI.
Hermitage Manor Cooperative, Chicago, Ill.
The Hermitage Manor Cooperative in Chicago, Ill., maintains 108 affordable townhouses in a gentrifying neighborhood. To purchase shares in the co-op, buyers must earn less than 95 percent of AMI and must also have a monthly income of at least four times the monthly cost of the unit. Residents whose incomes increase above the 95-percent threshold must pay a 10-percent surcharge each month.
Resident Owned Communities
Since 1984, ROC-NH, formerly called the New Hampshire Community Loan Funds Manufactured Housing Park Program, has helped convert almost 120 parks with almost 6,500 manufactured homes into ROCs. In these parks, the land and infrastructure are owned and maintained by a cooperative housing corporation whose shares are held by park residents. This structure protects residents from investors and developers intending to convert the land for more profitable purposes. Affordability is strictly maintained: when an owner moves out of the park, the co-op repurchases that member’s share for the same price the resident originally paid.
A study conducted by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire using home sales data found that between 2004 and 2005, manufactured homes in resident-owned communities sold for more than $7,200 more and spent 23 fewer days on average on the market than manufactured homes in investor-owned parks.
Community Land Trusts
Champlain Housing Trust, Burlington, Vt.
The largest and most well-known community land trust in the United States is the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT). It began life as the Burlington Community Land Trust (BCLT) in 1984 and joined with the Lake Champlain Housing Development Corporation in 2006 to become the organization it is today. CHT currently manages 2,200 rental apartments and stewards 565 owner-occupied homes across three counties. While most CLTs will not reach a similar size, Champlain provides an example of how successful the CLT model can be as a large-scale affordable housing program.
CHT’s predecessor, the BCLT, was created during now-Senator Bernie Sanders’ tenure as the mayor of Burlington. It was developed by the Sanders administration as part of the City of Burlington’s efforts to curb the loss of affordable housing throughout the city. Some of these early efforts targeted Burlington’s poorest community, the Old North End neighborhood. Here, the BCLT acquired and rehabilitated rental housing, redeveloped a brownfield site, and created over 75,000 square feet of commercial space for community services like day care, senior services, health care, and legal aid.
In addition to its property management activities, CHT also provides homebuyer education, financial counseling and direct loans for housing rehabilitation. The scale of CHT’s activities in its service area is significant. CHT’s stock of 2,765 units of affordable housing is greater even than the number of federal units in Burlington, and the organization continues to expand. The scale of its success is unique among CLTs but it demonstrates the feasibility of the community land trust in terms of maintaining a large-scale program, as well as the importance of municipal support.
City of Lakes CLT, Minneapolis, Minn.
The City of Lakes CLT (CLCLT), founded in 2002, has its genesis in a working group of nonprofits in Minneapolis. The members of the working group (a range of affordable housing organizations and other stakeholders) spent a year looking at the problems that faced the communities of South Minneapolis. As part of the solution to the problems they identified, the working group incorporated the CLCLT.
The trust currently administers 204 units of permanently affordable, owner-occupied housing, though this is only one part of their work. City of Lakes has also developed community building activities that extend beyond housing, including a small loan program called the Opportunity Fund and a community-led art project, “This House is Not For Sale” (more on this project is available here and here).
The Opportunity Fund is a program that makes small loans (less than $500) to CLCLT homeowners, their spouses or partners or their children. The main purpose of these small loans is to “assist the recipient in working towards a goal that would further their ability to create wealth or build assets for their family or better the community.” Recipients have used the funds to pay for things like study materials, exam fees and job training. This form of assistance helps CLCLT build community in a much broader way than it would otherwise be able to with a singular focus on affordable housing. Community members who receive these funds are not only provided more stability in their housing, but they are also able to improve their overall quality of life.
The commitment to community development is not limited to supporting personal development. Recently, CLCLT supported a public art project by two of their residents that engaged with the entire community in a very direct way. “This House Is Not For Sale” was an art project comprising of a series of public events at different houses owned by CLCLT members. These events included the installation of sculptures inspired by the “for sale” signs posted in yards, a poetry reading and a communal dinner. One of the central messages was the restoration of the houses into homes: each of them was in foreclosure before the current owners purchased them with CLCLT’s help. In this way, the project celebrated the value of creating a connection between a community and its housing. The artists and the participating community members worked to make that connection visible and active through art and the experience of sharing a meal.
T.R.U.S.T. South LA (TRUST), Los Angeles, Calif.
Originally known as the Figueroa Corridor Community Land Trust, TRUST was created in 2005 as part of the community benefits agreement attached to the L.A. Live development, which required the developer to include funding for community-based development as a condition of the development’s approval. A coalition of community organizations, led by the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice, negotiated these benefits. As part of the agreement, $2 million was set aside for the creation of a community land trust. South Los Angeles has a history of marginalization, and the ongoing expansion of the University of Southern California (USC) and the expansion of the city’s light rail system have put increased pressure on the neighborhood. TRUST’s mission of working with the low-income communities to “transform the built environment and social conditions in South Los Angeles” is meant to mitigate displacement of the neighborhood’s residents as a consequence of these projects.
TRUST’s largest project to date is the acquisition of a two-acre, 28-unit multifamily development. The Rolland Curtis Gardens property was purchased by TRUST in partnership with affordable housing developer Abode Communities in 2014 after a year-long, tenant-led campaign. The Gardens is located one block from USC and is also directly on top of a light rail stop, making it not only affordable but extremely accessible.
TRUST is also embarking on a project called the Community Mosaic, designed to counter another wave of speculation pushing into South LA that is driven by the increased development in downtown Los Angeles. The Community Mosaic project is a drive to purchase single-family homes and build smaller additional units on the lots, creating not just an increased stock of affordable housing but increased density of the neighborhood as well.
Since its creation, TRUST has embarked on a number of programs that serve various dimensions of its community’s wellbeing. In addition to the Rolland Curtis Gardens development, TRUST has participated in transportation activism like CicLAvia and Ride South LA, it has advocated for improved transportation infrastructure in its neighborhood and it sponsored the art-based activist project Free Lots. These projects have all been pursued with participation by the community that TRUST serves. The membership of TRUST’s board is currently 80% local, low-income residents, with two seats held by representatives from allied organizations.
Oakland CLT, Oakland, Calif.
The Oakland CLT (OakCLT) was started in 2009 with a mission of “combatting community deterioration and expanding housing and economic development opportunities for low-income residents.” The creation of the CLT was a response to the high concentration of foreclosures in the communities in and around the City of Oakland. The number of default notices in Oakland in the first three quarters of 2007 was already greater than for the entire year of 2006, and these notices were highly concentrated in ZIP codes in East Oakland. Subprime lenders were also more active in minority communities, where many brokers took advantage of limited English speakers or senior homeowners seeking to refinance. In response to this, the Urban Strategies Council, a broad-spectrum poverty policy organization that has been operating since the late 1980s, worked with the Oakland branch of ACORN to develop a response. The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston (along with Champlain Housing Trust, Dudley Street is one of the most well-known CLTs in the country) was also involved with OakCLT’s development and contributed its knowledge of community engagement and land ownership.
OakCLT received $5.25 million in funds from the first round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in 2009. It used about $3 million of these funds to purchase and rehabilitate 18 single-family homes. It is currently working with the City of Oakland to use the remaining program funds to support the purchase and conversion of multifamily buildings into Oakland’s first permanently affordable housing cooperatives. OakCLT is also currently working with Alameda County and other local organizations to acquire several tax-delinquent properties, some of which will be converted into urban agricultural space. The others will soon feature new housing built by OakCLT in collaboration with Youth Employment Partnership, a local organization that helps at-risk youth develop marketable job skills. OakCLT has also been approached to help develop affordable commercial spaces for local nonprofits that are being priced out of their downtown Oakland offices.
One of greatest challenges facing OakCLT is the pressure of the Bay Area real estate market, which has reached unprecedented levels of unaffordability. In July of 2015, an anonymous donor to the San Francisco Foundation made a $34 million contribution to “scaling proven solutions” in various communities throughout Oakland. OakCLT received $2 million from this and used the large majority of it to acquire properties. Finding funding to compete with the private market has proven difficult, and is likely to remain so until the market cools or until much more significant funding sources can be found.