The Community Land Trust (CLT) concept is gaining ground FAST, not only in North America, but around the world says developer Tony Pickett: Advancing ‘in-placement’: Four housing and development lessons from Denver and Atlanta by Tony Pickett. To prevent gentrification and to develop permanent housing affordability, Pickett is working to develop the Community Land Trust concept in both Atlanta and Denver.
This slide from his March 17, 2017 slide show in Portland briefly explains the CLT concept:
After his presentation at Oregon Metro, Pickett met with a few Transit Oriented Development (TOD) managers and public officials from around the Portland metro region. Says Pickett: “Control of TOD land for shared-equity housing can accomplish the critical linkage of low-cost public transit access and affordable high-quality housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families.” One might hope that the wheels are in place for shared equity housing, both rental and for sale, at every existing and future MAX station around the region. But it will take more than this one time, singular effort by Metro. We need to put pressure on elected officials in the Portland region to adopt the CLT model with Transit-Oriented Development that Pickett promotes .
In both Atlanta and Denver, land-banked properties at transit stations and future stations are developed under the CLT model—not just housing, but community centers and small business space–even a charter school. Portland metropolitan agencies such as Metro and Trimet have done some of this land banking in our region, but their model has often been to sell off the land to a private developer who meets their guidelines. Those of us from the Portland region need to be more active in insisting our public agencies support the CLT model.
The reason I’m excited about CLTs is well-expressed by Gabriel Metcalf, author of Democratic by Design: Community land trusts represent the nascent form of an alternative system of land ownership. In that sense, they illustrate the broader strategy of alternative institutions as a way to make change: create the alternative, and then try to grow it, with the goal of displacing the mainstream set of institutions over time. CLTs are a new model of land tenure that could ultimately replace our current housing system.
Thankfully, a number of cities around the globe —not just Denver and Atlanta–are seeing the CLT as a solution to gentrification and skyrocketing costs. Even Vancouver, BC, a city that Portland sometimes likes to emulate, is adopting the concept. According to A Speculation-Free Zone in The Globe and Mail:
A growing number of people in British Columbia are viewing this fledgling organization, and community land trusts in general, as the way to provide an important new option in the escalating struggle over housing. . . . Advocates talk passionately about how land trusts help remove property from the speculative land market and preserve it forever.
Vancouver Community Land Trust Foundation is vying to become the largest Community Land Trust in North America. Burlington, VT now has that honor! Again, from The Globe and Mail: But, in the Vancouver version, people are also attracted by the other power of land trusts – their ability to harness the energy of hundreds of isolated non-profit housing societies and co-ops, combining their land equity and their clout to be able to finance new development. We also need to exert pressure on the Portland area’s various Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and other non-profit housing builders to join under a Community Land Trust umbrella–either under our existing CLT, Proud Ground–or an umbrella organization that we create.
In New York City the New York City Community Land Initiative (https://nyccli.org) is an alliance of over two dozen organizations, academics, affordable-housing developers and community activists who educate the public about community land trusts and advocate for their inclusion in city policy. (Which organization or academic in the Portland region will help put together a similar coalition to take on the work mentioned above?)
NYCCLI was successful in getting Mayor DeBlasio and the NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) to release a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) from groups interested in forming community land trusts using city-owned property.
In a press release, HPD writes: “The CLT’s land ownership, paired with a governance structure that reflects the interests of CLT affordable housing residents and the broader community, can offer a unique housing model that empowers residents and neighborhoods. . . The release goes on to say that it is evaluating making city-owned properties in East Harlem, the South Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens available for development and operation by one or more CLTs.
NYCCLI lauds HPD saying it has “taken a big step by recognizing the potential of CLTs to advance a truly progressive housing policy.” There was no word on the HPD or NYCCLI sites about whether any decision has been made.
Tony Pickett, for his part, could hardly be busier, with invitations from around the globe to help form CLT’s. He shows the growth of the movement in the US alone in this slide:
Unfortunately, the graph stops at 2010. Fortunately, the trajectory since then has been even more geometric.
If you are really interested but need more inspiration to take action, think about going to Intersections 2017, the national Community Land Trust conference in Oakland, CA this year: https://groundedsolutionsnetwork.swoogo.com/Intersections2017
Mary Vogel/PlanGreen Testimony to Portland City Council on Relocation Assistance Proposal – Feb. 2, 2017
To even begin to solve the housing crisis, a whole new system of land tenure is needed. Relocation assistance for involuntary displacements of tenants seems like a fine and just idea–until you hear the landlords side and their schemes for getting around your proposed ordinance.
I didn’t come prepared to testify today, because under the current system of housing, both sides have compelling arguments. As long as we continue to pursue a housing system that sees housing as a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit, as long as we see it as a builder of individual wealth through the accrual of speculative value, there will be such dilemmas. These are dilemmas that cannot be resolved under the present system.
However, there is a whole new system of land tenure that has been around for over 50 years and built a tremendous body of law and custom as well as homes on the ground. That system provides security, equity and legacy to the resident, but the greatest part of the increase in value accrues to the entire community through the Community Land Trust. I wish I had some easy solutions for getting to there from here. I’m afraid that my best idea didn’t get traction and fizzled at the end of the primaries. That idea was to get Bernie Sanders, who played an important role in founding Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, VT —now the largest Community Land Trust in the nation—to talk about this new model of land tenure to his young followers during his campaign. (See Housing Affordability – Put a Bern on It.) He could have opened so many eyes to a different system and created tremendous demand for it.
We could have built on that demand to pull Portland Community Land Trust (now Proud Ground) out of its role of needing to chase after attention amongst all the various non-profits pursuing affordable housing dollars. We could have expanded its mission from a provider of home ownership opportunities for a tiny percentage of working class people to a central role in our strategy to address housing affordability with a whole new system of land tenure.
At this point, in an overheated market, I’m not sure how we get there from here. But WE CAN FIGURE IT OUT COLLECTIVELY. Each of you on the City Council commands far greater media and public attention than I do. If each Council Member learned all you can about the CLT model—perhaps sending one of your number to Burlington, Vt. to visit Champlain Housing Trust as well as the CLT experts at Burlington Associates—meanwhile each of you study their web sites and start talking and talking about the need for this new model, .
In closing, I want to quote a Jan 17 post from Bob Morris, a friend on Facebook: What a great time to be alive and an American! There are as many opportunities now to take an active part in making our country better and living up to our highest ideals as at any time in my life. Who will be our new Freedom Riders, lunch counter sitters, voter registrars, river keepers, forest conservators, wild animal protectors, peace spreaders, truth speakers. I can’t wait to meet them. What will you do? I will add to Bob’s list Community Land Trust builders. . .
Feb 19, 2017 Addendum to the above testimony:
I was delighted to find out yesterday that Vancouver, BC has been working on a plan to do what I am calling for–on the scale I am suggesting. A Speculation-Free Zone, an article in The Globe and Mail describes the efforts of the Vancouver Community Land Trust Foundation to become an alternative to the speculative model of housing. Their vision is to become the largest CLT in North America.
NYC Opens Door Wide to Community Land Trusts in Next City also shows the momentum of the CLT model as cities seek to find systemic solutions to their housing crisis as it is finally becoming obvious the patchwork solutions are not working.
In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked for the Institute for Community Economics, the pre-imenent group building the CLT movement in the US for several decades. I am available to consult on this model through my business, PlanGreen–if there is interest.
On November 9, the day after what for me was a cataclysmic election, and on most Wednesdays and Thursdays until the end of 2016, I found a haven in Portland City Council meetings. Not only did I take solace in offering testimony myself, but cheering on the testimony of citizens as young as GRADE SCHOOL age. Most of us–certainly the young– wanted Portland to not only continue, but increase its progressive agenda. The last Council accomplished much in those final two months, but there is still plenty left to do. Inspired by former mayoral candidate, Sarah Iannarone, I offer my own TO-DO list for Mayor Ted Wheeler and the new City Council.
In 2017, let’s help the City of Portland continue its leadership on climate change by addressing fossil fuels–both by reducing demand and by limiting their usage, transport and storage in Portland. We also need to divest the city’s money in them¹.
Reducing Demand for Fossil Fuels
- Make every neighborhood more walkable. This includes
- Adopt strong Residential Infill/Missing Middle policy to create the population levels to support the services in each neighborhood that folks want to walk to.
- Adopt Parking Management Policy improvements that help to manage demand–the type sought by Portlanders for Parking Reform and PBOT’s own Citywide Parking Strategy and its proposed Residential Parking Permit Program.
- Strengthen the Central City 2035 Plan re: trees and streetscape adding to the plan wider sidewalks and street trees to make downtown streets more than car sewers for commuters. (BTW, while I appreciate the need to give more focus to East Portland, as Iannarone suggests, the West End of downtown still has a predominantly low-income population, many of whom are people of different ethnic origins and races. And many use walkers or wheelchairs.)
- Insist on a revision of the Portland Art Museum Rothko Pavillion plan seeking to close off Madison Street plaza. Instead, focus on strengthening downtown walkability and resilience–e.g. negotiate a “Madison Walkway” between SW 11th and 12th to break up this superblock. Oppose any other property owner proposing to make downtown less walkable rather than more walkable!
- Since the greenest building is one that is already there, work with the Unreinforced Masonry Building owners in the West End—including the Art Museum—to do seismic upgrades so that fewer buildings need to be replaced after a seismic event. (PAM is not technically a URM, rather brick veneer; however, it was built in the 1930s and has not been seismically upgraded to today’s standards.)
- Phase out the use of studded tires that are the #1 cause of road damage and hence asphalt resurfacing—a very intensive use of fossil fuels. [I know that this is a State issue, but Portland must add this to its Legislative Agenda–see Preserving Oregon’s Roads.
Limiting Fossil Fuel Transport and Storage
Sierra Club and 350 PDX (I’m an active member of both) have played a leadership role here–along with my friends at Center for a Sustainable Economy. I testified at the last Council’s hearings on the no new Fossil Fuel Facilities policy and stand ready to help defend it–and to help Portland get enabling legislation to REQUIRE seismic upgrades on existing fossil fuel storage facilities.
The Housing Crisis
- In the absence of other immediately available options, partner with the member organizations of the Village Coalition to find additional spots where the homeless can self-organize into “tiny house villages”. This way we’ll waste less human energy—releasing it to help in the climate change effort.
- Ban no cause evictions and pursue other tenants’ rights policies in Mayor Wheeler’s Tenants Bill of Rights published during the campaign.
- Support the Community Land Trust concept that seeks to take housing off the private commodity speculative market and put it into public trust. This model gives participants security, equity and legacy in their housing. Over 50 years ago, the founders of the CLT concept saw this as a new model for land tenure in America–not just a band-aid to the system to help the low-income. I’d like to see the City of Portland help its own CLT, Proud Ground, revive the idea that there is a new model of housing for all incomes–one that has a tremendous body of law and practice already established.
Portland needs to nurture the budding activism of the school children and Millennials who gave testimony on a variety of climate-related issues over the past year by re-doubling on its progressive policy. As Tavis Smiley admonishes on PBS “Keep the Faith!”
¹I hope that our efforts will inspire those in other cities–especially Millennials–to work locally to get their own cities do likewise–making those cities more sustainable and resilient too. As much as I value Millennials’ migration to our city, I know we need them more in places where the fight may seem harder.
Mary Vogel is founder and principal of PlanGreen and a downtown neighborhood land use and transportation advocate.
April 14, 2016
Bernie Sanders is a housing affordability hero to a group of people in Burlington, VT. As Mayor of Burlington, Bernie was able to get the city to seed the founding of the Burlington Community Land Trust (BCLT) with a $220,000 grant. Sanders was at first skeptical about the limited equity concept the BCLT promoted. But he came to see the Community Land Trust (CLT) as both a means of achieving permanent affordability as well as a new model of land tenure for America. Now he admits that helping to found the BCLT was “the best thing I ever did as Mayor.”
Burlington Community Land Trust has since expanded into three counties around Burlington (Chittenden, Grand Isle and Franklin) and changed its name after its merger with an affordable rental non-profit in 2006 . It’s now the Champlain Housing Trust. With over $309 million in assets, CHT is the largest CLT in the nation. Its 2015 Annual Report shows that it owned 389 buildings (2227 units) of affordable rental housing, 33 commercial/industrial buildings and the land under 570 single family shared-equity homes. And it’s adding more units every year. This year, they are in process of developing another 160 permanently affordable units in a larger 700 unit development on the Burlington waterfront. In all, they control an impressive 7.6% of the Burlington area’s total housing stock.
How it works:
Community Land Trusts are nonprofit organizations, with a board composed of representatives of the public, members of professions with technical expertise, and the tenants of the CLT. The CLT obtains land through a number of means (purchase, donations, foreclosures, etc.) and removes it from the private, commodity speculative market. If there are not already buildings on the land, the CLT may build and either lease or sell the buildings with restrictive covenants. The CLT retains ownership of the land and sets a formula for shared equity as the properties appreciate. This formula is applied when the home on the property is sold.
As explained by Daniel Fireside writing in Dollars & Sense: When a normal home is offered for sale on the usual terms, it does virtually nothing to make the overall housing market more affordable. A land trust home, by contrast, creates a permanently affordable property because the land it sits on is removed from the speculative market. Most of the appreciation is retained by the housing trust (and by extension, the community), rather than the individual. In this way the trust model creates a bridge between purely public and purely private property.
This limited equity model still allows a reasonable return. In Burlington, the 233 homeowners who have resold a CHT home have realized, on average, a 31% annualized IRR [internal rate of return]! The model also allows the CLT to intercede in the case of a foreclosure. A study by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy showed that, as of 2010, homeowners within a land trust were 10 times less likely to default on their homes than their private-market counterparts.
A New Model of Land Tenure
The original impetus behind the CLT movement was to create a new institution to keep housing permanently affordable. The first people I ever met living in a CLT in the 1980s were NOT low-income, rather middle-income professionals who saw the CLT as a better way to live while also making a statement that we need a new model of land tenure. I believe the CLT is the best tool for transforming our housing system. By taking the land under housing off the private, commodity, speculative market, it helps to change the concept of housing from a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit. Instead it encourages us to see it as a social good that everyone needs and deserves. Involvement in the CLT also gives both renters and homeowners a say in how properties are managed. And it gives them a sense of community with all members of the CLT.
CLTs can work in both hot and cold markets. John Davis, former Chair of the Board of the Institute for Community Economics¹ and now a CLT consultant, says in an interview he did for Democracy Collaborative with Steve Dubb in 2011:
Most housing and community development programs in the United States have been designed as if there is no business cycle. What community land trusts are particularly good at is preventing the loss of homes, homeowners, and public investment at both the top and the bottom of the business cycle. We run counter to the threats and dangers that a fluctuating economy imposes on low- and moderate-income people.
Proud Ground – The Portland Region’s Community Land Trust
Proud Ground (a merger of Portland Community Land Trust and Clackamas Community Land Trust). It currently focuses on helping a limited subset of moderate-income people get into homeownership. (See Oregonian OpEd: One Way to Turn Moderate Income Portlanders into Homeowners by PG’s Diane Linn and Roger Henshaw). It has partnered with Bank of America to do an important study, Solving the Affordable Homeownership Gap that gives data about an out-of control housing market that is has largely been taken over by an investor class. To me, this study helps to demonstrate how unsustainable the current housing system is and why we need more systemic solutions than simply getting a few more people into such an anxiety-inducing system. Nonetheless, Proud Ground has many ways to get involved in making housing more permanently affordable on its website.
Achieving Housing Affordability for the Long-Term
To achieve real housing affordability for all in the Portland region, we will need to move beyond promoting the Community Land Trust model solely for the moderate-income and solely for homeownership. We will need to take a cue from Champlain Housing Trust and push Proud Ground to serve both rental and owner properties and to gain far more foothold in the Portland area market. It may be a long-term process, but we can take heart from the progress that Champlain Housing Trust has made in Burlington since 1984–nearly 8% of all housing. Various levels of local, regional and state government and private foundations, institutions and individuals owning property will need to partner with Community Land Trusts to change our housing model.
Ultimately, changing our housing model won’t just happen in Burlington or in Portland. Although I do believe strongly that we all need to work for change from the bottom up, it will help greatly to have a supportive federal government to promote and achieve this concept nationwide.
Put a Bern on Housing Affordability²
There is already a National Community Land Trust Network (now Grounded Solutions Network) that has been bringing leaders from CLTs across the nation together to discuss issues and best practices in CLTs for many years. They also push for policy change. Intersections 2016 claims to be “the only national conference dedicated to permanently affordable housing and the creation and preservation of just, equitable and inclusive communities across the country and around the globe.” The conference is expected to draw more than 350 professionals to Park City, Utah, September 26-29, 2016.
Grounded Solutions Network is likely our best chance to help us understand and then achieve change that needs to happen at the federal level. Meanwhile, let Bernie know you want him to repeat “the best thing I ever did as Mayor” on a larger scale–for ALL OF US. Let’s work to put a Bern on housing affordability.
¹Founded in 1979, the Institute for Community Economics (ICE) pioneered the modern community land trust (CLT) model, Today ICE is a federally certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) offering loans and more to create community land trusts. I worked for ICE in the 1990s.
²Most Portlanders will likely appreciate the take-off in my title on Portlandia’s “Put a bird on it.” A national audience may not.
Many thanks to Chris Donnelly of Champlain Housing Trust for spending nearly an hour on the phone with me answering my questions.
Another article worth reading: How Bernie Sanders Made Burlington Affordable by Jake Blumbart in Slate Jan. 19, 2016.
April 4, 2016
“How do you think Metro should respond to the key issues and trends affecting the region’s ability to realize the vision of the 2040 Growth Concept?”
I was asked this question recently and here’s what I said. . .
Since its inception in 1995, the 2040 Growth Concept has promoted compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development in centers and corridors. This has been central to shaping regional growth patterns, limiting sprawl and creating livable communities. In fact, directing growth into centers & corridors has been the region’s primary strategy for preserving farms, forests and natural areas outside the Urban Growth Boundary. Metro policymakers (and I myself) believe that compact development is the premier tool to address climate change, ensure equity, create jobs and protect the region’s quality of life.
I see three key trends that have only gotten stronger since 1995:
Trend 1: Walkable Urbanism Preference
Boomers and Millenials both show a strong preference for “Walkable Urbanism.” Some suburban policymakers responses to Metro’s Climate Smart Communities (CSC) project shows that many of them are not aware that this first trend means that they should be focusing more of their infrastructure dollars towards “retrofitting suburbia” rather than building and widening roads. I worked hard to see that urban form/urban design was in the strategies tested in the CSC project (and indeed it tested at the top!), but many suburban policymakers would rather focus on electric vehicles and other technology for lowering tail pipe emissions. More needs to be done to alert them that their present course will potentially lead to stranded assets where there is little market left for suburban single-family homes that don’t provide the opportunity to walk to needed services and amenities.
Trend 2: Recognition That Inequality Hurts Us
There is a growing recognition of the unacceptable impacts of inequality (racial, social, financial). Inequality impacts such issues as housing affordability, homelessness, displacement and even sprawl as people seek more affordable housing in towns outside the Metro Urban Growth Boundary. Thanks to Bernie Sanders, financial inequality (the widening income gap) has become a chief topic of presidential debates and led to more discussion of the role that the Federal government should play. Meanwhile, Metro has attempted to address several aspects of inequality.
Regarding Metro’s Strategic Plan to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Metro’s COO Martha Bennett said “the priorities are to learn more about best practices, apply equity plans to its service-delivery areas, improve community engagement and use equity as a measure of decision-making in spending money.” Any build out of the 2040 Growth Plan will need to address gentrification, displacement and contracting opportunities in an equity strategy that focuses on communities of color.
Metro has pursued affordable housing strategies for many years—the latest effort being the Equitable Housing Initiative headed up by Councilor Sam Chase. From Metro’s web site: The Initiative’s Report discusses a variety of tools that could help, including financial assistance for residents, renter protections against evictions and nonprofit community land trusts. . .
I agree that Metro should utilize the Community Land Trust model, but not just for the involuntarily low-income. I would like to see governments in the region, including Metro, promoting the CLT for ALL OF US. The original impetus behind the CLT movement was to create a new institution to keep housing permanently affordable. The first people I ever met living in a CLT were NOT low-income, rather middle-income people who saw it as a better way. Probably the local government that best understood its potential was Burlington, VT under then-mayor Bernie Sanders. The City of Burlington under Sanders helped to support the formation of the Burlington Community Land Trust. It’s now the Champlain Housing Trust, the largest CLT in the US and a model for local governments looking for systemic solutions.
I believe the CLT is the best tool for transforming our housing system. By taking the land under housing off the private, commodity, speculative market, it helps to change the concept of housing from a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit. Instead it encourages us to see it as a social good that everyone needs and deserves.
“By looking at housing as a fundamental human right rather than a market good that goes to the highest bidder, and with shrewd political organizing in a hostile environment, housing advocates in Burlington have created a sustainable model for affordable housing that deserves to be emulated across the country” says Daniel Fireside in Burlington Busts the Affordable Housing Debate.
The Portland region has a Community Land Trust, Proud Ground (formerly Portland Community Land Trust and Clackamas Community Land Trust). Personally, I feel that it is far too focused on home ownership rather than a mix of ownership and rental. Nonetheless, Metro should explore developing a relationship with it similar to that of Burlington and CHT.
For the shorter term, it should work with innovative housing developer Orange Splott, LLC and its network of other small incremental developers in promoting more alternatives to conventional home ownership. Let me repeat, these alternatives should be marketed not just to “the poor” but to ALL OF US! For Metro, this work could come under the banner of the Equitable Housing Initiative, but it needs to be larger than “affordable housing.” Rather it needs to focus on housing affordability involving ALL income levels. In the long run, hopefully before 2040, such efforts by Metro will help to change the concept of housing from a commodity to a social good.
Trend 3: Need for Excellent Urban Design
Residents of existing neighborhoods will be far more supportive of new development when it includes excellent urban design encompassing:
- appropriately scaled buildings
- streets designed for walking, biking, pushing baby strollers. . .and even cars
- neighborhoods with diverse uses
- people of diverse incomes, class and ethnicity
- sufficient parks and natural areas, protected streams, wetlands, and steep slopes
- infrastructure for arts and culture
Metro might look into working with the Regional Arts and Culture Council to produce a toolkit to encourage every community in the region to integrate arts and culture. Transportation for America has produced a Creative Placemaking Handbook that could provide a good start.
Members of the Congress for the New Urbanism have a great deal of expertise in excellent urban design. Metro should continue to develop a partnership with the Portland-based non-profit National Charrette Institute, a leading affiliate and powerful voice within CNU. As presented at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference by Council Member Craig Dirksen, the Investment Areas Approach with its Shared Investments Strategy highlighted both the City of Tigard and the Tigard Triangle in the SW Corridor Investment Area. New Urbanists are having strong influence over Tigard’s redevelopment and this trend should be encouraged.
Metro should continue its long-standing relationship with The Intertwine regarding the integration of parks and natural areas into developing centers and corridors. This coalitions of organizations have long been involved with implementation of Titles 3 and 13 of the 2040 Concept. It should consider expanding relationships with environmentally oriented organizations that represent communities of color (some of whom are in The Intertwine). As mentioned above in the inequality trend, any urban design efforts must take into account gentrification and displacement. They must also take into account inequitable air quality impacts.
What do you think about my three key trends re: implementing the 2040 Growth Concept–and my ideas on what Metro should do about them? What are your ideas?