December 29, 2016

Community Land Trusts

Yes Magazine - There are several reasons why Detroit faces such high rates of tax foreclosure. Detroit buildings have been over-assessed using outdated property values, resulting in excessively high tax bills. In addition, though the city offers a poverty exemption based on income, many are unaware of the tax break or have difficulty obtaining it. Furthermore, with some properties selling for as little as $1,000, the Detroit housing market attracts unscrupulous investors who purchase homes, milk tenants for rent, then simply walk away from their properties.

There have been various efforts to respond to this crisis, with groups like the United Community Housing Coalition buying some houses and deeding them back to the original families. The city has also begun to reassess property values, an effort that is helping to lower the foreclosure rate. But last year a coalition of local activists came up with a new strategy to keep Detroiters in their homes and foster economic development at the same time: conveying the properties to a community land trust, or CLT.

From 2000 to 2011, the number of CLTs grew from 90 to 242.

The CLT is a model of land ownership that is becoming increasingly popular across the country in response to unbridled speculation in urban real estate. As a democratically governed nonprofit, a CLT acquires land and ensures it is used for the benefit of the community. It also aims to keep buildings—whether rental housing, owner-occupied homes, or businesses—permanently affordable.

With incomes stagnant, homeownership increasingly out of reach, and rents skyrocketing throughout the nation, communities in nearly every state are turning to the community land trust. From 2000 to 2011, the number of CLTs grew from 90 to 242. Just in 2015, the Right to the City Alliance’s Homes for All Campaign, which works to fight displacement in cities throughout the country, worked with 12 organizations developing CLTs in 10 cities, including Detroit.

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