Community Land Trust is a buzz-phrase you might hear around Columbia these days. So what exactly is it? A community land trust, or CLT, offers individuals and families a path to homeownership that otherwise might not be affordable.

A CLT is a nonprofit corporation that develops and cares for affordable housing. A CLT maintains ownership of the land but sells long-term affordable homes on that land to qualified buyers. By maintaining ownership of the land, the CLT can sell affordable homes to low-income families for the long term and maintain the homes.

There are over 10,000 community land trust housing units nationwide in 42 states. Columbia started on this path in 2008. The Affordable Housing Policy Committee, created by city council, identified the need for a housing trust fund and organization. In 2015, city council approved the purchase of and appropriated funding for what is now the Columbia Community Land Trust and the land on which the first houses will be built and sold.

In August 2016, with community support from organizations like the Heart of Missouri United Way, Columbia Board of Realtors, Job Point, Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and others, city council voted to establish a community land trust organization and transferred funds for its initial operation. In December 2016, council voted to approve the appointment of the inaugural board, which will guide the organization and provide oversight over the expansion of properties to add to the city’s affordable housing stock.

 

Why do we need a community land trust?

Homeownership is becoming increasingly less affordable. While housing costs have steadily increased, household income, especially for those in the middle to lower income brackets, has seen a decline from the peak years of 1999 and 2000. Homeownership overall has seen a steady decline from a high of 69 percent in 2004 to 63.7 percent in 2015, the lowest rate of homeownership since 1989.

Affordable, owner-occupied housing stabilizes families and neighborhoods; it creates equity and builds wealth by working with city and community partners to preserve the quality and stability of affordable homes.

Stable housing also has a powerful impact on children, their performance in school, and their future success in life.

  • Children changing schools due to housing instability often fall up to two months behind in curriculum per move.
  • The average household wealth in the U.S. is $8,000 for African-American families and $81,000 for white families. This is largely a result of disparity in homeownership rates and lack of generational wealth passed down through African-American households.
  • Funding available for the development of affordable housing in the City of Columbia has decreased by 30 percent over the past decade, increasing the importance of protecting any investments in affordable housing for the future.

 

Why was it important for organizations like the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to endorse the creation of a community land trust?

A guiding principle of the chamber is that government should prioritize core issues such as economic development, infrastructure, public health, public safety, transportation, and the financial well-being of our community. Creating community-based solutions to address one of the biggest challenges facing low-income individuals, seniors, and people with disabilities is an effort worthy of citywide support and chamber endorsement.

The City of Columbia, before the creation of the community land trust, subsidized the sale price of homes with public and private charitable resources up to $25,000. The CLT will accomplish three things:

  • Protect city investments in affordable homeownership opportunities. It ensures homes re-sell to income-qualified buyers at affordable rates. It ensures homes developed with public–private subsidies remain owner-occupied. It eliminates the need to provide additional subsidies to future buyers, and it ensures homes maintain their quality and condition.
  • Protect neighborhoods from adverse impacts of foreclosure.
  • Provide support for low-income buyers to ensure successful homeownership.

 

Jerry Dowell is the government affairs director for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. 

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