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Una poderosa herramienta para la accesibilidad a la vivienda prospera en Minnesota

Community Land Trusts Provide a Critical Bridge to Affordable Homeownership

“We need to ensure that there is a place for everybody, because that’s what makes a fair and a just world.”

Mikeya Griffen, Rondo Community Land Trust

In 1858, just four years after St. Paul was incorporated, Joseph Rondeau purchased 40 acres of land in the city’s Summit-University District. Those parcels eventually became the Rondo neighborhood, a Black community brimming with churches, schools, homes, and businesses that thrived for decades.

By the 1950s, 85% of St. Paul’s African American community lived in Rondo—until it was sliced in half by the construction of I-94 in 1956. In the process, more than 300 Black businesses had closed, and more than 700 homes had been taken from the tight-knit neighborhood through eminent domain.

Today, the Rondo Community Land Trust (RCLT) is working to right those past wrongs. “As part of RCLT’s reparative framework, we have the ‘Right to Return to Rondo’ where we pair Rondo descendants with significant dollars and income to come in and purchase homes,” explains RCLT’s executive director, Mikeya Griffin. “And they get the right of first refusal at any of our business spaces.”

RCLT is just one of more than a dozen Community Land Trusts (CLTs) across the state that are working to create a sustainable path to affordable homeownership for Minnesotans. Duluth’s Viviendas Comunitarias One Roof, a nonprofit that offers housing services alongside a CLT arm, does the same in northern Minnesota while the Coalición de Minnesota Community Land Trust (MCLTC) supports and advocates for CLTs across the state.

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Community Land Trusts, which have been active in Minnesota for over 30 years, work by purchasing land, often with homes on it, and putting it into a trust. From there, residents can buy a home for less than market rate while leasing the land it sits on from the Trust. Across the state, more than 1,400 properties and over 2,000 low-wealth households are currently building generational and community wealth through CLT homeownership, accounting for between 9% and 11% of all CLT units in the United States.

A CLT home belongs to the homeowner the same way that any other home does. The difference is that when a CLT homeowner is ready to sell, the profit is split between the homeowner and the Community Land Trust. The Trust reinvests its profit to keep the home perpetually affordable, while the homeowner can leverage their portion to continue building wealth, strengthening their community, and bringing their aspirations to life.

CLTs aren’t the only path toward affordable homeownership, but they are a powerful one—especially in a state like Minnesota, with an inequitable affordable housing system where households of color are half as likely to own a home and are 2.6 times as likely to be severely cost burdened when they do.

Community Land Trusts “take land out of market forces, preserving a home’s affordability over a very long period of time,” explains Chad Schwitters, senior program officer for McKnight’s Fair and Just Housing System portfolio, a strategy within its Vibrant & Equitable Communities program. “It’s a really attractive investment because any money put into the Trust grows over time through the property’s appreciation.”

For Jeff Corey, One Roof’s executive director, the benefits of a Community Land Trust extend well beyond affordable homeownership for individual households.

“When a family moves into a Community Land Trust home, they are able to have the stability of knowing they can stay in that house, neighborhood, school district, and church community,” he says. “Prior to buying a house, many of our homeowners—many of whom have dependent children—moved almost annually” in search of affordable housing.

“When a family moves into a Community Land Trust home, they are able to have the stability of knowing they can stay in that house, neighborhood, school district, and church community. Prior to buying a house, many of our homeowners—many of whom have dependent children—moved almost annually.”

Jeff Corey, One Roof

Andrea Reese, executive director of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust and herself a CLT homeowner since 2018, believes in focusing on homeownership because of what it makes possible. “Homeownership provides a foundation, it provides stability. It’s going to ripple into health, it’s going to ripple into education—when communities see that we can actually do these things. It’s not ‘if I’m going to buy a house’ but ‘when I’m going to buy a house.’ Hope is very significant.”

Community Land Trusts create a critical bridge to homeownership for those who might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of a home in the skyrocketing housing market, while also providing the stability necessary to consistently contribute to a vibrant local community. This is how CLTs help ensure that more Minnesotans of color and low-wealth Minnesotans have the ability to build wealth through homeownership, a pillar of the Estrategia de Vivienda Justa y Equitativa, which stewarded McKnight’s early catalytic funding of Minnesota’s Community Land Trust movement.

“Back in the early 2000s, we realized we needed a support organization to help emerging land trusts in the state through training, conferences, and more importantly to create awareness in the funding world… to support the work of CLTs statewide,” says Jeff Washburne, the administrator for the MCLTC. “In the early days, one of the entities that stepped up to fund Community Land Trusts here in Minnesota and the Minnesota Community Land Trust Coalition was the McKnight Foundation.”

McKnight’s support also helps place-based CLTs like One Roof do their best work. “[McKnight’s] investment gives us the capacity to operate in an effective and sustainable manner,” Corey says. “It means that we can retain high-level staff who are doing dynamic, challenging, and impactful work in the community. This is the first year of our new strategic plan that’s potentially increasing our Community Land Trust work twofold.”

The collective impact of organizations like One Roof and the Rondo CLT can be seen in Minnesota’s robust CLT ecosystem. “Across the nation, communities, Community Land Trusts, and other nonprofit developers are increasingly envious of what we have here in Minnesota, partly because of the collaborative nature of Community Land Trusts here,” Washburne explains.

“We’ve always been very open-source about all of the policies, documents, and programs we’ve created in the state. In the last couple years, especially in greater Minnesota, a couple of new Community Land Trusts have started up. That those new Community Land Trusts can lean on some of the most experienced Community Land Trusts in the nation here in the state—and be able to get those resources without having to pay a ton of money—is a result of those direct investments made by McKnight and other funders in the early years of the Minnesota Community Land Trust Coalition.”

“Homeownership provides a foundation, it provides stability. It’s going to ripple into health, it’s going to ripple into education—when communities see that we can actually do these things. It’s not ‘if I’m going to buy a house’ but ‘when I’m going to buy a house.’ Hope is very significant.”

Andrea Reese, City of Lakes Community Land Trust

Cinnamon JanzerSobre el Autor: Canela Janzer se dedica a cubrir historias menos contadas de las Grandes Llanuras y se especializa en informes analíticos del “segundo día”. Janzer publica periódicamente en varios medios, incluidos Al Jazeera, The Guardian, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, Next City, The Minnesota Reformer y más.

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