Politics & Government
6:20 am
Fri April 20, 2012

Community Land Trusts Beat Foreclosure

There is still a long way to go to make up for all the home foreclosures that besieged the country during the past five years.  But there is one home delivery model that has beaten the odds.  Reports show Community Land Trusts across the United States continue to have substantially lower delinquency and foreclosure rates than home owners in the conventional market.  A national gathering of community development leaders met in Durham this week to take a closer look at Community Land Trusts. 

Leoneda Inge:  The Community Land Trusts movement has grown a lot in the past decade.  Community Land Trusts or CLTs are non-profit corporations that buy and manage land.  The goal is to provide affordable housing on that land for people who couldn’t buy a home otherwise.  Robert Dowling is Executive Director of Community Home Trust in Carrboro.  Most of their work is in Chapel Hill.

Robert Dowling:  We’re going over the interstate 40 right now, so this is kind of the unofficial dividing line between Durham and Chapel Hill.

Dowling is leading a bus tour of like-minded people from across the country to see the properties they have built.  The Community Home Trust CLT is a little different from the Durham Community Land Trustees and some others nationwide.  Dowling says their model is to integrate affordable housing into market rate communities.

Inge:  Now, out of your, I think you said 192, I don’t know how many properties you have right now, I mean total.

Robert Dowling:  194.

Inge:  194. Are they all filled.

Robert Dowling:  One home is empty and needs to be renovated.

Inge:  Just one.

Robert Dowling:  Just one.

But Dowling says he is most proud of their foreclosure rate.

Robert Dowling:  I know here at Community Home Trust, we had several homeowners who risked getting foreclosed upon. But we have not had one foreclosure.

Dowling says in every instance, they have been able to step in, intercede, and transition the family out of the home before they are foreclosed on.   Research published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy says, in 2010, conventional homeowners were 10 times more likely to be in foreclosure than C-L-T homeowners.
One of the first Community Land Trusts was started in the late 1960s for African American Farmers in Albany, Georgia.  Shirley Sherrod was one of the founders.  She was infamously pressured to leave her post in the Obama Administration after some of her comments were misconstrued as racist and plastered on the web.  Sherrod was the featured speaker at this week’s conference.  Sherrod says the community land trust model can solve many housing and employment needs, with education.

Shirley Sherrod:  Because we have to get out of that mode of thinking that I have to own everything that I use.  I’ve said that to farmers through the years you have small farmers they cannot operate as a big farmer would, so they cannot afford all the equipment.  Why not share, why not figure out how to work together so it works for you and it works for me.

Evan Hirasawa understands the land sharing model well.  She and her two children have lived in their townhouse since 2003.

Evan Hirasawa:  And those are Cherry Blossoms and they are very pretty in the Spring, in the center of the courtyard.

Hirasawa’s front porch is filled with Carolina Jasmin. Inside, it’s warm and cozy with pumkin-painted walls.  This is one of 32 townhomes in Meadowmont Village in Chapel Hill, built by Community Home Trust.  Hirasawa paid 95-thousand dollars for it, in a community where some homes around the corner used to go for close to one-million dollars.  The day care teacher and artist says she is grateful for her nest.

Evan Hirasawa:  It’s been just a miracle financially that we were able to get in here. At this point now, almost nine years later, financially we’re really secure. The children have grown up here, and we’re working on our nest egg.  We have our nest, now we’re working on our nest egg.

And the idea is to leave some of that nest egg behind, for the next family, on land that belongs to the community.

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