A team of five UEP graduate students, as a part of the 2015 UEP Field Projects, worked with a nascent network of community land trusts (CLTs) in Boston to explore the value and possibilities for CLTs in the Boston area to promote development without displacement. The four partners the team worked with are the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), and the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). The first two organizations have established CLTs and the latter two were interested in establishing and/or partnering with CLTs in the future. The partners are interested in CLTs to pursue various goals, including creation and maintenance of affordable housing, commercial development and urban agriculture, as well as cultural preservation. The UEP team also conducted research and interviews with other CLTs and advocacy organizations in Boston, Springfield, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco. Along with providing research on CLTs in and outside of Boston, the project also aimed to visualize the potential impacts of CLTs as a means to achieve the goals of the city and the project partners.
The final report, Development Without Displacement: the case for Community Land Trusts in Boston, provides a deeper understanding of what a CLT is, how it functions in the community, how it can be applied in various contexts, and how it can provide benefits at the individual, neighborhood, and city scales. The report also explores ways in which the CLT model can increase community control over land use decisions, allowing the Cities of Boston and Somerville to achieve development goals without displacement. Although the CLT model is adaptable and diverse, and the CLT ownership of land can be an enormous asset, not all communities may determine that CLTs are the appropriate mechanism to address the unique issues they face. The report discusses important challenges and costs associated with financing land acquisition, which are especially significant in the hot housing markets currently experienced by the cities of Boston and Somerville.
The team’s recommendations for fostering the growth of CLTs include:
- Supporting public education to develop interest in the land trust model for resident buy-in and to attract financing, as well as promote collaboration; municipal support of education and technical support for community groups on the process of negotiating property acquisition and stewardship of public and private lands
- Establishing a flexible, stable, committed and fast-acting municipal acquisition fund and a line of credit for CLT acquisition and rehabilitation of property
- Municipalities prioritizing, and creating a pathway for, the transfer of vacant and underutilized public land for CLTs
- Municipalities working with CLTs to create a pathway for acquiring private properties, including clear notification and awareness of prospective private property sales to CLTs and providing assistance in leveraging public and private funds for purchasing
The report also provides recommendations for the Network to support shared learning and mentorship between CLTs, develop a centralized resource hub, and target outreach to existing affordable housing developers, including community development corporations.