After hosting virtual presentations and discussions on March 29 and April 5, Greensboro’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Department is making headway on implementing community land trusts in the city. CLTs are nonprofit organizations that own land on behalf of a community in an effort to provide permanently affordable housing.

The city is focusing on gathering community input from residents and has contracted with Grounded Solutions Network of Oakland, Calif. for technical assistance while they consult the public and design a CLT. Both presentations were led by Jason Webb, community and technical assistance principal for Grounded Solutions Network.

During the March 29 meeting, HND Assistant Director of Finance and Administration Eunika Smalls noted that many of the decisions around the “structure of the community land trust — should the city choose to move forward with this option — will be determined at a later date.”

Webb also mentioned that Grounded Solutions is simply “a consultant coming in that has expertise in how to set these up,” and continued by saying that residents and community members, along with the city, will “sit around the table and be guided through a process around what the decisions are gonna be.”

During the April 5 meeting, potential collaborators such as Ryan Motes with DR Horton — a home construction company — expressed interest in partnering with the city to create residences.

One viewer, Melanie Woodard, wondered how close the city is to beginning a CLT project in the coming months. Webb replied that while a CLT can be created relatively quickly, he added that they need to get a sense that the community is supportive of it.

During the meetings Webb gave an in-depth look at the history and mechanisms of CLTs, as well as two examples of successful CLTs: Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Massachusetts, which Webb helped lead for 15 years, and Durham Community Land Trustees.

Webb explained that a CLT’s purpose is to acquire, own and steward land permanently for the common good by providing affordable housing, commercial spaces, community spaces, farmland and open land.

“Once a property goes into a community land trust, it is held there for the permanent good of that use,” Webb said.

During the April 5 presentation, Bruce Rich inquired about the city’s role in the CLT. Webb replied that instead of the community “trying to figure out and create the resources necessary to bring in somebody like Grounded Solutions to help facilitate this conversation, the city has taken the step to say, ‘Wait a minute, we have resources. Let’s go out to the community and let’s entertain this with them.’” Webb added that he has told the city that it can’t control the community land trust.

“It’s got to be controlled by the community,” Webb said. “So while [the city] may be able to start it, while they may even sit on the board… they’re not going to be the majority of the board and control this organization. It’s just not the way this model works.”

During the March 29 presentation, Jacquena McIver, a resident of Willow Oaks — one of the city’s initial focus areas for a CLT— said she purchased her property when she was 25 years old and has resided in the area for some time. McIver noted that examples of community land trusts from Webb’s presentation showed how CLTs can facilitate the development of more than just affordable housing, such as “community centers, parks, things of that nature.” McIver added that “there’s no real park for the children” in her area.

“When you come in, would the main objective be to start building homes right away?” McIver asked. “Or are you going to take an assessment of the community and see what the community needs and start from there?”

Webb responded that a CLT cannot happen without a community.

“The community needs to drive this,” Webb said, adding that the community will decide where and how they would like their CLT to be deployed. Then, in partnership with the city, they will “try to figure out where…the resources [are] to actually take care of these issues.”

Webb noted that “at the end of the day,” the model of a CLT is created, supported, and “driven by community with the support of government” and other supporters such as businesses and philanthropists.

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