Land trusts help keep properties affordable
A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit corporation that owns real estate. Through a membership-based decision-making structure, land trusts allow community residents to decide what development occurs on such land.
In a recent column, The News editorial board criticized CLTs, focusing its skepticism on the CLT poised to acquire land in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood. This criticism missed the mark in at least two ways.
First, the board wrote that the creation of a Fruit Belt CLT is “premature” because “gentrification has not hit that … neighborhood yet.” But the best time to create a CLT is before gentrification occurs. That way, the CLT is able to acquire properties before they become prohibitively expensive. Because of the Medical Campus’s expansion, the time for a Fruit Belt CLT is probably now or never.
Second, the editorial board contended that CLTs “pilfer the potential for wealth” by “smothering the opportunity that comes with rising land values and a market economy.”
True, community land trusts generally require that their properties be sold only at below-market prices. As a result, sellers of CLT homes gain less profit than they otherwise would. But the board failed to consider the important reason for this profit limitation: to keep properties affordable.
No matter how hot a CLT neighborhood’s real estate market becomes, people of limited financial means will be able to live there side by side with wealthier residents. CLTs shield their properties from the market forces that, when left unchecked, inevitably segregate the rich from the poor.
Steven B. Salcedo