The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened an already severe housing crisis. As property values and housing costs soar downtown, low-income residents are being pushed further to the east and west sides of Indy, disrupting communities and established support systems. We now have the opportunity to begin to address the housing crisis and its devastating effects through a community land trust. The Community Land Trust (CLT) is a mechanism that guarantees permanent affordable housing and community control of development for historically marginalized communities. A citywide CLT in Indianapolis will provide long-term stability for low-income individuals and families and control for black and brown communities.
Community Land Trusts
Community land trusts are community-based, not-for-profit organizations designed to provide stewardship of community lands. CLTs have historically focused on securing long-term housing affordability by acquiring land, retaining permanent ownership, and preventing land prices from rising significantly.
Unlike other approaches, CLTs are committed to meeting community needs by keeping land affordable and ensuring community control, regardless of changes in the neighborhood, city, state or country. CLTs enable more stable neighborhoods through long-term access to affordable housing and better management of housing subsidies, community ownership and self-determination. CLTs represent development for the community by the community.
The first CLT was created in 1969 by organizers tied to the civil rights movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other groups in Lee County, Georgia. The CLT model was designed to promote socio-economic and political transformation and self-sufficiency for Black families through land ownership and control.
Nearly 300 CLTs exist in the United States and more internationally in urban, suburban, and rural areas and with varied purposes, including housing, commerce, services, and agriculture. It is a proven model of equitable development and inclusive growth. Cities like Lexington, Chicago and others already have CLTs for permanently affordable housing and community control.
A citywide CLT in Indy
For several years, a CLT coalition, formed by various individuals and organizations in Indianapolis, worked together to create a citywide CLT in Indy. Currently, the coalition is working on a new 501c3 nonprofit organization that will be the central server for the citywide CLT collaboration and partnership. Neighborhood and resident representatives will make up two-thirds of the CLT’s governance and decision-making council.
At the same time, the CLT Coalition works on resident and community engagement to raise awareness of what a CLT is and how it can help low-income neighborhoods maintain housing affordability and community control. This process also involves building a membership base for the CLT and recruiting low-income residents to be involved in the creation and governance of the CLT once it is established.
We have a critical opportunity to address the long-running housing crisis and its disproportionate negative effects on black and brown communities. The proposed 2022 city budget presented by Mayor Joe Hogsett in August 2021 contains $419 million from the US bailout, of which about $60 million would go to preserving and creating affordable housing and $1.5 million dollars to the city’s start-up and operating funds. wide Indy CLT. Funding these projects is a critical step on the path to displacement-free and inclusive development for all Indianapolis residents. The Indy citywide CLT is part of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development’s Anti-Displacement and Inclusive Growth Policy Program. This plan aims to “provide support for the creation of a community land trust to help sustain mixed-income communities in rapidly changing neighborhoods.”
Wildstyle Paschall, local resident and activist historian, explains why he supports CLTs: “Historically, the housing market has not allowed black people to get rich. Black neighborhoods are devalued by millions of dollars, with the value of black-owned properties worth less than others. Wealth creation has not happened in black neighborhoods where landlords are landlords. I argue for a CLT because of the stability option. Home stability is the most important issue. You cannot build wealth without stability in your home. You cannot raise children, worry about your mental and physical health without the stability of your home. We haven’t achieved wealth creation or household stability in black neighborhoods in Indy. A CLT also allows ownership control. Control is essential. The open market has failed to take care of the poor, and communities should control the process themselves.
At the service of communities
We hope that a city-wide CLT in Indy will serve traditionally marginalized communities and residents. We hope to change housing policies to serve the less affluent residents most at risk of eviction and homelessness.
A CLT does not compete with the open housing market. Instead, it is another option to provide freedom to those who have been unable to access property, provide housing stability and build wealth. Ultimately, being part of a CLT is a choice and a pathway to begin to address long-lasting housing disparities, exclusion, and displacement of Black and Brown communities. If you want to learn more or be part of our work, check out our website: kheprw.org/homesforallindy.
Homes for everyone Indy is a program of Kheprw Institute, a non-profit organization focused on youth empowerment and community wealth creation in Indianapolis.