ABOUT THE COMMUNITY JUSTICE LAND TRUST

The Community Justice Land Trust (CJLT) promotes equitable development through community ownership  in the City of Philadelphia. The Community Justice Land Trust currently has the 36 rent-to-own Grace Townhomes in Port Richmond and it has additional plans to transfer land for the Nicole Hines Townhomes, which will include 35 rent-to-own townhomes in Germantown, and the Mamie Nichols Townhomes, which will be 33 rental townhomes in Point Breeze.

 

Community land trusts ensure permanent affordability and permanent community control by retaining ownership of the land and having decisions driven by the community. Although the Community Justice Land Trust is operated by the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, it remains accountable to the local community  through an advisory committee that consists of residents and other stakeholders , as well as WCRP board members. The advisory committee meets regularly to provide recommendations to guide the Community Justice Land Trust in a direction that puts the community first.

 

Our History

 

In January 2006, WCRP convened a coalition of community groups in Eastern North Philadelphia (Front to 9th, Girard to Lehigh) to create a response to escalating property values in this community. WCRP wanted to establish a plan to prevent the wide-scale displacement of its members and constituents who couldn’t afford the rising rental costs and increased property taxes.

The coalition set out to understand people’s concerns and potential solutions. It conducted a listening project, interviewing more than 300 neighborhood residents. The top concerns included: 

  1. Dramatic increases in housing prices has made the neighborhood unaffordable

  2. New development does not address existing community needs

  3. Our neighborhood has too many pieces of vacant land and abandoned buildings.

WCRP began to explore the possibility of creating a community land trust which would allow the coalition to use vacant land to meet neighborhood-identified priorities. With broad support from our partners in the community, WCRP incorporated the Community Justice Land Trust in 2010 and became one of 250 Community Lands Trusts around the country. Since that time, the Community Justice Land Trust has extended citywide in order to address the need for sustained affordability throughout Philadelphia.

 

We have also convened other CLTs from around the state to form the Pennsylvania Community Land Trust Collaborative--working together to advance long-term affordability for all of Pennsylvania.

How does a Community Land Trust Work?

Community land trusts are nonprofit organizations that obtain land and develop housing and other community needs and ensure their permanent affordability.

Owning Land for the Community:

The Community Justice Land Trust acquires land through gift or purchase and retains permanent ownership, holding land in trust for the community. It uses long-term ground leases to make its land available for affordable housing, community gardens, businesses or other activities.

 

A Different Kind of Homeownership:

Some housing on the Community Justice Land Trust’s land is rented, some will be sold. Working families will purchase homes from the CJLT at a reduced price, buying only the house, not the land. New homeowners get a deed for their house and a lease for the land underneath.

 

You Own It & You Can Sell It at an Affordable Rate:

If homeowners on CJLT land decide to move, they can sell their homes. However, CJLT has the right to repurchase each home for the amount the family has invested in it, plus a portion of the home’s appreciation. CJLT then resells the home to another working family for a below-market price, keeping the home permanently affordable.

Why Do CLTs Matter?

At a time when many Philadelphia neighborhoods are being rapidly developed and the threat of displacement is increasing, it is vital to place the power of the land in the hands of the community. Community land trusts are an opportunity for community members, not just the highest bidder, to determine what gets developed and who benefits from the development. Community land trusts are a way to ensure long-term community control of land, and permanent affordability.

 

 

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