Baltimore’s Push to Solve Its Affordable Housing Crisis With Community Land Trusts


Community groups throughout the city say land trusts could keep families living affordably in a fast-gentrifying city.

Source:  Yes Magazine/Kevon Paynter

Men and women huddle inside the St. John’s United Methodist Church in central Baltimore. The air conditioning in the church is inefficient on a day when the outside temperature is over 100 degrees. Cold water bottles get distributed, along with paper towels to wipe off sweat. Many of these people are homeless or formerly homeless. Others are longtime residents struggling to afford their rent, and they are here to advocate for an affordable housing solution that could bring relief as well as fix Baltimore’s blight.

They want Mayor Catherine Pugh to dedicate $40 million in the upcoming budget to fund community land trusts.

Across the U.S., cities struggle with expanding income inequality and tight housing markets that drive up rent. These factors result in an extreme shortage of affordable housing. For every 100 low-income renters, there are 31 affordable units, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.  Over the years, solutions have emerged. In Burlington, Vermont, and Boston, for example, community ownership of land through nonprofit community land trusts has had decades of success turning vacant lots into affordable housing.

Community groups in Baltimore believe land trusts could be the way to keep families living affordably in a fast-gentrifying city.

Here’s how the model works. A community land trust reserves land for the public good—it can be one house, a block of homes, or a garden area. Homeowners receive an affordable mortgage and share in the equity in their home with other community members. The trust governs the resale price of the house. The resale price aims to be affordable for people in the same income bracket as the people selling. Any profits go back into the community trust.

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