On June 17th, Cornerstone Partnership sponsored Bright Community Trust’s second annual CLT Forum, an event that aimed to bring key stakeholders into the CLT movement. This blog post is reviews the success of the CLT Forum and takes a larger look at the CLT movement in the state of Florida. Bright Community Trust has been working to address the affordable housing shortage in Pinellas County since 2008, and since 2013, has become a stand alone, statewide nonprofit, preserving hundreds of units of affordable housing while becoming a resource for local governments and other for profit and nonprofit developers.
Florida was one of the states hardest hit by the recent disaster in the housing market. The challenge we face today is putting hard-working families in truly affordable homes. Fortunately there is new energy in the Sunshine State around an old concept – Community Land Trusts.
While Florida is a land trust “friendly” state, from a legal structure point of view, the land trust activity has been a small part of the affordable housing solution. At Bright Community Trust we are working to change that. For a community land trust to work as a vehicle for affordable housing there are a number of groups that have to be educated so they have a broad based understanding of how the concept works and provides active support.
Our first challenge was to find lenders that would finance CLT homes. The first CLT Forum was held last year in South Florida with a focus on educating lenders. As a result, we now have a number of lenders writing CLT mortgages in Florida.
We are now working to educate realtors about the benefits of CLTs and local government officials about policy decisions around affordable housing. With a CLT, you can put the subsidy in the land so the housing is perpetually affordable rather than providing one time assistance to one family. Isn’t that a better use of public money?
In June the Bright Community Trust in Clearwater Florida hosted the second Annual CLT Forum. This was an event designed to educate, inspire and motivate elected officials, realtors, local government housing people, lenders, and other community stakeholders. There were about 150 attendees and the feedback was encouraging. This year’s event was designed to “broaden the tent” and bring other key stakeholder into the CLT movement.
The things that we believe made this a successful event were:
- A clear and concise invitation with a compelling agenda,
- Involved dedicated Board Members who helped develop the agenda, did personal outreach, recruited sponsorships and participated in the program,.
- Outstanding speakers (national, state and local experts) who brought their experience and passion to their engaging presentations,
- The story of our local success presented with excitement and humor,
- Facilitated in-depth roundtable discussions for lenders and other stakeholders where they could get their specific questions answered, and
- A comprehensive press package and outreach to local media that resulted in significant coverage.
What the participants talked about most were the homeowners telling their stories.
We have a family who had looked for a home for over a year and could not find anything to meet their needs at a price they could afford. They now have a newly renovated home in a community with a park and good schools for their young son.
A couple told the group about how their newly renovated CLT home was the catalyst for more homes on their block getting rehabbed and the entire neighborhood changing.
Another homeowner explained how the CLT is a viable transition from rental to traditional home ownership for many families like hers. She is looking forward to being able to share the benefits she received with the next owner of her home.
It was these stories that made it real for those in the audience and had people saying this is something we really should take a look at.
We have local jurisdictions finding land that they want to talk about developing using a land trust. We have realtors and lenders who now get it and want to be a part of the program. We have motivated community leaders who want to become involved.
The last home we put on the market was sold by a realtor who was at the Forum and was able to not only sell the home but sell the concept of the land trust to her client. That house was on the market for five hours before we had a contract.
What can you do in your community to have more people join the movement?