Houston has become a less friendly environment for home buyers in recent years. After a month of declining sales volume ended 13-month positive growth in the Houston housing market, sales rose again in August: the median selling price of a single-family home increased by 15.2% year over year, according to the Houston Association of Realtors. And with this market activity comes the threat of moving low-income homeowners across town.
The Houston Community Land Trust nonprofit, which recently closed its 50th home after its inception in 2018, hopes to avoid this gentrification by helping low-income Houstonians buy homes and keep them affordable, despite pressures from the government. Marlet.
Houston Public Media spoke with Executive Director Ashley Allen about how the group is tackling issues such as gentrification, rising house prices and low homeownership rates among Houstonians. black.
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
How did the Houston Community Land Trust get started? What makes it different from other affordable housing efforts in Houston?
Before CLT started, there was a lot of organizing and activism around long term solutions for affordable housing, and thoughts on “how are we going to meet the need and the demand?” “And so areas like Third Ward, Independence Heights, East End, they really focused on” how do we preserve our community? Because we know that gentrification is coming.
If you know most of the housing programs, they offer $ 20,000 to $ 30,000, maybe $ 40,000. But it’s usually only good for that one family, because after five years that 30 or 40 is forgiven and the buyer can sell in a traditional market, which means it’s no longer affordable. And so there has never been a net gain in affordable units. It used to be: some come into the market, and then after that family decides to move out and sell it, we lose it to the market. So they were trying to think of ways to be able to preserve it in the long term and to really fight for the community.
With CLT, the buyer owns the house and leases the land for a large grant and makes it really affordable. And then when they sell the house, it is sold at a restricted resale price so that another family can then have an affordable home. And we are talking in particular of families and individuals who would not normally be able to buy a home in the traditional housing market.
You mentioned that community activism laid the foundation for this work in Houston. Where did the idea for community land trusts come from?
I was fortunate enough to be on a panel earlier today with the Founder, one of the founders of the first New Community CLT User Agreement in Albany, Georgia. And it started because African American farmers were displaced and evicted from their land and injured because of their activism in the civil rights movement. What the farmers did in the 60s was collectively own and create a collective community for African American farmers so they could keep their land and be stronger because they work together . And so this idea of collective ownership still lives on today in the new communities, and they have a huge farm in Albany, Georgia that took years to develop and maintain.
But that’s where that idea came from, it was the oppression and the understanding that they couldn’t do it alone.
And we see it here in Houston. In particular, black communities are gentrifying and people are displaced. Thus, the tradition of advocacy and community organizing is the root of the community land trust model, and ensures that those most disenfranchised know how to say it.
It’s really interesting that something with a lot of history in rural areas is used in urban centers like Houston. With regard to the Houston Community Land Trust, I wonder: what are some of the plans and goals for the future of this one?
Ultimately, we want to achieve our goal of reaching 1,000 single-family CLT homes, but also using CLT in various ways outside of the single-family model.
So this could include affordable rentals in areas, green spaces – we believe that preserving green spaces is essential for building community, sustaining community and contributing to health. So we want to make sure that happens. Economic development, by supporting the affordability of commercial spaces so that small businesses are not once again victims of displacement in their communities. As the community grows the rent goes up, small businesses can’t afford the higher rent, but we can also use the land trust for commercial space.
We want to continue to create affordable single family homes and make sure we tackle a big problem right now, which is increasing black homeownership, closing that wealth gap. And I think that’s one way to do it.
To subscribe to Today in Houston
Fill out the form below to subscribe to our new daily HPM Newsroom editorial newsletter.