The stretch of Dudley Street around Brook Avenue in Boston is a streetscape in transformation: red-brick attached townhouses rise on vacant lots, filling in the gaps of a neighborhood with much-needed housing. Over 200 LEED-certified new homes are being built by the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation under the auspices of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Dudley Neighbors Inc., Boston's two-decade-old community land trust -- a burgeoning affordable housing strategy where residents buy the homes but not the land underneath, thus reducing the price.
Earlier this month, the Lincoln Institute recognized the partnership between DSNI and the City of Boston that made all this possible, with a special event at the corner of Dudley Street and Brook Avenue in Boston's Roxbury section, announcing publication of The City-CLT Partnership: Municipal Support for Community Land Trusts, the institute's latest policy focus report. The report, co-authored by John Emmeus Davis (pictured above) and Rick Jacobus, both visiting fellows at the Lincoln Institute, reviews model practices of municipalities that are not just supporting CLTs after they have been created by non-profit entities, but more actively nurturing them -- donating city-owned land, for example.
"We know that CLTs work. We also know they are not widely implemented," said Roz Greenstein, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which has led a thriving program in community land trusts in recent years.
Davis, partner in Burlington Associates in Community Development in Vermont, said CLTs were reaching "something of a tipping point," growing from 20 when DSNI was founded in 1988 to over 220 today, with a growth rate of about 20 a year. CLTs used to be exclusively community-based and independent from city programs, but now cities are realizing what an effective affordable housing strategy they are, Davis said. Unlike some inclusionary zoning ordinances, where the affordability can be lost after the first resale, CLTs have controls over resale. The community land trust acts as the long-term steward. The question is how cities can let CLTs flourish and retain neighborhood-based independence.
"Partnerships are hard work," said John Barros, executive director of DSNI, which in the 1980s was given the unusual added power of eminent domain, and now has secured 26 acres in its community land trust. Neighborhoods must be "partner-ready" to take the lead on establishing CLTs, he said.
John Feuerbach, chief development officer at Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development, said that 20 years ago the city and the Dudley Street neighborhood were focused on "trying to build trust," and that now the area shares a common vision as an urban village. The site is served by two bus lines and is near the Uphams Corner commuter rail station and Dudley Station.
Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty attended the event, and took away a box of the reports, which he promised to distribute at City Hall. Boston is looking for ways to let more CLTs flourish.