Achieving Better Results By Connecting Land Banks and Land Trusts

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We continue to seek  synergies  between the important work of the Center for Community Progress, turning problem properties into vibrant places, and our work at the Cornerstone Partnership, to encourage long-term affordable homeownership strategies.  Both strategies promote long-term stewardship of land resources by better managing vacant and abandoned land (Community Progress) and by encouraging homeownership best practices (Cornerstone).

There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the functions of conserving and monitoring real property and, in appropriate circumstances, to build long-term affordability into the equation.  While many places with vacant and abandoned properties may already have enough units that will remain affordable for the  long-term , in situations where significant investment is made in new infrastructure, such as rail transit, the potential connection between land banks and land trusts quickly becomes apparent:  We need to make sure that workers of modest means continue to benefit from these public investments.  Further, HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) requires continuing affordability and monitoring.

One place we’re currently collaborating is South Suburban Chicago.  The South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA) had its $2.35 million HUD Challenge grant approved in late February.   The “Southland” suburbs that largely built their downtowns around 36 rail stations on three commuter lines, with an additional line and 9 stations planned, offer rich opportunities for housing rehabilitation and infill housing development as the cornerstone for a revitalized housing market.   It is critical that as the Southland is revitalized, our workforce continues to have access to the neighborhoods of opportunity created by the large public investment in new railway stations and other infrastructure.

This partnership is just at the beginning, but within the next 60 days, SSMMA plans to begin meeting with local jurisdictions that are part of this exciting effort.  This will be the opportunity for visionary local officials to not only plan for a revitalized Southland, but to do it in a way that builds long-term affordability and opportunity into the plans for all Southland residents.  Another place to find out more about this will be the upcoming 2011 Land Bank Conference, June 5-7 in Detroit.   If you would like to know more about how Cornerstone is helping to bring the cost of homeownership down to a level that is affordable to working families or if you operate a local program and would like to know more about how to ensure that your program is following the national best practices for all local programs that invest substantial amounts of public subsidy, please check us out.

Jim Gray serves as Vice President for NCB Capital Impact