Community Land Trusts: A Tool for Development without Displacement for Santa Fe University of Art & Design

We have a tremendous opportunity to do something important with the Santa Fe University of Art & Design or we can be timid and take an easier path, but one that will very likely only increase the displacement of our low-income neighbors who build our homes, serve our food, maintain our hotels and provide critical social and health support services. This brief provides a guide to doing the right thing.

The City’s own housing study found that 3000 Santa Feans earning $25,000 or less

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can’t find even rental housing. And whereas in 2000, 34% of renters could afford to buy a house in Santa Fe, today that percentage has dropped to 14%. This is an issue Retake Our Democracy has been examining for months beginning with our support of Chainbreaker Collective’s Equity Summer. If you want to hear more about Chainbreaker’s efforts to combat gentrification, come to Journey, at Collected Works, 202 Galisteo. Discussion on Sunday, March 25 to hear from Tomás Rivera and I as we discuss the need for affordable housing, the city budget, and public transit, with Mayor Webber as emcee.

To understand just how this impacts our low-income neighbors, last spring Retake examined a Kellogg Foundation-funded study conducted by Human Impact Partners. This Kellogg-funded study provides a very revealing profile of four Santa Fe communities, Downtown, Canyon Rd., Hopewell Mann and Airport. It reveals a tale of two cities, one more affluent, Anglo and old and the other browner, younger and far less affluent, The report also describes how our city’s housing and development policies have led to the displacement of thousands of mostly Hispanic Santa Feans. Click: HIA-report-Final to review the complete report. Even a brief skim and review of the charts will tell you why Chainbreaker is at the forefront of the fight to oppose development that displaces. We live in two cities and we don’t have to.

In 2018 the Santa Fe University of Art and Design will shut its doors. Owned by the City, the property is already being discussed as a project for redevelopment, with the City launching a community planning process that has already included an online survey. The City now is in the process of identifying five development teams who will create distinct plans for developing the property. It will be interesting to see what these teams offer as plans, but there is reason for skepticism that any of the plans will prevent further gentrification of Santa Fe. Why?  Because for decades urban planners have sought to develop affordable housing or to ‘redevelop’ depressed neighborhoods and in most every instance the result has been gentrification and displacement.  From a study conducted by Lincoln Institute on Land Policy:

“As interest in urban living grows, the cost of residential real estate in many hot markets is skyrocketing. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS 2015), in 2014 rental vacancy rates hit their lowest point in two decades; rents rose in 91 out of 93 metropolitan areas studied; and the consumer price index for contract rents climbed at double the rate of inflation—and 10 percent or more at the top end, in Denver, San Jose, Honolulu, and San Francisco. Despite some interruption from the mortgage crisis, asking prices for homes for sale have continued to rise as well, often beyond the reach of potential home buyers (Olick 2014); in Washington, DC, the median home value nearly tripled from 2000 to 2013 (Oh et al. 2015). As housing activists look for effective tools to prevent displacement of lower-income families from gentrifying neighborhoods and create inclusive communities, many are turning to community land trusts as a way to help build the nation’s stock of permanently affordable housing.”

Retake Our Democracy had researched Community Land Trusts last spring, in hopes that CLTs would be considered as a key strategy in the City’s effort to develop affordable housing. In our Mayoral and City Councilor Voters Guide Survey, Mayor Webber expressed strong support for the use of CLTs to address the housing crisis. City Councilors taking the survey wanted more information. We hope this brief helps the Council and its constituents understand how a CLT operates and how it could be used to develop affordable housing without creating gentrification and displacement. To understand what a CLT is we turn again to the Lincoln Institute on Land Policy:

“Under the CLT model, a community-controlled organization retains ownership of a plot of land and sells or rents the housing on that land to lower-income households. In exchange for below-market prices, purchasers agree to resale restrictions that keep the homes affordable to subsequent buyers while also allowing owners to build some equity. The CLT also prepares home buyers to purchase property, supports them through financial challenges, and manages resales and rental units. CLTs thus bring sustainable home ownership within the reach of more families, supporting residents who want to commit to their neighborhoods for the long term.” It is really this simple: instead of developers owning the land a community managed trust owns it and through its governance, ensures that community needs drive future development not profit incentives. But while the principle is simple, the implementation of the model is not. It requires first an understanding of the moving parts and then an appreciation for what can be achieved. We can continue to do what developers have always done and eventually we will displace most all of our low-income residents, the people who build our homes, serve our food, and maintain our hotels. Or we can do something unique.

This brief includes links to two studies that profile examples of where CLTs have been implemented and with great success. One such model, Sawmill CLT, is one of the largest CLTs in the nation and is but an hour drive south of Santa Fe in Albuquerque. Sawmill represents a tremendous resource for learning more about how a CLT can be developed and why and they are eager to share what they have learned.  We can’t know if any of the  City-selected development teams will offer plans that incorporate a CLT component, but since the Mayor favors the concept and the Council wants to learn more about how a CLT might operate we are hopeful that by proactively providing the City with information on the viability of a CLT, it will find a way to incorporate the structure into at least part of the Santa Fe University of Art & Design.  Might there be a way to have the CLT concept introduced in this context?

A Nation Magazine article Can Neighborhoods Be Revitalized Without Gentrifying Them? chronicles how the CLT approach was used to offer a different path toward urban revitalization, one that honored sustaining the culture and the “place” being revitalized. “Historically, urban “renewal” has entailed two contrasting approaches to development: one is using subsidies to move public housing families into middle-class areas with better education and job prospects. But, alternatively, place-based investment, trying to change a neighborhood’s climate and social dynamics, poses a greater challenge than helping people move. Nonetheless, Johns Hopkins sociologist Stefanie DeLuca, author of a forthcoming book on urban inequality, argues that the basic principle is, “neighborhood matters.” While targeted-relocation programs help some families, this policy guts our cities and neighborhoods. Policymakers should prioritize “improving communities in place so that families don’t have to leave them to find opportunity.”  The Nation article goes on to outline how a CLT operates:

“With a CLT, the resident owns the property, while the community retains the land. The resident pays an annual leasing fee, plus other mortgage and maintenance expenses. When the property is sold, price is controlled through a prearranged agreement with a community authority, with representation from neighbors and “public stakeholders” such as local officials or community-development organizations. The homeowner can share in any appreciation of the sales value.  Essentially, owners of commercial property or individual homeowners cede the land to the Trust. While they still can benefit from the appreciation of the value of their home or business, the CLT imposes conditions that ensure that the appreciation is shared with the community.”

As The Nation article makes clear, however, there are precious few other options for improving low-income communities without displacing current residents. Click here to review The Nation article. What’s more, after only a few hours of online research, it is clear that there are abundant resources available to help educate our Mayor, the City Council, community stakeholders and Santa Fe residents. We have a clear choice. We can do what we have been doing or we can look to others who have successfully blazed a different path. We will continue our efforts to share information on the CLT concept and I have invited Sawmill to be on Retake Our Democracy’s radio show on KSFR.

  • Policy Link provides an excellent summary and Tool Kit for how CLTs operate of how this has worked in other communities. Click here.
  • The Lincoln Institute on Land Policy also studied five organizations who had remarkably similar reasons for starting a community land trust: each CLT director spoke of wanting community control of land to prevent residents from either losing a home or being unable to afford one. Even those CLTs that began in weak housing markets were located near downtowns, university districts, or other popular areas, and recognized the potential for displacement as conditions in the neighborhoods improved. All agreed that a clear community vision is essential to the success of a CLT.  CLICK HERE to read about these five communities. The report is highly readable and provides a clear understanding of how CLTs can be developed and operated.
  • provides an excellent resource with links organized by subject area, including examples of communities where CLTs have been developed to practitioners step-by-step guides for how to implement a CLT, click here.
  • Finally, another example of how a community can organize to create sustainably affordable housing can be found in Utah, where hundreds of seniors organized to challenge a corporate acquisition of their senior housing community and create a cooperatively owned affordable housing development. Click here to read about this.

In short, the Mayor strongly supports using a CLT to develop affordable housing and our City Council wants more information. We hope this represents a resource for them and a way to build resident understanding of what is at stake and what is possible.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

We are blown away by the positive response as we are nearing 1000 surveys completed and with so many comments about how easy it is to take the survey and how excited people are to be involved in the strategy to follow. So, if you haven’t taken the Speak Up New Mexico! Legislative Priorities survey, please do so today to tell your legislators what bills you want to see become law.  Click the blue button at left to take the survey. And if you want to get involved with our 2018-2019 Roundhouse Advocacy Team, we meet on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 4:30-6:30pm at New Energy Economy, 343 E. Alameda. To RSVP, just write to me at If you want to read about our 2018-2019 Election and Legislative Strategy, click here.

Categories: Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development, Uncategorized

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8 replies

  1. I hope that affordable rental housing will also be a big part of the plan. There are many in our community that need to and prefer to rent rather than own. Rental housing in Santa Fe is an even tighter market than the house-buying market.

  2. Somewhat different but enlightening article.
    “A GENTRIFIED AESTHETIC is by definition out of place and time and is devoid of context, spirit, or backstory. It is aspirational and unhinged from reality. Its obsession with an “industrial aesthetic”—high ceilings, open floor plans, raw materials of brick, steel, and wood—fetishizes our nation’s manufacturing industry, ignoring the suffering of the people left in the wake of its collapse.”

  3. What are examples of gentrification/displacement that have affected any Santa Fe neighborhoods in the past 25 year. I can think of none. On the other hand, I can think of many examples of neighborhoods that have been built by developers motivated by profit where underlying principles and rules of inclusionary zoning are ensuring that certain homes stay affordable in perpetuity, which is the underlying motive for creating CLTs. Tierra Contenta being the biggest and best example of a successful alternative model.

    • Hey Kim, I’d say go to the link for Chainbreaker’s report. It shows the unmistakable forced migration of low-income, largely Hispanic residents moving from downtown, canyon road and midtown to the south and west sections of the city, precisely because of development in these areas. Tierra Contenta is an ‘affordable’ housing development but it does not address the housing needs for the lowest income renter population where there is an unmet need of 3000 units in Santa Fe. I’d love to talk with you about how the development protects affordability for perpetuity. Thanks for reading the blog. Coffee soon to hash this out.

  4. Why 5 teams? If you know where I can find the rationale for creating 5 teams and not 10 or 2 I would like to know it or where to read about it.
    Now, I would create as many teams as there are socioeconomic models available, presently functioning in our society.
    In my view, reasoning, team number one should be populated by the same developers, real estate agents and bankers/financiers who have so far helped the city to ‘grow’. They will follow their model, the old/present model for development.
    The second team will have local green architects, local permaculturists, master gardeners, local green engineers and local investors such as our true local banks, credit unions and especially, our newly formed public bank. This team will also apply the cooperative business model.
    I believe we need to look into how the city is going to create the 5 teams.
    Let me just say that Gar Alperovitz is not the only person writing and talking about the fact that we are confronted with an economic system failure. And that we need to ‘intervene’ in all city matters because it has grown and functions according to a failed system (thus gentrification WITH displacement).

  5. In your blog above you stated, “last spring Retake examined a Kellogg Foundation-funded study conducted by Human Impact Partners. This Kellogg-funded study provides a very revealing profile of four Santa Fe communities, Downtown, Canyon Rd., Hopewell Mann and Airport.” Please give credit where credit is due Paul. Chainbreaker commissioned this report and you didn’t mention them once in your blog. To add insult to injury, the research and interest in Community Land Trusts as a possible option for SF was also spearheaded by Chainbreaker. I find this blatant co-opting on your part, boarding on appropriation. Reframe this blog Mr. Gibson!

    • I didn’t see this yesterday. I must say that given the depth, breadth and persistence of our support for Chainbreaker….this seems a bit tough. It was an oversight to not have referenced Chainbreaker but I probably highlight their work more than any agency in the State and give them kudos and support constantly. I’ll write you privately.

  6. what tools that we can used?

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