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Louisville Takes Steps For First Community Land Trust, An Affordable Housing Tool

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

It will take years, but Louisville is taking the first steps toward establishing an affordable housing tool called a community land trust, which ensures low-price homes are available despite outside factors like gentrification.

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Monday that the nonprofit REBOUND, Inc., will spearhead the first community land trust in the city, focused on the neighborhoods of Russell and Smoketown.

REBOUND could receive up to $2.1 million in federal Community Development Block Grants to build, rehabilitate or acquire at least 10 homes through its agreement with the city. It was the only organization to respond to the request for proposals from Louisville Metro earlier this year.

Fischer said a community land trust “can not only provide a pathway to ownership in areas lacking affordable housing, but also serves as an effective anti displacement tool and neighborhoods experiencing high levels of investment.”

The community land trust presents an alternative to traditional home-buying due to its structure. Such trusts own the land upon which homes are built, and they offer that land as very long-term leases, sometimes 99 years. People can buy the houses, and subsequently sell them, but the ownership structure means that the houses — which are unlikely to appreciate as much as the land they sit on — stay relatively affordable over time.

REBOUND will work with Bates Community Development Corporation, River City Housing and the Center for Neighborhoods.

The first step will be community engagement, followed by incorporating as a nonprofit, acquiring properties and completing homes.

It will take three to five years to establish the community land trust and get people moved in, said Kevin Dunlap, REBOUND’s executive director.

He said Russell and Smoketown, neighborhoods that have historically had a large number of Black residents, may gentrify quickly, making them unaffordable for residents in a matter of years.

“It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the amount of investment that has already taken place in these particular neighborhoods,” Dunlap said

He added that rising property values could prevent those who don’t already own homes from purchasing them. In Louisville, Black households are half as likely to own their homes than white households, according to the Metropolitan Housing Coalition.

According to the Democracy Collaborative, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C., there are about 277 community land trusts in America. This will be Louisville’s first.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.