How a New Orleans Community Land Trust Provides Continuous Affordable Housing and Supports Black Entrepreneurs
The “1800 Saint Bernard Renaissance” took place last year on a cold December day by New Orleans standards. Participants wore protective masks and socially distanced themselves, a difficult feat with at least 100 people in attendance. That day was more than a first for the residents of New Orleans’ Seventh Ward; it promised the rebirth of a community anchor in the predominantly black neighborhood that had been decimated by Hurricane Katrina more than 15 years earlier.
At the center of this renaissance was the Vaucresson Sausage Company: a small St. Bernard Avenue business founded by a black family in New Orleans 120 years ago. Vaucresson Sausage was a long-standing community anchor in the Seventh Ward, but flooding from dike failures following Hurricane Katrina transformed the building from a bustling commercial space into an abandoned and dilapidated property. . For the past 15 years, Vance Vaucresson, the company’s third-generation owner, had struggled to find funding and partners willing to help with the redevelopment of the building, a challenge that many black business owners are facing. faced across the country. As the years went on, the Seventh Ward lost more of its black-owned businesses and began to experience displacement from longtime residents.
It is with these challenges that the mission of the Crescent City Community Land Trust (CCCLT) intersects that of Vaucresson and the community of the Seventh Quarter. We saw the sausage factory redevelopment not only as a brick and mortar redevelopment, but as a path to restore black businesses, spur economic development, reinvigorate culture, and provide affordable housing on a permanent basis.
Not your typical community land trust
CCCLT focuses on projects that promote racial equity, proactive community stewardship, and affordable commercial and rental space on a permanent basis. We were founded in 2011 in direct response to the city’s housing crisis: Katrina and dike failures damaged or destroyed almost overnight 70% of the city’s housing stock. More than five years later, there has been little improvement, with house prices skyrocketing and more families, especially black families, becoming burdened with the costs.
Blacks developed the community land trust (CLT) model over 50 years ago as a way to preserve and expand land holdings through collective ownership. Today, there are at least 277 CLTs in the United States. Here’s how CLTs work for single-family homes:
- The CLT owns and develops the land and the trust is made up of community members.
- A CLT buyer buys the structure and leases the land (at CCCLT the lease is normally 99 years).
- Because the selling price is based on structure and not ownership, it is much more affordable than market-priced homes in the same area.
- This allows the family to build equity in the structure (i.e. generational wealth) and the community to preserve affordability because when the house is resold, this is done on a formula that shares l anticipated increase in the value of the property for both the owner and the community. represented by the land trust.
Unlike the typical CLT, the CCCLT recognizes the need not only for more affordable property, but also for subsidized apartments, commercial incubator-style spaces, community stewardship and housing advocacy. For example, our first major project was the co-development of the historic Pythian Building in downtown New Orleans, which had been the mecca of black-owned business, entertainment and culture at the turn of the 20th century. . We worked with co-developers to revitalize the building, which had fallen into disrepair, into 69 apartments, including 25 affordable apartments for the workforce. Unlike many affordable apartment projects which use tax credits and revert to the market rate after their compliance deadline has passed, these 25 apartments are always affordable.
While the majority of CLTs focus on single-family housing, our fair trade developments provide start-up entrepreneurs with affordable leases, allowing the community to help preserve small family businesses like Vaucresson. A recent Brookings report detailed the broad promise of community-based commercial property models, citing their ability to support the growth of local businesses and distribute wealth across generations.
The importance of stewardship
Despite all the potential benefits, redevelopment and co-ownership of brick and mortar buildings is inadequate without proactive community stewardship: intentional efforts to give residents information and tools to increase intergenerational wealth through higher incomes, an appreciation of assets and an entrepreneurial spirit.
We recently completed the region’s first single family CLT home community in the Lower Ninth (L9) neighborhood, where 90% of our buyers are Black, many are from the pre-Hurricane Katrina neighborhood, and many are buyers. for the first time. Community stewardship with our future L9 buyers began long before these CLT homes were sold. Together with our partners, Home by Hand, Neighborhood Development Foundation, Capital One, HOPE Credit Union and HomeBank, we trained potential homebuyers on the CLT affordability model, provided a 12 hour home buying workshop and direct advice to improve credit problems. Research indicates that this third-party support and training can help residents withstand economic shocks and keep their property.
Stewardship is also at the heart of the 1800 Saint-Bernard project. Vaucresson Sausage was a strong small business before Hurricane Katrina, but when the family tried to access capital and help to redevelop their property in the wake of the devastation, she was left out along with many others. black companies in the post-Katrina world. The Vaucressons don’t need help from the CCCLT to run their sausage business, but what we’re bringing in is pre-development capital; relations with funders, financiers and the local real estate community; knowledge of real estate development; and training on how to develop their brand, with the ultimate goal of increasing intergenerational wealth. From now on, Vance Vaucresson has the same know-how, and like his partner, CCCLT will be there for the long term. Thanks to this partnership, 1800 St. Bernard will open its doors in early 2022, with the Vaucresson CafÃ© Creole and two permanently affordable apartments.
The community land trust 2.0
This idea of ââ”CLT 2.0″, which focuses on tenants and commercial spaces, not just single-family homes, is gaining popularity across the country. Black communities and other marginalized groups are changing CLTs and growing community property in real estate to combat structural racism and create opportunities for wealth creation. CCCLT is proud to be part of the new movement.
You can’t have a good time in New Orleans without serving good food, even during a pandemic. It should come as no surprise what we served at the âSaint-Bernard 1800 Renaissanceâ: po-boys with hot Vaucresson sausage and their Creole jambalaya, the best of New Orleans. But as good as our city’s cuisine is, CCCLT wants New Orleans to be known for more than food and good times. We want to be known for how our city is resolving its affordable housing crisis, how we are helping emerging, often underfunded entrepreneurs of color, and how we are helping families and these entrepreneurs evolve into generational solutions and generational wealth. .