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America’s Real Estate System Pushes Rents Up And People Out. There’s Another Way.

Jarrid Green

Writing for HuffPost, Jarrid Green explores the story of how Hasta Muerte Coffee partnered with the Oakland Community Land Trust to fight back against displacement.

[...] The American real estate system is programmed to strip control from communities like Fruitvale. Instead of being organized to meet people’s need for housing and community space, this system is driven almost entirely by the pursuit of speculative profit

When these high profits can’t be realized, neighborhoods suffer the consequences of disinvestment ― crumbling infrastructure, vacant houses, increased crime. And when the tide changes, capital floods in and, along with it, the threat of displacement as speculators race to make a quick buck. Hasta Muerte’s landlord was able to get nearly a million dollars for a property purchased five years earlier for just $328,000. For low-income communities, and especially communities of color, this cycle can end up repeating over multiple generations .

Community land trusts, like the one in Oakland that supported Hasta Muerte, help overturn this racially and economically unjust system by throttling down speculation-driven growth in property prices. For instance, a community land trust might buy some real estate and retain ownership of the land while selling the housing on that land to a family at an affordable price. In the process, the land trust might give the family the right to sell the property on, as long as it did so at an affordable price. 

While the focus of most of the estimated 225 community land trusts in the U.S. is on creating permanently affordable housing, some also support multiuse properties and spaces for neighborhood businesses such as Hasta Muerte. 

The groundswell of interest in community land trusts in communities threatened by displacement comes from their ability to put residents in the driver’s seat. These residents can identify where needs are most acute. [...]