Today, cities across the US are actively facing the challenge of how to manage urban development without pricing lower-income residents out of the market. It’s a complex issue, requiring a wide array of solutions. One effective solution is the use of community land trusts, which work to stabilize neighborhoods and prevent economic displacement while balancing the interests of residents as well as the broader community.

Metro Denver is a national leader in scaling up for-sale housing, rental, and nonprofit community land trusts (CLT) with long-term affordability through the efforts of Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT) and Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), alongside other partners. On March 11, ULC was fortunate to share some of its experience with the Grounded Solutions Network’s Catalytic Land Cohort, composed of housing practitioners from Atlanta, Houston, and Portland (OR). The group came to Denver for a three-day Learning Tour, in Denver to glean best practices from Metro-Denver leaders who’ve marked recent success in addressing affordable housing needs through community land trusts.

“Housing with lasting affordability stabilizes communities and is a cost-effective element of an anti-displacement strategy,” said Grounded Solutions CEO Tony Pickett, noting that Grounded Solutions will serve as lead partner for the three-city, 36-month initiative. “The Catalytic Land Cohort will increase the scalable pipeline of land and resources to protect affordability in changing neighborhoods throughout Atlanta, Houston, and Portland, and Denver has created a model for investment in historically under-served communities of color in ways that respond directly to community desires.”

The learning tour enabled the Cohort participants to learn from ULC and community land trust experts about what works well, what challenges remain, and what’s next on the horizon. The tour was especially unique given the variety of speakers and stakeholders that presented different perspectives and areas of expertise throughout the day with a focus on the impact of investments and developments made on and with communities of color in a rapidly changing city and region.

“We are excited to share some diverse examples of creative land stewardship with the Catalytic Land Cohort,” said ULC CEO Aaron Miripol. “In particular, they’ll see, first hand, our strategy of purchasing property along transit corridors and using our 99-year land leases to preserve affordability over the long term in some of Denver’s most rapidly-developing communities.”

The Cohort had an opportunity to see a key example of this preservability:  ULC’s recent purchase of the Hudson at the Holly building, formally Roots Elementary School, located in Northeast Park Hill. Because ULC owned the land in the CLT, it had the first right to purchase the school when it was put up for sale. This enabled ULC to reengage community members to determine the best new tenant in congruence with the Good Neighbor Agreement. The Center for African American Health was selected through the process and has a lease with an option to purchase the building to support program expansion.