A Land Trust in the Works to Preserve Affordability in Anacostia

by Nena Perry-Brown

A Land Trust in the Works to Preserve Affordability in Anacostia: Figure 1
Good Hope Road in Anacostia. Photo by Ted Eytan.

As development continues to transform the District, more eyes are turning east of the Anacostia River, a longtime bastion of affordable housing in the city which also contains some of its most-neglected and overlooked communities.

The 11th Street Bridge Park project could very well be the major infrastructural development to spur investment in Anacostia and elsewhere in Ward 8; however, considering how development and gentrification have tended to go hand-in-hand over the past decade, many longtime residents east of the River have cause to be concerned over how such a major attraction could be disruptive.

This fact is not lost on Scott Kratz, director of the Bridge Park project, and was the impetus behind the creation of a multimillion-dollar Equitable Development Plan last year, the result of numerous neighborhood stakeholder meetings to solicit feedback on the community’s priorities and preferences. One of the initiatives that emerged is a partnership with Manna to create a homebuyers club in Ward 8.

“As part of the Bridge Park, it’s been really important from the beginning to invest not only in this new civic infrastructure, but also the surrounding communities,” Kratz says. “When we asked the community for their housing recommendations, the idea that kept coming up again and again, was this notion of a community land trust.”

The Bridge Park Community Land Trust, a partnership with City First Homes, will create the first land trust east of the River to purchase and pool land in Anacostia.

“The basic idea of a land trust is to preserve the land and to preserve the affordability by taking, in many ways, the land out of a property equation,” Robert Burns, president of City First Homes, explains. “Typically, when you buy a property, you’re taking the building and the land that sits underneath it. In putting a trust together, you’re able to preserve the affordability of the land, but also afford individuals and families the opportunity to buy without having to take the land into account, so its a different type of transaction.”

From a development perspective, employing a land trust would also enable the community to negotiate higher shares of inclusionary zoning units in multi-family projects. Land Trusts typically have tripartite structures where one-third of the board is made of neighborhood residents, one-third are residents of land trust properties, and one-third are experts in the field.

Over the next few months, the land trust working group will continue to refine what methods of property acquisition the Trust plans to use (including exploring market-rate options and partnering with developers to apply for city-owned properties), determine the structure and governance of the Trust, and hold additional informative and interactive sessions with the community. The group is also looking to build an acquisition fund through private philanthropic sources.

While the group hopes to have more to share on their progress next month — and to make some announcements on funding within the next 60 days — the process will be a collaborative one based on community feedback rather than depending on closed-door decision-making.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a_land_trust_in_the_works_to_preserve_affordability_in_anacostia/12203


  1. bullfrogcorner said at 3:10 pm on Thursday February 16, 2017:
    One entity owns the bridge and another entity (the Trust) owns the land? How does that do anything for the people of Anacostia? Somebody 'round here is crazy.
  1. Nick Williams said at 12:02 am on Thursday February 23, 2017:
    The community land trust idea has been used successfully in other parts of the country to buy land/buildings and maintain affordability. The devil is in the details: not only financing the real estate purchase, but also governing. Who makes what decisions? I live in a house I own, on land I DO NOT own; the land is leased to me by a community land trust. There are also restrictions on how I can sell the house and leasehold - to keep it affordable for future buyers.
  1. Christian Addison said at 3:24 pm on Sunday February 26, 2017:
    Most of the lands East of the Anacostia river aren’t’ eligible to be place under a land trust. See, the land in Anacostia is already trusted to the Addison family of Maryland and DC. The land trust of Anacostia is currently under a land patent called Chechester which consist of over 887 acres. It has been patented by the Addison family since 1768. I am not saying that the groups mentioned here aren’t innovative in their quest, but I am saying that they are about 300 yeas too late. If you are wondering what land patents are please google it. My family patents can be viewed by the public at the Maryland State Archives. This brings me to my final point. These developers just recently found out that they have no rights on these lands here. They just found that the Anacostia part of DC was originally in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This means that the so called vacant community lands in SE are actually not vacant or unclaimed lands at all. There patent titles rest in Annapolis, MD. I know this is a misfortune for developers who want my family’s land, but there actions are in vain as you will see in the coming days. Thanks for reading and I hope this clears all misunderstandings for the developers and the readers.

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