by Lauryn Bray
Homestead Community Land Trust (HCLT) just received a $10 million grant from novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The donation was made without restrictions, meaning the organization can use the money for whatever it wants.
HCLT is currently working on a strategy for how they will leverage the funding to maximize impact. In the meantime, they will continue to develop their relationship with the nonprofit, community-led organization Skyway Coalition, which they’ve partnered with to bring affordable housing to Bryn Mawr-Skyway.
HCLT is a Seattle-based housing development organization committed to bringing affordable housing to low-income neighborhoods. According to its website, HCLT seeks to protect vulnerable communities from gentrification by helping to minimize displacement and disrupt housing discrimination.
“We get the land; we plan, design, and build the homes,” said Kathleen Hosfeld, executive director of HCLT. “It will cost us $550,000 to build a townhome. That’s less than market rate, of course, but it’s still not affordable. The people that we serve are teachers, firefighters, first responders, healthcare workers — everyday folks. The home price they can afford, depending on their household sizes, is $240,000 to $330,000, so our goal is to get the price of the home down to that level.”
Even after a home is sold to one owner, the organization continues to keep the home affordable for the next buyer by having owners agree to restrict their equity gain.
“In the community land trust model, our buyers agree to an artificial formula on the appreciation of their home — they call it a resale formula,” Hosfeld said. “They buy into our program far below market rates and then they agree to restrict their equity gain to a formula. That formula does allow them to still build assets while they own the home — about $7,000 per year of ownership. But at that rate of appreciation, they can sell it to the next income-qualified household, and it’s still affordable.”
HCLT follows a Civil Rights-era model, one that was created in response to the displacement of Black people in the deep South who were kicked out of their homes and off their land for voting or for speaking out against segregation.
“That ‘We don’t want you to live here, so we’re gonna exercise our control over you and push you out’ still goes on to a certain extent today, no question. But the bigger force pushing people out now is gentrification,” explained Hosfeld.
“You can’t pay your property taxes anymore, or the lot on either side of your home gets sold to a for-profit developer, and your three-bedroom home is now sandwiched in between two really tall apartment buildings, or whatever. These forces more often than not these days are pushing people out of neighborhoods.”
HCLT has recently partnered with Skyway Coalition for this very reason. As more people are being pushed south, the threat of gentrification looms over Skyway.
“We want to scale home production in partnership with communities that are at risk of displacement, and the model for that is our partnership with the community of Skyway. We have a really wonderful, deep relationship with Skyway Coalition and their stakeholders — they’ve approached us and said ‘We want affordable homeownership for BIPOC folks in Skyway,’” explained Hosfeld. “I won’t speak for Skyway, but I think they see the gentrification train coming down Renton Avenue South and they want to take preventative measures to ensure that there will be homes for people across the income spectrum.”
Hosfeld said she is excited about the $10 million donation from Scott because it will allow HCLT to continue to fulfill their commitment to affordable housing development but on an even greater scale. “We’ve been doing this work with communities — not as big as Skyway — but we’ve been trying to be partners by giving what we could and bootstrapping that to Communities of Color since I got to HCLT in 2014. We haven’t had the wherewithal to do much. This $10 million is going to allow us to have more partnerships at the scale of Skyway,” said Hosfeld.
HCLT has a four-part strategic plan, created in collaboration with community members, to bring affordable homes to the Skyway neighborhood. “The first one was bringing home ownership to Skyway. Of course, the second was making sure that the homes we build are environmentally sustainable. That’s a hallmark of how HCLT builds — we always try to exceed the code for environmental standards,” Hosfeld said.
Housing development in Skyway has been historically sporadic. Hosfeld is excited about this because she says it creates new room for experimenting. “We have an opportunity to do some work around green spaces in Skyway that we don’t have in other other areas.”
In addition to creating affordable and environmentally sustainable housing, the third part of the strategic plan involves focusing on strengthening economic development. “The third thing was to bring economic development to Skyway businesses so that [with] the dollars that come into Skyway to build these homes, we [can] include the people that are from Skyway — or have connection to Skyway — and [ensure that they] can contribute to building these homes and get to partner with us.”
The last part, according to Hosfeld, is setting an example. “Let’s create a playbook and a way for other communities at risk of displacement to also work with HCLT, or maybe even transport these lessons learned to other partnerships and other places. Replication of how we’re working together is part of what this gift makes possible.”
This Project is funded in part by the City of Seattle’s Environmental Justice Fund.
Lauryn Bray is a writer and reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
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