In 2015, the Lawrenceville Corporation (LC) initiated an effort to design and deliver permanently affordable for-sale homes in Lawrenceville, which resulted in the first Community Land Trust in Western Pennsylvania. Thereafter the LC designed and delivered its pilot phase of permanently affordable for-sale homes, which included six new construction homes and one complete rehab. The LC sold those units through a 99-year ground lease construct to households below 80% of area median income.
In 2017, with this as the backdrop, and acknowledging that real estate markets transcend neighborhood boundaries, LC initiated a partnership-driven initiative to create a multi-neighborhood, multi-municipal CLT with the promise of long-term organizational stability, sustainability, and effectiveness. To establish the necessary organizational infrastructure and capacity framework, LC engaged evolveEA to convene a CLT Expansion Steering Committee in 2017-18, designed and facilitated as a democratic process. Community organizations from Lawrenceville, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Etna, and Polish Hill were able to build knowledge about CLTs, explore alternatives, and make decisions regarding the CLT Expansion. In addition, the process placed heavy emphasis on equity and inclusion in regards to which communities the CLT will serve, who is present at the table, and who is empowered to participate. Creating a CLT that is sustainable, equitable, and inclusive was core to this process.
The process yielded the following shared conclusion: if the Community Land Trust model of homeownership and stewardship is to work in Western Pennsylvania, it is best implemented by an organization that operates beyond the capacity, resources, and permanence of a neighborhood-based organization. The Expansion Steering Committee developed and empowered City of Bridges Community Land Trust as an independent nonprofit to advance an ambitious strategy to realize permanent affordability throughout Pittsburgh and beyond.
Initially, City of Bridges CLT will operate in Polish Hill, Lawrenceville, Millvale, Sharpsburg, and Etna. Each of these communities has offered their explicit support and invitation for CLT work in their respective localities, and has demonstrated a strong value for permanent affordability. It is well-understood and anticipated that other neighborhoods and municipalities will continue to have interest in the Community Land Trust model, and that City of Bridges will work in those communities by invitation and in cases of organizational and mission alignment.