Community land trust in Hillsborough County could help bring down housing prices

Finding an affordable place to live is so challenging that Hillsborough County leaders are turning to a creative solution to help residents. 

Commissioners are setting up a community land trust, allowing the county to buy land, build housing, and ensure affordable prices. 

"I think that our challenge is that there is no one panacea, there is no one magic pill that’s going to solve the problem. Instead, we need a toolbox of options," said Commissioner Harry Cohen.

Commissioners approved $750,000 to set up the public-private program for three years, with help from the Florida Housing Coalition.

"A community land trust makes housing permanently affordable," said Jaimie Ross, the CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition. "Virtually everywhere in the state, the housing prices, the homeownership, housing prices are at the highest they've ever been."

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Ross said a community land trust (CLT) separates the land from the housing it sits on. The program will let the county buy land, and then work with a developer to build housing for income-eligible families to rent or buy. A community land trust could also allow the county to buy an existing building and renovate it. 

"So it provides a way out of rental and kind of that step into homeownership. And that way the CLT homeowner can save and plan," said Ross.

County leaders said the lack of affordable housing is a crisis, and there’s no one solution to fix the problem.

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"That might be a tool to help people get into the housing market for just enough less than what it would cost with a conventional type of approach," said Cohen.

Commissioners will come up with a plan in the next month or two, then find the land and develop it. Community land trusts are catching on throughout Florida, and Ross said she’s glad it gives families another option.

"So a community land trust is one tool in the affordable housing toolbox, so it's not like it's going to solve all the affordable housing problems," said Ross. "But it's this extremely important tool."