Detroit Justice Center Expands Community Land Trust Services Through New Partnership With Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

The Detroit Justice Center is thrilled to share that we’ve recently received a grant from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). This funding is a significant boost to our intricate model that focuses on utilizing the law to create economic opportunities for communities which have been damaged by the systems we currently have in place. Our Economic Equity Practice (EEP) employs a comprehensive approach, partnering with community organizations to implement local, shared-economy solutions to economic inequities. A particular focus of our work lies in community land trusts (CLTs), which have been shown to create permanent affordable housing, promote economic diversity, prevent displacement, and foster entrepreneurship.

A CLT is a community-owned nonprofit that acquires, holds, and sometimes manages land, leasing it to others for residential, commercial, or agricultural uses. A CLT is a way to do community-led development of individually-owned buildings on community-owned land. CLTs can create economically diverse communities, preserve affordable housing, prevent displacement, speculation, and unwanted land uses, discourage predatory lending and reduce foreclosures, create a source of income to support local needs and promote local entrepreneurship. DJC advocates for CLTs as an embodiment of affordable housing and has played a role in creating the first two CLTs in the city.

DJC partners with grassroots organizations who are developing real estate projects to serve Detroiters, providing them with legal and development services from contracts and zoning to intellectual property, among other areas, enabling them to act as developers, not outside interests.To date, our organization has provided support to establish Detroit’s first two contiguous CLTs, launch three CLTs in total, and assist with acquiring 60 residential lots for DJC’s CLT clients. 

“Detroit Justice Center has long believed that community land trusts could be a vital tool in our work to provide sustainable affordable housing for Detroit. It’s good to see this approach being embraced by the city and developers. We are honored to be a part of this and look forward to providing all the guidance and support that we can,” says Eric Williams, Managing Attorney, Economic Equity Practice, Detroit Justice Center. 

“LISC Detroit is honored to partner with Detroit Justice Center, a trusted community champion, building the capacity of Detroit’s Community Land Trust ecosystem,” says Tahirih Ziegler, Senior Vice President, Market Excellence Division, Local Initiatives Support Corp. “The value of the Community Land Trust model is two-fold: first, it is a promising tool to address Detroit’s affordable housing crisis, and second it is a vital tool to build wealth and community power in Detroit. We are inspired by the model’s potential to help close systemic gaps in health, wealth, and opportunity so residents and local economies can thrive.”

With support from LISC, we are poised to expand our impact in the coming year by: 

  • Becoming a centralized technical assistance and capacity-building delivery system to support Detroit’s CLT movement.
  • Launching a pilot initiative, in collaboration with the City of Detroit, to create new affordable housing units, and by hiring our staff attorney Mark Bennett to expand our services to support vertical development.  
  • Facilitating the growth of new CLTs across the city through increased educational offerings. 
  • Bringing efficiency to the development process through sharing of best practices and third-party professional services providers.
  • Facilitating financing through CDFIs, philanthropic sources, and economic development incentives.

DJC is slated to become the one-stop-shop for CLTs pursuing vertical development, minimizing redundancy, leveraging education, refining financial models, and decreasing risks for funders. We’re cultivating the capacity to offer a centralized, standardized, and efficient technical assistance and capacity building delivery system to support the entire CLT movement in the Motor City. 

The current pilot, involving the development of 40 units of permanent affordable housing on Dream Community Land Trust (DREAM) and Detroit Cultivator Community Land Trust (DCCLT), showcases our commitment to this vision. We have also received a commitment from the City of Detroit to support the development pilot by providing 20 total parcels of land at little to no cost to our clients. Each client will also contribute 10 parcels of their own land to bring this goal full circle. 

Furthermore, we’ve hosted a series of info sessions about CLTs which will continue throughout 2024.Our efforts extend to publishing informative resources such as the white paper “Home Improvement: Laying Detroit’s Firm Foundation for Truly Affordable Housing,” and hosting upcoming town halls in spring 2024 to disseminate findings and advance equitable strategies.

Detroit Justice Center’s community partnerships are instrumental to establishing mixed-income neighborhoods with density and permanent affordability, eliminating gentrification, and revitalizing economic corridors in Detroit’s neighborhoods.This pilot program, already showing promise, has the potential to serve as a national model. We are thrilled to be partnering with LISC’s Detroit office in advancing our mission to create lasting positive change. Together, we look forward to building a more equitable, vibrant, and just future for Detroit and its residents.DJC extends an invitation to the community join and support this movement.