LOS ANGELES — A community land trust purchased its first property thanks to a Los Angeles County pilot program.
The El Sereno Community Land Trust bought an eight-unit apartment building for more than $2 million in May using funds from the Community Land Trust Partnership Program sponsored by County Supervisor Hilda Solis.
The program provides money to land trusts to purchase properties to keep rents low and prevent resident displacement.
"It was a feat, and we were able to accomplish it in a short span of time, and so we had no words," said El Sereno Community Land Trust Executive Director Sua Iris Hernandez.
Hernandez said the property will allow residents to grow generational wealth. The tenants will eventually receive interest in the building as there is not just one property owner. The community is the owner.
"They do have interest in the property legally, and that's the process that we are working on between now and the next five years," Hernandez said. "That's the point of the pilot program is for an organization to acquire and create affordable housing but break that owner tenant relationship and do something deeper where now we're collective owners."
The land trust has its eye on other properties in the neighborhood, including many of the homes owned by Caltrans. The state agency owns many homes following a defunct freeway project. Dozens of them are empty and being guarded by private security and California Highway Patrol.
Land trust member Angela Flores has been trying to buy her home from Caltrans for years. She wants the trust to buy many of these homes to help homeless people eventually.
"It would be great if we were able to acquire these properties and these houses and put them under the land trust so that we can create that community," Flores said.
Acquiring those properties would help Sasha Atkins, who has been rallying for months for Caltrans to sell the homes to the land trust. She moved into one of the empty homes back in November because she didn't have a place to stay. She was forced to leave and was living in a motel with her son.
They are now staying with family, but it isn't permanent. She said the land trust purchasing its first property is a step in the right direction to help families in her situation.
"This is progress, and I'm so thankful for it," Atkins said. "But when I took my last house, it was in November, and we're already in July, and so this entire time, even though I have kind of a place to stay right now, it's nothing permanent, and it's nothing that I can call home still. And you know this is what it's about; it's giving these families homes."
Hernandez said the apartment building is the first of what they hope are many properties to house families in the future by using public funds.
"Now you're using those tax dollars and providing affordable housing, but now you're spreading the wealth," Hernandez said.
The land trust is now investing in repairs to improve the building.