LOS ANGELES — Each time Ixchel Hernandez and her mother Guadalupe step into their Koreatown apartment, one of the first things they always see is an old family photo on the mantle.
What You Need To Know
- Ixchel Hernandez said the lack of affordable housing in LA puts home ownership out of reach until she learned about a tool called a community land trust, or CLT
- They are nonprofit organizations that purchase property for the benefit of the community, such as affordable housing, and residents collectively manage it, helping them stay housed and eventually gaining ownership
- LA County has at least five CLTs according to Almas Sayeed, vice president of public partnerships at Liberty Hill Foundation, a nonprofit that studied the county’s pilot program that kept 110 residents housed
“We didn’t have any furniture,” she said, pointing to the photo showing her and her brother as young children next to their parents. “That was our only furniture and our only lamp.”
The family of four immigrated from Mexico over two decades ago, landing in a one-bedroom apartment. They’ve filled it with fond memories, Hernandez's artwork, and they’ve also fought off attempts from a corporate property owner to force them out of their rent-controlled unit, according to Hernandez.
“They just tried everything. They tried ‘cash for keys,’ we said ‘no,’” she said. “Because to us, it’s not just a unit. It’s our home of 20-plus years. We grew up in this neighborhood. We know our neighbors.”
She said the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles puts home ownership out of reach until she learned about a tool called a community land trust, or CLT.
They are nonprofit organizations that purchase property for the benefit of the community, such as affordable housing, and residents collectively manage it, helping them stay housed and eventually gaining ownership.
“Our goal is to become owners, to have something for ourselves and have something under our name to create generational wealth,” said Hernandez.
So she was surprised to learn during the pandemic that LA County launched a $14 million dollar pilot program to help CLTs buy and fix-up apartment buildings.
Hernandez advocated to include her four-unit building in the program, which was successful. It’s now part of the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust, or BVCLT.
Faizah Barlas, operations manager for BVCLT, said the residents formed a co-op and they will eventually own the building. CLTs are not a new concept, but Barlas said they can help residents in working-class communities, such as Koreatown, stay put.
“Neighborhoods that have historically been redlined and many immigrant, working-class communities have lived in with very little resources, these neighborhoods are now becoming the ‘hot neighborhoods,’” she said. “Those same residents who have invested so much and have deep community relations are being displaced to moving into the desert, moving farther away from the city that they know.”
LA County has at least five CLTs according to Almas Sayeed, vice president of public partnerships at Liberty Hill Foundation, a nonprofit that studied the county’s pilot program that kept 110 residents housed.
She said it will likely require public dollars to invest in more CLTs but the model can help prevent homelessness.
“The fundamental issue here is that the community is asking for this kind of investment,” Sayeed said. “I have been in the housing world for quite some time and there is a shared, aligned understanding that the more properties that are ready for tenants to have some kind of shared ownership in, the more likely tenants are willing to participate in these initiatives.”
Hernandez said she’s happy knowing her parents will finally own their place, living out a slice of the American Dream.
“They work really hard, so this is a big relief to them,” she said.