By Coy McKinney of SW Action

Most land in cities is bought and sold in ways that local communities often don’t have much say in. Or, at least that’s the way it plays out as the land is rapidly developed, even as people are given lip service invites to the decision table. Community Land Trusts (CLTs), however, are a method for communities to own and control land collectively. 

Black farmers established the first CLT in America in 1969 to prevent this kind of displacement; thus, CLTs are also rooted in racial justice and can be a tool for reversing decades of racial discrimination in access to housing. CLTs basically limit the re-sale of property on the land, allowing for permanently affordable homes and retail/office spaces.

The Douglas Community Land Trust (Douglass CLT), started in 2017, has primarily served communities East of the River. Back in April, our volunteer group, SW Action, launched a petition to expand the Douglass CLT into the Southwest neighborhood. The petition calls for the government-owned property at 1101 Half St., SW, the current site of the fire engine repair shop, to be transferred to the Douglass CLT, which will establish a SW chapter to oversee the property. 

Since April, over 200 residents have signed on in support. 

The ANC 6D has expressed interest in pursuing the plan further, and Ward 6 Councilmember, Charles Allen, wrote a letter to the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, John Falcicchio, asking him to explore the CLT concept for the site. Momentum seems to be growing for the idea. Ultimately, a successful transfer of the property to a CLT cannot be achieved without input and participation from the community, especially those living in public housing. 

As part of our outreach efforts, Westminster Presbyterian Church has offered to host a forum and discussion on CLTs, specifically to address the petition signed by hundreds of community members. The forum will take place on August 12, 7 p.m., at the church (400 I (Eye) St., SW). 

If you are unable to attend in-person and would like to participate virtually, contact the church at 202-484-7700 or via email rwh@westminsterdc.org. For more on CLTs, the petition, or SW Action, visit bit.ly/swclt.

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