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Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Clallam County’s Community Land Trust Program

Policy and Advocacy
Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Clallam County’s Community Land Trust Program

Embracing the Power of Community-Driven Change

As I strolled down the sun-dappled streets of Clallam County, I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of renewal and possibility. This picturesque corner of Washington state has long grappled with the challenges of affordable housing, but a remarkable initiative is now transforming the landscape – literally and figuratively.

The Clallam County Community Land Trust (CCCLT) is a shining example of how grassroots action can revitalize neighborhoods and empower communities. Born out of a collective desire to ensure that everyone has access to a safe, comfortable, and affordable place to call home, this innovative program is breathing new life into the region.

Unlocking the Potential of Underutilized Lands

One of the key pillars of the CCCLT’s approach is its strategic utilization of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Trust Land Transfer (TLT) program. Through this initiative, the CCCLT has been able to identify and acquire parcels of land that were previously underperforming in terms of revenue generation for the state’s trust beneficiaries, such as schools and hospitals.

“These lands often had high ecological value and significant public benefits, but limited potential to generate income in the foreseeable future,” explains Sarah, the CCCLT’s executive director. “By tapping into the TLT program, we’ve been able to preserve these special places while also bolstering our affordable housing efforts.”

The TLT program enables the DNR to transfer the ownership of these economically underperforming lands to a receiving agency, such as a local government or a non-profit organization like the CCCLT. In turn, the DNR uses the funds from these transfers to purchase replacement lands that can be managed for more sustainable revenue generation, ensuring that the trust beneficiaries continue to receive the necessary financial support.

Transforming Underutilized Lands into Affordable Homes

The CCCLT has leveraged this partnership with the TLT program to great effect, acquiring several parcels of land that have been transformed into vibrant, affordable housing communities. One such example is the “Maple Grove” development, a project that has breathed new life into a once-neglected corner of Clallam County.

“When we first laid eyes on the Maple Grove site, it was a bit of a mess – overgrown, littered with debris, and generally uninviting,” Sarah recalls with a smile. “But we saw the potential, the opportunity to create something truly special for the community.”

Through a collaborative process involving local residents, the CCCLT carefully planned the development, ensuring that it not only provided much-needed affordable housing but also integrated seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhood. The result is a thriving community that boasts a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and multi-unit dwellings, all situated amidst beautifully landscaped common areas and walking trails.

“The thing that really sets Maple Grove apart is the sense of ownership and pride that the residents have,” Sarah enthuses. “They’re not just tenants; they’re active stakeholders in the success of this community. That’s the magic of the community land trust model.”

Empowering Residents Through Shared Ownership

The community land trust approach is at the heart of the CCCLT’s mission. Rather than simply building and renting out affordable housing units, the organization empowers residents to become homeowners through a unique shared-equity model.

Under this system, the CCCLT retains ownership of the land, while the homeowners own their individual homes. This arrangement ensures that the homes remain permanently affordable, as the resale price is restricted to maintain affordability for future buyers.

“It’s a win-win situation,” explains Sarah. “Residents get to enjoy the benefits of homeownership, including the opportunity to build equity, while the community as a whole retains control over the land and ensures that the homes remain accessible to those who need them most.”

This shared-equity model has proven to be a powerful tool in the CCCLT’s arsenal, allowing the organization to create a stable, long-term solution to the affordable housing crisis in Clallam County. As residents move in and put down roots, they become active participants in the stewardship of their community, contributing to a sense of ownership and civic engagement that is often lacking in traditional rental-based housing developments.

Fostering Community Connections and Resilience

But the CCCLT’s impact extends far beyond just providing affordable homes. The organization has also been instrumental in cultivating a strong sense of community among its residents, recognizing that a thriving neighborhood is about more than just bricks and mortar.

“When you create a space where people feel genuinely connected to their community, something magical happens,” Sarah explains. “Neighbors start looking out for one another, sharing resources, and coming together to tackle the challenges they face.”

This community-centric approach is evident in the various initiatives and programs the CCCLT has implemented, from neighborhood cleanups and gardening clubs to after-school tutoring and job skills workshops. By fostering these connections and empowering residents to take an active role in shaping their community, the CCCLT is not only improving the quality of life for its members but also building a foundation of resilience that can withstand even the most daunting of obstacles.

Replicating Success Across the Region

As I wandered through the vibrant streets of Maple Grove, it was clear that the CCCLT’s work has had a transformative impact on this once-neglected corner of Clallam County. But the organization’s vision extends far beyond this single development, with plans to replicate its successful model across the region.

“Our goal is to create a network of thriving, affordable communities that serve as beacons of hope and inspiration,” Sarah explains. “We want to show other municipalities and organizations that this approach works, and that by working together, we can tackle the affordable housing crisis head-on.”

To that end, the CCCLT has been actively collaborating with local governments, community organizations, and other stakeholders to identify new opportunities for land acquisition and development. The organization has also been sharing its expertise and lessons learned, empowering other communities to follow in its footsteps and create their own community land trust programs.

“It’s not just about building houses; it’s about building connections, fostering resilience, and creating a more equitable future for all,” Sarah concludes. “And that’s a vision that I believe can truly transform the landscape of Clallam County and beyond.”

As I bid farewell to the Maple Grove community and continue my journey through Clallam County, I can’t help but feel a sense of optimism and excitement for what the future holds. The CCCLT’s work is a testament to the power of community-driven change, and I’m eager to see how this innovative program continues to shape the lives of the people it serves.

If you’d like to learn more about the Clallam County Community Land Trust and its efforts to revitalize neighborhoods, be sure to visit their website at https://www.hacc-housing.org/. There, you can find more information about their programs, upcoming events, and ways to get involved in the mission of creating a more equitable and vibrant community for all.

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