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Our Vision, Their Stories: Durham Community Land Trustees

As part of the “Our Vision, Their Stories” project, the Initiative is featuring the stories of their affordable housing partners across the State. We recognize this important work cannot be done in a vacuum, and we are honored to have worked alongside these champions in the critical mission of preserving affordable housing spaces in our community.  

Durham Community Land Trustees 

Click to watch the full interview here. 

In recent years, Durham has been growing and changing, and not always for the benefit of communities who have historically dwelled in its inner-city neighborhoods. In the midst of the rising costs and booming development, Durham Community Land Trustees (DCLT) remains determined to preserve the history, culture and affordability of Durham’s urban core neighborhoods.   

DCLT was established in 1987 by residents living in the West End area of Durham because they had had enough. It had been a constant struggle for these individuals with absentee landlords, high crime rates and poor infrastructure – issues they knew the entire community was battling. Living just down the street from Duke University, these residents saw the writing on the wall and realized that housing prices in their community would only continue to increase, eventually pushing out the majority of African American and Latino families who had lived in that community for years.

This led them to form the Durham Community Land Trustees and implement a land trust model to ensure that there would always be affordable housing available, keeping the community from becoming completely gentrified. And more than 30 years later, they are still community-centric and community-controlled – the majority of their board of directors are neighbors, homeowners and residents, people who are experiencing the daily realities of Durham’s changing scene.

DCLT realizes the importance of maintaining affordable housing in Durham’s urban core. In the absence of affordable housing in these neighborhoods, disadvantaged families are put at an even greater disadvantage and are forced to look beyond the urban core to find affordable housing. This leads to longer commutes, absence of public transportation, job instability and less time with the kids at home. All of these conditions can lead to unhealthy home situations and less access to the things they need to thrive.

That’s why DCLT fights to purchase and maintain land that is community-owned and therefore guaranteed to stay affordable. They now own around 300 properties throughout Durham and are looking to expand even deeper into Durham’s urban core in the coming years. They’re giving families the chance to either rent or purchase affordable housing, often for the very first time. They’re also prioritizing the development of special-needs rental housing and homes that are ADA compliant, environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Ultimately, this has led them to provide homes for over 250 adults and 125 youth in Durham.

“They have a place they can call home,” says Selina Mack, Executive Director of DCLT since 2005. 

DCLT was started by the community, exists for the community and counts on the support of the community to continue with their shared equity model. DCLT homeowners earn equity on their land trust homes, which allows them to not only build wealth but to also share a percentage of it back with the community. This helps homes to remain affordable because homeowners share in the percentage of market value increase of their house when they go to sell it. Ultimately, this ensures that the house will be affordable to every family after that who needs it. 

To learn more about how to become involved with the work at DCLT, visit their website.

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NCI in Partnership with EmPOWERment, Inc.