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A Community Organizes to Take Control of Vacant Lots

A medical campus in Buffalo, NY was rapidly expanding and displacing longtime neighborhood residents of a historically Black neighborhood. Neighborhood residents built on existing relationships and strengths to launch FB Community Land Trust, a member-driven organization that aims to create affordable housing and maintain community control of land.

Neighborhoods across the country are grappling with the effects of gentrification. In the Fruit Belt neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, residents are taking action to gain more power to determine the future of their community. Vacant lots in their neighborhood were being snapped up by speculative developers in anticipation of the expansion of a nearby medical campus. In 2017, residents formed FB Community Land Trust (FB CLT) a community-rooted institution designed to hold land in perpetuity to meet the housing and green space needs of current residents and future generations. After forming, FB CLT successfully pressured the city to place a moratorium on the sale of vacant lots.

FB CLT became a member of Grounded Solutions and began to work with staff to draft a business plan. In the midst of this planning, FB CLT members attended Grounded Solutions’ Intersections 2018 conference in Pittsburgh, PA and shared their experience during sessions. Founding FB CLT board member Annette Lott presented at the IGNITE! Community Pitch Fest, and her presentation won the audience vote and secured two free tickets to the next conference.

In a blog post about the IGNITE! victory, FB CLT members wrote, “The board of directors received a standing ovation for their efforts and an emotional Dennice Barr gave an acceptance speech that undergirds the truth for many low-income residents and communities of color, saying, ‘For us, this is life. Our city government didn’t have a plan for us, meaning they had a plan for us not to be in our community, but we are still here. You don’t know how much this recognition means to us. Thank you.’”

Another victory is in the works: the city of Buffalo has committed to transferring ownership of vacant lots directly to FB CLT. As FB CLT gets started, Habitat for Humanity is acting as a developer partner with the goal of helping FB CLT build its own capacity to develop homes in the future. FB CLT continues to work with Grounded Solutions on business planning, portfolio development, ground leases, resale formulas, and more.

To learn more, visit FB CLT’s website at http://fbcommunitylandtrust.org/ or read this July 2018 article about FB CLT from Yes! Magazine.

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