City’s first land trust re-born

Organizers of Minneapolis' first land trust officially kicked off their efforts, looking for a new way to provide long-term affordable housing.

The City of Lakes Community Land Trust celebrated its launch with public officials Sept. 25 at Maria's Caf, 1113 E. Franklin St.

A land trust owns the land and targets sales to moderate-income individuals and families at affordable prices. In return for a good sale price, the homebuyers agree that, when they resell, they will sell below market rates, keeping the home affordable long-term. A land-trust homeowner gets a long-term lease on the land and can qualify for conventional mortgages, said Cara Letofsky, staff to the land trust. The buyer's mortgage is also reduced because they don't have to buy the land.

"The City of Lakes Community Land Trust is a great long-term strategy to protect our housing investments and ensure the housing for families of all incomes is available and affordable in perpetuity," said Mayor R.T. Rybak in a statement released by the non-profit.

Letofsky said the group's first project likely would be a four-unit development at East 22nd Street and Elliot Avenue South, in conjunction with Hope Community Court. The land trust will not do its own development at first, but is seeking to partner with developers, she said.

The trust is talking with Cornerstone, a developer interested in doing a housing project at the "meter farm" site in Loring Park at East 15th Street and Nicollet Avenue South, Letofsky said. She said she had also talked to the Fulton Neighborhood NRP group. "It is on their radar."

This is the land trust's second launch of sorts. It started as the Minneapolis Community Land Trusts Initiative on Oct. 1, 2001 and began discussions with community partners about how to make the idea work.

During the last year, the organization decided to cover the entire city, not just certain neighborhoods, Letofsky said. It will continue to operate under the Powderhorn Residents Group umbrella for the next year but will pursue its own organizational status.

The Land Trust has a 15-member board, including City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward), she said. Once fully up and running, the board membership will be one-third land trust lessees, one-third community members and one-third at-large members, including housing and development experts.

For information, call Letofsky, 721-7756, ext. 17.