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Sun Sentinel - January 19, 2006

Land trust hits ground running
Board will strive to keep housing costs affordable

By Erika Slife
Delray Beach · After a year of research and analysis, the steering committee charged with establishing a Delray Beach Community Land Trust handed over the reins Wednesday night to a new board of directors.

The 10-member interim board will meet monthly for the time being to firmly establish the trust, which will be a nonprofit organization created to preserve the affordability of homes and maintain some control over the market value of those properties. The board's duties will include adopting the trust's bylaws, creating the leasing guidelines and reselling formula, and determining how to select the property owners.

The way a community land trust works is that the trust owns the land and property owners own the buildings. The intent is to lock in land values to keep the homes affordable for the long term.

Following the success of a two- decades-old land trust in Burlington, Vt., cities across the nation have adopted similar models, which are meant to provide an opportunity for low- to moderate-income residents to buy a home. Locally, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth are considering community land trusts, as well as Palm Beach County, officials said during the 90-minute meeting.

Regional leaders have recognized Delray Beach as being at the forefront of the process, said Jon Levinson, the interim chairman of the new board of directors and the city's vice mayor.

In the past year, the steering committee has secured property throughout the city to use as land trust properties, including about a dozen single-family lots and specific units in future building projects, said Joseph Gray, assistant director of the Community Redevelopment Agency who led the steering committee. The land trust has about $150,000 in the bank, donated by the CRA, and will earn more through projects and grants. Membership fees were set Wednesday night at $1 a year. The public can join.

The interim board is made of city leaders, CRA officials and Housing Authority members. In the future, it will be led by residents of land trust properties, land trust members and board members elected by the community at large.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 8.

Erika Slife can be reached at or 561-243-6690.