Who Has a Say?

Outdoor garden surrounded by urban apartment buildings

These essays will focus on influence and power in mixed-income interventions and how to broaden the range of beneficiaries from mixed-income communities. Questions explored include: How can cross-sector efforts generate a greater commitment to equitable development? How can residents and other community stakeholders who are traditionally excluded from influence and control participate more fully in shaping policy reform and implementation? What are some pathways to community ownership, and can they reduce the displacement effects of mixed-income revitalization? What is the best way to frame narratives about mixed-income efforts so that they engage wider audiences and generate public will for greater inclusion and equity? What special populations within mixed-income communities, such as youth, women, and fathers, require a great level of strategic attention and focus?

Group of 4 people standing on a porch in front of a door to a home

Building Mixed-Income Communities through Community Land Trusts

The two essays in this section expand our understanding of how community land trusts (CLTs) advance inclusion and equity through a commitment to resident power in decision-making processes, robust multi-sector partnerships, and long-term financial sustainability. CLTs are nonprofit corporations that buy and preserve land in perpetuity for the preservation or development of affordable housing. They are run by a board of directors composed of community members and other stakeholders, charged with representing the interests of residents who live within and around the community. Whereas market-rate housing in revitalizing areas may spur gentrification and the displacement of low-income residents, CLTs ensure that people with low incomes continue to have an affordable place to live in the community and that their voices and participation are valued.

In “Community Land Trusts: Combining Scale and Community Control to Advance Mixed-Income Neighborhoods,” Emily Thaden and Tony Pickett of the Grounded Solutions Network observe that practitioners and advocates must balance their pursuit of two goals, both of which are necessary to advance racial justice and inclusive community development. They write:

Land is power, and people united is power. Hence, we need to adopt a reconciled approach that advances both control of land at scale and democratic community decision-making to achieve gains for residents, neighborhoods, cities, and society. Under a CLT approach that gives equal priority to community control and impact from scale, the systems and structures of land use policy and the housing finance and real estate industries may be fully utilized, so that communities can gain land in trust and hold CLTs accountable to their mission when scaled.

In “Multi-Sectoral Partnerships for Social and Affordable Housing: The Community Land Trust Portfolio Model,” Penny Gurstein from the University of British Columbia describes a CLT in Vancouver, British Columbia that encompasses multiple sites owned by a single, multi-sector development partnership. The approach captured by Gurstein’s case study enables more-expensive rental units to subsidize lower-rent units, thereby ensuring both financial stability and a mix of incomes across the portfolio.

These essays document key ingredients of mixed-income CLTs in which residents have meaningful voice, power, and leadership—places where inclusion and equity are more than just words in a vision statement. Those ingredients include strong multi-sector partnerships, active governing boards, collaborations between government officials and non-profit representatives, and investment by social finance institutions. The essays also illustrate the necessity—and the complexity—of achieving a mixture of housing tenures that are sustainable over time and underscore how important it is for practitioners, policymakers, advocates, developers, and funders to support expansion and capacity building within the CLT movement.

Multi-sectoral Partnerships for Social and Affordable Housing: The Community Land Trust Portfolio Model

  • Penny Gurstein, University of British Columbia

Read the Gurstein essay.

Penny Gurstein headshot

Dr. Penny Gurstein is Professor and immediate past Director at the School of Community and Regional Planning and the Centre for Human Settlements at the University of British Columbia. She is founding Director of the Housing Research Collaborative a community of housing researchers, providers and policy makers focused on understanding systemic impediments in the housing system and the development of models to address housing unaffordability. She is co-chair of the Pacific Housing Research Network and a registered member of the Canadian Institute of Planners. Dr. Gurstein has been appointed to the Board of Commissioners of BC Housing Management Commission from 2018 to 2021.

Community Land Trusts: Combining Scale and Community Control to Advance Mixed-Income Neighborhoods

  • Emily Thaden, Grounded Solutions Network
  • Tony Pickett, Grounded Solutions Network

Read the Thaden and Pickett essay here

Emily Thaden headshot

Emily Thaden, Ph.D. is the Director of National Policy & Sector Strategy at Grounded Solutions Network, which is a national nonprofit membership organization consisting of community land trusts, inclusionary housing programs, and nonprofits that create and steward housing with lasting affordability. Her relevant research has been published in Housing Studies, Urban Geography, Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Social Science Quarterly, Shelterforce,and numerous reports published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. She received her masters and doctorate in applied community research from Vanderbilt University and her bachelors from New York University. She is also currently on the Board of Commissioners for Nashville’s housing authority, the Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency.


Tony Pickett headshot

Currently serving as Chief Executive Officer for the Grounded Solutions Network, Tony Pickett has been described by collaborators as innovative; thinking about and achieving equitable outcomes in a comprehensive and cross-disciplinary manner. Under his leadership Grounded Solutions is advancing a new racial equity focused agenda for its policy and capacity building work, to increase the scale and impact of housing programs with lasting affordability. Tony is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Architecture, Art and Planning with a more than 35-year professional career as a successful architect and shared equity affordable housing development practitioner.