Community Land Trust could help alleviate local affordable housing crisis

There has been a major push from the faith community and other community activist groups to whittle away at Hillsborough County’s affordable housing crisis that began even before the COVID-19 pandemic and recent skyrocketing rents.

Now Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman is successfully backing a plan to set up a Community Land Trust designed to put a dent in the 50,000-home deficit.

The Land Trust will use a variety of monetary sources and land sources to achieve Overman’s goal of building more affordable housing. The county commission approved the Land Trust and budgeted startup funding of $750,000. It will also offer up in-kind office space.

“Initially, we were looking for ways to continue the effort, to have more tools in the toolbox for affordable housing and making it available to our citizens,” Overman says. “The situation is critical here and we have a serious affordable housing problem. Our rental rates are skyrocketing well above the median income and people cannot afford to spend more than 30% of their income on housing.”

Overman says she aims to have the Land Trust up and running by early 2022 as the county continues to work with the nonprofit Florida Housing Coalition to appoint a board, hire an executive director, and add county surplus lands to the Land Trust.

“The land will come from a variety of sources. Initially, that will be surplus municipal lands,” she says. “Sometimes it will be abandoned properties or land sold to the county for a certain purpose that never materialized.” Some land may come through charitable gifts.

The goal is to build mostly multi-family structures near transit stops and job centers.

“We do have some developers, including National Home Partnership, that does single family affordable housing, but we need more developers.” She hopes to get them through educational training for developers and to recruit more from outside the Tampa Bay Area.

“The faster we get it done, the faster we have those opportunities where a land trust can be effective,” Overman says. “The challenge is that it takes no less than 18 months to have a housing unit ready, once you put all the pieces together.”

Overman is a Certified Financial Planner and former CEO of a fee-only registered investment advisory firm and owner of The Heights Exchange, LLC, a commercial space in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.

Learn more about Community Land Trusts.
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Read more articles by Yvette C. Hammett.

Yvette C. Hammett, a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida, has spent much of her career as a professional journalist covering business, the environment, and local features throughout the Tampa Bay Area. She is an avid camper and outdoors person who has also been involved in local events for foster children and the elderly.