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Annual Report

Fruit Belt
Community Land Trust

ANNUAL REPORT

What is a community land trust?

A Message from Our Executive Director

Stephanie Simeon

In 2021, when I partnered with the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, it was to help maintain programming for the good people of the lower east side. By that point, I had amassed almost 20 years of affordable housing experience and was more than excited about helping the CLT increase capacity so they could live out their goal of preventing displacement. The idea of keeping housing permanently affordable is a game changer and I am glad I have the opportunity to play a part in making this a reality for the Fruit belt.

I encourage you to take the time to read about all the amazing things that have been happening at FBCLT. Before you dig in, I wanted to share a few facts based on questions I have received from our newer members and folks that are generally interested in what a Community Land Trust is.

For starters, our Land Trust is set up as a not-for-profit corporation that can use our financial resources to acquire parcels of land in and around the Fruit Belt with the intention of retaining ownership of these parcels forever. The new homeowner owns the home (sometimes called the improvement) on a parcel, and the land remains in the Community Land Trust, thereby making the home more affordable. The goal is to acquire and retain land in the trust for the community and never sell it. Therefore providing a very long-term lease of land, typically 99 years, for the exclusive use by individual homeowners. Then we offer a deed (right of ownership) for the building or structure on trust land.

Land in a CLT can be used for many things—farming, small businesses, community facilities, community gardens, rental housing, cooperative housing, and homeownership. One of the most unusual things about a CLT is that we have the ability to separate the ownership of land from the ownership of the improvement on that land. This separation of land and building allows homeowners and businesses to have control and security as owners, while the community has a backstop to ensure that when the land changes hands, it stays affordable and in community-serving uses.

For CLT homeowners, this means getting a below-market price on a home (land can account for 20 to 50 percent of a house’s price, depending on location) and getting support from the CLT to stay a homeowner. They get a 99-year renewable, inheritable lease on the land, so their tenure is just as secure as a typical homeowner’s. In exchange, they agree to restrictions on how much they can resell the property for, according to a formula that will let them build some equity but will also keep the home affordable for others of the same income level.

The long-term stewardship that I have outlined above only works when the organization lasts, so to realize long-term benefits, it’s important that land trust organizations be stable and sustainable. We thank you all for your continued support and ask that you always consider the FBCLT in your end-of-year giving because supporting us supports long-term sustainable communities.

Message from the Board President

A Reflection of Katherine “Kat” Massey, Our Woman Warrior

Today we of the Fruit Belt Neighborhood endeavor to acknowledge the Good Work of Katherine Massey, Our Community Activist.

Katherine Massey

Sister Kat is Our Activist in the City of Buffalo, New York, and more specifically the Fruit Belt, Cherry Street where she resided for decades.

Cherry Street morphed into a highway, the 33, the expressway right in front of her home in the sixties. No longer could she play safely in front of her home. One of many State legislated macro assaults on Buffalo’s Black Communities.

Her divided Fruit Belt Neighborhood cut Sister Kat from the streets of Lemon, Orange, Peach, Grape, Maple, Mulberry, and all the rest of the neighborhood. This Act of White Supremacy caused devastating suppression in economic development, housing, cultural enhanced education, and the inability to access churches and businesses.

Our Community Activist Sister Massey initiated the improvement of the crossover to ensure the residents and children could cross from one side of the obstruction, Cherry Street to the Fruit Belt.

Sister Kat spoke in front of the Buffalo Public School Board meetings, fighting to improve the system and increase the resources for our students and parents.

Our Sister Kat worked with the Restoring Our Community Coalition, restoring parts of the expressway, a long and laborious process. Advancing combat with the intrusion of the Buffalo Medical Campus, encroaching of Fruit Belt homeowners and Residents.

Sister Kat has been on the battlefield fighting for justice and equality for a while, the War is still on…

Our Katherine Our Woman Warrior has crossed over to be with our ancestors. Kat is gone but elevated to a higher level, leaving a legacy of Good Work that will continue through the lives of her contemporaries and the young men and women she has touched and motivated.

The stewardship task will go on.

As stated in Matthew 25:23, Katherine Lord said to her as she crossed over, Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things enter into joy of your Lord.

Our Warrior has fought the Good Fight. Sister Kat, you have finished the race. Kat, you have kept the faith.

We Warriors have the mantle. Now it is time for Justice, for the 10 who transitioned with you on Saturday, May 14, 2022, including the families and this Beloved Community.

Justice is the only acceptable outcome,

NO JUSTICE NO PEACE.
So Be It.

This is a short list of the Community Organizations in Katherine Massey’s Fruit Belt Neighborhood:

  • Cherry Street Founder and President, Katherine Massey
  • Fruit Belt Home Owner and Tenant Council, the oldest organization in the Fruit Belt
  • Fruit Belt Advisory Council
  • Fruit Belt Community Land Trust
  • Fruit Belt Coalition
  • Fruit Belt United
  • Fruit Belt Friendly Block Club
  • Fruit Belt McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force.
  • Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers
  • Teen Challenge

In Peace Love and Blessing,
Elverna Gidney
President, Fruit Belt Community Land Trust Inc.

2019-2020

Highlights

In 2019 the FBCLT received a total of $875K in grant funding from Enterprise Community Partners and Catholic Campaign for Human Development. FBCLT’s work plan was to commit to the following:

  • Develop an asset management and sustainability plan.
  • Construct two single-family homes for households with up to 80% average medium income (AMI) in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Buffalo.
  • Acquire and rehab five single-family homes for households up to 80% AMI.
  • Acquire five vacant lots earmarked from the City.
  • Support the development of the Executive Director and consult with an organizational development specialist.
  • Support operating expenses.

2019-2020

In 2020, India Walton, FBCLT’s previous Executive Director, resigned to run for mayor of the city of Buffalo. The organization contacted Stephanie Simeon, Executive Director of Heart of the City Neighborhoods, to complete and comply with current grant demands and achieve a long-term partnering work plan between both organizations.

2021 – 2022

Highlights

In 2021, FBCLT accomplished the following:

14

Homes Rehabbed

2

New Homes Built

9

Vacant Lots Purchased

  • We have more than 30 active members
  • We raised an additional 250k in capital.
  • Rehabbed 9 homes under the Owner-Occupied Rehab Program; which was a mix of single-family and double units (11 units in total). The final cost in rehab including soft cost: $675,000.
  • Completed a 5-year Strategic Plan.
  • Hired a Director of Operations.
  • Implemented policies and procedures manual for Board governance and training.
  • Completed the first phase of the “Lemon Street Community Garden”, a social community garden at the corner of Lemon and Carlton Streets.
  • Raised $20K to support the victims of families, employees, and surrounding residents of the Tops Massacre.

2022

Currently

As part of the strategic planning process, FBCLT stakeholders, both internal and external, were engaged via interviews and an online survey for their thoughts on FBCLT and its work for the next three years.

While respondents had a range of thoughts on what FBCLT’s primary purpose is, they overwhelmingly felt that there was a strong need for an organization like FBCLT. Common themes that interviewees raised were that FBCLT was a tool to preserve affordability, prevent displacement of long-time residents, and create generational wealth, especially for Black residents.

The Future

Feedback

Stakeholders were asked which programs and services should be a priority for FBCLT.

Strongly Supported

  • Shared equity homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers
  • Opt-in Owner-occupied home rehabilitation
  • Advocacy and Organizing around anti-displacement strategies and policies
    • Stakeholders also suggested that work happen in coalition and partnership with other groups, especially given current capacity

Mixed Feelings or Low Priority

  • Permanently affordable rental housing
  • Rent-to-own opportunities

Could be carried out by other groups

  • Repair and Weatherization programs for homeowners
  • Financial literacy classes, credit repair services, and homeownership workshops

The Future

Results

FBCLT identified key focus areas and strategic objectives to guide its work during the 2022-2024 period. This roadmap will provide the framework for decision-making, work plans, and further program development. It will also answer the question of who FBCLT is, what we do, and how we respond to and positively impact their community. These focus areas include:

  • Education and Outreach
  • Development without Displacement
  • Fund Development
  • Operational Capacity and Systems
  • Board Development and Engagement