Decatur Land Trust presents plans to separate from Legacy DecaturMembers of the Decatur Land Trust and the city's Affordable Housing Fellow Kristin Allin met with the City Commission on Monday, May 17, to discuss incorporating the Land Trust as an independent, nonprofit corporation. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — The Decatur Land Trust is seeking to become an independent, nonprofit corporation. Land Trust board members and Decatur’s Affordable Housing Fellow Kristin Allin presented plans for the Land Trust during the City Commission work session on Monday, May 17.
The Decatur Land Trust was created a couple of years ago and five board members were appointed by Legacy Decatur in 2019. Legacy Decatur is the board that oversees Legacy Park, the former United Methodist Children’s Home property on South Columbia Drive. The Land Trust has always planned to become a stand-alone nonprofit and it is ready to move forward with the process.
“I see this as being actually a bit more autonomous than perhaps what we see with the Legacy project but still I think the ability to compete for grants and external funding is an important piece to me by having that separation,” Mayor Patti Garrett said.
Through the land trust, the city will be able to acquire property through a purchase or donation and facilitate the development or preservation of affordable housing. The entity would also maintain the ground lease for the affordable units in order to keep the affordable over time as the units are re-sold and rented.
“This method, which is done through deeds, leases, lots of legal documents and a little hocus pocus thrown in, would enable the property to remain affordable in perpetuity so therefore we see this as a way to minimize displacement, invite new residents to come into Decatur that are of low and moderate income and to provide for a permanent affordability,” Decatur Land Trust Acting Chair Linda Curry said.
The Decatur Affordable Housing Task Force also recommended last year a way to increase the funding for the Land Trust.
“The Task Force recommends a Housing Opportunity Bond be issued at a minimum amount of $5 million to fund the [Land Trust’s] operations, acquisition and development activities,” the report says.
In addition to focusing on affordable housing, the Land Trust would also focus on home ownership, Curry said.
“We feel like this is one of the most important tools that Decatur could have to enable us to have more affordable housing and to focus on equitable home ownership,” Curry said.
The Land Trust plans to continue to work in partnership with Legacy Decatur and the city but the goal of the trust would not be only limited to the Legacy Project but would be able to have affordable housing throughout Decatur.
“By being a separate entity the Decatur Land Trust will have the ability to apply separately for funding, to accept donated land and homes, to purchase property and enter into contracts to preserve affordability of property, to partner to construct new housing, and also once we have our homeowners we’ll need to steward them both on homeownership and what it means to be a homeowner in a lot of cases,” Curry said.
The Land Trust has three pending projects in progress including the cottage court project at 230 Commerce Drive, which is still in the planning stages.
The project was announced in 2016 but was delayed due to negotiations with the Georgia Department of Transportation over the design of the entrance on Commerce. Skyrocketing construction costs also stalled the plans because of the city’s goal of keeping the homes affordable at less than $250,000, Decaturish previously reported.
The cottage court project is a small group of small, detached homes centered around a shared courtyard. It is slated to include four to six homes.
Another project the Land Trust is working on is a few units of affordable housing at 108 Park Place, the former AT&T training center in Oakhurst. The third project is three to five tiny homes that will be scattered around the city, Curry said.
So far, the Land Trust has established its initial board members, drafted articles of incorporation and bylaws, and written the mission, vision and value statements. The board is also in the process of drafting a business plan. The Land Trust plans to give a presentation to the Legacy Decatur board at the end of the month and the Legacy Decatur board is expected to vote on the incorporation in July.
After getting approval from Legacy Decatur, the Land Trust’s next step would be to apply for a 501c3 status.
The City Commission and the Land Trust will work out details on the relationship between the two entities.
“Our interest would be in having a very tight relationship with the city so figuring out how to do that correctly is going to be part of the program,” Decatur Land Trust board member Alan McNabb said.
Garrett added that as the city begins to work through the recommendations from the Affordable Housing Task Force, it’s exciting to see the movement and progress. She said the progress the city is making is a good indicator that the city is taking the recommendations from the Affordable Housing Task Force seriously.
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