Formed in 2020 as a project of Inland Equity Partnership, the Inland Equity Community Land Trust provides affordable rental and ownership housing in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The land trust believes that a primary driver of poverty is housing and that, by providing affordable homeownership possibilities, communities can create generational financial stability.
The trust believes communities can find answers to poverty and use their voices to work with cities and the state to make these solutions a reality. The land trust convenes with community members, listens to their solutions and works with elected officials to bring them to fruition.
“We didn’t start with a funder, we started with the community,” Executive Director Maribel Nunez said. “It took a lot of work and it’s worth it. The community can come up with their own agenda to help build community wealth.”
A meeting of the Inland Equity Partnership, San Bernardino Chapter, is seen. The organization has a project, the Inland Equity Community Land Trust, that provides affordable rental and ownership housing in the Inland Empire. (Courtesy of Inland Equity Community Land Trust)
The Inland Equity Community Land Trust is seen signing escrow documents for land in Adelanto for permanent affordable housing. From left are Gabriella Armenta, vice president of the trust’s board; Matthew Snyder, board secretary; Jeff Green, associate director; and Executive Director Maribel Nunez. A notary is also seen. (Courtesy of Inland Equity Community Land Trust)
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According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who pay more than 30% of the income for housing are cost-burdened and likely to have difficulty paying for daily necessities. More than half of California renters are considered housing cost-burdened and just about anyone could be on the HUD list for affordable housing, Nunez said.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the organization had to shift its focus from creating new housing to helping struggling communities stay in their current homes. It advocated for the needs of renters, focusing on the CARES act money and surveying communities to see where those monies would have the greatest impact. The organization advocated for rental assistance, with a focus on making it accessible to everyone.
In the meantime, the organization continued to raise money and reach out to local officials to find locations for permanent affordable housing. Traditionally, there have been more funds available for affordable rentals, but the trust believes there could be more focus on homeownership. At the state level, the California Community Land Trust Network, of which the organization is a member, is advocating for this change and to eliminate the barriers to accessing it.
Recently, the land trust received a Community Impact grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization is seeking support for its projects. Anyone interested in supporting its work can become a member or donate through their website.
In 2021, the land trust was approached to consider 20 acres of land in Adelanto for permanent affordable housing. The organization connected with the community and applied for grants to begin construction. Community leaders and residents have been supportive of the project, according to Nunez, and there has been interest from officials from other cities — including Riverside and Jurupa Valley — in implementing something similar.
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The land trust has closed escrow on the land in Adelanto and hopes to break ground in six months to a year. Plan Adelanto will be the first property developed by the organization and will have eight homes built in two phases. The trust will work with the county to connect with families waitlisted with HUD for affordable housing options. According to Nunez, the list is extensive and most on it have been waiting many years for openings.
Ultimately, the organization envisions serving renters by lowering their housing costs and giving them a path to homeownership. The organization also wants to make affordable housing available to anyone who would like to own a home in the trust. The organization believes this will create a mixed-income neighborhood of homeowners who are invested in their community. Since the housing is held in the trust, it is guaranteed to remain affordable across generations of families.
“It’s not charity,” Nunez said. “It’s making sure the community is involved to dictate where resources go, and we are one way to help build community to wealth.”
Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.