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Manchester housing organizers establish a community land trust in the city

Housing organizers of the Manchester Housing Alliance Land Trust filed papers last week for the group to become a nonprofit.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Lemay
Housing organizers of the Manchester Housing Alliance Land Trust filed papers last week for the group to become a nonprofit.

A new effort is underway to expand affordable housing options in Manchester in the form of a community land trust. The organizers behind it say it would be the first of its kind in the city and would give tenants more decision-making power over their housing.

The Manchester Housing Alliance Land Trust, founded by a group of housing rights organizers, took its first steps last week to register for its nonprofit designation.

Brandon Lemay, one of the organizers of the Alliance, said the trust would purchase land, or apartments or multi-family homes — living arrangements in which residents would manage the building and collectively decide about the trust’s future. The housing would be based on a limited equity co-operative model, with residents owning the co-operative and paying membership fees for shared expenses in a way that preserves the units’ long-term affordability.

“Your units are going to be helping families and it's going to be affordable forever,” said Lemay, who organized the Alliance with other Manchester community leaders, including Rep. Kathy Staub.

A spokesperson of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, which tracks community land trusts across the country, said as of 2022, there were previously no community land trusts in Manchester that include communal housing as part of their models. According to their records, there are two community land trusts that include communal housing: the Cold Pond Community Land Trust in Acworth, and the Monadnock Community Land Trust in Wilton.

Lemay said to his knowledge, this is the first community land trust of its kind in Manchester. He hopes the trust can provide the city with a long-term alternative for affordable and equitable housing.

“We’re trying to do the opposite of what’s happening right now,” he said. “I find the current tenant-landlord dynamic to be very undemocratic, so I'm just really excited to be able to provide a more democratic solution to housing.”

Lemay said he and other members of the Alliance are speaking with other land trusts across the country, including the Champlain Land Trust in Burlington, Vt., to learn more about designing sustainable communal living models.

Lemay said more than a dozen people have already expressed interest in joining the trust. The group hopes to buy their first plot of land in the city within the next two years and have six to eight units available.

Jeongyoon joins us from a stint at NPR in Washington, where she was a producer at Weekend Edition. She has also worked as an English teacher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, helped produce podcasts for Hong Kong Stories, and worked as a news assistant at WAMC Northeast Public Radio. She's a graduate of Williams College, where she was editor in chief of the college newspaper.
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