J.T. Supports the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) Coming to L.A.

At the same time that calls increase on our public officials to support not luxury, but humane housing in Los Angeles, a growing number of people are also calling for more Community Land Trusts (CLTs). CLTs maintain community ownership–or shared stewardship–over land and housing, committing to permanently affordable housing options for community members.

According to Matthew Vu, a resident of South Central Los Angeles and student at L.A. Trade Tech’s Community Planning and Economic Development department, CLTs require participation from homeowners and tenants, as well as other members of the community in their governing board meetings or governing structure. Vu also notes that renters in areas covered by CLTs can work with local CLTs to acquire a property together, facilitating the process of acquisition for tenants as well as the non-profit stewards..

The first modern Community Land Trust was born in the late 1960s in Southwest Georgia, when Black farmworkers and civil rights leaders, including members of the famed Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, founded New Communities Land Trust, turning nearly 6,000 acres of land into homesteads and agricultural area, as well as providing affordable housing for Black farmers and their families on the land. As of 2019, New Communities turned 50 years old and is still operating in partnership with Black farmers.

There are now up to 225 CLTs in the United States, twelve in California, and five in L.A. County. In June 2020, the city of San Francisco passed the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, providing local CLTs there the first opportunity to purchase buildings and take them off the market once they’re on sale. At least six buildings in the Bay area at risk of being purchased by speculators have been saved by local CLTs since the law’s passage, keeping them affordable for low-income residents there.

Now, in an effort to create more for Community Land Trusts across Los Angeles County, which at 10 million residents is the largest in the U.S., CLTS in Los Angeles have formed a coalition and are urging communities to learn about the Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act. The L.A. Community Land Trust Coalition (LACLTC) is an organization of L.A.’s local trusts, “committed to the preservation of low-income communities of color by decommodifying housing, promoting education, community empowerment, the conversion of tenants to owners, and making housing a human right.”

The Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) is a proposed law that would give tenants in unincorporated areas of L.A. County the first opportunity to buy the building they live in if and when a building’s owner decides to sell the property. The five Community Land Trusts (CLTs) in L.A. County advocating to bring TOPA to L.A. include: Beverly-Vermont CLT (BVCLT) along the East Hollywood and Koreatown areas, El Sereno CLT (ESCLT) in the El Sereno community, T.R.U.S.T. in Historic South Central, Fideicomiso Comuntario Tierra Libre (FCTL) in the Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles area, and Liberty Community Land Trust for the Southwest and Mid-City communities.

Want to learn more? Check out the TOPA Town Hall hosted by the T.R.U.S.T. and Liberty Community Land Trusts this past February.

J.T.

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