In 1992, Rep. Bernie Sanders successfully secured the first-ever commitment of federal dollars for community land trusts from the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development.
“I am extremely proud that I was able to take a program pioneered in Burlington and get it recognized and supported at the federal level,” said Rep. Sanders.
As Mayor of Burlington, Bernie had fought to ensure that the city was the first in the nation to give financial support to community land trusts. As the first land trust to be directly funded by a municipal government, the Burlington Community Land Trust has been the model for land trust development in other Vermont towns, Boston and New York, and cities across the country.
In order to successfully advance the amendment, Sanders invited Tim McKenzie of Burlington to provide testimony before the Subcommittee, which was in the process of reviewing more than $34.5 billion in housing programs up for reauthorization.
McKenzie was Executive Director of the Burlington Community Land Trust from its inception in 1984 through 1992 and served as a nationally recognized expert on land trust creation and organization. Under his leadership, that organization flourished to become the first city-wide community land trust in the nation. As his testimony indicated, by the end of 1992, two percent of Burlington’s housing was in the Community Land Trust system.
McKenzie told the committee that land trusts are a cost-effective and socially responsible way of guaranteeing “continuing affordability without continuing subsidy” in housing. “In return for the subsidy required to make a property affordable in the first place, the property owner agrees to keep the property affordable for all future users,” McKenzie explained.
“When times get tough as they are now – when the rubber hits the road, as we say in Vermont – private investors just sit on their assets,” McKenzie testified in the hearing.
“The particular virtue of the community land trust is that the housing it develops is, and remains, affordable.”
McKenzie also urged that housing regulations give preference to not-for-profit housing developers when awarding grants and that each federal housing program records the economic efficiency of private versus not-for-profit developers.
Sanders introduced two amendments that would significantly advance the community land trust as a model for housing development across the country. The first guaranteed roughly $1.4 million to be set aside to provide organizational support and technical expertise for land trusts. A companion amendment guaranteed prospective homeowners could use Farmers Home Administration Mortgages to finance their purchase of land trust homes.
Sanders also successfully advanced an amendment to establish an energy-efficient mortgage pilot program as part of the FHA program.
“This amendment could make tens of millions of dollars available to home buyers to make energy-efficient improvements. Not only will it benefit the homeowners and reduce energy consumption, but it will provide a boost for those who work in the field of energy efficiency,” said Sanders.