Anatomy of a Partnership
So far, Kent County has invested NSP money in 15 homes. As homes are sold, proceeds are returned to Kent and made available for the acquisition, development, and sale of more homes. While Diamond State CLT proactively approached all of the NSP sub-recipients in Delaware and formed partnerships with several, why has the Kent County relationship taken root and grown so effectively?
First, Diamond State not only offered its experience with purchase/rehab/for-sale using NSP and other funds, but it also offered to take a lead role in administrative implementation and nonprofit partner facilitation, easing Kent County’s anxiety around program success and accountability. For Kent County, a jurisdiction that was open but unsure about the NSP program, this emergence of a seasoned collaborator proved attractive and motivated it to move forward.
Second, finding ways for both entities to work from respective places of strength built immediate trust and clarified roles. For example, Kent County did not have prior experience in navigating the details of federal housing programs other than using Community Development Block Grants for owner-occupied home repair. Diamond State built on Kent County’s experience and jumped at the county’s offer to use its personnel to write rehab specs and bid jobs through their existing approved contractors and processes. In turn, Diamond State, alongside Kent’s Planning Division, took the lead on identifying suitable homes and investigating properties aligned with the project’s overall budget.
Third, through Diamond State, Kent County caught the vision of how CLTs provide a long-term affordable housing solution and exponentially increases the return on investment of public funds. This ensured that Kent County’s move on behalf of its low-income residents would both have immediate results and be remembered as a turning point in the county’s commitment to affordable housing.
“Diamond State is not only working to build a substantial inventory of permanently affordable homes statewide, it’s also a leader in the national effort to make community land trust homes and long-term affordability a more common part of the American real estate market,” says Rick Jacobus, director of Cornerstone Partnership, a national effort supported by the Ford Foundation and other key funders to promote policies, funding mechanisms, and new initiatives at the national level for homeownership programs that provide lasting results.
In Kent County, Diamond State’s proactive work has made believers. County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange believes the type of homeownership CLTs foster equips hard-working people with a place to call home and a personal wealth generator that also works to stabilize the community.
“When opportunities are provided for hard-working citizens who may not otherwise be able to afford such a purchase, it literally can be life changing,” he said. “As homeowners build equity in their homes, other opportunities, such as the ability to borrow to fund an education or to enable a retirement in the future [emerge]. There is also a sense of belonging to the larger community that comes along with homeownership that has to do with an improved quality of life overall. This project provides that, while helping preserve and maintain neighborhoods that would usually decay due to largely absentee landlord housing.”