That YouTube Video You’ve Seen has a Land Trust Background

Photo courtesy of Defy Media

Over 5 million YouTube views?!

For a regional nonprofit that measures social media impact in the thousands (of connections) and hundreds (of clicks), it was quite a mashup when Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland (NHSGC) connected with Defy Media, producers of the Prank It FWD video series, in their quest to surprise a single mom by giving her the house she was hired to clean (see the video here). 

While we at NHSGC may not know how to create a video that 5 million people watch; we do understand what it takes for homeowners to be successful, and we know how to structure a community land trust property to assure that it remains an individual and community asset over the long haul.
The house you see in the video is now part of the Land Trust Program of NHSGC of Greater Cleveland. Ocwen Financial Corporation helped secure the home in suburban Cleveland Heights where Cara Simmons lives and her children are in school. Defy Media renovated it and filmed the “prank.” We’re working with Cara in preparation for signing the land lease and financial capabilities coaching to match her budget to the costs of owning, since even a “free” house comes with tax, insurance, and maintenance costs.

With the land trust land lease, Cara will be able to live in her house as long as she wishes. She can pass it on to her children when that time comes. And if she decides to sell in the future, another family will have an opportunity to purchase the home affordably. Her Prank It FWD house is part of a “pay it forward” homeownership program.

How did we get involved? Total serendipity. Casey Casseday, the Prank It FWD producer got in touch with Harold Simon at Shelterforce. After they batted around the idea, with Harold promoting the CLT concept and Casey mentioning Cleveland as one of their target cities, NHSGC got the call. 

It’s been a great partnership with Defy Media; they wanted to make sure their good deed didn’t become another foreclosure story like some other reality show home stories. In addition to fully renovating the house, they’re providing funds to NHSGC for a couple of years of property taxes as Cara adjusts to homeownership.

For us, the project gave us the opportunity to place a person in a home and at the same time shine a light on the work we do every day, from developing permanently affordable housing through the Land Trust Program, to the homebuyer education and financial coaching that are available to all of our clients.  Neighborhood Housing Services will be there as back-up support for Cara, as we are for others, long after the YouTube views die down.

Marge Misak is the Land Trust Program Director at Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, which helps families achieve, preserve and sustain the American dream of homeownership. Misak serves on the board of directors of the National Community Land Trust Network.


  1. Im glad to see this article. I think I’ve watched this video 10 times. I have worried that Ms. Simmons would be caught unprepared for the huge financial debts that homeownership can bring. Its great that someone is working with/counseling her.

    Also, while this video does bring your two organizations to light in a sweet way, it really brings to light the very hard work and stress that Cara and other people wbo do the work that we dont have time to do, want to do, or can’t do. I fall into all three categories… She deserves a great life.

    P. S. About that meal she tasted: was there a dinner that night for family, frienfs, maybe film crew? Or was she able to keep her leftovers at the least? It looked simply divine.


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