The Influence of Women in the Development of the Community Land Trust in Nashville
By: Holly Bowman
March 8, 2022
Since inception, women have played a central role in the leadership and creativity of The Housing Fund (THF). From the conceptional idea of founder Loretta Owens to the recent hires of Joanna Foust, Holly Bowman, and Nicole Mathews, THF thrives with committed women motivated to making a difference in the lives of low- and moderate-income people and communities. The longevity of Freda Brownlow, Angela Belcher, and Candice Winburn confirms a committed desire to sustainability and relevance, not to mention family ties – Hannah Belcher, Angela’s oldest daughter is now on staff. In March 2021, THF hired yet another woman committed to leading Nashville’s Community Land Trust (CLT), Alisha Haddock as Vice-President and Director of Community Impact. Her primary responsibility was and remains to develop new single-family homes primarily in the North Nashville community.
For those not familiar with the Community Land Trust (CLT) concept, according to Grounded Solutions, CLTs are nonprofit organizations and/or programs governed by a board of CLT residents, community residents and public representatives that provide lasting community assets and shared equity homeownership opportunities for families and communities. CLTs develop rural and urban agriculture projects, commercial spaces to serve local communities, affordable rental and cooperative housing projects, and conserve land or urban green spaces. However, the heart of their work is the creation of homes that remain permanently affordable, providing successful homeownership opportunities for generations of lower income families.
The development of Community Land Trust properties in Nashville represents a lot more than any single property. The concept represents how all the people who believed in the vision of a CLT in the city over the course of the last couple decades, and all the women who worked tirelessly to see it created. Also, the concept represents all there is to come for affordable housing in Nashville as THF continues to look for innovative ways create and maintain affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income individuals and communities.
In mid-February, THF sold the first property under the CLT program to a deserving low- and moderate-income homeowner. The new construction located on McKinney Avenue in North Nashville boasted a newly built three-bedroom, two and half bath, two story house with a flex space, hardwood floors and a privacy fence. For a community rich in history and culture, affordable homeownership in North Nashville has been lost to rental housing and high-end market rate homes due to gentrification. As a result, the idea of the CLT originated to ensure affordable housing is no longer lost in the community.
In 2017, the CLT began to take shape after years of discussion among community residents, local organizations, and community leaders. With city officials looking for options to create more affordable housing units through the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, two women led the charge in creating a formal plan to conceptualize the CLT in Nashville. Both former employees of The Housing Fund, Adriane Harris, then Director of Housing for Mayor Megan Barry, and Emily Thaden, VP of National Strategy at Grounded Solutions, worked closely together to outline a strategy to expand the shared-equity model.
Thaden used her background in affordable housing research to bring the idea of a CLT to the table, noting that they led to much better outcomes with affordability and foreclosure prevention than other affordable housing options. Kaki Friskics-Warren, who serves as a Commissioner on the Barnes Housing Trust Fund and a former THF board member, noted the importance of advocates and visionaries, such as Harris and Thaden, in moving the decision forward to organize a Community Land Trust.
After the city’s decision, there was significant interest surrounding this new idea, not just from nonprofits, but from the government, for-profit companies, and individuals invested in affordable housing solutions. Angela Belcher, who was serving as Director of Programs and Compliance at THF at the time, submitted a letter of intent and applied to be the leading organization charged with developing the CLT. When thinking back on this decision, Adriane Harris notes “The Housing Fund had always been the innovative partner, it is a long-standing affordable housing entity, so it just made sense.”
After THF was selected to develop the CLT, a commitment in operational funding was provided by the Mayor’s Office and with the assistance of Latrisha Jemison, a Commissioner on the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, Metro Council members approved donating 15 scattered site undeveloped properties as a starting point. Support and energy behind the CLT picked up quickly as THF was able to leverage a community advisory committee of local people to generate additional financial support and partnerships.
A primary example of this is Moody Nolan, the largest African American Architecture firm in the country, which was the first company to commit by deciding to build its nationally known philanthropic giving “Legacy House” on one of the CLT property sites. Additionally, THF hired Hannah Cassidy, an attorney at Reno Cavanaugh, and her team worked closely to clear property titles, while partnering with the Be A Helping Hand Foundation as developer of another property with a cleared title.
Unfortunately, the March 2020 tornadoes and the pandemic presented challenges and obstacles for THF, especially as building material prices increased, making it more difficult to keep the property on budget. Not only were prices an obstacle but coordinating ever-changing timelines for materials and construction was not an easy task. As a solution, Be A Helping Hand Foundation hired Maria Harris as Project Director, whose primary objective was to ensure consistent and adequate communication between the developer and THF. Harris worked closely with Alisha Haddock, who was hired early 2021 to oversee CLT development for THF.
The idea of breaking barriers with two African American women working on the CLT development in North Nashville is noteworthy. The strong commitment from Haddock and Harris to work together over the past year and working tirelessly to ensure the shared vision of the CLT came to life. “We should all be celebrating the Community Land Trust because it is one more affordable housing solution Nashville can be proud of. The CLT can help families build wealth and preserve affordability for many generations,” Haddock said when asked what her motivation was in completing this property.
The CLT homes needed a first mortgage provider to finance the first-time buyers. Pinnacle Financial Partners, a long-standing investor in THF, which stepped up in 2014 to help finance The Housing Fund’s shared equity program, expressed interested in the CLT opportunity. Carla Jarrell, the Community Development Officer at Pinnacle Financial Partners, had been at the table for many of the early conversations around what a CLT in Nashville might look like. Jarrell had advocated Pinnacle’s partnership with THF to help finance homebuyers down the line, and they were able to help the CLT’s first homebuyer.
Therefore, over time, several relationships were formed among influential women who were entrenched in affordable housing conversations that helped lay the foundation and current success of the CLT. We are indebted to so many awesome women for their commitment and passion to help build and sustain low- and moderate-income families and communities. These women were deeply involved in the journey from conversations over a decade ago that laid the foundation to prepare the city for a Community Land Trust, to choosing the organization to lead the charge, to developing the land and building the home on the property. Without these women, it is not certain that the vision for a Community Land Trust in Nashville would have come to fruition the way we can now celebrate.