By Micaela Erickson
The Uniondale community celebrated its newest residents with a welcome wagon on April 24. Following a complete home renovation, the Uniondale Community Land Trust was able to sell its first property and welcome its first homeowner.
The land trust is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on “community renewal, revitalization, integration and empowerment.” Uniondale was faced with a significant number of blighted homes after the 2008 recession, and a number of community members knew they needed to act. The community land trust model was a good fit for the hamlet, as it allows the organization and its board members to buy blighted or foreclosed properties, renovate them and sell them at a lower than market price to create affordable housing within the community.
The community land trust model “is a way of looking at housing holistically with a community’s economic situation,” said emeritus land trust board member Jeannine Maynard.
The organization’s president, Paul E. Gibson, said he hopes to bring innovation to the area through the land trust model. “The unique aspect of the land trust is the ability to introduce innovations into the community that may be leading edge at the moment, but we believe will be a trend for the future,” Gibson said.
The community land trust model also offers elements of housing stability and stewardship. The homebuyer owns the home itself, while the land trust retains ownership of the land through a 99-year ground lease.
According to centerforneweconomics.org, there are three community land trusts that are active on Long Island. They include the Uniondale Community Land Trust, Hempstead Community Land Trust and Long Island Partnership Housing Development Fund Community Land Trust. // Graphic by Micaela Erickson/Long Island Advocate
“The stewardship piece is what sets a community land trust apart from other housing development agencies,” said Nicole Jean Christian, executive director of the Uniondale land trust. “We have an ongoing relationship with the property owner because we own the land and they own the structure. We have an integrated relationship, not just legally, but also on a day-to-day basis where we will make sure that we stay in touch with them.”
The process of selling this first home was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the circumstances, the land trust was able to finalize the process and get the homeowner into the property at the end of March.
The Uniondale land trust’s first home before it was renovated. // Photo courtesy of Jeannine Maynard
Isabella Burckhardt, 20, an entrepreneurship major at Hofstra University and fellow with Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement, has worked with the land trust since the fall of 2019.
“I joined the organization when they were beginning the process of selecting an eligible homeowner, and now officially seeing a family enter the home and join the Uniondale community is such a full circle moment,” Burckhardt said. “It marks the beginning of the amazing impact this organization will continue to leave as they keep growing.”
The organization’s first home following renovation // Photo by Micaela Erickson/Long Island Advocate
Before the welcome wagon, land trust members gathered across the street from the Uniondale Public Library. Balloons and the organization’s logo decorated cars in the parking lot. President Gibson and Vice President Nicole Burke discussed how the event would work with attendees before lining up to drive to the home.
The caravan was led by a Uniondale Fire Department truck, making the line of cars hard to miss as it drove by the home.
A Uniondale fire truck leading the welcome wagon. // Photo by Micaela Erickson/Long Island Advocate
After arriving at the home, board members gathered outside while Gibson and Christian placed potted plants at the front door as a welcome gift for the new owner and family.
Reflecting on the organization’s accomplishments, Christian acknowledged the longstanding struggles of homeownership and housing affordability on Long Island.
“Homeownership on Long Island is a challenge at best, and the land trust model provides people with the opportunity to own affordably while allowing them to become an integral part of the community as we continue to revitalize and renew,” Christian said. “We are continuing to work to achieve the goal of preserving permanent housing affordability in the Uniondale community.”
Plants for the newest Uniondale residents. // Photo by Micaela Erickson/Long Island Advocate
Before leaving the property following the welcome celebration, Gibson thanked the board and community members for their hard work in finalizing their first housing project.
“We had the vision. We had the horsepower within our community, and this community put this together,” Gibson said. “Take a moment and celebrate, and let’s get the next [project] up.”