Buffalo, NY

How Buffalo's Fruit Belt Community Land Trust Will Help Communities

Synthia Stark

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After India Walton's historic win as the first female and socialist mayor of Buffalo, New York, a lot more people in the world learned about the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.

You see, she is its founding executive director and did a lot of hard work for the community.

India's Background Story

India Walton was born and raised on Buffalo's East Side. She was one of six children and became a full-time working mother at the age of 14. While pregnant, she earned her GED and later on, gave birth to premature twins.

These events lead her to become a nurse in the very same NICU where the lives of her boys were saved.

As a former healthcare worker, she had championed the rights of patients and workers. She continued serving as a nurse for the Buffalo Public Schools and witnessed the health disparities which caused her to want to change the system.

She became a community organizer for Open Buffalo and learned a lot about criminal justice reform and fair housing.

Thus, this set into motion the events that lead to the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.

The Neighborhood

The Fruit Belt is a historically Black neighborhood and has about 2600 residents on Buffalo's East Side. The names of each street are derived from names of orchards plants by early German immigrants from the 1800s.

When the area fell into disrepair, it juxtaposed well-tended homes with abandoned and vacant dwellings and urban prairies.

Developers wanted to continue the expansion of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC). During this time, more and more longtime residents sold their homes and moved out. Others were pushed out because the cost of rent was too high.

Residents feared displacement and gentrification.

Here's a video that explains what gentrification means:

India Walton was a registered nurse at one point. When she worked at the Children's Hospital, she learned more about the situation involving rent and gentrification. The area was very different from her earliest childhood memories.

Thus, community land trusts are supposed to combat things like gentrification, cost of living, rent, and so much more.

Fruit Belt Community Land Trust

According to the website of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, community land trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit organizations that are governed by many people, such as:

  • Public representatives
  • Community residents
  • CLT residents

This specific CLT is all about working together to provide opportunities for families and communities. This CLT wants to create lasting community assets and shared equity homeownership opportunities.

To summarize, they want to make these processes easier, especially for struggling families. This CLT is 1 of 225 in the entire nation.

How It Helps

Through this CLT, a dedicated community can develop:

  • Urban and rural agricultural projects
  • Affordable rental and cooperative housing projects
  • Commercial spaces to serve large communities
  • Land and urban green space conservation

The main point of this CLT is to create permanent and affordable housing, particularly for lower-income families (for many generations). Thus, successful homeownership opportunities are important here.

Thus, this specific CLT can help with:

  • Purchasing vacant land
  • Rehabilitate and develop land
  • Sell homes at lower costs

Veggie Van Study

For now, the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust is still looking for feedback from people in the Fruit Belt Area. There may be a chance to win a $90 gift card. The survey in question is their Veggie Van study.

They plan to use this information to help inform ongoing and future projects, so it's clear that it's for a good cause.

You can see their poster on social media:

Here's to hoping that the residents of Buffalo, New York, including those in the Fruit Belt, are able to find more happiness and stability in their lives. In the meantime, CLTs seem to help many families, particularly those who are struggling to make ends meet.

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