Formed in 2020 as a project of Inland Equity Partnership, Inland Equity Community Land Trust (IECLT) is focused on providing affordable rental and ownership housing in Riverside and San Bernadino Counties. IECLT believes that one of the primary drivers of poverty is housing and by providing affordable homeownership possibilities, communities can create generational financial stability.

IECLT believes that communities can create their own answers to poverty and use their voice to work with the city and the state to make these solutions a reality. IECLT convenes with community members, listens to their solutions and works with elected officials to bring these possibilities to fruition.

“We didn’t start with a funder, we started with the community,” IECLT’s Executive Director, Maribel Nunez said. “It took a lot of work and it’s worth it. The community can come up with their own agenda to help build community wealth.”

According to HUD, families who pay more than 30% of their income for housing are cost-burdened and likely to have difficulty paying for daily necessities. More than half of California renters are considered housing cost-burdened and just about anyone could be on the HUD list for affordable housing, Nunez said.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization had to shift its focus from creating new housing to helping struggling communities stay in their current homes. IECLT advocated for the needs of renters, focusing on the CARES act money and surveying communities to see where those monies would have the greatest impact. The organization was able to advocate for rental assistance with a focus on making it accessible to everyone.

In the meantime, the organization continued to fundraise and reach out to local officials to find locations for permanent, affordable housing. Traditionally there have been more funds available for affordable rentals, but IECLT believes there could be more focus on homeownership. At the state level, the California Community Land Trust Network, of which IECLT is a member, is advocating for this change and eliminating the barriers to accessing it.

Recently, IECLT received a Community Impact grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization is actively seeking support for its projects. Community members interested in supporting this work can become a member or donate through their website.

In 2021, IECLT was approached to consider 20 acres of land in Adelanto for permanent, affordable housing. The organization connected with the surrounding community and applied for grants to begin construction. Community leaders and residents have been very supportive of the project, according to Nunez and there has been interest from officials from other cities including Riverside and Jurupa Valley in implementing something similar.

IECLT has closed escrow on the land in Adelanto and hopes to break ground in six months to a year from now. Plan Adelanto will be the first property developed by the IECLT with 8 homes built in two phases. IECLT will work with the county to connect with families waitlisted with HUD for affordable housing options. According to Nunez, the waitlist is extensive and most on the list have been waiting many years for openings.

Ultimately, IECLT envisions serving renters by lower their housing costs and giving them a path to homeownership. The organization also wants to then make affordable housing available to anyone who would like to own a home in the trust. IECLT believes this will create a mixed-income neighborhood of homeowners who are invested in their community. Since the housing is held in the trust, it is guaranteed to remain affordable across generations of families.

“It’s not charity,” Nunez said. “It’s making sure the community is involved to dictate where resources go, and we are one way to help build a community to wealth.”

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This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, September 2022.

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