By Keyshawn Davis
Editor’s note: Tamika L’Ecluse will join Solving Sacramento as a guest speaker at the Suds & Solutions (and BBQ!) event, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31 at The Brickhouse Gallery & Art Complex. Register here to attend.
Sacramento Community Land Trust serves under-resourced, historically discriminated communities: Black, Indigenous, refugee, undocumented, low income, youth with disabilities and LGBTQ+ people are all prioritized.
The nonprofit organization’s primary objective is to preserve affordable housing in perpetuity, especially in communities of color. For the first time since its founding in 2017, SCLT has appointed an executive director: Tamika L’Ecluse.
L’Ecluse, a long-time Sacramento resident, spoke about SCLT’s role when it comes to affordable housing for minorities, and the need for coalition building to make change happen.
Tell me about your organization and how it relates to Sacramento’s affordable housing crisis?
We offer a third option, if you look at homeownership as a three-legged stool. There’s traditional homeownership, where you work to save some money, work with your banks and get a loan and you have a mortgage that you’re paying off. Another way to own a home is a rent-to-own model — you can slowly build up to homeownership. We make housing more affordable through a community-ownership model, where we separate the value of the land from the value of the structure.
For Sacramento Community Land Trust, we are really focused on folks on low income, anywhere between 30% to 80% of the AMI [Area Median Income]. … We really focus on folks who’ve been traditionally run out of the homebuying process, whether it’s redlining, whether it’s banks not loaning. [We focus on] communities that have been historically disinvested in. We really are intentional about prioritizing people who have not had access and the support and the resources to buy homes.
What do you see as the major factors driving lack of affordable housing in the Sacramento region?
I think our elected leadership has a lot to do with the lack of housing affordability. If we had folks, like the previous members that ensured inclusionary housing prior to 2008, on the council today, we would be sure to further our commitment and our responsibility to affordable housing.
If we had more electeds [and] more policymakers who said: No, we’re not going to let you come into our city and fill it up with short-term rentals. No, we’re not gonna let you just build market rate and put a few pennies into a fund to say that you’re supporting affordable housing. No, we’re not gonna let you come in and force people into foreclosures, force people into conservatorships. We’re gonna protect our folks. If we had leadership that said no to those things, I think we’d be in a much different spot. We would have seen the increase in homelessness not be so dramatic.
What do you see as the most promising solutions to addressing the issue of housing affordability?
It’s going to be the people putting enough pressure on the elected. That’s also at the ballot box. [We] have an election coming up in 2024. There might be some housing ballot measures that come down from the state. There could be some measures that could make passing affordable housing policies a little bit easier. We really do as people, institutions, have the power. We can call our representatives.
The business folks, the chambers and the accountants, Realtors and the property business improvement districts, they are not afraid to get on the phone with the mayor. They are not afraid to write letters. They’re not afraid to get all their allies and get all their coalition members to sign onto a letter and to send messages to say “stop this progress” or “we’re opposing this.”
We have to organize as residents, organize as communities. I think that there’s an opportunity for more coalition building in this next year. Some of our partners and some of our allies, as well as SCLT, recognize we can’t do this work alone. As many partnerships and coalitions and webs of support that we can build just makes our case stronger.
What more can you tell us about these solutions and why they offer the most potential to solve the problem?
With inclusionary housing … the data was already there. … We know that it works. It might not be something that all the business interests or developer interests want. It’s something that our residents need. But because we’ve seen the numbers, we know that was a proven way to ensure that affordable housing was built. I think it’s pretty solid.
What limitations around these solutions exist?
Funding, money, that’s the biggest challenge. I think without a secure, dedicated source of funding, a lot of housing programs just aren’t as strong as they can be because there isn’t that dedicated source of funding. Voters right now, according to some of the polls, are a little bit wary of spending more being taxed more for some of these solutions. … We just have to get a lot more creative for these solutions to really get to the scale to where we can see a lasting impact. And that’s what I’m hoping for in 2024 is that we can find some ways to bring some resources to Sacramento to make these solutions really work.
This conversation has been edited for length, flow and clarity.
This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the James B. McClatchy Foundation. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.