Fort Worth to put former seminary dorms into community land trust for affordable housing

The Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase 140 dorm units from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that it will use for affordable housing.

The city plans to hold onto the 15-acre property at West Drew Street and McCart Avenue until early 2024 before selling it to a nonprofit that will run the city’s first community land trust. The trust will hold the land indefinitely with the goal of using it for affordable housing.

The city had expected nonprofits and Tarrant County to cover $7 million of the $11 million cost, but that funding fell through, so the city is using a portion of surplus interest income to make up the difference.

Using the extra interest income to purchase the land gives the city the time it needs to hold the land while properly setting up the community land trust, said Mayor Mattie Parker at a meeting of the city’s housing finance corporation Tuesday.

She called the model an innovative solution to the city’s affordable housing shortage, in a press statement released after the meeting.

Dallas has land trust program that partners with nonprofits that sell houses built on the land to low-income and moderate-income residents.

It is one of the strategies recommended in a recent report by the city’s neighborhood services department. That report found a family making the city’s median income cannot afford to buy a median priced home. It also showed a lack of affordable housing is putting pressure on low income residents as rising home values and increasing taxes force people from their homes.

District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck thanked Parker for her efforts to secure the purchase of the seminary housing.

“It has not been an easy process, but I think where we are now provides us the most latitude to do real lasting good for our community,” Beck said.

There has been some concern from neighboring residents about a lack of communication from the city about what it intends to do with the seminary property.

Community engagement will be a part of any land trust development, the city said in a press release Tuesday, vowing to work with residents to make sure any development will fit with the surrounding neighborhoods.