Buffalo's Fruit Belt community is celebrating its first block of community-controlled land and soliciting members to help support the Community Land Trust.
The Fruit Belt Advisory Council (FBAC) and the Community First Alliance hosted a neighborhood celebration Saturday afternoon at the Moot Center on High Street after City Council President Darius Pridgen announced that the City of Buffalo will transfer 50 vacant properties to the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.
The Fruit Belt Community Land Trust was formed in 2017 in response to neighborhood concerns that current residents of the historically African American neighborhood would be displaced or priced out amid development spurred by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The Community Land Trust will own the land and will issue 99 year leases to any individual or developer who wants to build on the land. That gives the Community Land Trust control over the new development that happens in their community, and they can make stipulations for things such as affordable housing.
India Walton is the first vice president of the Fruit Belt Advisory Council and has been working to make the Community Land Trust a reality. She says the idea of a land trust is "revolutionary" in Western New York.
"For this area, we depend on outside developers to come in and do community development, but this is development that's actually coming from the community and is controlled by the community," Walton said. "So it's kind of a radical idea but it's also a great thing that community will be able to determine our own vision for our neighborhood and what we want to see for the future."
Organizers also used Saturday's celebration to conduct a membership drive in support of the Community Land Trust.
Fruit Belt residents, for-profit enterprises, anchor institutions, and other stakeholders can contribute to the land trust by becoming full-fledged members. The annual membership fee for Regular and Supporting Members is $25 and $100 for anchor institutions and for-profit enterprises.
Walton says the formation of the Community Land Trust and this transfer of vacant properties is a victory for the Fruit Belt community.
"We have elders who would like to be able to age in place," Walton said. "We have young families with children who love this neighborhood because there's still a strong sense of community. Our children still play outside together and play football in the field. So it just means they'll be able to maintain a spirit of unity in the place where they've already existed."