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  • Overview
  • Increasing Housing Supply
  • Dedicated Funding Sources
  • Land Use Regulation and Approval Reforms
  • Inclusionary Zoning
  • Regional Housing Target Enforcement
  • Ending and Preventing Homelessness
  • Systems-Level Racial Equity Analysis
  • Emergency Response Resources
  • Housing First
  • Master Leasing
  • Household and Community Protections
  • “Just Cause” Eviction Laws
  • Anti-Gouging Rent Regulations
  • Strategic Code Enforcement
  • Community Benefit Agreements
  • Community Power-Building
  • Community Ownership
  • Alliance and Coalition Building
  • Community Organizing
  • Tenant Organizing
  • Opportunity and Wealth
  • Mobility Assistance Programs
  • Rent Reporting
  • Reparations
  • Fair and Equitable Appraisals
  • Acknowledgments
  • Community Ownership


    Since the 2008 recession, large investors have rapidly purchased rental properties to turn into profits. At the same time, rents have risen sharply and housing has become less affordable and accessible to marginalized communities. In 2021, large investors bought nearly one-quarter of single-family homes sold. Many of these purchases displace lifelong residents of these homes. Moreover, BIPOC renters and residents are disproportionately affected by this displacement.  

    Community ownership is a tool used to shift power back to residents by enabling them to purchase land or buildings in their neighborhoods with the support of partnering organizations and additional resources. Tenant opportunity to purchase (TOPA) and community opportunity to purchase (COPA) policies are examples of community ownership policies used to maintain housing affordability and enable wealth-building through homeownership. Both types of policies aim to offer tenants the opportunity to purchase their home first before it hits the rental market at an inflated rate. 

    When successfully executed, these policies can diffuse power from the rental market and large corporations and redistribute autonomy back to residents. By doing so, they allow people to choose where they live by allowing them to remain in prosperous neighborhoods, keep their homes affordable, and build wealth. 

    Land trusts are another effective tool used to purchase homes on behalf of tenants to preserve affordable housing. Community land trusts (CLTs) are typically democratically governed organizations that acquire land to meet community needs. A CLT creates a ground lease that requires that the homes remain affordable and accessible to low-income renters or buyers in perpetuity.  

    Community ownership seeks to center people’s experiences and redistribute power to advance housing justice. Redistributing power away from large investors offers the opportunity to decommodify housing and assert it as a human right. Community ownership maintains autonomy within the community and positions residents to make decisions about how and where they live. 

    Examples of This Strategy in Action

    • In 1980, Washington, DC, enacted its first TOPA bill. The policy gave tenants a pathway to ownership and control of their homes. A 2013 report found that the bill helped preserve nearly 1,400 units of affordable housing in the District between 2003 and 2013. The bill plus a local housing trust fund have led to the creation of 4,400 limited-equity co-op units across 99 buildings. DC has also taken extra steps to ensure housing affordability by enacting the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA). DOPA allows the city to buy property if tenants decline the opportunity. 
    • San Francisco, which has faced significant displacement and affordability challenges, enacted the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act in 2019. This act gives qualified nonprofits the right of first offer and right of first refusal to purchase some properties in the area. COPA laws are helpful in high-cost, low-inventory markets like San Francisco. To scale the work, the city is committing $3 million to help nonprofits build capacity in areas where tenants face dire threats of being displaced. As part of this investment, three trusted community-based organizations—MEDA, the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, and Chinatown Community Development Center—are providing models for other nonprofits. 
    • Montgomery County, Maryland, requires that tenant associations, the county, and its public housing agency be given the right of first refusal to match an offer to buy rental housing built before 1981. When the county or the housing agency obtains property, some or all of the units may be reserved for low- or moderate-income households.  
    • California has a network of CLTs in place. As of 2022, CLTs in California represented 3,500 residents and 1,500 housing units in 21 counties across the state. 



    Next intervention: Alliance and Coalition Building