FAQ Plan of Consolidation
Meet the Integration Task Force:
Member Webinars: During the month of May, the Task Force conducted informational webinars regarding the proposed integration.
Frequently Asked Questions: Plan of Consolidation
- What’s happening with the Network and Cornerstone Partnership?
- What would this new organization do?
- What are the long-term goals of the organization?
- Where do Community Land Trusts fit into this organization?
- How can we be sure that the new organization will continue to advocate for and support community land trusts?
- Why are the Network and Cornerstone considering this integration?
- How would the new entity be governed?
- What will be the role of membership?
- What will happen to the staff?
- How and when did this conversation start?
- Has a decision already been made to combine with Cornerstone Partnership?
- How will the decision be made and what is the timeline?
- Who is Cornerstone Partnership?
- Who is Capital Impact Partners?
- How has member feedback influenced the negotiations?
- Are funders pressuring the Network to combine with Cornerstone?
- Have we considered merging with another organization?
- How are the interests of Community Land Trusts firmly being incorporated in the new organization?
- Will the mission of the new organization continue to specifically meet the interests of Community Land Trusts?
- Will the new organization’s inherent mission include advocating for the land trust ground lease model and financial programs for both land trusts and their homeowners?
- Is there be a possible compromise to the revisions to the bylaws so that all references to the mission of community land trusts are not eliminated?
- Could the merger be structured so that the community land trust network is retained, possibly as a subsidiary of the new entity?
- Do you have further questions about this?
Representatives of Cornerstone Partnership (Cornerstone) and the National Community Land Trust Network (Network) have been engaged in discussions since last October about whether it makes sense to formally integrate our work and consolidate our efforts into a new organization.
After many productive conversations, the two organizations have crafted an exciting vision of how to join the energy and expertise of both entities into a single organization focused on promoting equitable and inclusive communities. We believe a consolidated organization will be more efficient in delivering services and can have greater impact on this multi-faceted issue.
Consolidation will entail Capital Impact Partners spinning off its Cornerstone Partnership program (Cornerstone) to the existing National Community Land Trust Network (Network) organization and, in the process, transferring specific assets to the Network, including HomeKeeper. The combined entity will continue existing programs and services that they have been providing, as well as launch new programs and services and a new organizational structure and identity.
The work of this new organization will focus on preserving individual and community assets for low- and moderate-income households, and advancing policies that promote equitable development and housing opportunity, with special attention to the role that lasting affordability plays in preserving housing choices and preventing displacement. More specifically the organization will:
- Provide Support to Communities of Practice. In order to effectively bring about change, we will actively support housing practitioners and policy makers to strengthen, sustain, and grow their impact. We will support Communities of Practice focused on community land trusts, the broader set of sponsors of shared equity homeownership, and inclusionary housing practitioners. The services and resources will continue to be practitioner-informed and advised to ensure relevance and impact.
- Convene and Support a National Coalition. We will convene and actively support a national coalition of organizations that contribute specific expertise in strategies that promote inclusion, such as inclusionary housing, community land trusts, fair housing, housing trust funds, land banks, and grassroots organizing. This group will work with local organizations and governments and coordinate assistance to communities in order to maximize impact.
- Advance a Strong Policy Infrastructure. We will advocate for changes in policy, funding, and financing that currently limit the spread and implementation of inclusive housing strategies.
- Maintain a Robust Knowledge Sharing Platform. We will conduct research and provide public agency staff, nonprofits, and community advocates with ready access to data, results, and best practices.
- Implement an Effective Communications Strategy. We will lead a thoughtful media and communications campaign to focus on the values behind the coalition’s work of promoting inclusive and equitable communities, while at the same time raising the profile of successful inclusive communities to show the rest of the nation that more equitable growth is possible and worthwhile.
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3. What are the long-term goals of the organization?
The long-term goals of the organization are to:
- Reframe the national conversation about “housing issues” as issues about equality, opportunity, access and social justice
- Support the work of practitioners in community land trusts, deed restricted housing programs, and other shared equity programs and ensure that public funding and policies prioritize lasting affordability in the affordable housing sector
- Help shift local debates about growth and development to conversations about community control of development and its benefits
- Empower communities to apply policy tools that preserve economic diversity and tap into market growth to foster diversity where it is missing
- Further the adoption of sound inclusionary housing policies that have real impact on the number, type, and location of housing opportunities for people at all incomes
- Support successful local campaigns in high visibility municipalities, using them to fuel a paradigm shift in how people think about anti-displacement and housing choice in communities.
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4. Where do Community Land Trusts fit into this organization?
Community Land Trusts retain their place within the new organization as a Community of Practice and CLT members will continue to enjoy access to:
- Technical assistance grants and expert consultants who can work directly with members to enhance programs and impact
- Practical tools and resources that support program improvement, scale, and sustainability
- Results of research to identify and disseminate best practices and respond to information gaps in the field
- Trainings that lead to skill development, new ideas, and networking opportunities
- A national conference that fosters best practices and innovation, advances scale, and forges partnerships and relationships
- Peer networks through informal avenues for information sharing and learning.
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5. How can we be sure that the new organization will continue to advocate for and support community land trusts?
While the new organization will serve a broader set of organizations, CLTs will still have a forum to learn from each other and advocate for their unique interests. We also think that a larger and stronger organization will be in a better position to support those conversations and advance that advocacy. And we trust CLTs will continue to use their strong voice to make sure we do! Just as the Network always has, the new organization will rely on active engagement of members to set direction and priorities. Both at the conference and in volunteer committees and working groups, CLTs will have an opportunity to work together to identify their shared priorities within this expanded membership.
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6. Why are the Network and Cornerstone considering this integration?
Greater Organizational Sustainability
The Network and Cornerstone Partnership have worked closely together for several years. We have increasingly found more commonalities than differences in our work. We collaborate with Cornerstone on several projects including the Policy Action Committee meetings, state and local policy strategies to increase permanently affordable housing, stewardship standards and technical assistance resources. While the collaboration has been great, it has required a lot of time and resources to ensure that we are not duplicating efforts. If we continue on two individual trajectories, we see increased competition and duplication, while together we see strength and efficiency.
To be successful in the long term, we need to ensure the Network’s financial sustainability. Member dues make up a very small percentage of our revenues and, as every nonprofit knows, foundations seek new and innovative programs. We believe that there is a strong and growing interest among potential funders in strategies that build more inclusive communities and very few models that have been as effective as CLTs in moving this agenda forward. We believe that this new framing and the broader constituency that Cornerstone brings will enable us to significantly grow our foundation support.
Greater Impact on Policies that Affect Your Work
We believe this integration will help us achieve our policy goals and remove barriers to financing and funding for our members. The CLT community is relatively small and our collective number of homes and other community assets are limited. This small base has significantly constrained our ability to impact policy decisions. As a community of practitioners, we have not been very effective at securing policy changes to support an approach that has produced only 10,000 units. Though each of those units means so much to the people we serve, it doesn’t make a big impression on national lawmakers. At the same time, we have a hard time increasing the impact and number of CLTs without those policy changes. In order to make real headway on needed policy changes to allow CLTs and permanent affordability to be successful–like access to first mortgage lenders– we need a much louder voice and a larger sector of practitioners and allies. Put another way, our tent needs to be bigger.
Increased Number of Permanently Affordable Homes
After years of making incremental progress in promoting permanently affordable housing while the need grows exponentially, we think it’s time to re-examine our approach. We all know that access to affordable housing in high opportunity areas is a prerequisite for healthy, diverse communities with a rich social fabric. Without public policy to promote this goal and controls to ensure long-term affordability, diversity and economic mobility will be lost. The most effective public policy approach involves changes to local planning and zoning codes, revenue strategies to generate the resources necessary to create new affordable housing, and investment in community control of land.
Our work will support local communities to implement strategies that promote lasting affordability with tools such as community land trusts, land banks, housing trust funds and inclusionary programs. By joining forces with Cornerstone Partnership, we believe that we can increase the number of successful long-term affordable homeownership and inclusionary housing programs around the country and thereby increase the number of permanently affordable homes.
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7. How would the new entity be governed?
The organization will have a voluntary Board of Directors consisting of between 9 and 15 individuals composed of:
- A minimum of 40% of seats on the Board will be filled with representatives of a Community of Practice, which is a group of practitioners with a shared domain of interest and a desire to interact with and learn from their peers. The Board of Directors will establish policies defining the Communities of Practice, which will include but not be limited to (a) Community Land Trusts, (b) Shared Equity Housing Programs, and (c) Inclusionary Housing Programs. The Community of Practice Board representatives will be elected by the membership.
- One Board representative will be appointed by Capital Impact Partners.
- At-Large Directors will be elected by the Board.
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8. What will be the role of membership?
- Members of the new organization may be either individuals or organizations and will pay dues based on a schedule approved by the Board of Directors.
- Members will have voting rights with respect to a portion of the board representatives, approval of changes to the bylaws, and dissolution.
- Members will elect a minimum of 40% of the board through Community of Practice representatives.
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9. What will happen to the staff?
Both the Network and Cornerstone Partnership have highly skilled and capable staff. All staff will be offered an opportunity in the new organization that is best suited to their skills and the needs of the organization.
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10. How and when did this conversation start?
This integration discussion began late in 2013 with an invitation from Cornerstone to talk about deeper coordination. Cornerstone approached the Network, in part, because the Network’s board had made the strategic decision earlier in 2013 to extend its services to a wider range of organizations that implement permanently affordable housing program. After soliciting feedback and thoughts from members through an open webinar in March 2014, and over lunch at the 2014 National Conference in Cleveland, the Network had its first formal meeting with Cornerstone Partnership on May 1, 2014.
Beginning in October 2014 the Network board formed an integration task force to conduct formal discussions with Cornerstone Partnership and its parent organization, Capital Impact Partners. The goal of the task force has been to determine if an integrated entity could better meet the goals we’re trying to attain, and, if so, develop a formal proposal to present to both of our boards and the Network’s members.
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11. Has a decision already been made to combine with Cornerstone Partnership?
No. After due deliberation, the Network board unanimously endorsed a plan that they strongly believe is in the best interests of the members and the organization. Members will have the chance to vote on this question in May.
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12. How will the decision be made and what is the timeline?
- Following intensive deliberations, the task force of Network and Capital Impact board members and staff developed the Plan of Consolidation.
- The Network Board voted unanimously to recommend the Plan of Consolidation to the members.
- Network members will vote electronically over a 2-week period: May 27 through June 10.
- In order for the consolidation to take effect, the Network’s bylaws must be amended. Members will receive detailed information explaining the proposed changes to the bylaws, along with a link to an electronic ballot. Each organization is entitled to one vote. To establish a quorum, at least one third of our Members must cast votes. For the ballot to be approved, at least two thirds must vote in the affirmative.
- If the membership votes “Yes” the Network and Capital Impact Partners Boards will vote on final resolutions for consolidation.
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13. Who is Cornerstone Partnership?
Cornerstone Partnership is a peer-to-peer network for housing professionals dedicated to keeping homes affordable and communities strong in the long-term. It is a program within a large community development financial institution called Capital Impact Partners.
- Focuses on affordable homeownership, connecting community-based organizations (e.g., community land trusts, limited equity co-ops, deed restricted housing programs) with local governments and other stakeholders.
- Provides technical assistance to cities, helping them implement policies to meet their housing goals, and to advocates, helping them promote adoption of Inclusionary Housing ordinances where there is a clear need.
- Manages the Cornerstone Homeownership Innovation Program (CHIP), helping a select group of 10 nonprofit affordable homeownership programs identify and bring to scale best practices across the industry. CHIP is funded through a federal Social Innovation Fund grant, and many of the CHIP grantees are also Network members.
- Developed and launched HomeKeeper, a software application designed specifically to facilitate and improve the day-to-day work of homeownership program staff. HomeKeeper also provides a national shared-measurement data platform which provides for individual and aggregate social impact reporting The Network has collaborated with Cornerstone to promote the adoption of this software, providing HomeKeeper Adoption Grants to select members in order to grow our national data.
- Since their launch in October, 2010 (4 years after the Network’s founding in 2006), Cornerstone has grown to more than 1,200 members, including 18 National Outreach Partners (e.g., Housing Partnership Network, NeighborWorks America, National Community Land Trust Network, Habitat for Humanity International, the National Association of Realtors, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, among others). Cornerstone’s membership structure is different from the Network’s–their members are practitioners, policy makers, advocates, consultants, and other housing professionals who support their stewardship principles but do not pay dues and have no voting rights.
- A significant majority of the Network’s members are also Cornerstone Partnership members.
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14. Who is Capital Impact Partners?
Capital Impact Partners (Capital Impact), which currently houses the Cornerstone Partnership program, is a leading nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI), founded in 1984. Their mission is to help people and communities reach their highest potential at every stage of life. As a leading CDFI, Capital Impact has deployed over $2 billion in capital nationally across underserved segments, including education, health, healthy food, and housing, as well as managing peer learning networks that help to bring local innovations to scale nationwide.
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15. How has member feedback influenced the negotiations?
Through a variety of feedback opportunities, we have heard some consistent messages from members that have influenced the final proposal.
What matters most to members about the Network are the primary services we provide, including research and policy, capacity building, the annual conference and timely news. Many people mentioned the importance of the membership structure, the mentoring opportunities provided and the sense of community among the members, as well as the fact that the Network represents the voice of CLTs. The proposal before the members embodies what members told us matters most:
- CLTs will remain a focus in the new organization with the same kinds of programs and resources currently available, including the national conference. We will continue to conduct and disseminate research on best practices and innovations; advocate for policies that support permanent affordability, and provide technical assistance, tools and resources.
- We will continue to operate with a membership structure.
- Practitioners will find a community of practice where members provide peer support and the roots, values, and principles of community land trusts are maintained.
Members also suggested that a combined organization might present opportunities for a greater, more powerful advocacy voice, access to capital, enhanced funding and new relationships, a stronger, more stream-lined organization and the opportunity to learn from different types of housing practitioners. We believe that this combined organization will generate new support and new opportunities to influence how our communities develop:
- Our voice for policies that support our members’ work will be more powerful and impactful by representing many thousands more units that are part of inclusionary programs and share many of our policy concerns.
- The combined organization is designed to lead to new relationships with land banks, housing trust funds, and inclusionary programs, through the national coalition work.
- The inclusive communities lens will likely open doors to new funders that will support permanent affordability because of its impact on preventing displacement and revitalizing neighborhoods.
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16. Are funders pressuring the Network to combine with Cornerstone?
No. Both Cornerstone Partnership and the Network receive substantial funding from the Ford Foundation, which has indicated their strong support for this integration. While the Network is in a secure financial position currently, the decision to pursue integration conversations comes from both organizations’ boards seeing the potential for greater impact as well as the need for greater sustainability.
The Network is in the strongest position in its history to effect change. With increased staff, new funding and expanded membership, we have the opportunity to make a bigger impact than ever before. With this strength we are in a better place than ever to spread to a wider audience of housing and community development practitioners effective stewardship practices, as well as promote the wealth of knowledge and best practices that members have helped us build over the years. During our 2014-2016 strategic planning process, the board determined that to fully achieve the Network’s mission and ensure organizational sustainability, we need to expand our reach and recommended exploring formalizing our relationship with Cornerstone Partnership.
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17. Have we considered merging with another organization?
No, the Network has only looked at integrating with Cornerstone Partnership (versus other organizations) because of our close partnership and the overlap of our organizations’ missions. Because this decision is motivated by similar values and programs served rather than financial necessity, we are not looking at organizations other than Cornerstone Partnership.
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18. How are the interests of community land trusts firmly being incorporated in the new organization?
The interests of community land trusts are firmly incorporated into the new organization through the bylaws, purpose, board and staff composition and programs.
Bylaws and Purpose: the revised bylaws of the National CLT Network, which will serve the new organization, include support for organizations that ‘create and preserve permanently affordable access to land and homeownership and rental opportunities for people with low incomes,’ and specifically name community land trusts among the ‘communities of practice’ that will have board seats and be the recipients of organizational services. The new organization will continue to be a membership organization, with members voting on some board seats, being able to suggest nominations to the board and having a vote in bylaws changes.
Board: The bylaws specifically set aside at least one board seat for each of the three communities of practice mentioned in the bylaws: community land trusts, shared equity housing programs and inclusionary housing programs. In reality, organizations may overlap these three communities of practice. Practitioners will make up at least 40% of the board members. It is likely, especially in the beginning of the organization’s new operations, that more than 40% of board members will be practitioners. (The National CLT Network’s current board has about 60% practitioners.) The CLT Network has expanded its membership in recent years to allow organizations that support the mission, but do not explicitly identify as community land trusts, to be members. The new organization continues this expansion. While the bylaws establish specific minimums for inclusion of CLTs on the board, the ongoing involvement and interest of CLTs as members of the organization will be a key to making CLT interests heard.
Staff Composition: Each current member of the two organizations’ staff will be offered a role in the new organization. We’re conducting a staff assessment with the help of an outside consultant, so staff roles may shift in the future. We anticipate that the new organization will have staff that is expert on community land trusts, as we do already, on a continuing basis.
Programs: The program of the new organization will expand on the work currently being done by the CLT Network and Cornerstone Partnership. As you’ve seen in various communications, there has been a fair amount of overlap and coordination between the two organizations already. Technical assistance, research and policy work promoting CLTs and access to resources will be strong part of the new organization.
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19. Will the mission of the national organization continue to specifically meet the interests of community land trusts?
As noted above, the key elements of the new organization will interact to continue a strong focus on the interests of community land trusts. The organizational documents and structure promote CLTs as a core focus of the organization; the staff and programs that are currently in place and will continue promote CLTs as a core focus of the organization; and the continued ability of CLTs to be members of the organization will promote CLTs as a core focus of the organization.
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20. Will the new organization’s inherent mission include advocating for the land trust ground lease model and financial programs for both land trusts and their homeowners?
Yes, the inherent mission of the organization continues to include strong support for community land trusts and ground leases as the mechanism for ensuring permanent affordability. The work of the new organization will be an expanded agenda that includes developing a national coalition to support inclusive communities. Our vision is that expanding the understanding of the need for inclusive communities and the tools that promote them, including permanently affordable housing through CLTs,will work to support CLTs and ground leasing in ways that will enhance our specific work with CLTs. A look at the agenda of the Policy Action Committee that the CLT Network and Cornerstone have been jointly running gives a good indication of what you can expect in the future: pursuing FHA mortgage insurance for CLTs, expanding Fannie Mae support for CLT leasehold mortgages through encouraging Fannie to incorporate CLTs mortgages into its desktop underwriting, and prioritizing work with HUD to make sure CLTs can access HOME funds for housing subsidy. We expect the capacity building for newCLTs and creating the resident ambassadors program that was made possible by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development funding to continue. We also recognize that CLTs need tools beyond expertise in ground leasing and mortgage financing to expand their influence and work locally; for example,expanding the capacity of local groups to influence policy around transit oriented development has been a recent focus of the Network. The new organization takes a ‘both and’ approach to supporting CLTs and other permanently affordable housing programs: continuing support for the specific aspects of CLTs,such as ground leasing and stewardship, while expanding the policy conversation locally and nationally to create the environment in which CLTs can thrive.
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21. Is there be a possible compromise to the revisions to the bylaws so that all references to the mission of community land trusts are not eliminated?
The revised bylaws that you have seen have been approved by the board of the CLT Network and are being put out to Network members for a vote, so there is not room currently for changes to the new bylaws draft. There are some changes to the bylaws where specific references to CLTs were removed, in order to include permanently affordable housing programs, such as those that use deed restrictions for inclusionary housing, in the organizational mission. The intention of those changes was to expand the work of the organization, not remove the CLT mission from the organization. As noted above in question #1, many aspects of the new organization – members, board, staff and programs in addition to the bylaws – will assure a continued support for CLTs and ground leasing. We anticipate that there will be regular review of the bylaws in the future, as for any nonprofit, and needed changes could be brought forth then if the needs of CLTs are not being met.
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22. Could the merger be structured so that the community land trust network is retained, possibly as a subsidiary of the new entity?
The integration task force of the Network and the joint negotiating team of the Network, Capital Impact(parent organization of Cornerstone Partnership) and Cornerstone, considered several options for integrating the work of Cornerstone and the Network. While there were areas of the negotiations where the decision made was a bit of a compromise between the organizations, the Network task force was strongly supportive of one integrated organization, the position ultimately taken by the joint negotiation team. We believe that the needs of CLTs will be best served by expanding our influence through coalition building in addition to the specific policy advocacy, research, technical assistance and capacity building for creating and sustaining CLTs that is part of the current Network and will continue in the new organization. Our assessment was that separating out CLTs, through something like a subsidiary structure, would run the risk of marginalizing CLTs in the new organization. The needs of CLTs should be integrated into the work of the entire organization. The ‘communities of practice’ defined in the new bylaws – which include CLTs, other shared equity homeownership programs and inclusionary housing – are not mutually exclusive entities. There is tremendous overlap in the work of organizations currently supported by the Network and Cornerstone, with some CLTs using ground leases, some deed restrictions, and some both. Some inclusionary housing programs define themselves as CLTs, while others do not, even though they incorporate permanent affordability. There are a number of other ways that members are organized and prioritize their work. We believe that the work defined for the new organization – providing support to communities of practice, convening a national coalition,advancing strong policy infrastructure, implementing an effective communications strategy, and maintaining a robust knowledge sharing platform – requires staff and board to work together and across organizational types to develop and promote a consistent message and framework. Certainly some staff will be expert in one area versus another, but we believe much of the power of the new organization will come from an integrated approach to promoting equitable and inclusive communities.
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23. Do you have further questions about this?
We welcome your questions and encourage members to learn more about the plan and be prepared to vote starting May 13. If you have thoughts or concerns about this process, please contact Network Executive Director Melora Hiller at Melora@cltnetwork.org or any of the integration task force members: