Born and raised, the new Londoner wants to change the city from within

New London native Clayton Potter works on the garden behind the house he owns on Prest Street on Wednesday June 29, 2022. Potter is the first landlord with a new Southeastern CT Community Land Trust program and is also the landlord, renting the half of the duplex. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London native Clayton Potter walks through his flat on Prest Street on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Potter is the first landlord with a new Southeastern CT Community Land Trust program and is also a landlord, renting half of the duplex. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London native Clayton Potter walks through his flat on Prest Street on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Potter is the first landlord with a new Southeastern CT Community Land Trust program and is also a landlord, renting half of the duplex. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London native Clayton Potter works on the garden behind the house he owns on Prest Street on Wednesday June 29, 2022. Potter is the first landlord with a new Southeastern CT Community Land Trust program and is also the landlord, renting the half of the duplex. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London native Clayton Potter walks through his flat on Prest Street on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Potter is the first landlord with a new Southeastern CT Community Land Trust program and is also a landlord, renting half of the duplex. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London – Clayton Potter was 23 when he bought his first house on Prest Street as part of a grassroots initiative to promote affordable home ownership by separating the land from the house on it.

“My dad had always kind of raised us with the mindset of being ready to buy properties,” Potter said. “He says ‘buy land, they don’t earn anymore’.”

He didn’t quite follow his father’s advice. The Southeastern Connecticut Community Land Trust owns the land; Potter owns the house.

The stately 1870 stone house with a mansard roof cost him $135,300 when he bought it from the community land trust in early 2020. He was the first owner to join the nonprofit group’s mission profit to keep homes affordable in perpetuity.

“Stone house, I fell in love,” Potter said. The bay window in the third-floor kitchen, with views of the New London skyline and even a stretch of river on a clear day, sealed the deal. It closed on Valentine’s Day.

He asked the group’s volunteer painters for green walls in the kitchen to reflect the gardens outside and lavender in the living room to soak up the sunset.

Potter, now 26, grew up in a house a few blocks from Pleasant Street. His parents are still there. He said he never thought of living anywhere but New London.

He works at Connecticut College as Director of Race and Ethnicity Programs. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of New Haven. Its foundation grew out of the New London school system: Harbor Elementary, Bennie Dover Jackson Middle and New London High School.

Acknowledging that his new neighborhood was known as a hotbed of criminal activity while he was growing up – and remains to some degree today – he said he wanted to be part of the solution instead of leaving it to the people. out-of-town investors. who would rather gentrify the neighborhood than clean it up for those who live there now.

“We can choose to let these stories and stereotypes exist, or we can try to do something about it and change it,” he said.

The community land trust model, pioneered over 50 years ago by Robert Swann of the Voluntown Peace Trust as part of his broad commitment to social justice, has spread around the world. It was first used in the late 1960s in Albany, Georgia for black sharecroppers who had lost their homes and jobs for registering to vote.

The land is held in trust by the community – in this case, members of the Southeastern Connecticut Community Land Trust. The shared equity framework is based on a 99-year renewable ground lease that allows the owner of the home to live in it, make improvements, build equity, and make a limited profit when it comes time to sell the home. .

Under the terms of the lease, the landlord gets 25% of the appreciation while the community land trust uses its share to keep the price down for the next buyer.

Potter said the $775-a-month rental income from the first-floor one-bedroom apartment is keeping his own mortgage payment low and will help him reach his goal of saving for another multi-family home, he said. -he declares.

“I would like to own more properties here in New London eventually, since I’m from here,” he said. “I don’t want outside developers to keep coming in and doing things halfway.”

Potter pointed to the success of local non-profit affordable housing group HOPE Inc. which renovated or built 18 homes on Belden Street during a decades-long campaign that transformed the neighborhood. But he fears that many two- and three-family homes in the area will be bought by absentee owners or homebuyers who will drive up prices and drive residents away.

He said his daily walks downtown, which take him along Bank Street and up State, have left him disenchanted with what is happening in the city in terms of development. A recent wave of construction has targeted young professionals from Electric Boat, Pfizer and the area’s healthcare industry through high-end one and two-bedroom units.

“It’s not for the people who are here,” he said. “It’s not for New Londoners.”

e.regan@theday.com

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