Carlos Sanchez-Gonzalez, now 16, grew up in the working-class South Baltimore neighborhood of Curtis Bay. He recalls first experiencing housing insecurity when he was about 9. “My dad thought it would be better to pay the mortgage instead of the electricity, and we went four months without power,” he says.

His family spent the winter without heat, and as a result, Sanchez-Gonzalez’s father developed a bad case of pneumonia. He and his brother caught the illness, too, but the family still couldn’t afford to pay the utility bill. “It was hard to sleep at night,” he said. “We sometimes had to sleep with clothes on.”

Before the pandemic, close to half of U.S. renters were spending more than 30% of their income on housing. The spread of COVID-19 made the crisis even worse, with 1 in 4 urban families falling behind on rent, and as many 15 million currently facing eviction after the federal eviction moratorium expired in September.

When Sanchez-Gonzalez was 14, he first learned about community land trusts through Free Your Voice, a youth-led activist group at his school, Benjamin Franklin High. Such trusts are a tool that empower communities to create housing that is affordable for working families. He has been advocating for community land trusts ever since, knocking on doors across the city and sharing his story at public hearings so others don’t endure the same hardships he faced.

Read the full article about land trusts by Jaisal Noor at YES! Magazine.