A Long History with a Bright Future
Sawmill Community Land Trust (SCLT) was founded in 1996 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. It replaced the Sawmill Community Development Corporation as the development arm of the Sawmill Advisory Council (SAC), a grassroots neighborhood organization formed in 1986 to advocate for a cleaner, healthier neighborhood where the operation of a particleboard factory had created serious environmental problems. At the same time issues were occurring with polluting industries, the Sawmill area, which is located between Old Town and Downtown Albuquerque, began experiencing escalating real estate values as these areas became more desirable for housing and business. The Sawmill neighborhood was quickly becoming unaffordable for working families.
In light of these issues, Sawmill Community Land Trust worked with the City of Albuquerque to clean up and reclaim 27 acres of a former industrial site. From this effort Arbolera de Vida (Orchard of Life), an attractive masterplanned neighborhood centered on quality affordable housing, was created. A few years later, Sawmill Community Land Trust was able to secure an additional 7 acres of land directly adjacent to Arbolera de Vida. (This property was the former site of the polluting particleboard factory that had initially been the reason for neighborhood organizing.) Sawmill Community Land Trust oversaw the expensive environmental clean up of this property in order to create more affordable housing and economic opportunities for low- to moderate-income residents. Now, on 34 acres of reclaimed industrial land, there are 93 affordable ownership homes and three affordable apartment complexes set within an attractive neighborhood with community gardens, playgrounds and a plaza. Additional apartments at market rate have been built, as well as mixed use buildings for companies that are community-driven. Sawmill Community Land Trust has re-envisioned useless industrial property into a remarkable affordable community and has done the sometimes seemingly impossible work of moving this vision forward.
While Sawmill Community Land Trust continues its work in the initial Sawmill neighborhood, the community voted in 2007 to allow the organization to expand to other neighborhoods within Bernalillo County, and include four homes on Iron Ave SW in the downtown Barellas neighborhood.
Beyond simply providing affordable housing, Sawmill Community Land Trust is dedicated to being careful stewards of their growing housing portfolio; working to ensure our assets retain their quality and affordability forever.