Community Land Trusts Make Homeownership Accessible

The organizations sell homes to low-income buyers at rates far below market prices, putting homeownership within reach for more families.

1 minute read

September 27, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View of Seattle skyline with houses in foreground

Frank Fell Media / Seattle, Washington

An article by Josh Cohen in Next City describes how community land trusts are helping low-income Seattle families become homeowners. Organizations such as the Homestead Community Land Trust and Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County make homes available at costs much lower than the median home price, which in the Seattle area is currently $855,000.

“Like any other homeowner, land trust homeowners get to live in their home for as long as they want (and as long as they’re able to keep up their mortgage payments). It doesn’t matter if their income increases or the household size changes, the home is theirs.” As a trade-off, if the homeowner does decide to sell, they must do so at a restricted price—meaning that their homes are prevented from appreciating at the same rate as market rate houses.

For many, the tradeoff is worth it, as “community land trust homeowners almost certainly could not become homeowners on the open market in Seattle, so it’s equity they would not have otherwise built as renters.”

The article describes the history of the community land trust model, which was first created in Georgia in 1969 and has roots in anti-displacement activism. Today’s land trusts are evolving the model to mitigate rising land costs, in some cases by building duplexes and other multifamily housing types.

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