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Culture » Take Me Home

Community Land Trusts to Help Housing Affordability


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As a realtor, I regularly come across literature about home unaffordability due to rising prices and inventory shortages. A big component of the problem is the rising price of land and the type of home a builder needs to build in order to make a living off of a project. As is the case with tiny homes, zoning and HOA restrictions on minimum home sizes and styles are impediments to building smaller, more affordable homes. It seems the only viable land for affordable housing is in the county or not in the Urban Growth Boundary, and zoning and development restrictions on that land make it not suitable. I've recently been researching community land trusts and was impressed with what I read about successful models, particularly one in Burlington, Vt.

Community land trusts are nonprofit or public organizations that develop affordable housing on land held in trust by that organization. The trust retains ownership of the land and the buyer pays a lease fee on the land, which protects the trust's investment in the land. With land costs often being 30 to 40 percent of the price of a home, this allows a buyer to afford a home by only borrowing on the structure. The homeowner can sell the property and make a small profit and recover the down payment, some equity and the cost of improvements. The trust keeps the rest of the money to provide for future buyers. This setup fosters pride of ownership and community and allows the original subsidy to be passed down to a future buyer.

The largest and most successful community land trust is the Champlain Housing Trust. It's located in Burlington, Vt., and was started in the 1980s with $200,000 seed money from the city's municipal budget. The trust's annual operating budget is $10 million and every year it generates about $100 million used to manage properties, make loans and develop new housing. A total of 80 percent of the income is from fees and rents that people pay or from developing new housing. The other 20 percent of the budget comes from grants and donations. Its website states it manages 2,200 apartments and stewards 565 owner-occupied homes in its shared-equity program. The population of Burlington is a little over 42,000 people.

It seems that there may be some use for something similar here in Bend or that something can be learned from the practices of the trust to help our local situation. Locally, smaller scale, but active programs in Portland include Proud Ground, which has provided affordable housing since 1998.

Champlain Housing Trust

Proud Ground

About The Author

Nick Nayne, Principal Broker

Principal Broker at The Broker Network Realty in Bend, OR. Over 12 years experience in Real Estate working with buyers, sellers and investment properties.


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