How they work to build home ownership

The model is attractive in Utah, where homeownership has become out of reach for many middle-class families.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Arroyo Crossing homeowner and artist Kari Taylor Schreck was able to choose many features of the home she shares with her husband, including the color, May 16, 2023. The Arroyo Crossing housing development, The acreage, owned by the Moab Area Community Land Trust, provides sustainable, affordable housing for working Moab families and individuals who could not otherwise afford a home.

This story is part of the Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to finding solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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It wasn’t long ago that middle-class people — school teachers, firefighters, and electricians, for example — could afford to buy a home in Utah. If you spend every month, you’ll soon have enough for a down payment on a modest one or two bedroom house.

Those times are over – but at the same time, home ownership remains a key to building wealth in this country.

The Tribune recently reported on a possible solution to this conundrum: community land trusts. With community land trusts, a non-profit or local government owns the land, but middle-income people can buy it or build a house on it. Leases are typically for 99 years and restrictions are put in place to cap the sale price of the home – ensuring the property remains affordable forever.

Here are three takeaways from this report.

The idea is growing in popularity across the country and in Utah

The Tribune found five communities across the state that were considering or had established community land trusts. From Moab to Park City, foundations are springing up that enable nonprofit organizations to create sustainable, affordable housing.

Land Trust Homes can be a stepping stone

Community land trust advocates point out that the limited equity homeowners build can help them buy a home on the open market if they decide to sell it.

Community Land Trust homeowners may not experience as high a return on investment as traditional homeowners. But if a family decides to sell a home in trust, their investment is likely to grow anyway, proponents say. The next buyer also benefits.

Unlike other home affordability programs, it helps more than one family over the long term.

Establishing a Community Land Trust is a lengthy process

It takes several years to actually start a community land trust and there are many steps involved. A city or group must form a nonprofit organization to administer the trust fund, and finding or purchasing land remains a challenge. Sometimes a developer or an individual will donate land, or a city can use abandoned lots.

Additionally, it can be difficult to find lenders and fund the unconventional ownership model.

For more information on community land trusts, readers can visit the Grounded Solutions Network here.

Those living in the Moab area can visit the Community Rebuilds website here and the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah website here.

Salt Lake County residents can find Neighbor Works Salt Lake resources here and information about the city’s homebuyer program here.

People across Utah can find credit information and support here at the Utah Housing Corporation site.

Justin Scaccy

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