This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
It wasn’t long ago that people working middle-class jobs — school teachers, firefighters and electricians, for example — could afford to buy a home in Utah. Squirrel away money each month and soon you’d have enough for a downpayment on a modest one- or two-bedroom house.
Those days are gone — but at the same time, homeownership remains a key in this country to building wealth.
The Tribune recently reported on one possible solution to this conundrum: community land trusts. With community land trusts, a non-profit or local government owns the land, but people with moderate incomes can purchase or build a house on top of it. Leases are generally issued for 99-years and restrictions are put in place to cap how much the home can be sold for — ensuring that the property remains affordable forever.
Here are three takeaways from that report.
The idea is gaining popularity across the country and in Utah
The Tribune found five communities across the state that were considering or had already established community land trusts. From Moab to Park City, trusts that allow non-profits to create perpetually affordable housing are popping up.
Land trust homes can be a stepping stone
Advocates of community land trusts note that the limited equity homeowners build can help them purchase a home on the free market if they decide to sell.
Community land trust homeowners might not get as large of a return on investment as traditional homeowners. But when a family decides to sell a home in the trust, they will likely still see their investment grow, advocates say. The next buyer also benefits.
Unlike other home affordability programs, more than one family is helped out in the long run.
Creating a community land trust is a lengthy process
It takes several years to actually create a community land trust and there are a lot of steps involved. A city or group must create a non-profit entity to administer the trust and finding or buying land remains a challenge. Sometimes a developer or individual donates land, or a city can look to abandoned lots.
Plus, finding lenders and financing the unconventional ownership model can be tricky.
For additional information on community land trusts readers can visit Grounded Solutions Network here.
People across Utah can find loan information and assistance at the Utah Housing Corporation page here.