AFFORDABLE OPPORTUNITY IN AMHERST FOR HOMEBUYERS

Duplex on North Pleasant Street - a joint project of Habitat for Humanity and the Amherst Community Land Trust. Photo: Amherst Community Land Trust

The Amherst Community Land Trust (ACLT), with Community Presevation Act funding from the Town of Amherst, will help two first time home buyers purchase an affordable home in Amherst.  Applicants must not have owned a home within the past three years unless they have been displaced because of circumstances such as divorce. ACLT will contribute $125,00 toward the purchase of each home.  Prospective homebuyers must meet income requirements and find a home meeting program guidelines.  Applications must be postmarked by June 15, though this deadline may be extended due to covid-19 closures. There will be a lottery to choose the households who will receive the funds.

In addition to the $125,000 purchase subsidy,awardees will get the support of ACLT in finalizing the purchase.  The land trust will own the land to keep the property affordable in perpetuity, and the purchaser will own the house itself while leasing the land on a renewable 99 year lease.  Thus, the purchase price and the mortgage, are greatly reduced.  Details of the program, qualifications, and income guidelines are listed below.

    Household Size          Income Limit

    One Person                $49,700

    Two Persons              $56,800

    Three Persons    $63,900

    Four Persons             $70,950

    Five Persons              $76,650

The Amherst Community Land Trust
ACLT is an Amherst-based nonprofit organization founded in 2014 with the aim of encouraging low- and middle-income households to purchase homes in the Amherst area and thus strengthen and stabilize year-round neighborhoods.

It promotes affordability by purchasing and holding the land beneath a house; the house itself is purchased by someone who qualifies as low- or middle-income. ACLT gives the homeowner a 99-year renewable lease on the land. ACLT’s ownership of the land substantially reduces the total sale price of a residential property by as much as half, thus making the house itself affordable for low- or moderate-income families. 

 Homeowners sign a “ground” lease with ACLT, agreeing to terms that include a formula for future resale of the house based on the original purchase price of the house. If a homeowner wishes to sell their house, the formula is used to establish an affordable resale amount. This practice helps keep the house affordable for the next generation of qualified buyers, regardless of spikes in the housing market. In effect, the homebuyer is exchanging the benefit of purchasing a home in Amherst affordably for the possibility of benefiting from a rising housing market. Many owners are glad to do so, and are also happy to see their houses remain affordable, even after they sell and leave Amherst. The perpetual affordability is maintained by the affordable resale requirement, and by ACLTs continued stewardship of the land.

The use of Community Land Trusts to provide affordable homeownership is a well-established practice in the U.S. and internationally, including many in Massachusetts. There is an international network, as well as a local network of Community Land Trusts. The Trusts support each other’s efforts to provide quality, affordable, owner-occupied homes, such as by sharing examples of land leases and homeowner agreements. 

The Community Land Trust model differs from other land trusts, however, because it focuses on affordable housing. ACLT focuses on making homes affordable in existing Amherst neighborhoods, with the related goal of sustaining neighborhoods that might otherwise become unaffordable based on rising market rates. Some programs are available only to first-time home buyers. 

Although only five years old, the ACLT has had several major achievements. It used Community Preservation Act (CPA) and Interfaith Housing funds in 2015 to purchase land from the North Amherst Community Farm, and partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build a duplex on North Pleasant Street; the duplex is now occupied by two families. Habitat vetted candidates, held a lottery, identified new owners (winners of the lottery), and constructed the building. This duplex represents ACLT’s first two holdings.

For information on applying see:
http://www.amherstcommunitylandtrust.org/projects/
The application packet can be downloaded here

Questions should be directed to Donna Cabana at Valley Community Development Corporation 413-586-5855.  Donna will help potential homeowners move through the application process.

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