Affordable Home Opportunity Announced

Photo: Creative Commons

Source: Amherst Community Land Trust

An affordable home ownership opportunity in Amherst is now available through the Amherst Community Land Trust (ACLT).

An income-eligible family, selected through a lottery, will identify a home to purchase in Amherst and ACLT will provide $125,000 toward the purchase price. ACLT will own the land, and the homebuyer will own the house and have exclusive use of the land with a 99-year, renewable ground lease. By owning the land, ACLT will ensure that if and when the family chooses to sell the home, it will be available and affordable for another low-income family.  This program is open to people with incomes that do not exceed these limits:

  • 2-person household – $53,850
  • 3-person household – $60,600
  • 4-person household – $67,300
  • 5-person household – $72,700

Applications are open now and are due by November 30 but interested families should apply early because additional paperwork may be needed. The selection process and lottery are being managed by Valley Community Development Corporation (Valley CDC), and complete information is available on the Valley CDC website or by contacting Donna Cabana at (tel 413.586.5855 x180).

This program is paid for with Community Preservation Act funds from the Town of Amherst.

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9 thoughts on “Affordable Home Opportunity Announced

  1. FYI, Jim Oldham, I talked to a resident of Southpoint while canvassing last month. She had heard about this opportunity, but when she found out the owner/buyer would not own the land, she was no longer interested. She seemed to think it was not a fair/equitable situation. I wonder if this is a common way of creating affordable housing (another entity owns the land)? When coming up with this plan, did the ACLT talked with low-income folks about whether they would be interested in a deal like this?

  2. one of the things I learned is that with this arrangement it eases some of the tax burden for the property owner, so that when taxes increase as they tend to do, the burden that is passed on to the homeowner is lessened, hopefully leading to sustainable affordability.
    what i did not ask about was use of the surrounding land… which i do think is an important question
    I think this is one model for creating affordable homeownership
    I think other models have buydown programs or downpayment assistance.

  3. This land lease program deducts the price of the house lot ($125,000+ in Amherst) from the cost to
    purchase a property, roughly 1/3 discount to the buyer.

  4. It’s not unusual for people to own dwellings without owning the land beneath them. One familiar example is a condominium. Other structures, too, are sometimes built by their owners on land they lease. In Amherst, one recent example is the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. It built its fine new building just a few years ago, on land leased from Hampshire College. The Amherst Community Land Trust is just one of many such non-profit organizations in this country that make it possible for people of modest incomes to share in the benefits of home ownership, investing less money up front and saving on local property taxes every year.

  5. I’m hearing folks say that this is a great opportunity for low-income individuals. But I haven’t heard anyone say that you have talked with actual low-income individuals to find out what they think. This is an element of public service that I think is sorely lacking in Amherst – Amherst folks like to do things on behalf of and in service to low-income/marginalized/less fortunate people, without spending enough time talking to those groups about their wants, needs, and values. Please know that I am not criticizing the actions of the Amherst Community Land Trust; I am suggesting ways to truly engage with the people you want to serve.
    “Nothing about us without us” is a motto that came out of the disability rights movement – it’s the idea that no decisions or actions should be made regarding disabled people without their input. I think it can and should be applied to all areas of activism and public service. Talk to the people you want to help, to learn about what’s important to them and what would truly be helpful.

  6. I agree with Jennifer, engaging with the people we serve/help is key.
    This model doesn’t much limit the use of the land, but does reduce taxes and the initial buying price. In addition, the new house owners will be part of ACLT, have an opportunity to sit on the board and the exclusive opportunity to select their own board reps, plus they may get help with maintaining the house, both monetary and expertise. Being part of the CLT also provides a lot of opportunities of engagement, as ACLT-s short history already shows. Being a member of ACLT, I know some about the needs and challenges of all our residents which is really useful because those are very different from my own needs/challenges. And the engagement is constant and long term, in many ways ensured by owning the property together. In that way ACLT is not a likely co-owner: it is bound by its mission of increasing the stability and diversity of the neighborhood and town.

  7. In response to Jennifer Page’s very valid concern as to whether low income persons have a voice in ACLT, at least three of ACLT’s founding members, two of whom served on the Board in its formative years, were low income, and believed that the land trust model is worth developing in Amherst, as one of a set of tools for promoting affordable home ownership. To assure that our ongoing discussions and decisions continue to reflect the needs and desires of low income residents our Bylaws require that one third of the Board members be owner-resident members of ACLT.

  8. Jennifer, I am a later comer to this post… but, I serve on the ACLT board and wanted to let you know that I greatly appreciated your comment.
    We are a small, all volunteer membership run organization with no staff, but even so… we need to work harder to stay accountable.

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