Metro staff recently approved Metro affordable housing bond funds for four developments that will offer affordable homeownership to 87 households. These developments will use a community land trust model in partnership with Proud Ground to provide permanent affordability that will benefit multiple generations of future owners.
Total funding for the four projects combined is about $10 million, or roughly 2% of the total bond funds. These new homes will be available to income-qualified buyers for between $230,000 and $335,000, and each will have two to four bedrooms.
Shared equity home ownership: an affordable alternative to the housing market
With homeownership at an historically high level of inaccessibility and rents continuing to climb, shared equity homeownership offers a needed alternative. This approach creates affordable homeownership opportunities for both current and future residents, by establishing restrictions on how much the owners can make from the sale of their home beyond what they originally paid. These restrictions keep the residence affordable for the next household that buys it. This affordability is typically made possible by a subsidy from a government or nonprofit. Funding for these projects comes from several sources, including Metro’s affordable housing bond.
The community land trust model is a type of shared equity ownership where a nonprofit owns the land while the resident owns the home itself. Removing the cost of the land from the price of the home is one element that increases affordability. Monthly mortgage payments for households earning 30-60 percent of area median income are set to 30 percent of their income, which keeps payments manageable for these low-income households. Research has shown the land trust model has a lower rate of mortgage delinquency and foreclosure than regular homeownership, making it a more stable option for low-income households.
Local community land trust Proud Ground will partner with developers to maintain affordability long-term and provide education and financial counseling to support first-time homebuyers. It will own the land for all four projects except Abbey Lot Townhomes, for which it will serve in a consulting role with the developers.
Proud Ground was founded in 1999 and was the first community land trust in the Portland area. It has since expanded to serve four additional counties — Clackamas, Clark, Lincoln and Washington — and is one of the largest community land trusts in the United States. Over the past 25 years, Proud Ground has assisted more than 600 households in becoming first-time homeowners. In addition to offering grant funding for downpayments, they also manage the home sale and offer support to homebuyers, both before and after they purchase their homes.
Abbey Lot Townhomes: Inner Northeast Portland
Alberta Alive is partnering with the Portland Housing Bureau on this affordable homeownership opportunity. Alberta Alive is a development initiative that aims to celebrate Portland’s historically Black neighborhoods in the North and Northeast sections of the city by providing affordable housing, supportive services, and creating community. The initiative is a collaboration between nonprofit, Self-Enhancement Inc. (a Portland-based nonprofit that has served Portland’s Black community with supportive programming for families and youth since 1981) and affordable housing developer, Community Development Partners.
The project will bring eight affordable three bedroom, two and a half bath town homes to the Alberta neighborhood. These new homes will be available to households who make up to 80 percent of area median income ($90,240 for a family of four). As part of the Portland Housing Bureau’s N/NE Preference Policy, they will be reserved for families that live in the area and are at risk of displacement, previously resided in the area or have historical connections to it. This policy aims to address the harmful impacts of urban renewal and displacement in the North and inner Northeast parts of the city.
Carey Boulevard: North Portland
Habitat for Humanity will develop 53 townhomes with two, three and four bedrooms, clustered on a site adjacent to the Peninsula Crossing Trail in the University Park neighborhood of North Portland. This development will also participate in the N/NE Preference Policy, and will include 27 homes for households with incomes at or below 60 percent area median income ($67,680 for a household of four), with the remainder for incomes between 61 percent and 80 percent AMI.
Five common areas will be located throughout the grounds, including playgrounds, community gardens, and picnic and gathering areas. The homes will have an environmentally friendly, energy efficient design, to the standards of Earth Advantages Net-Zero Energy Ready. Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to building and improving housing.
Shortstack Milwaukie: Ardenwald
This new community by HomeWork, in partnership with Sister City and Proud Ground, brings ‘missing middle’ housing to Milwaukie. ‘Missing middle’ is a scale of housing between a single-family home and a typical apartment or condominium building. This includes duplexes, triplexes and cottage courts like Shortstack Milwaukie. These designs balance affordability and maximizing available space with being responsive to neighborhood character and feel.
This development takes advantage of the Oregon Legislature’s passage of legislation in 2019, which establishes that in any city with a population over 25,000, developers can build middle housing on residential lots where previously only single-family homes were allowed. The intention of this policy was to increase housing options and affordability.
The development uses a mass paneled timber system to construct each two-story home. This construction method is better for the environment than some of the more traditional materials developers use, and also speeds up the building process. The community is designed to serve a mix of small families, couples and individuals. It’s located in Milwaukie’s Ardenwald neighborhood, which is well connected to downtown Milwaukie, schools, grocery stores, parks and transit lines. All homes will have two bedrooms and will be available to households making up to 80 percent area median income.
Oak Row at Rockwood Townhomes: Gresham
West Coast Homes and Habitat for Humanity are partnering on this eleven-townhome development in Gresham’s Rockwood Town Center area. Each home will have two bedrooms, with five reserved for households earning 35-60 percent area median income and six for households earning 60-80 percent AMI.
The site is located by amenities like grocery stores, a pharmacy, several parks including a skatepark, and nine schools within a mile radius. The community center at Hacienda CDC’s Rockwood Village apartments is just a ten-minute walk away, providing a hub for social activities. Habitat for Humanity will host at least two information sessions about homeownership readiness and the application process to purchase a home at Oak Row for Rockwood Village residents.
Origins of the community land trust model
Community land trust programs in the United States have their roots in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Activists Slater King and Bob Swann recognized that lack of land ownership and control was — in addition to racism and racist laws—one of the main factors preventing prosperity for Black people in the South. They joined six other civil rights activists to visit Israel and study cooperative agricultural communities called kibbutzes. The trip was partially funded by the National Sharecroppers Fund, a nonprofit that advocated for improved conditions for low-income, primarily Black farmers who rented farmland in the South.
King and Swann later joined an advisory committee around the future of the integrated, communal Koinonia Farm located in Albany, Georgia. One of the first community land trusts in the United States emerged from this effort: an organization called Partnership Housing that would develop individually-owned houses on land owned by the nonprofit and leased to homeowners. The organization’s president, Millard Fuller, would later found Habitat for Humanity in 1976.
That same year, the delegation that had traveled to Israel convened a meeting in Atlanta with representatives of many of the major civil rights groups in the South. The result was a nonprofit organization called New Communities Inc. — the first community land trust in the United States. Their first purchase was over 5,000 acres of land in Leesburg, Georgia, which was at the time the largest piece of Black-owned land in the United States. New Communities operated as a cooperative farm for over a decade but struggled financially and never managed to build housing. The community land trust eventually closed due to a number of hardships, including discriminatory lending practices from the Georgia office of the federal Farmers Home Administration. New Communities, Inc. remained in existence, and eventually won $12 million from the federal government in compensation.
In 1980, Community Land Cooperative of Cincinnati — the first urban community land trust in the United States — was founded in one of the city’s historic Black neighborhoods by the Reverend Maurice McCrackin. He was an old friend of Clarence Jordan, who founded Koinonia. It was the first CLT to adopt a resale formula to preserve affordability for future residents, which is now a hallmark of the CLT model nationwide.
The publication of "The Community Land Trust Handbook" in 1982 offered a guide for any organization or individual who wanted to create an urban CLT. When the federal government launched an initiative to support the formation of CLTs in 1992, advocates wanted to make sure the vision laid out in the handbook was officially included in the Housing and Community Development Act. They approached Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders, who added an amendment with the basics of the handbook to the Act and it was signed into law.
In this way, social justice-oriented housing activists — working for decades to improve access to the stability of homeownership for low-income communities — shaped federal housing policy. By 1995 there were 100 community land trusts in the United States. Visit the Roots & Branches website for a detailed history.