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Community Housing Land Trust: A New Tool in the Affordable Housing Toolbox

A small house with natural wood siding and a wood fence by large trees with green leaves.

Guest Column by Michelle Duggan
Board and Community Land Trust Administrator

With our region experiencing shortages in affordable housing like many areas of the country, the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada continues to work toward solutions.

The Community Foundation’s interest in addressing affordable housing issues goes back years, from early discussions within the community. Then, around 2017, our efforts began taking shape in earnest. Our late friend and Board Chair, Jim Pfrommer, was passionate about affordable housing and wanted to see action taken to address the growing crisis in our community. 

Around the same time, an inquiry from a community member about funding a large housing project that spurred CEO Chris Askin and others from the organization to visit the Bay Area to see what other community foundations were doing around the topic of housing. 

While there, they learned more about community land trusts, an excellent tool used all across the country for creating and preserving permanent, affordable housing. Community land trusts work by selling homes to income-qualified families while retaining ownership of the land beneath the dwelling. By taking the land price out of the equation, the homes are more affordable. The owners enter into a long-term land lease with the land trust and agree to restrictions on the resale of the home.    

Community land trust homes remain forever affordable. Homeowners build equity and can sell the home. However, the resale price is based on the increase in Area Medium Income (AMI) – not the open market. For example, if the AMI has risen 5% in five years, the home can only be sold for 5% above the original purchase price. This way, income-qualified families can still purchase the home.   

The Community Foundation established its Community Housing Land Trust in April 2018. The community member who had expressed interest became instrumental in our first innovative housing project, the Village on Sage Street. Previously owned, fabricated dorm structures were acquired and refurbished to create 216 dorm-style units. The Village was completed and opened in July 2019 for its first residents, individuals making between 30-60% of Area Median Income.

Community land trusts work by selling homes to income-qualified families while retaining ownership of the land beneath the dwelling. By taking the land price out of the equation, the homes are more affordable. 

The next milestone came a year and a half later in January 2021: the sale of the first single-family home. Dubbed the “City Cottage” (pictured above), this house was constructed by a local couple who had interest in the community land trust concept and donated the land to our Community Housing Land Trust. In spring 2021, an income-qualified family experienced the joy of moving into their very first home. 

Having completed our first single-family home, we are now in the midst of a 20-home project to be built in Golden Valley on two parcels donated by the City of Reno. These 20 homes will be priced to be affordable for families making 80% of the Area Median Income. While we are currently in the planning/development phase, construction is expected to begin in early 2022. 

Our Community Housing Land Trust and other land trusts nationwide have the potential to fill a unique role in the affordable housing arena. Providing homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families can help them gain stability, as they won’t be facing unpredictable rent increases, and by entering the housing market for the first time they can even begin building generational wealth. 

While the Community Foundation is still relatively new to the affordable housing arena, we’ve been busy exploring multiple opportunities and ways to partner on future housing projects. The Community Housing Land Trust’s work is guided by an advisory group of housing experts, including real estate professionals, developers, attorneys, and builders. If you’re interested in joining this group or learning more, please reach out to Michelle Duggan, Board and Community Land Trust Administrator at

The Community Foundation of Northern Nevada is strengthening our community through philanthropy and leadership by connecting people who care with causes that matter.

Dec. 11, 2021