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Community land trust creates affordable housing solution

Each 2-bedroom townhouse, like this unit, which was toured by local officials Tuesday, has 1,080 square feet on one level and rents for $460 per month. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- The Westwind development is offering affordable single-family housing opportunities as well as affordable rental housing.

Homeownership is more affordable because developer Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership established a "partnership community land trust'' for the nearly 17-acre development that's officially known as Westwind Estates Third Addition Community Land Trust.

The Westwind Estates Third Addition Community Land Trust has townhomes for rent and single-family homes for sale.

There are two distinct ownerships: the townhomes are owned by Westwind Estates Townhomes Limited Partnership (of which Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership is the general partner) and the land for the single-family homes is owned by the community land trust.

A community land trust is a nonprofit organization that acquires land and removes it from the for-profit real estate market. Community land trusts hold the land "in trust'' forever for the benefit of the community it serves by ensuring that it will always remain affordable for homebuyers, according to Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

In addition to removing the price of the land from the purchase price, homebuyers receive financial assistance from the community land trust to make the home affordable. Homebuyers will in effect own their home but not the land, explains Kristie Blankenship, Southwest asset manager.

The homebuyer enters into a ground lease that secures the use of the land. When the homeowner wants to sell, an affordable sales price is determined based on a resale formula.

The maximum income for purchase of a home is 80 percent of area median income. For example, a family of 4 in Willmar has a limit of $50,550.

There are eight lots for single-family homes and two homes have been built; both have 4 bedrooms and 2 baths with finished basement. The split foyer has 2,038 square feet and the rambler has 2,028 square feet.

No prices have been set. Southwest Minnesota is waiting for completion and an appraisal, said Ali Joens, homeownership services director.

Blankenship said a public meeting will be held Jan. 11 to provide information about the homes, sale prices and the community land trust.

Willmar is the first city in which the housing partnership has established a community land trust.

"We have done other developments in different communities where we've done multi-family and single- family within a subdivision,'' said Blankenship.

"Usually we're developing the single-family homes for an economic development authority. In those cases, the homeowner would own the land as well as the house. The purpose of the community land trust is it allows another level of affordability,'' said Blankenship.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150