Land trusts, like the Trust for Public Land, are widely known for purchasing and permanently conserving parks and natural lands. Now a new form of land trust, such as one created by the California Community Foundation in 2003, are preserving land for housing affordability. Partnered with private sector developers that specialize in workforce housing**, building costs are lowered by 30 to 50 percent. In exchange for being able to buy a home below market value, the owner agrees to sell the home for the amount invested plus only a maximum percentage of the property’s appreciation value.
Following this model, the City of Winter Park established a land trust in 2005, buying up land, deeding it to the trust, then negotiating with local contractors to build homes at below-market prices. In this arrangement, the building is owned by the buyer and can be sold or inherited, but the land remains in the trust on a 99-year land lease. In Florida alone, 17 land trusts are operational or incorporating, while 13 are being considered.
Universities, hospitals, and school districts in California and Hawaii are increasingly using the land trust model to build housing for their constituency at 30 to 40 percent below market value, allowing them to more effectively recruit and retain top employees.
**Workforce housing is often referred to as non-government-subsidized affordable housing.
Images: Two proposals by UniDev proposals, a land trust-based developer in Maryland.