Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County has shifted to a community land trust model in a move the nonprofit believes will better address the affordable housing crunch.
Colleen Brink, the marketing director of Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County, said the nonprofit has been having trouble finding viable properties at a time when they are needed most. The causes have been increasing costs and a booming real estate market.
Brink, speaking before the Bucks County Commissioners earlier this week, said the shift in the organization’s model is aimed at expanding affordable housing units in the county.
Prior to the community land trust model, income-qualified families would buy a home through Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County and pay a mortgage at a rate they could afford on it.
When the families wanted to sell, they would sell the home for the market value of the home and pay back the county subsidy used to built the dwelling. Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County would then invest the subsidy toward helping another family.
“The downside of this model is once the home is sold it is no longer affordable for another qualified family,” said Nikki Verwoerd, a project manager for the Bucks County Department Housing and Community Development, which works with the nonprofit.
Under the new community land trust model, the nonprofit will own the land and sell the home at an affordable rate to a qualified family. The family will have to take care of maintenance and taxes of the home and land.
When a homeowner decides to move from a home built under the community land trust model, they commit to reselling the house at a fair price to another Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County-qualified home buyer.
The first house under the community land trust model was turned over to a mother and her two sons along Beaver Dam Road in Bristol Township last November.
Verwoerd said the change will “dramatically expand” homeowner opportunities in the county.
The organization that has helped 117 families obtain housing at an affordable price since 1990 is planning to take on their next big project. They are planning the construction of three homes at the former site of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School site in Bristol Township’s Croydon section.
Ground is anticipated to be broken before the end of the year.
“This means we will be replacing an aging, empty building with energy-efficient three- or four- bedroom homes,” Brink said.
The need for affordable housing in Bucks County has impacted services offered. Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County has heard from health care workers, teachers, and ambulance crews unable to afford housing, Brink said.
“We had over 41 applicants for three homes. The need for affordable homes far exceeds supply,” she said