Lisa Delhomme, Homeownership Program Coordinator
Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County, Inc
100 Australian Avenue, Suite 410
West Palm Beach, Florida 33406
Website:The Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County
By Andy Reid, Staff Writer
January 1, 2010
The Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County was created in 2006 to help ensure that homes are available for teachers, police officers and young professionals getting priced out of a county where median home prices once hovered near $400,000.
A struggling economy has now dropped median values to about $240,000, but housing officials say their work has just begun.
Land trusts sprung up across Florida during the housing boom.
Now the trusts have an important role to play during the "bust," said Jaimie Ross, affordable housing director for the development watchdog group 1,000 Friends of Florida.
The trusts can take advantage of lower home prices to expand affordable housing inventories and use their restrictions and subsidy programs to keep those homes affordable when the housing market improves, Ross said.
The Palm Beach County Community Land Trust is slowly showing signs of progress.
Since its creation in 2006, the trust has added eight homes, including houses near Lantana and townhomes in Riviera Beach, to its affordable housing inventory.
This year the trust plans to add six homes that would be renovated and sold.
The trust also has seven acres near Lake Worth, and it hopes to eventually build as many as 42 houses and 34 rental apartments there.
As financial analysts and politicians search for answers to the nation's economic problems, helping people move from renting to owning is "the greatest economic stimulus there is," Ross said.
The County Commission created the land trust to acquire property that could be leased to build price-controlled houses and rental units.
The trust also acquires homes that can be renovated for affordable housing.
The homes acquired from the trust come with limits on future resale amounts, to keep them affordable.
The homes also must be sold to buyers who have low to medium incomes — $37,700 to $60,500 a year for a family of four, though some families earning up to $90,000 a year could qualify.
"You are taking the home off the speculative market," said Cindee LaCourse-Blum, the trust's executive director. "This kind of just locks in the affordability."
The trust is trying to take advantage of the drop in home prices by acquiring homes and properties now.
Yet even with homes values dropping, other expenses such as homeowner association fees, taxes and insurance — can still keep low- and middle-income people priced out of the housing market.
In addition to creating the land trust, the county also started requiring developers to limit some new home prices.
Critics of the county's affordable housing efforts have said the competitive market, not government regulations, should determine home prices.
Ross counters, "The business community in Palm Beach County knows it's important to have housing in Palm Beach County for people who work in Palm Beach County."
For more information about the county's Community Land Trust, call 561-233-3682.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.
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