FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Big River Community Land Trust?
The Big River Community Land Trust is a 501-c3 nonprofit corporation whose mission is to develop and steward a stable supply of permanently affordable, sustainably built housing which preserves the dynamic small town character and diversity of our central gorge communities.
Why was the BRCLT formed?
The Columbia Gorge has a housing crisis. Most of our area’s workforce can no longer afford to live here. The BRCLT was formed in 2019 to solve this problem through the community land trust model.
So what exactly is a Community Land Trust (CLT) and what does it do?
CLTs acquire, own and steward land for the common good. The most common CLT land use is housing. Here’s how it works: The CLT builds a home using one-time public or private investment, then sells the home to a low to middle income buyer who qualifies for a loan. The CLT keeps the land, holding it in trust for future generations of home buyers. In return for being able to buy a home at a discounted price, the buyer agrees to “pay it forward” and sell to another low-income family at a price that family can afford. The CLT manages the sale process ensuring that each home buying family builds some wealth from a predetermined limited amount of the sales proceeds. In this way the one-time investment in CLT homes makes lasting affordability for subsequent buyers a reality. This has a stabilizing effect on communities and helps to build stronger, safer and high-quality diverse neighborhoods which in turn contribute to greater educational attainment, employment opportunities and health outcomes.
Who is eligible to purchase a BRCLT home?
Anyone who is a current resident or has significant ties to the Columbia Gorge area, whose gross household income is between 80-120% of MFI (median family income), and who can qualify for a home loan. (BRCLT will assist in navigating the home loan process). Once qualified, applicants will be treated on a first-come first-served basis.
How are we able to build affordable homes?
We secure land and cash donations to subsidize our projects. (Land donations cut project costs by roughly 1/3.) Smaller, efficient home design lowers our building costs. In-kind donations from contractors are sometimes used where appropriate. Partnering with businesses, other nonprofits and seeking accommodations from local governmental agencies also help make our homes more affordable. Grant writing and fundraising events contribute to the cash subsidies for our projects.
Why not just build apartments?
It’s true that solving the affordable housing crisis requires all types of housing, including apartments. We’ve chosen to build CLT homes for ownership because it provides housing and equity building potential for the lower-to-middle income household who is currently underserved. HUD rental assistance programs, Habitat for Humanity homes and other private and public housing types are working consistently to meet the need of many of our lowest income citizens. But home ownership opportunities for the lower-to-middle income earners have become nearly nonexistent and need our attention. Another reason we’ve chosen to build homes rather than apartments is the capital requirement. A qualified homeowner can obtain a mortgage that requires a down payment of only 3 to 5%. A developer of apartments would face a capital requirement of approximately 25%. On a multi-unit apartment complex, the capital requirement would be challenging to raise and would expose the project to a great deal of financial risk. Finally, the BRCLT is interested in the benefits that homeownership brings, building strong, stable communities and homeowners invested in where they live.
When will the first homes be ready for purchase?
We are looking for property for our first project. Our goal is to find that property and begin our first project in 2020!