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Des Moines group explores community land trust to expand homeownership opportunity



The City of Des Moines has lent its support to forming a new advisory committee to envision a Community Land Trust in Greater Des Moines in collaboration with A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), a local network of faith and non-profit organizations and supporters. A community land trust is a strategy to help community members reach their goal of owning a home, even if it has long seemed out of reach.

"AMOS is focused on the lives of citizens and communities. After hearing numerous stories from local citizens about obstacles to affordable home ownership, AMOS began researching the concept of a community land trust (CLT). As we researched it. we recognized that it provided a stable living environment for people dealing with increasing pressures on their families,” said Jason Ellingson, a member of the AMOS community land trust team representing New Beginnings Christian Church in Urbandale.

A Community Land Trust is a strategy for homeownership where the buyer purchases a home, but the land under it is owned by a non-profit land trust. Community land trusts provide a more affordable homeownership option. In return, the trust places a limit on how much the price of the home can increase when it is sold again.

While the homeowner can still build wealth by owning the home, the community land trust partnership can help stabilize prices and limit displacement of residents. This can happen in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods that suddenly receive a large influx of real estate investment that can drive up home values and threaten the ability of existing residents to stay.

Ellingson said a key advantage of the community land trust model is that its structure allows for members of the community to take a lead role in making decisions.

“A [community land trust] is rooted in the development and betterment of the community. Its unique structure maintains and sustains the physical appearance of the neighborhood, while also empowering local homeowners to serve on its board of directors. CLTs are for the people and their communities because it is made up of them," Ellingson said.

Citing reports of residents being increasingly cost burdened by their housing, Tess Putnam Cody, a property redevelopment specialist with the City of Des Moines, said the City is interested in bringing together an advisory committee that could lead to a community land trust forming in Greater Des Moines.

“The City of Des Moines recognizes the struggle some residents face to afford a place to live, even though they’re essential members of the Des Moines workforce and community. This is just one more strategy in the City’s broader approach to tackling houselessness and affordable housing issues,” Cody said.

Applications are now open for the advisory committee which the City expects will spend the next 9-18 months developing a recommendation for how a community land trust could benefit Des Moines.

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