August 23, 2014

Housing

Meeting the Housing Shortage

A trio of businessmen takes on the challenge of providing low-cost homes.

Charlotte Crane | 12/1/2005
In 2003, three businessmen incorporated the Escambia County Community Land Trust to develop housing to help relieve a shortage of affordable homes for the county's low- and moderate-income residents.

Then came Hurricane Ivan. Damage from the storm took 5,000 to 6,000 homes from the housing market, increasing the shortage even further. Some 900 families still live in FEMA trailers. Adding to affordability issues was a surge in home prices, which have risen more than three times faster than per capita income in the county over the past five years.

There's also great disparity between white and African-American homeownership, 71% vs. 51%.

TAKING ACTION: Escambia CLT partners (from left) John Wyche, O.J. Rembert and Marvin Ginns Sr. discuss plans for the Maison de Ville apartment complex.This spring, the three businessmen organized a house-to-house canvass of people needing affordable homes and gathered hundreds of names. Having completed the process for getting non-profit status for the land trust, they've put the trust into gear, using loans, donated labor and up to $1 million from the state's Hurricane Housing Recovery Funds.

The trust -- only the fourth such entity in Florida and the first in northwest Florida -- uses a model aimed at both creating a stock of affordable homes and keeping the homes affordable over time. The trust develops housing for sale to low- and moderate-income people but excludes the land in the sale, thus lowering the price. The buyer pays for the home and gets a 99-year lease on the land.

If the new owners sell the home later, they're limited by the original purchase agreement from taking the full amount of market appreciation, and instead, usually are allowed only a percentage. The structure means the owner can't realize a windfall, but it maintains affordability for subsequent buyers.

Within six months, the trust plans to complete 25 single-family homes on scattered sites, priced from $100,000 to $130,000. It's eyeing land for subdivisions. And it also has acted to keep a supply of affordable rental units on the market; it recently paid $4.3 million for Maison de Ville, a 144-unit apartment complex in a Pensacola neighborhood vulnerable to upscaling by developers.

"The CLT model is a viable vehicle for homeownership for people who want more than a rental existence," says Executive Director John Wyche, a business/political consultant. "Homeownership is also the beginning of wealth-building," says partner Marvin Ginns Sr., owner of MicroMarketing. Third partner, First Option Mortgage broker O.J. Rembert, will offer CLT buyers credit counseling and help with mortgage applications.

Tags: Housing/Construction, Northwest

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