From fixer-upper to dream home |

From fixer-upper to dream home

A nonprofit organization that hopes to fix dilapidated homes around the Lake Tahoe Basin and sell them to qualified working families is officially in business.

The St. Joseph Community Land Trust, a Catholic-based organization made up of several basin churches, was spearheaded about a year ago by South Shore residents Lyn Barnett and Patrick Conway.

With the cooperation the Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic diocese, Barnett and Conway studied affordable housing needs in the basin and gleaned ideas from a group called the Community Land Trust developed under the Institute for Community Economics in Massachusetts.

With a board now in place, the group is a step closer to going after grant money that will allow the trust to buy homes and property.

“Our program will offer a solution to some of the problems with finding affordable housing in the basin,” Conway said. “When we’re fully up and running, it will give residents a new option to buy their own home.”

The plan is to work with various agencies, foundations and apply for grants that will enable the Tahoe-based land trust to buy homes, fix them up and sell them to families who qualify, Barnett said.

There are about 100 of these programs in the country, Barnett said, adding that the land trust is the first of its kind in Nevada and the fifth in California.

“Our goal is to acquire single family (homes) that may need work and rehabilitation. We will bring them up to code, and then sell the home to a family or families that qualify,” Barnett said.

In doing so, the prospective homeowners will agree to a resale value if they choose to sell the home. The idea, Barnett said, is to preserve the affordability of the house so that other families can afford to buy it when it is sold.

“At Lake Tahoe, where prices have doubled on homes, our organization wants to ensure that families can truly own their home, but when they put it up for sale, they are not going to make a lot of money out of it.”

When buying homes, the trust will also buy the land the homes sit on, which Barnett says, makes up about 40 percent of the total cost of a home.

“And that land just keeps going up,” Barnett said. “This is our way of ensuring the house remains affordable because it will be the homeowner who is buying the house from the trust.”

Before land purchases come to fruition, however, the fund-raising will begin.

Unlike many start-up nonprofit organizations, St. Joseph Community Land Trust has seed money. Two $15,000 grants from U.S. Housing and Urban Development will help launch the program. Plus, funding is expected to come through various grants, the Catholic Church’s Social Justice program, private donations and membership fees.

It will be a lengthy process, but the trust hopes to make significant progress in the years to come.

“There is a certain amount of pride that comes with owning your home,” Barnett said. “In the Tahoe basin, it has become very difficult for working families to own their own home. We hope this is a start to something that will give people that pride.”

Board members are Barnett, president; Bucky H. Fong, vice president; Robert Heffernan, treasurer; Frances Alling, secretary; the Revs. Richard De Molen and Murrough E. Wallace.

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