Land trust striving to provide affordable housing in Carson Valley |

Land trust striving to provide affordable housing in Carson Valley

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. – Despite the recession’s clobbering of home values across the nation, there is still a need for affordable housing in Carson Valley, said real estate agent Anje deKnijf.

“As home prices have fallen, incomes have fallen,” deKnijf said Dec. 18. “The beauty of our program is that as house prices drop, we can do even more. Each house will eat up less of our funds.”

In a time of great instability in the housing market, the 59-year-old Coldwell Banker Itildo agent has signed on as the new executive director of the Sierra Nevada Community Land Trust.

Comprised of members from the community, the faith-based, private nonprofit organization’s central mission is to make long-talked-about affordable housing in Douglas County a concrete reality.

“We want our houses to be the bottom rung of a ladder of increasing homeownership,” deKnijf said. “We want to keep that bottom rung close to the ground.”

The problem, deKnijf said, is that many people who service the residents of Carson Valley, the teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers, among countless others, have a difficult time affording homes in the area.

“I’m guilty of selling homes in Dayton to those who worked here but couldn’t afford it,” she said. “There was a feeling that we weren’t supporting the people who support us.”

According to, the estimated median value of a house in Minden has dropped about 16 percent over the last 12 months to $276,336. In Gardnerville, the median home value has dropped almost 15 percent in the same time period to $253,024.

However, deKnijf reiterated, the fall in value has opened up more opportunities for affordable housing.

“Talking to Realtors, there are a lot of people they know who would benefit from this program,” she said. “There is still a strong showing of need.”

So how exactly does the program work? It’s pretty simple, deKnijf said. The organization buys a lot and finds a contractor to build a house. Retaining ownership of the land, the trust sells the house for a below-market price.

For example, if a lot and house are worth $150,000, the house $100,000 and the land $50,000, the buyer would only pay the $100,000 for the house. The buyer would lease the land from the trust over a 99-year period for a small monthly amount, maybe $20.

If the buyer decides to sell the house, they will get their original equity back, plus a portion of the appreciated value. However, the buyer must agree in advance to a restricted resale price and a reduced equity share, so that the house again can be sold at a below-market rate.

Eligible buyers must have limited financial assets and regular income at or below 80 percent of the county’s median household income, which is $57,750.

Thus far, deKnijf said, the organization has five qualified buyers and 19 applications pending. The group has yet to build its first home, but is eyeing two residential lots near the county library in Minden, several lots included in the Stone Creek development in south Gardnerville, and a vacant residential building off Kimmerling Lane.

The latter could be rented out as a stepping stone to one of the trust houses, deKnijf said.

“We’re hoping to start in mid- to late-summer if everything goes according to plan,” she said.

As the new director, deKnijf has been busy applying for grants, including a Community Development Block Grant. She said her organization conforms to federal guidelines, opening up more potential funding sources, and is one of only three Community Housing Development Organizations in Nevada as designated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“For our operating costs, our monies come from private donors,” she said. “Donations are tax-deductible. A lot of people out there also have vacant land they don’t want anymore, and we can take that as well.”

“We’ve had a lot of enthusiastic support to help us get off the ground,” deKnijf said.

In the end, she said, it’s about giving hard-working residents a shot at homeownership.

“Part of the program is to help people build credit and counsel them on what homeownership means,” she said. “And part of the goal is to keep the family unit intact.”

For more information or to download an application, visit

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