St. Joseph Community Land Trust assists in affordable housing | TahoeDailyTribune.com

St. Joseph Community Land Trust assists in affordable housing

St. Joseph Community Land Trust is a lake-wide nonprofit that focuses on one of the hottest issues facing the basin today: affordable housing.

At its heart, SJCLT's goal is twofold: to improve the quality of life for both families and individuals who have difficulty affording housing in the Tahoe Basin, and to provide informative programs that benefit the community on related issues.

"We were formed as a response, to address rising housing costs in the community and the negative impact of those costs to residents," said Cathy Kope, executive director and founding member of SJCLT.

The nonprofit formed nearly two decades ago — back in 2002 — out of a need for affordable housing.

"Home prices were on the rise, and our local community couldn't afford to buy a home in Lake Tahoe due to rising housing costs," Kope said, adding that it's a similar situation to what the region is seeing today.

While the circumstances are familiar, SJCLT's approach in recent years is somewhat different.

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"We're getting more involved; we've been having discussions with the El Dorado Community Foundation, Barton Health and The Ridge Tahoe about ways we might be able to partner with them to provide affordable housing to their workers," explained Kope.

In addition to exploring partnerships, SJCLT is looking at ways to bring back educational programs that it once offered to the public. These previous events included first-time home buyer education programs and identity theft forums, but members also are interested in introducing new topics of conversation, too.

"In the future we're hoping to roll out a basic finances class for people who don't understand how to open a checking account or how to balance a checking account," said Kope.

Most recently, SJCLT acquired and rehabilitated Sierra Garden Apartments, the 76-unit affordable housing community located at 1801 Lake Tahoe Blvd. The nonprofit is a part-owner of the complex, and rehab is estimated at $15 million, according to Kope.

But the projects don't stop there: SJCLT also offers a motel-to-housing loan program.

"What we're trying to do is to help families who are living in substandard housing. For example, we have so many people on South Shore and basin-wide that are living in motels because they can't afford rental housing, and there's a lack of supply of affordable housing.

"What this program does is we ask people who are living in a motel or an over-crowded studio apartment, and we can apply — through the program — up to $1800, which will assist those families with school-age children to get into a rental apartment. It basically covers first and last month's rent and/or the security deposit up to $1800," Kope explained.

A majority of SJCLT's funding comes from membership dues and donations, along with various grants from organizations including El Dorado Community Foundation and Tahoe Women's Community Fund.

SJCLT encourages memberships, and duties include attending two member meetings each year — one of which is a spaghetti dinner (prepared by the St. Theresa Catholic Church men's group Knights of Columbus) held in November.

Visit http://www.saintjosephclt.org to learn more about the organization and how to get involved.