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Article: Why Combining Community Land Trusts and Limited-Equity Co-ops Benefits Residents

A church with a shrinking congregation sold its land to SquareOne Villages to develop the Peace Village Co-op, a 70-unit housing development that's both a community land trust and limited-equity co-op. How does combining these shared-equity homeownership models work?

Four years ago, members of Peace Presbyterian Church in Eugene, Oregon, decided to do something about the severe lack of affordable housing in Lane County. The congregation had dwindled to 20-some members, but the church still had to maintain a 3.5 acre property with 9,000 square feet of building space.

This led them to reach out to our nonprofit, SquareOne Villages, to propose selling the vacant half of the property to be developed as affordable housing. The partnership was a win-win. The sale would provide the small congregation a financial lifeline, while creating a legacy aligned with the church’s mission. And we would be able to complete the land acquisition process on a flexible timeline, without having to compete on the private market.

The original plan was to partition the property into two separate legal lots, with the church on one and the housing on the other. However, splitting the property would trigger costly land use measures, requiring us to finance a future public street connection. To avoid this expense, the church generously offered to sell SquareOne the entire property, with the understanding that the congregation would lease back part-time use of the sanctuary building.

As a result, our plans for Peace Village doubled to 70 units, making it SquareOne’s largest housing development to date. We used this as an opportunity to demonstrate the merit of combining a limited-equity cooperative with a community land trust. This hybrid ownership structure has significant potential for building housing that is more equitable and permanently affordable. But the model faces barriers to accessing existing subsidy and incentive programs tailored to either rental housing or single-family homeownership, that are holding it back from realizing its potential.



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