City to purchase property for affordable housing

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia plans to buy three vacant lots and a dilapidated alley along Third Avenue. 

The city hopes to use the areas at 7, 9 and 19 Third Avenue to make way for non-profits to build and maintain affordable, single-family homes for low income residents.

Paul Prevo, president of the non-profit Columbia Community Land Trust, said the goal of the project is to make housing affordable and build the community.

"Our goal right now as we're working on our strategic plan is to try to have 16 houses by the end of our third year," He said. "This is a very advantageous goal but it's a very achievable goal, especially when we're looking at targeting neighborhoods where there's an opportunity to really build some stability, some pride in the neighborhood and really try to create that community effect."

The city would buy the lots for $45,625 using federally-provided Community Housing and Development Grant funds. The properties would be maintained by the Community Land Trust. 

Prevo explained, "The city owns the land and the home buyer is able to purchase the home and pay a small monthly fee to lease the land," he said. "And once it comes time for that homeowner to sell the home they sell the home to a person who also qualifies under the conditions to qualify for an affordable home." 

He added, "The homeowner gets to keep all the profits they've made by paying off part of their mortgage plus a percentage of the increase in value based upon appraisal. The city also gets to keep a part of the increase in value based upon appraisal and use that money towards building future homes."

Prevo said this system will allow the properties to remain affordable but also increase the number of affordable properties. 

The houses will be modeled after the Lynn Street Cottages, another affordable housing project. The house will be sold around $117,000. 

"Those houses have a value of much higher than that but because we're not actually selling the land underneath that is keeping the houses very affordable," Prevo said. "All of the people who have the opportunity to purchase these homes are getting pre-qualified through a local bank of their choice and they are able to work with the realtor of their choice." 

Columbia City Council will vote on whether to purchase the properties at the Oct. 16 meeting. If the city does buy the land, other funding sources and organizations will work to build and maintain the homes.