Columbia Community Leaders Discuss Affordable Housing

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COLUMBIA - Columbia community leaders met Thursday morning with an official from Lawrence, Kansas Community Housing Trust (LCHT) to discuss the possibility of forming a community housing trust in Columbia.

Rebecca Buford, executive director of LCHT, discussed the trust's work to produce and sustain affordable housing in Lawrence to provide community leaders with a model for Columbia.

According to the executive summary for Affordable Housing Trust Programs, "A community housing trust is a private non-profit community organization that safeguards land in order to provide affordable housing opportunities. CHTs buy and hold land permanently; preventing market factors from causing prices to rise."

LCHT's program features a workshop for first time home-buyers and pre-qualification before going to a lender. In order to get a loan, the home-buyer must receive pre-approval from a participating lender, which requires stable income and payment history. A third feature is the home must remain owner occupied, and the resale formula for the house is based on initial buyer's sale price plus 25 percent of the market appreciation of the home while they lived here. The final feature of the trust program is owners pay a $25 lease fee per month and a $25 maintenance fee that can be used as an emergency maintenance fund.

Buford said the trust generally serves professionals with college degrees who don't have enough money for a home right away. She also said the foreclosure rate is 0.04 percent compared to four percent nationally.

In Buford's presentation she states, "The average sales price to the buyer of these 68 examples is $99,789 in a market where the average price of a home is $181,900."

Phil Steinhaus, the chief executive officer for Columbia Housing Authority, said he thinks the model is realistic for Columbia.

"I think there are a lot of similarities between Columbia and Lawrence. So some of the same factors that affect housing costs here in Columbia are the same things that happen in Lawrence," Steinhaus said. "The housing trust model allows the land to stay in trust and then the housing to be sold to income-eligible families who can resell the house later but without taking an increase in the equity out of the house so that it remains in the trust and it can be sold at an affordable price to another eligible family later."

Steinhaus said the biggest challenges are financing the provided subsidies and how to form a trust and manage the trust over time, but he believes the model is good for Columbia.

"I think their model works very well for Columbia. It does help preserve affordable housing for working families in our community and it ensures that housing will be well-maintained, will be owner-occupied, and will remain affordable for a long period of time," Steinhaus said.

Steinhaus said Thursday's meeting was just an informational meeting for community leaders so they can understand how the process works in Lawrence.