‘Land Trust’ gives new East Portland homebuyers a boost

Just when it sometimes seems only the wealthy get a break, learn how this unique program is helping turn renters into homeowners …

Andre Young, Community Relations Manager for Portland Community Land Trust, says he loves helping renters become homeowners.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Is a program which offers permanent, affordable homeownership – for individuals who would not qualify for open-market homes – too good to be true?

That’s what Portland Community Land Trust (PCLT) claims they do: They say they’ve got real program that turns qualified renters into homeowners.

To find out for ourselves, we stop by to audit a presentation by their Community Relations Manager, Andre Young, on November 12.

Before potential clients for this first-time home-buyer program arrive at the room he’s setting up at the East Portland Community center, Young gives fills us in on PCLT.

Not welfare housing
Their state-certified nonprofit organization invests funds in every transaction, “buying down” the purchase price of the home, Young explains; “Because the price of homes is skyrocketing in the Portland area. Our program helps the average citizen who wants to own a home.”

According to Young, homeowners under the program get to keep a percentage of equity whenever they choose to sell their home.

This isn’t a rental program, Young explains. “The homeowners under our program actually get title to the house. They pay the taxes. It is their home.”

“So, what’s the catch?” we ask.

“We offer a different method of home buying,” replies Young. “As the home appreciates in value, the homeowner gets a share of that increase. When the homeowner sells, they keep 25% of the increased value. 75% of the value stays with the home so the next family can buy that home more affordably.”

“Who knows their credit score?” asks Young. The first step to buying a home, attendees learn, is to make sure they have good credit.

Free class describes first steps
The first step for individuals interested in this program is to take an orientation class,” says Young.

“In addition to describing how the program operates, we show people how to take a look at their credit. We help them learn how to improve their credit score while they are on the waiting list for our program. Then, they’ll be positioned to be ready when their home becomes available,” Young tells us as he starts the class.

Does it really work?
We learn more about the Portland Community Land Trust from executive director Allison Handler.

“What track record does the organization have,” we ask.

“Our organization turns eight next month (we were founded in December 1999),” Handler reports. “So far, we’ve brought homeownership within reach of 85 families. And we expect to have more than 30 for sale in 2008.”

PCLT’s program preserves a stock of homes for first-time homebuyers – of moderate income – that will be affordable forever, Handler states.

Find out more
Not everyone qualifies, and there is a waiting list to buy PCLT homes. But from what we see, this organization is worth checking out.

Learn more by contacting them at (503) 493-0293 or see them online at www.pclt.org.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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