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New affordable housing model unveiled in Itasca County

One of eight single-family land trust homes on the former Forest Lake School site in Grand Rapids in June 2024.
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Minnesota Housing
One of eight single-family land trust homes on the former Forest Lake School site in Grand Rapids in June 2024.

The homes on the site of the former Forest Lake School in Grand Rapids are the first community land trust homes in the county.

GRAND RAPIDS — Leaders in Grand Rapids recently celebrated the grand opening of eight new community land trust homes, marking the first time the model has been used in Itasca County.

The single-family homes built on the former Forest Lake School site will be available by application to people whose household incomes are no more than 80% of the state median.

The land trust model allows the occupants to own the homes, while the housing agencies retain ownership of the land itself.

"This allows us to sell the home at a significant discount below market value. Typically 20, 30, even 40% below market value," said Jim Philbin, senior director of community land trust at the Duluth nonprofit One Roof Community Housing.

"And then in the land lease agreement, our intent of the program is to help the family today purchase the home, but we also have an eye to the future. We want to make sure that the next family that comes after them can also afford this property."

On the KAXE Morning Show, Philbin and Itasca Housing and Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Diane Larson explained that when homes are sold in the future, a resale formula ensures a return on the owners’ investment.

Some of the equity and appreciation in value is used to reinvest in the property.

Larson said the community trust homes are one of the many types of housing needed in the area to combat a longstanding shortage and the need for homes to allow large employers to locate here.

"If you look at the jobs that are the most in demand in our community, four of those five jobs do not pay a salary needed to afford a median-priced home," she said. "So we have people working and living in our communities, and they can't afford the housing here.

" ... It's been an issue for a long time, and I think it's just become to such a critical point that it's really becoming a topic of conversation."

The project is a partnership with KOOTASCA Community Action with funding from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation and Minnesota Housing.

The homes are in various stages of development but will all be for sale this summer. Find the housing application at 1roofhousing.org.