We Don’t Need Affordable Housing Experiments


By Dia Davis

Each time Moonshine Ink runs an issue focused on the struggles to create affordable housing in the region, I am frustrated anew. What makes me upset is not the problem itself, although it does feel daunting in scale and severity; it’s the eagerness of our elected officials and the many public agencies working to create affordable housing to jump at the easiest solution and not the one that actually creates permanent affordable housing and stewardship of those homes. Instead of championing stopgap measures that waste public investment and give affordable housing a bad name, we need a community land trust.

Unlike the experimental pilot programs being implemented by our towns and counties, the community land trust (CLT) model has proven it works and is being used around the world to create and keep affordable housing within communities. There are 26 well-established CLTs in California, including the Saint Joseph CLT in South Lake Tahoe, and 360 around the country. At its simplest, the CLT model is based on the concept that the organization owns the land under a house while an individual or family holds the deed to the home and a lease of the land. When it’s time for the homeowner to sell, they sell the house to another qualified buyer but not the land it sits on, ensuring that the home stays below market rate while also allowing the seller to recoup on their investment.

The CLT model is so effective for several reasons. For one, a CLT home remains affordable permanently and millions of dollars in community investment are not lost. In current programs, like Hopkins Village, the Workforce Housing Preservation Program, and the Truckee Home Access program, this is not the case as the deed restrictions fully or partially disappear after a set number of years, allowing the home to return to the open market. If we want to build a stable inventory of affordable units in our community, we cannot let the few that we do secure fall out of affordability. Secondly, long-term stewardship is built into these properties as the CLT’s sole responsibility is to manage and support the residents and homeowners. Homeowners and CLTs enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement where both parties are held accountable. Third, CLTs are extremely stable financially and banks trust the model. During the last recession, foreclosure rates of CLT homes were significantly below that of market rate homes because the CLT acts as the first line of defense against any foreclosure. The CLT model increases financial stability for the homeowner and the community, and mortgage lenders have no problem lending to potential buyers of CLT homes.


I feel incredibly fortunate to qualify for down payment assistance through Placer County and encourage anyone living and working in the community to apply, but these programs and projects lack the affordability and stewardship to make them a viable permanent solution. It is past time that our community representatives look at the CLT model as a solution to our housing crisis. To build a CLT will take time and money. To build one large enough to address the immense need of our community will not be fast. But we are already dumping millions of dollars and countless work hours into short-term solutions, so we know the interest and investment are there. Let’s be the community that can say we created affordable housing for the next five generations instead of for the next five years.

~ Dia Davis moved to Tahoe for one season over a decade ago and still hasn’t gotten tired of the trails, the community, and the swimming. She has worked in the service industry, ski industry, logging, and in fire, and now sits behind a desk and bike-commutes to work. She currently rents in Olympic Valley.


Previous articleNo ‘Thank You’? You’re Welcome.
Next articleA Teen’s Guide to a Tahoe Summer