SANDPOINT — Everyone deserves a shot at the American dream, no matter where they currently are in life.
That’s the mentality at Bonner Community Housing Agency. The organization is now accepting applications from individuals seeking to own a home within the community. By partnering with the federal government in a community land trust, the group is able to discount the price of land from the home, resulting in a much more affordable purchase for a working family.
“This way, you get a lot more home for the money,” Bonner Community Housing Agency Director Chris Bassett said.
To qualify for the program, participants must make less than 80 percent of the area median income — identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as $42,989 for Bonner County households. According to the housing agency’s data, around 50 percent of residents around the Sandpoint area qualify for application. Qualifying individuals will also need to show stable credit and employment.
The key element that makes Bonner Community Housing Agency work is the land trust with the federal government. The system is essentially structured as a loan from the government. However, as long as the land is used to provide affordable housing, the payments never become due. It’s only when the land is sold that the government begins seeking payments.
“It’s basically a forgivable loan,” Bassett said.
The homes built on the land trust, located at Spring Creek in Sandpoint, are high-quality structures that promise to retain their value over the long term. According to the housing agency, the homes have been built with a Energy Star ratings in mind, meaning that the homes will carry an affordable mortgage without breaking the bank on utility bills. The homes were built by Idagon Homes of Sandpoint with a special eye turned toward the special need they would fill in the community. In addition, they are subsidized by Idaho Housing and Finance Association’s HOME funds with financing for construction provided by Washington Trust Bank for a limited time.
By owning a home in town, project leaders hope that land trust participants will gain a new sense of investment in their community. According to Sandpoint City Planner Jeremy Grimm, home owners are more likely to volunteer and provide community service when they have a stake in the outcome.
The housing project fits in with Sandpoint’s overall goals as a community. When community members charted out their goals for future development several years, a healthy variation on housing values was high on the priority list. Town leaders recognized the danger in locking out lower incomes and becoming an Aspen or Jackson Hole.
“If people can’t move here because they can’t afford the cost of living, that’s a huge problem,” Bassett said.