Harris County takes steps toward creating land trust program

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia has proposed investing $1 million in a program that would allow low- and moderate-income families to become homeowners.

On May 14, Harris County Commissioners Court approved Harris County engineering, the community services department and the county attorney to establish a community land trust for unincorporated Harris County and create policies for how it would work.

Under the existing proposal, the program would be a nonprofit organization owned by the county. The nonprofit would have the authority to acquire land, including parcels owned by the county, which would then be used to develop affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families at below-market rates, according to a press release from Garcia’s office.

“My precinct has the highest percentage of renters among all four precincts. Most residents rent because they cannot afford to own, and I want to change this. This type of program makes homeownership accessible to those who may not be able to do it otherwise,” Garcia said, according to the release.

The county would continue to own the land and lease it to homeowners. In exchange for the lower rates, buyers would agree to resell at a price affordable to other low-income families. One likely scenario is a 99-year lease that could be renewed or inherited, the release reads.

“One of the most significant driving factors of gentrification in Harris County is the cost of land. By offering the opportunity to own and pay taxes on only the improvements and providing the land for a low-priced lease, Harris County will be providing an opportunity for housing that will remain affordable in perpetuity,” Garcia said.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

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