New affordable housing rarely can claim to be permanently affordable, but the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust is out to prove that it is possible.

The land trust on Wednesday morning celebrated the construction of four houses on Nassau Street in Charlottesville’s Belmont-Carlton neighborhood.

The two duplexes are being sold to four households making 80% or less of the area median income, or roughly $71,500 for a family of four. The land trust retains ownership of the land, which tends to increase in value more rapidly than the house alone. 

In addition, the new homeowner agrees to only sell the house within the first 90 years to income-qualifying households. 

“Especially in this area with high land costs – I think we have a ton of potential here, and we’re starting to get those phone calls [from developers to fulfill affordable housing requirements],” said TJCLT Executive Director Christine Jacobs. 

Jacobs works part-time with the land trust and oversees the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Regional Housing Partnership in her other work hours.

The land trust bought the parcels on Nassau Street in 2017 for $240,000, which the city covered with a grant from the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. 

The trust hired Jacobs with funds from an anonymous donor afterwards, said TJCLT board secretary Julia Monteith.

Land trusts have been criticized for not allowing residents to build wealth like other homeowners through the rising value of their land. Jacobs said wealth-building is exchanged for creating a permanent community asset that only requires a one-time investment. 

In addition, Jacobs said that land trusts offer a kind of flexibility that other models of housing do not. Land trusts can reduce the costs of rental housing or ensure that commercial development represents a community’s vision.

Two of the homes are under contract, and several families are going through housing counseling with Piedmont Housing Alliance to qualify to be the other homeowners.

The owners on Nassau Street will be responsible for maintenance, utilities and real estate taxes, like other homeowners, but the land trust has worked to minimize those costs, as well.

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“We wanted to deliver a home to these buyers that was way above par,” said TJCLT board member Keith Smith.

Smith said that the energy costs will be close to zero, because the houses are both energy efficient, with thick walls and high-performing windows, and are outfitted with solar panels.

The land trust is working to get a nonprofit tax exemption for the land portion of the homeowner’s taxes, Jacobs said.

Bramante Homes Inc. built the Nassau duplexes, which are listed on Nest Realty for $215,000. Nest Realty lists other projects by Bramante Homes at prices between $540,000 and $720,000.

“This is our first, big jump into community give-back like this,” said Christopher Brement, of Bramante Homes. 

Brement said that he was lucky to know about the project early on, because “to be honest, there was competition to be able to donate services to a cause like this.”