August 2, 2023

Community Housing Partners (CHP), which provides affordable and sustainable housing throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, is excited to announce the creation of the New River Home Trust, a transformational community land trust serving Virginia’s New River Valley region. This initiative is a partnership between CHP, the Town of Blacksburg, and Montgomery County and will provide affordable homeownership opportunities for area residents.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this powerful tool to address the affordability crisis in our region,” said Jake Powell, Director of Homeownership for CHP. “The New River Home Trust will provide a unique and sustainable way for families to become homeowners, and we can’t wait to see the positive impact it will have on our community.”

So, how does a community land trust work? A land trust separates the ownership of a property’s land and any homes or other structures on it. While a traditional deed conveys ownership of both the land and house together (called fee-simple ownership), a land trust has two deeds: one for the land and one for the home. By selling only the home and retaining ownership of the land, the cost of the land can be removed from the purchase price, making homeownership more affordable.

In 2022, the Town of Blacksburg and Montgomery County approved the land trust model and selected CHP Homeownership to oversee the program, which officially launched this year. CHP has already added five Blacksburg properties to the New River Home Trust, and more are scheduled to be included in the upcoming months. There is also a possibility for other neighboring areas to join the New River Home Trust in the future.

The New River Home Trust is committed to preserving the affordability of properties for a span of 99 years. CHP is developing criteria for developers to donate property to the land trust with a focus on single-family development. Additionally, employers seeking housing solutions for their employees have the option to contribute to the New River Home Trust, and CHP intends to promote this model to local businesses.

Virginia is home to other community land trusts in Richmond and Charlottesville, but the New River Home Trust has the potential to become the largest in the commonwealth thanks to the anticipated inclusion of Stroubles Ridge, a CHP development planned for the Merrimac area on Blacksburg’s western border. As the New River Home Trust grows, it will have an advantage when seeking external funding. (Check out a photo essay about CHP Homeownership restoring a historic home in Blacksburg which is now part of the New River Home Trust.)

“CHP has a track record of bringing affordable and sustainable housing to the region, and the New River Home Trust is just the latest example of our commitment to creating equitable and stable communities,” Powell added. “We look forward to seeing the benefits this initiative will have on the lives of local residents and the overall health of the region.”

Housing affordability is a major issue for the New River Valley. According to a 2021 housing study by the New River Regional Commission, the region needs at least 5,500 affordable rental options to support current residents who are low-to-moderate income and spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Thousands of additional households in the area pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing and would benefit from additional rental and homeownership options. According to Powell, CHP and its partners believe that an adequate supply of affordable housing options is critical to the overall stability and well-being of the community and its residents. The New River Home Trust is one of several tools to address these challenges.  (Learn more about housing affordability in Blacksburg.)