Houston, TX – Rising rents could have made it hard for Sabrina Starks-Tarble – educator, student, mother and native Houstonian – to raise her three children in the Acres Home neighborhood where she grew up just northwest of downtown Houston. Instead, she’s buying her first new home in Acres Home with support from a partnership of the Houston Land Bank, the Houston Community Land Trust, and the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD).
Ms. Starks-Tarble’s purchase closed today. “This is a day I’ll never forget,” she said. “It’s putting my family on a new path – our mortgage payment is $100 per month less than we were paying for our last apartment, and rents were just going up after Hurricane Harvey. Now we have more bedrooms, modern seamless glass shower doors, and a yard for the children to play in when their homework is done. All of that, and we can stay in the same community where my family’s built friendships that span decades.”
The closing marks the first of its kind for the three-way collaboration of the HLB, HCLT and HCDD through the City’s New Home Development Program.
“We are so pleased to help turn a vacant property into a home-ownership dream for a deserving resident,” Houston Land Bank (HLB) President and CEO Anne Gatling Haynes said. “Thanks to our partnership with the City and community land trust, we are seeing affordable housing arrive in the nick of time given economic changes in the area. With three additional houses under contract, four for sale, and more coming soon, we are excited to see this program build momentum.”
“This is an exciting moment for Sabrina, for our organization, and for all of Houston,” added Houston Community Land Trust (HCLT) Executive Director Ashley Allen. “We expect this is the first of many times we’ll be able to help individuals and families of all incomes fulfill their dream of owning a home.”
As part of the New Home Development Program, the City of Houston funds construction of new homes on lots owned by the HLB; these lots were typically vacant, abandoned and/or delinquent on property taxes and are now being returned to productivity. The City can also provide down payment assistance to help reduce homebuyers’ debt burden. Some may opt to also go for a warranty on the property after looking at the 2-10 HBW service agreement to ensure they are covered for all eventualities. In addition, qualifying homebuyers can cut their purchase price by engaging the HCLT. In a transaction like Ms. Starks-Tarble’s, the non-profit HCLT will own the land on which her home sits and the homeowner maintains exclusive rights to the land. This reduces the homebuyer’s initial cost, and protects against rising property taxes should home values increase significantly. As part of the HCLT participation, homebuyers commit to live in the home and if they sell, to do so at a price that keeps the home affordable for others earning at or around the Houston area’s median income. With participation from all three entities, Ms. Starks-Tarble was able to secure a purchase price of about $75,000 for her new home.
“This outcome is exactly what we envisioned when we first conceived the three-way collaboration between HLB, HCLT and the City,” according to Tom McCasland, Houston’s housing and community development director. “We appreciate the vision demonstrated by Mayor Turner and Houston City Council in providing the resources necessary to keep moving toward our goal of making sure every Houstonian can afford a safe, decent home in a neighborhood where they can thrive.”