Introduction

With the publication last fall of Shared Equity Homeownership: the Changing Landscape of Resale-restricted, Owner-occupied Housing, the National Housing Institute completed the first phase of a long-term project for documenting the performance, raising the profile and increasing the scale of innovative models of affordable housing that straddle the line between renting and owning. The best-known examples of shared-equity homeownership are limited-equity cooperatives (LEC’s), community land trusts (CLTs’) and deed-restricted homes with affordability controls lasting many years.

These models hardly exhaust the field, however. There are many ways to allocate the rights, responsibilities and benefits of resale-restricted, owner-occupied housing, many possible designs for the durable controls that regulate the use and resale of such housing and many ways to structure the administrative entity that is charged with monitoring and enforcing these controls over time. This lengthy catalogue of organizational options has produced a landscape of unusual diversity, where new models of shared-equity homeownership-or new permutations of older models-appear on a regular basis.

The malleability of these models is part of their strength, for they can be readily tailored to fit a variety of locales and to serve a variety of needs. There is a downside to so many variations, however. They obscure what is common to them all, making it difficult for the practitioners of separate models to learn from one another or to work together to build popular understanding and public support for this new approach to homeownership.

In the articles that follow, comprising the cover theme of this issue of Shelterforce, the authors explore the challenges and efficacy of several shared-equity models being implemented in localities around the country. We selected these particular stories because they illustrate both the variety of shared-equity homeownership and the quiet-but-steady growth of the sector as a whole. Arrayed side-by-side, they also illustrate similarities of purpose and structure that exist from one model to another, providing a glimpse of the common ground on which a national agenda for expanding this sector might be founded.

John Emmeus Davis
John Emmeus Davis is a partner and co-founder of Burlington Associates in Community Development, a national consulting cooperative specializing in the development of policies and programs promoting permanently affordable, owner-occupied housing. He was the housing director for Burlington, Vermont, in the mayoral administrations of Bernie Sanders and Peter Clavelle. Davis has taught housing policy and neighborhood planning at Tufts University, New Hampshire College, the University of Vermont, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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