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San Diego selling $1 lots: Is this the future of 'affordable housing' for the middle class?

Jeanette Steele, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

SAN DIEGO -- What does it take for a middle-class family to be able to buy a house in San Diego, with the county median home price at $540,000 and the median individual salary at just $55,500?

In the case of the San Diego Community Land Trust, it means the city selling home lots for $1.

The nonprofit Land Trust is poised to build 16 three- and four-bedroom homes on an elbow of vacant land near the Mexican border.

The houses, with yards and garages, will sell for $350,000 or less -- a far cry from what similar new homes go for on the open market.

The city of San Diego has committed to sell the 3.3 acres to the young nonprofit group, in the name of affordable housing.

The Land Trust is working on a similar $1-a-lot deal with Lemon Grove to build nine row homes on an abandoned subdivision there.

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This program is unique in one major way: It's trying to help working families who otherwise couldn't buy a first home here. Most affordable-housing efforts in the region concentrate on apartments for people with low incomes.

"We have made the decision to focus on moderate-income ownership housing. We see that as the real need," said Jean Diaz, executive director of the Land Trust.

"What do you do for people who have a job -- may have two or three jobs to try to make it -- and they are trying to build equity?" Diaz said. "Maybe it won't provide as many roofs, but it's a part of the market that deserves some effort."

In Southern California, where the home-building business is hot, it's a rare move for cities to virtually give away land for single-family houses.


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