FARGO — Adam and Crystal Spiker and their family have been looking for a home for about seven years.
With rising prices, they felt squeezed out of the market for the three bedroom home they needed for their children. The homes they looked at or saw in listings were either too expensive or cost too much to fix up.
So, they have been renting — most recently a duplex in north Fargo.
Then, when looking through listings recently they discovered what is the home ever purchased with help from the recently formed Cass Clay Community Land Trust.
Community land trusts are a unique but well tested tool used in communities across the nation in efforts to build affordable housing pools for lower-income residents. The underlying strategy is that the trust permanently owns the land through a subsidy, with the buyers then being able to purchase and own the home at a lower-than-market cost.
The nonprofit trust, said Executive Director Trenton Gerads, has four families under contract to have homes this fall and it hopes to add six more by the end of the year. By 2024, the goal is to have 105 permanently affordable homes in the stock.
The Spikers, who are hoping to close on the deal next week, are making history as the first family to take advantage of the program, which was boosted through the extensive help of Rebuilding Together, a longtime affordable housing nonprofit in the Fargo-Moorhead metro.
It's a small, but first and important step forward in providing more affordable housing, according to Rebuilding Together's Executive Director Cassie Skalicky, who along with Gerads held an open house at the home on 11th Street South in central Fargo last week to celebrate the occasion.
Skalicky said the families are actually realizing their dream of buying a home and not having to rent any longer.
"They can decorate it how they want, have pets, have birthday parties," she said. "Not only does it help the family but also the community. And this program will last for many, many years."
The Spikers said they have been praying for such a home for their three children, ages 7, 5, and 5 months.
"It's just beautiful," said Crystal Spiker, a stay-at-home mom who is homeschooling her children. "It's just perfect for our family."
Her husband, who is a West Fargo native and works at Marvin Windows, said they never expected to have a newly built home.
"Our prayers were answered," he said.
The twin home was listed at $203,000, but with the $50,000 subsidy from the land trust for the land, the price was knocked down to $153,000 which was below their top limit of $180,000 for a home, Spiker said.
There was a lot of paperwork involved, he said, but it was part of the "learning curve" not only for him but for the land trust staff, too.
When he was notified they were selected he was driving and had to pull off the road to read his email notice.
"I think I jumped three feet in the air when he called me," said his wife.
The family is excited, too, that the second family selected next door will have children. That buyer is a single mother with three children who took a job in the area.
The twin home sits along busy 13th Avenue but the front faces quiet 11th Street amidst a cozy, middle-class neighborhood with older homes but a few that have been refurbished or built more recently.
They both have three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, spacious closet space and large yards.
The trust and Rebuilding Together, who had volunteers and hired several contractors for the work on the home, are also finishing up construction on a twin home on 16 1/2 Street not far away for two more affordable residences.
Mayor Tim Mahoney, who also spoke at the open house, said this first home was "just the beginning."
"The need is here," he said, and noted that the city donated the lots for the first home after property there was condemned.
Gerads added the Spikers are "a family of five that are doing all the right things. This is a stepping stone for many families doing the right things."
He said he had talked to one of the neighbors who said they were really excited to see something happen at the end of the block in the neighborhood.
"It's not only going to help rejuvenate this area, but also revitalize the community," Gerads said.