Land donation supports new approach to affordable housing in South Bend

Author: Erin Blasko

Aerial view of a vacant, dirt-covered lot surrounded by single-family homes. Barren trees cast long shadows across the lot. It is late winter.
Notre Dame has donated land in the 700 block of Turnock Street for affordable housing. The land is part of newly formed community land trust.

The University of Notre Dame has donated three plots of land to the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization (NNRO), the nonprofit community development organization serving the increasingly popular Northeast Neighborhood south of campus.

The land, along Turnock Street, will be used to build affordable, single-family homes as part of a newly formed community land trust, the first of its kind in Indiana.

A fourth lot, also along Turnock, will be used to develop affordable rental housing. Plans call for a small, four-unit apartment building. The building will fit with the existing character of the neighborhood, which includes a mix of owner-occupied and rental homes, townhomes and apartments.

Notre Dame is technically returning the land to the NNRO after previously purchasing it from the organization for redevelopment — specifically, for the University’s long-running Notre Dame Avenue Housing Program for faculty and staff.

A newly constructed bungalow  — gray with white trim — sits between two other houses in a residential neighborhood.
The Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization recently finished construction on this one-story home on St. Louis Boulevard in South Bend — it's first community land trust home.

From a strategic perspective, the land trust aligns with Notre Dame’s Catholic values, which regard decent, safe and affordable housing as a human right. Additionally, the University’s strategic framework lists engagement with South Bend and the surrounding community as a priority along with undergraduate education and formation, graduate education, research and scholarship, and Catholic identity.

Tim Sexton is associate vice president of public affairs for Notre Dame.

“As a founding member and key financial contributor to the NNRO, Notre Dame is fully committed to advancing community and economic development in the Northeast Neighborhood for the good of all residents,” said Sexton, a past president of the NNRO. “This includes preserving access to affordable housing in the neighborhood through innovative programs and partnerships such as the community land trust. To that end, we are pleased to contribute to the trust and look forward to working with the NNRO to ensure its success long into the future.”

Jessica McCrea, president of the NNRO, said, “The NNRO is honored to meet the need of preserving affordability in the Northeast Neighborhood by implementing the state’s first CLT home, and we’re not stopping there. Together with support from legislators, funding partners and our board, we were able to make history in 2023 and we look forward to continuing to do so.”

Community land trusts are nonprofit corporations that hold and lease land on behalf of a community-based place, such as a city or neighborhood, for the purpose of maintaining access to affordable housing — even and especially in the face of rising property values.

Here, the NNRO worked with the Grounded Solutions Network to establish the land trust. Notre Dame law students, led by James Kelly, clinical professor of law and director of the Law School’s Community Development Clinic, provided legal support for the trust.

Generally speaking, this is how it works:

  • A family or individual buys a house that sits on land owned by the community land trust.
  • The purchase price is affordable because the homeowner is buying only the house, not the land.
  • The homeowner leases the land from the community land trust as part of a long-term, renewable lease — typically 99 years — at a nominal fee.
  • The homeowner agrees to sell the home at a restricted price to keep it affordable in perpetuity, excluding the value of any improvements they make while living in the home.

By excluding land from the cost of construction, the trust offers lower-income individuals the opportunity to take advantage of homeownership as a pathway to long-term security and stability — both personal and financial — while promoting social and economic diversity around campus.

The NNRO is partnering with South Bend Heritage Foundation (SBHF), its longtime operations manager, to develop the parcels, which sit side-by-side along the east side of Turnock between Corby Boulevard and South Bend Avenue, six blocks south of campus.

A view looking north across a vacant, dirt covered lot. It is late winter. Single-family homes can be seen in the background.
Notre Dame has donated land in the 700 block of Turnock Street for affordable housing. The land is part of newly formed community land trust.

A nonprofit affordable housing provider, SBHF previously partnered with NNRO on the Triangle Neighborhood, a mixed-income neighborhood adjacent to Eddy Street Commons. The organization is involved in single-family infill development in the Northeast Neighborhood as well, along Hill Street and elsewhere.

On Turnock, SBHF will build one detached, single-family bungalow and two side-by-side duplexes. It will use a set of pre-approved building plans — developed by the city of South Bend with input from the Notre Dame Center for Civic Innovation — for the duplexes. Work on the bungalow will commence this spring.

The NNRO recently sold its first land trust home — a single-family home on St. Louis Boulevard, a block west of Turnock — for $105,000, including a mortgage subsidy and other discounts. The home was appraised at about $500,000. The home next door recently sold for about $700,000.

“So (the community land trust is) doing exactly what we want it to do, which is maintain housing affordability in the Northeast Neighborhood,” said Marco Mariani, executive director of SBHF.

Generally speaking, buyers must earn less than 80 percent of the area median income, or about $66,000 per year for a family of four, and agree to the conditions of the trust. As a privilege of ownership, they get to sit on the NNRO committee that manages the trust.

“So that’s the community part of the overall land trust operation,” Mariani said.

This is the second time in as many years that Notre Dame has donated land near campus for affordable housing, responding to rapidly rising real estate prices.

The University donated four lots along Turnock to Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County in January of last year. It also facilitated a pass-through donation of $250,000 to the organization to build as many as seven new homes on those lots as well as elsewhere in the neighborhood over the next five years.

The first two — built with support from the Notre Dame Alumni Association and its Family Volunteer Camp — are nearly finished. The owners are both single fathers from South Bend. One is a Notre Dame employee.


Originally published by Erin Blasko at on March 05, 2024.