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Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH)

Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Evanston


Community Partners for Affordable Housing retains ownership of the land while selling or renting the homes at below-market value. The land is leased at a nominal cost to income-qualified buyers.

An MPC Finance case study


In the latter part of the 1990s, the City of Highland Park embarked on a master planning process to update the City’s comprehensive Master Plan. As the master planning process continued, there was increasing concern about the lack of affordable housing and its negative impact on the City’s tradition of inclusiveness. Based on a joint recommendation of the City’s Human Relations, Plan and Historic Preservation Commissions, the City Council directed the Housing Commission to prepare an affordable housing plan to be incorporated into the City’s Master Plan. The City Council adopted the following goals to guide the process:

  • To preserve, maintain and promote housing of high quality that reflects the community’s commitment to cultural and economic diversity.
  • To maintain and increase diversity in housing styles, sizes, types, densities and prices or rents in order to welcome a wider array of families and individuals into the community.
  • To provide affordable housing that is an integral part of neighborhoods throughout the community.

Based on direction from the City Council and extensive research on affordable housing practices nationwide, the Housing Commission worked with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Natalie Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement and the Great Cities Institute to develop an affordable housing plan. A key recommendation in the plan was the creation of a community land trust to preserve the existing housing stock and develop new housing that will remain affordable in perpetuity. The model was found to be among the most effective and efficient models of affordable housing, particularly in high-cost areas such as Highland Park. In 2003, the Highland Park Illinois Community Land Trust (HPICLT) was established as an independent nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization.

The HPICLT was extremely successful at expanding the supply of permanently affordable housing in Highland Park and received regional and even national attention for being at the forefront of affordable housing. Since its creation, the organization has developed and/or preserved more than 60 units of permanently affordable housing and leveraged more than $10 million in public and private resources for affordable housing.

In July 2008, the HPICLT Board of Directors initiated a strategic planning process designed to thoughtfully guide the organization’s future and establish key objectives and strategies that would most efficiently and effectively increase the supply of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households, taking full advantage of the valuable insights and experience gained during the organization’s early stages. As a result, the name was changed to Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) and its bylaws were updated to reflect a more sustainable, best practice model that allows the organization to collaborate with other communities in the region.

How it works

Using the Community Land Trust model, CPAH acquires existing properties (primarily foreclosed and/or blighted properties), conducts a thorough environmentally sustainable rehabilitation and then sells the homes to income-qualified buyers at an affordable price. CPAH retains ownership of the underlying land and leases the land to the homebuyer for a nominal fee ($25 per month) via a 99-year, renewable ground lease. The purchase price for the homebuyer is typically 40 to 65 percent below the market value because, in essence, the homebuyer needs only to buy the home, not the land. If the homebuyer later wants to sell their home, it is sold to another income-qualified buyer or back to CPAH at a formula price designed to give the homeowner a fair share of appreciation, while still keeping the home affordable for the next buyer. The resale restrictions maximize the cost-effectiveness of public and private investment because the homes are not only affordable to the first buyer, but will remain affordable for succeeding generations of homebuyers forever. In addition to the home preservation program, CPAH also develops new affordable for-sale and rental housing using the CLT model. Like CPAH’s preservation program, the organization retains ownership of the underlying land to ensure newly constructed homes also remain affordable forever.

CPAH benefits the community by:

  1. providing housing opportunities for low-income households in traditionally non low-income communities;
  2. promoting cultural and economic diversity;
  3. creating valuable workforce housing near jobs and transit;
  4. preserving the community’s existing housing stock and neighborhood character;
  5. developing an inventory of permanently affordable and environmentally sustainable housing for future generations;
  6. rehabilitating problem or blighted properties;
  7. promoting live-near-work housing which helps alleviate traffic congestion and the environmental impacts associated with long commutes;
  8. helping communities comply with the Illinois Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act;
  9. helping reduce impediments to fair housing; and
  10. maximizing the cost-effectiveness of public and private investment for long-term community benefit.

To date, CPAH has created a community infrastructure of more than 55 homes that will remain permanently affordable to address the community’s current and future affordable housing needs.


Start-up costs for the land trust were funded with resources from the Highland Park Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The trust fund and land trust were created together to provide financial support for affordable housing activities that address the needs of low-and-moderate income individuals and families. As a private organization, CPAH now raises its own funds, as well as receives funding from the trust fund by application. CPAH receives funding from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Lake County, the Federal Home Loan Bank, Illinois Housing Development Authority, private donations, individuals, banks, foundations and earned revenue.

CPAH layers financing for development. Given its small staff size, the annual operating budget of the land trust has been roughly $180,000. The development budget is contingent upon the types of developments with which CPAH is involved. The total estimated cost per scattered-site unit is approximately $290,000, including acquisition, rehabilitation and soft costs such as insurance, utilities and legal fees.

Resale formula

Initial purchase
Initial appraised value: $300,000
Minus purchase price reduction: $120,000
Equals Home Buyer’s Purchase Price: $180,000

Resale (10 years later)
Current appraised value: $350,000
Minus initial appraised value: $300,000
Equals Market Value Appreciation: $50,000

Multiplied by Home Owner’s Investment Ratio: 60%1
($50,000 × .60) = $30,000

This is the share of appreciation attributable to the owner’s investment

The share of appreciation attributable to the owner’s investment: $30,000

Multiplied by shared appreciation factor: 15%2
($30,000 × .15) = $4,500

This is the owner’s share of Market Value Appreciation (MVA)

Owner’s Purchase Price: $180,000
Plus Owner’s share of MVA: $4,500
Plus Improvements credit, if any: $3,6003
Equals Formula Price: $188,100

Note: The Purchase Option Price is the lesser of the Formula Price and the Current Appraised Value.

1Home Buyer’s Investment Ratio is the Purchase Price ($180,000) divided by the Initial Appraised Value ($300,000).

2The shared appreciation factor is established to ensure a fair return to the owner and enable CPAH to meet the permanent affordability goals for the community. CPAH researched other comparable programs formulas and calculated potential resales in Highland Park to determine an appropriate percentage.

3Calculation of Structural and Mechanical Improvements Credit: Assume that homeowner added a new roof in year of ownership at an approved cost of $6,000. At 15-year straight line depreciation (subtract $400 each year), the value of the credit after year 10 is $3,600.


Community Partners for Affordable Housing

  • Goal

    Create a stock of housing that will remain affordable in perpetuity for low- and moderate-income households to address the community’s current and future affordable housing needs.

  • Target

    Households earning at or below 80 percent area median income (AMI), which was $57,900 for a family of four in 2014. A small number of units are available for households earning up to 120 percent AMI.

  • Financing

    Sources typically include:

    • S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development HOME Funds
    • Lake County
    • Federal Home Loan Bank
    • Illinois Housing Development Authority
    • Highland Park Affordable Housing Trust Fund
    • Lake Forest Housing Trust Fund
    • Donations and grants

  • Success

    60 units completed since 2003.

  • Lessons learned

    Being able to control the land and future sales of affordable units allows the community to ensure that homes created by the land trust remain affordable for the long term.