ETTRICK, Va. (WRIC) — Ten new affordable homes will soon be built in Ettrick on Chesterfield County land that has lain empty for years, thanks to a collaborative project by the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, county government and local community groups.
A New Model for Home
The project could prove the model advanced by the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust (MWCLT), which has only been in operation for a few years but has built affordable housing across the Richmond region.
“The trust has, in the words of Erica Sims, CEO of MWCLT, a “unique public-private partnership” with Chesterfield. That partnership, which designates MWCLT as the county’s “land bank,” has only been allowed under state law since 2017. In that time, they’ve built and renovated individual homes across Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond — but the Ettrick Landing project will be a major step in expanding their horizons.
“We’ve never built a development of multiple units,” Sims said. “The public approval process alone took well over a year.”
Dr. Joe Casey, Chesterfield County Administrator, said the new homes will address a growing issue in the county.
“Single-family housing is sometimes now owned by some company and then they rent it out,” Casey said. “So single-family homes are not necessarily owner-occupied as they once were or should be.”
The ten homes at Ettrick Landing will be split between multi-story “starter homes” with three beds and two and a half baths for families who may struggle to afford a house on the open market, along with one-story homes designed to be accessible to seniors and others with mobility issues.
Nancy Ross, President of Concerned Citizens of Ettrick, said they designed the community alongside the county after walking door-to-door and collecting feedback from residents on their housing needs.
The expected price range is between $150,000 to $180,000, a price the county said was well within the reach of families earning between $35,000 and $75,000 a year — 60% and 80% of the county’s median household income, respectively.
In an interview with 8News, Sims emphasized that the new homes would allow buyers to benefit from the equity in their homes while maintaining affordability for future buyers.
“What we really wanna do is see that home re-sell again at an affordable price, and do that again and again and again,” Sims said. “And so each time these homes go up for re-sale, another person from our waitlist is able to purchase them.”
That’s because MWCLT operates on a unique system called a “ground lease.” In essence, home buyers purchase the home itself, but lease the land underneath it for 99 years from the trust. Then, if they re-sell the home later, they’re required to do so at a price that allows them to collect some equity, but still fixes the price well below market value.
Applicants for homes sold by the trust are required to make less than 80% of the area median income, and anyone interested can sign up to attend an info session on the trust’s website.
Holding History Close
Ettrick Landing will be built on the site of the old Dupuy Elementary School, which served as the elementary school for many elderly residents still living in the area.
The school was built in 1962, in the midst of so-called “massive resistance” — a racist campaign that saw nearby Colonial heights open its own middle and high schools to avoid integration with the Black residents of Ettrick.
Ross said they were applying for a state historical marker to tell the story of the school, which was integrated with nearby Ettrick Elementary in 1968 when the supreme court struck down Virginia’s racist “freedom of choice” scheme, which had allowed local divisions to delay integration.
From there, the school served for 20 years as an annex serving K-2 students, until 1988, when it was made into a county storage facility. That’s what the building was when the county decided to deed the land to the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust in 2020, paving the way for the new housing project.
“I’d like to think that some of the students that went here possibly would also be some of the residents that come back and further grow roots here,” Dr. Casey said.