Nery Peña, 27, a first-grade English teacher, bought a two-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C., overlooking the Washington Monument, for $50,000 in 2021. Similar apartments nearby start at $350,000.
The building is part of the Douglass Community Land Trust, a portfolio of properties purchased by former tenants and nonprofit groups, where qualifying buyers typically make between 30 and 70 percent of the area median income. In D.C., that could mean a family of three making roughly $35,000 to $81,000 a year. The land trust also includes rental apartments.
Ms. Peña, whose family rented in the building before it converted to a co-op in the 1990s, cobbled together $15,000 from her savings and a gift from her mother, and financed another $35,000 through a credit union.
She pays $1,420 a month, including co-op fees; similar units nearby rent for twice that amount. If she decides to sell the home, the sales price will be restricted to her purchase price, $50,000, plus 3 percent for every year she stays.
“Honestly, I never thought it would be possible,” she said. “‘The majority of people who live here have known me since I was 2.”
One of the model’s biggest problems is scale. There are about 250,000 households living in shared equity units in the United States, said Tony Pickett, the chief executive of Grounded Solutions Network, a national organization in that space. That includes about 1,200 H.D.F.C. co-ops in New York City.
“That’s minuscule,” he said.
Finding lenders who will finance the loans is a challenge because the mortgages are generally smaller than those for market-rate homes. Grounded Solutions is aiming to reach 1 million households in the next 10 years, pushing for legislative changes that could make underwriting such loans easier.