Athens Land Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to encourage cohesive communities by conserving land and natural resources, providing sustainable affordable housing, and supporting local agriculture.
ALT was founded in 1994 by Skipper StipeMaas and Nancy Stangle. At the time, the two women were involved in the development of the Kenney Ridge community, a single-family neighborhood located on 139 acres on Tallassee Road in Athens-Clarke County. In the course of that project, StipeMaas and Stangle discovered an apparent conflict between their two goals: to protect open spaces, and to keep the housing lots affordable. Believing that both problems required an integrated solution, ALT’s founders created one of the few organizations in the country that is both a conservation and community land trust.
Land Conservation Program
As a conservation land trust, ALT preserves land through conservation easements. Land designated as open space is permanently preserved in its natural state with no development allowed. ALT is committed to preserving many types of land, including woods, stream corridors, wetlands, wildlife habitat, productive farms and forests, historic sites, open space in low-income neighborhoods, and scenic vistas.
To date, ALT holds 50 conservation easements permanently protecting 11,528 acres of diverse landscapes. This “green infrastructure” helps sustain critical ecosystem products such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, water supply and productive soils. These natural commodities serves dual goals of promoting environmental and economic sustainability. In 2008, ALT became one of the first land trusts in the nation to be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission for meeting national standards for excellence in land conservation.
As a community land trust, ALT works towards increasing homeownership in Athens-Clarke County by creating housing that is permanently affordable. In the conventional housing market, the cost of a home is driven primarily by the value of the land rather than that of the house. ALT separates the two, retaining ownership of the land and selling just the house, which keeps the cost to the homebuyer affordable. ALT then provides a renewable 99-year ground lease for the land at a nominal fee. The homeowner can leave the house to his or her heirs, or sell it to another income-qualified buyer at a price that reflects the rate of inflation but remains affordable. By ensuring that the homes remain affordable in perpetuity, this housing model improves neighborhoods without making them too expensive for the long-term residents. ALT builds and renovates energy-efficient homes, preserving the historic character of the neighborhoods where we work. ALT currently has 30 single-family properties housing 48 people in several traditionally low-income neighborhoods, including lots for future homes. In addition, ALT owns Fourth Street Village Apartments, providing affordable rental and services for 96 families making 50% or less of the Athens-Clarke County median income.
- 13,505 acres permanently protected by ALT conservation easements
- In 26 of Georgia’s 159 counties
- Including portions of 9 of Georgia’s 14 major watersheds
- 13 sites for future homeowners
- 25 families are currently living in ALT homes
- 11 families are lease-purchasing homes
Fourth Street Village Apartments
- 370 low-income individuals are residents of Fourth Street Village apartments
- 96 affordable units at Fourth Street Village
- 24 market-rate units at Fourth Street Village
Honors and Awards
ALT has received recognition on the national, state and local levels:
- Earthcraft Builder of the Year, 2014
- Merit Award, from the Georgia Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society for ALT’s conservation program, 2010
- National Accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission (one of the first 39 accredited land trusts in the U.S.), 2008
- Magnolia Award for Excellence in Affordable Housing, Homeownership Category, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, 2008
- Best New Development Award for Fourth Streeet Village, Athens Grow Green Coalition, 2008
- Preservation Award for “long-term positive impacts to the Historic Hancock Corridor,” Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, 2008
- Affordable Housing Multifamily Development Award for Fourth Street Village, Athens-Clarke County, 2007
- Preservation Award for Outstanding Rehabilitation, Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, 2005
- Community Revitalization Award for Historically Sensitive Infill, Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, 2001
- Alec Little Award in recognition of exemplary efforts to improve the Northeast Georgia area through environmental action, 2002