Morgantown celebrates 30 years of permanently affordable housing

Submitted by Lopez Community Land Trust.

Morgantown, Lopez Community Land Trust’s first permanently affordable housing cooperative, is celebrating 30 years! Ona and Neil, homeowners and co-op members, shared their experience from the beginning. On the dining room table was a photo of Ona and Helen Ludwig with a handmade sign with the words Planting the Seeds of Land Reform. “The whole CLT model seemed really amazing and perfect.” Ona said, “That’s part of why I made my visionary sign.”

Neil joined in, “One aspect of why it was so exciting is that the whole financial picture was laid out very clearly, and we could see that this was in the realm of possibility for us. At the time, I wondered — how would I ever afford a home on Lopez Island? When the CLT model was explained, it made me think, wow, we could do this!”

Throughout all of LCLT’s projects, homeowners participate in the building process. In doing so, they learn building skills, bond as a co-op and truly know the ins and outs of their houses. This experience has lasting impacts. For Neil, “Starting out working for public works, there were a lot of skills that carried over. I gained confidence that I didn’t have before. It kind of gave me a sense of being unlimited in what I could do and that carried over at the dump.” Ona and Neil Co-founded the Take It or Leave It (TIOLI) on Lopez.

Ona described how “it’s been very important for us to have been part of this [original building] group. Like the other day, nobody could find the entrance to the water going into one of the homes. And I was like, ‘I remember! I dug a hole there to fix a leak.’ I feel like it’s an important historical memory.”

Most affordable housing in the United States doesn’t allow for this historical memory, as it is typically linked to a 30-year expiration policy. In contrast, all LCLT housing co-ops have a renewable 99-year ground lease. This guarantees that the land will be used for affordable housing for 198 years, and that residents can stay in their home.

“There’s a lot to be worked out with a 99-year lease!” Ona said. “And that’s a beautiful aspect of this. I thought at one period I wanted to leave Lopez and find an intentional community and I read that the average turnover in intentional communities is 8 years. On Lopez I have these relationships that go on for more than 40 years even. How precious is that? Now we think about becoming old people. Even though there’s been challenging times, we’ve always felt this is our home. And we no longer think of moving. I feel very grateful that we have a good place for growing old.”

Today, Lopez Community Land Trust provides housing to over a hundred Lopezians who contribute to our island in tangible and meaningful ways. If you’d like to read the full interview and learn more about Lopez Community Land Trust, visit