Land trust home owners must make many sacrifices

By Amanda Leidig
Islands Sounder


Lopez Island, WA - Residents at the Lopez Community Land Trust’s (LCLT) new housing project, Innisfree, not only have to deal with full-time jobs and family responsibilities, they also have to work many hours building their homes.

This is what Sorrel North has had to deal with in order to own her own home. North, who works full time at the ferry landing and is a single parent of two, struggles to meet all the conditions of home ownership, including 24 hours a week of sweat equity working on her home.

“It’s been almost impossible for me. It has been very difficult and very stressful. There is a tremendous amount of pressure,” North said of her juggling act. There are not enough hours in the week, she said. “I feel like I have put more time and energy into this project than any in my entire life, aside from my children.”

The LCLT allows future residents to have building partners, or people who volunteer to work off some of their sweat equity hours. North hasn’t had a building partner for over two months. “It’s a very humbling position to be in, asking someone to help you build your home,” said North.

Some families are forced to drop out of LCLT affordable housing projects because they are unable to fulfill the sweat equity requirements. It’s tough for a single person to fulfill the requirements; imagine having responsibilities to a family on top of that, she said.

Terri Thompson, another future resident, and an employee at Isabel’s coffee shop, has also found it extremely challenging fulfilling her sweat equity requirements. “It’s like working six days a week for the pay of three,” she said. “Physically, it has been really hard.”

Both North and Thompson feel there are misconceptions in the community regarding the Innisfree community and its two predecessors, Coho and Morgantown. “We’re paying mortgages, we’re homeowners like anyone else,” said North. “My mortgage payments aren’t going to mean I can work any less.”

“We’re paying back construction loans,” said Thompson. “We have down payments. It’s not like, here you go, have a house.”

But despite the stresses involved in helping to building their homes, both feel the ordeal is worth it. North, who has lived in 17 homes over the past 20 years, regularly had to move everything out, “lock, stock and barrel” in the summer, then return in the off-season. That pattern is about to end. “It’s a big sense of relief, knowing if I plant something, I can watch it grow,” said North. “It will be a place my kids can come home to that is their own.”

Numerous moves haven’t been North’s only housing struggle. North now pays over $1000 a month for the home she rents. “Essentially, I cannot afford my rental, I go into debt every month,” she said.

Thompson says she has survived by being creative. She now resides on a boat she is in the process of purchasing. Thompson found that living on a boat was cheaper than renting a home. She will continue to live on her boat until her home in the Innisfree community is finished in January 2003.

Thompson’s boat is her sixth home in the three years she has lived on Lopez. Like North, she was able to find winter rentals but had to move out for the summer months.

“I feel like this is going to make all the difference in my life,” said Thompson. She feels she has never really been able to settle into a home.

Innisfree homeowners are profiled

Most future residents of the eight homes in the Lopez Community Land Trust’s (LCLT) newest affordable housing project, Innisfree, are not new to the community. They have lived on Lopez an average of six and a half years.

Single parent families will occupy three of the homes at Innisfree: a single father with one child, a single mother with one child, and a single mother with two children.

Five of the homes will be occupied by single people: two single men and three single women. One of the single residents is a senior.

The average income of the eight residents is $18,500. The lowest income is $12,000 and the highest is $26,500. The future residents of Innisfree all hold jobs in the community. Their jobs include working in the food industry, at the ferry landing, at a coffee shop, in construction, and as a masseuse. Several survive by working two or more jobs.
—Amanda Leidig is a staff reporter for and The
Islands’ Sounder. She can be reached at (360) 376-4500 or


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