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Thinking Outside the Box Provides Homeownership Opportunities in Rural Virginia

Posted by Barbara Bowen, Public Information Officer, USDA Rural Development in Rural
Jan 19, 2023
Rochelle Hall on her porch

These days, many Virginia families are finding the search for reasonably priced housing to be a puzzle about as easy to solve as the infamous Rubik’s Cube. When they try to match up the four sides of location, cost, terms and financing, the “colors” just don’t align.

A new collaboration between USDA Rural Development (RD) and Fauquier Habitat for Humanity is opening up opportunities for more Virginians to realize their white picket fence dreams through an “out of the box” approach that redefines homeownership. It’s called a ground lease and promises to be a game changer for low-to-moderate income families.

Ground leases enable a purchaser to buy the structure while a trust retains ownership of the land, leasing it to the homeowner. The buyer retains full rights and can sell the home at any time. This model has already been used to increase existing supplies of lower-priced houses in states like Hawaii and California, which are known for high land values, but had never been tried in Virginia.

RD Loan Specialist Jennifer Riden knew she’d have to break new ground when Fauquier Habitat for Humanity approached her about a unique USDA RD Single Family Housing Direct Home Loan for a property held in the recently established Virginia Statewide Community Land Trust. Jennifer and RD Area Director Steven Davis collaborated with Single Family Housing Director Jeanie Barbrow to close the state’s first USDA loan structured around this model on Sept. 1, 2022.

Rochelle Hall in Warrenton was one of the first three applicants to benefit from this partnership, recently celebrating the holidays in a new home. The single mother of two lives on a fixed income due to ongoing health issues and home ownership gives Rochelle the security of knowing she and her daughters have a life-long home and a payment she can afford.

“I never thought it would be possible to own a home, so I didn’t give it much thought,” said Hall. “After connecting with the Fauquier Habitat for Humanity and going through this process with the USDA, I have a new perspective on life. I went out and created a will because I am actually investing in something for my daughters’ futures.”

The Virginia team is working on two more applications and initiating outreach to other habitat groups to pave the way for additional homeowners to benefit from this opportunity. For more information, contact Jennifer Riden at (540) 534-3067 or

Category/Topic: Rural