PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Some very happy Long Island residents will be moving into new houses this week, thanks to a program that turns zombie homes into affordable housing.
John Nelson never thought he'd be a single homeowner at 29 years old.
"To be able to buy a house on Long Island as a single person and not making a million dollars is really special," Nelson told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff on Tuesday.
Some of the highest taxes and property values in the nation make home ownership for many his age impossible.
"A lot of my friends after school just moved off Long Island just to find reasonable houses to buy and to get the American dream," Nelson said.
With Nelson's $50,000-a-year salary working in a school district, how can he afford a century-old renovated three-bedroom?
It's called a Community Land Trust.
Through the Long Island Housing Partnership, it turns vacant zombie houses into transformed affordable houses to boost the economy and retain young talent.
The Land Trust continues to own the land forever, but allows first-time buyers who earn below the area's median income to purchase just the house.
"We are turning blighted homes into totally revitalized new homes, for people who couldn't otherwise couldn't get into homes and want the opportunity to stay here on Long Island," said Peter Elkowitz Jr., CEO and president of the Long Island Housing Partnership.
"To take the house and remove it from the land, really, is the best way to make that affordable for young people," Nelson added.
Nelson will pay only $1,400 a month for a $200,000 mortgage. That's less than half its market value and less than most rents in the area. The Land Trust is transforming 50 homes, with another 50 planned.
And while Nelson had to win the chance to buy his home in a lottery, there are now openings for additional first-time home buyers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
"These homes will remain in the affordable pool. If they are ever sold, they will remain affordable," Elkowitz said.
As far as Nelson is concerned, it's a win-win.
"It's a dream come true. It's going to be a really special Christmas," he said.
And he can now afford a home, in his hometown.
The Land Trust is able to buy and renovate the zombie houses thanks to private and public support, much of it from CitiBank.
For more information on applying for one of the affordable homes for first-time home buyers, call 631-435-4710 or check out lihp.org.
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