Atlanta Land Trust (ALT) is committed to securing permanently affordable housing for everyone who wants to live in the city. Created to maintain affordability in neighborhoods at risk of gentrification and displacement due, ALT focused primarily on areas of the city directly impacted by the Atlanta BeltLine.

Enterprise spoke with Karen Babino, Stewardship Manager at Atlanta Land Trust to learn more about their work.

Could you tell us about the work that you do at Atlanta Land Trust? 

Headshot of an African American woman in professional attire and glasses smiling at the camera.

Karen Babino: As the Stewardship Manager, I work directly with ALT homebuyers, real estate agents, private and non-profit partners, and interface with various community stakeholders. I get to work in the industry that I love – real estate. 

How are HUD Section 4 Capacity Building grants used at your organization? What do you hope to accomplish with this funding?

KB: The Atlanta Land Trust has utilized Section 4 – HUD Capacity Building Funds to grow our stewardship team. We created a part-time Stewardship Coordinator position which was designed to support the stewardship responsibilities of ALT and the successful day-to-day management of ALT’s stewardship commitments to community land trust (CLT) homeowners and their homes. The Stewardship Coordinator serves as the primary liaison for homebuyers and applicants, including facilitating event registration, coordinating pre-purchase homeownership education, and providing credit counseling and mortgage lender referrals. 

In 2023, ALT had nearly 100 program applications completed, which grew our homebuyer pipeline to 789. The Stewardship Coordinator also provides administrative support, Homekeeper CRM management, and oversight of homeowner accounts through Quickbooks. This role proved to be so critical, that it was extended to a full-time position in early 2024.  

What do you enjoy most about working at Atlanta Land Trust? 
KB: That I do a variety of things, and I don’t sit at a desk all the time! The fun part is that I’m able to get out and meet people. I’m also able to utilize my marketing, communications and real estate experience every day. I’m learning more about non-profit development and everything that’s involved with producing homes that are affordable from the perspective of the different stakeholders.

5 woman in winter jackets standing outside near a sign that says welcome home.

How have the last 2-3 years challenged you at Atlanta Land Trust? What has been the hardest part of the experience for you at Atlanta Land Trust?

KB: It is challenging when a homebuyer in our program is unable to qualify for a mortgage. I try to motivate them to do what is necessary to get mortgage ready and support them in overcoming the challenges they may face on this journey. For our homebuyers it can be frustrating finding the right home. We encourage them to be patient and know that the right home will come. Our process is rigorous, that we have to encourage our homebuyers to be patient and follow the necessary steps to qualify for our program and a mortgage. Once homebuyers become homeowners, getting adjusted to all the responsibilities that come with owning a home can be difficult, but we are there to provide them with the support they need.

What have you learned in this unique and challenging time? Will you make any permanent changes going forward?  

KB: I’ve lived through a few “challenging times.” The one thing to count on is change. Whatever challenges you may have today, tomorrow those challenges can change. You have to adjust your thinking to receive whatever changes come.

What do you think will change about affordable housing over the next 5 years? How are you excited about Atlanta Land Trust impacting that change?  

KB: The market's cyclical nature underscores the urgency for a robust stock of permanently affordable homes, particularly for the often-overlooked "missing middle" and single-family options. I hope to see the ATL triple its inventory over the next five years, solidifying our role as a cornerstone in Atlanta's affordable housing strategy, as it’s one of the most significant tools in Atlanta’s affordable homeownership toolbox.

I am excited to be part of ALT becoming synonymous with lasting homeownership. This is an idea so clear it resonates even with middle schoolers. Through shared equity models, we can empower families to start somewhere, build wealth and stability. If you start now, you’ll benefit future generations.

What else should people know about Atlanta Land Trust? 

KB: We’re all travel enthusiasts and foodies! And our passion to serve the community is coming from a good place!

What makes Atlanta Land Trust unique as an organization in the affordable housing arena?  

KB: ALT operates as a community land trust. CLTs remove land from the speculative real estate market and put it into community control for community benefit. To create affordable homeownership opportunities, ALT sells homes at affordable prices while retaining ownership of the underlying land. In this model, the homebuyer purchases—and owns—the home through an affordable mortgage, but with conditions in place to ensure that the home remains affordable in perpetuity should the buyer choose to sell in the future. Upon sale, the homeowner shares in any appreciation in value that has occurred, but ownership of the land by ALT preserves affordability for future buyers. 

Community land trusts have demonstrated success in creating pathways to traditional homeownership for low-income families. Approximately 63% of CLT homeowners proceed to purchase homes at market rate. ALT provides a pathway to homeownership for Atlantans for whom it remains out of reach. ALT’s work presents an urgent opportunity to preserve affordability in places where major public investments are being made. By keeping housing permanently affordable, ALT helps reduce the displacement that can accompany gentrification and provides a community framework that supports residents. 

A group of people breaking ground with shovels in dirt outside.