Adding a restriction to my deed

by Laurie
(Austin, Travis County, Texas)

Visitor Question: How do I add a low income housing only restriction to my deed to thwart developers from calling me about my house in my quickly gentrifying neighborhood?

Editors Reply: Laurie, this is refreshing indeed to find someone wants to make sure housing remains affordable.

For the benefit of others reading this, we will just explain quickly that gentrification means the process of a neighborhood or housing market increasing in housing value rapidly enough that current residents would not be able to "buy in" now, or that the neighborhood becomes generally not affordable.

The quick answer is that you will need a licensed attorney from your state to write the restriction and then to make sure it is recorded properly so that it will be sustained over time.

As we try to do when we answer a question with the advice that an attorney is really needed, we will give you a few things to think about before you approach the attorney. We do that to try to save you a few dollars by making your interview with the attorney as efficient as possible.

In this case, you should think through what low income housing means to you. That term will have to be defined. The attorney may have some ideas about that, but in an area that is growing rapidly, sometimes a good lawyer won't have much experience with this idea.

You could use a search engine to check out federal and state definitions of low-income housing and see if any of those strike your fancy as exactly what you mean. Then you will be better prepared for a good conversation with the attorney.

Next, you need to think through how long you intend this deed restriction to last. If you want it to last forever, that's pretty easy and the default situation in most states.

If your primary purpose though is to cut down on pressure to gentrify your neighborhood to a higher income level, you might discuss with the attorney how to accomplish a deed restriction that would be lifted about a specified number of years--if that is legal in Texas.

Also please think about the implications of this action for your heirs, whether they be people you love, a charity, or what have you. Will they share your enthusiasm for keeping developers of higher-income housing at bay?

If so, we think that is noble, but we just want you to have thought about these things. A good attorney will ask.

For that matter, what about your own financial situation? Are you certain that you will never wish you could sell your property for a higher dollar amount? It may well be your intention to lift the deed restriction prior to putting the home on the market, but again, it is important to think through these matters before you restrict your options.

You also may be asked if this is the most appropriate method for preventing development aimed at a higher income level. Some people would think this is overkill, although you can believe that the authors of this website think this is a very commendable goal.

Writing a deed restriction should be very simple for a competent generalist attorney, especially in Texas where they are used plenty. It should not cost you an arm and a leg; for something such as this, you should be able to obtain a fee guesstimate in advance. Just be ready to answer appropriate questions.


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