People of Housing Security:
Nate Ferreira

Leader of Summit Hill Community Development Corp. works to bring land trust, other models of affordable housing to the Bloomington area.

Nate Ferreira has dedicated his career to mission-driven work connected to housing. 

Nate is Director of Real Estate Development for the Bloomington Housing Authority, leading BHA’s new Summit Hill Community Development Corp. But this only scratches the surface of his history working in the field of housing security. 

Before starting at BHA, Nate worked at Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County for about five years, first as a project supervisor and ultimately as the Director of Land Development and Production. There, Nate says he learned a lot of valuable information and skills that he uses in his current job. While at Habitat, Nate played an integral role in the pre-development and implementation of the Osage Place, a neighborhood under construction on Bloomington’s south side.

His experience also included jobs in Indianapolis as Director of Residential Services at the Julian Center, an emergency shelter, and as Director of Training and Support Programs at Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc

All of this background prepared Nate for his current work at Summit Hill CDC. He was drawn to the opportunity to develop a community land trust, while also getting more formal training in housing development. He’s been instrumental in establishing Summit Hill as a nonprofit arm of the housing authority, with the goal of doing both housing and economic development in Bloomington.

Setting up the land trust has been Nate’s primary focus so far. He describes a community land trust as a “long-term resource to develop housing for part of the market that can’t afford to buy houses right now, or who can’t get lending.”

In a land trust, ownership of the land and the house is separated, making housing more affordable. Summit Hill owns the land, and its target homebuyer makes roughly 60-100% area median income (AMI). 

If the homeowner wants to sell, Summit Hill gets the option of buying it back. Equity is split between the land trust and the homeowner, providing a sustainable revenue stream that Summit Hill can invest in supporting future projects. “Since we know that housing prices keep going up,” Nate said, “we need to keep growing the subsidy in order to keep that house affordable to a lower-income buyer. That’s how you create true permanent affordability for home ownership.”

As its first major project, Summit Hill’s land trust is developing 45 lots off of Arlington Road near the Atlas on 17th complex. Trinitas Ventures, the developer of Atlas on 17th, donated 45 lots as part of its development agreement with the City of Bloomington.

“Traditional ownership and traditional rental models are failing a large part of our population.”

Other projects on Nate’s plate include redevelopment of the Kohr Building in the city’s new Hopewell neighborhood, which will turn that historic office structure into permanently affordable rental housing. The land trust will own the land on that project as well.

Creating new affordable housing projects is exciting and multifaceted, Nate said. It’s rewarding and involves creative problem-solving – and sometimes is incredibly frustrating. But overcoming challenges is part of what he likes about the work.

We need more than just the continuum of current housing programs, Nate said. In that continuum, more housing is needed for the “missing middle” – people earning 80-120% AMI. What’s more, there needs to be a continuum of ownership and rental options. “Traditional ownership and traditional rental models are failing a large part of our population,” Nate said. A community land trust, cooperative housing, single room occupancy, and tiny home villages are examples of the range of options needed.

“The affordable housing crisis is so complicated that we need every tool” to address it, Nate said. 

Another issue is the sometimes onerous federal regulations “that can absolutely kill affordable housing projects,” Nate said, even when those regulations are well-intentioned. Local zoning requirements play a factor in housing costs too.

Oct. 13, 2023 ribbon cutting for the land trust’s first housing project.

Nate was born in California but grew up in Owen County, Bloomington and Indianapolis. He notes that his parents were hippies and part of the back-to-the-land movement, and those formative years influenced his love of nature.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and religious studies from Indiana University, then attended Michigan State University for a master’s in counseling and psychology. He also has a certificate in nonprofit management from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and is a licensed mental health counselor. Although he doesn’t practice, “it definitely informs my work.”

Outside of work, Nate is father to his six-month-old son Manny, short for Emmanuel. “He’s wonderful, and has given me all the appreciation of childcare struggles that parents talk about.”

Nate and his wife Erica Penna plan to share their biking lifestyle with their son, and will be getting a cargo bike to transport Manny. “We’re committed to being a one-car household,” Nate said, and they live in a neighborhood that’s about a mile from everything they need. This region is known as a destination for gravel biking and mountain biking, he notes, and his family takes advantage of those assets.

The couple met at a folk dancing event and still enjoy doing that. They’re also involved in the Lotus Festival – Erica serves on that nonprofit’s board, and Nate is site manager for Lotus in the Park.

Nate’s eclectic educational background and extensive work within the field of housing security, as well as his passion for what he does, make him a true asset to this community. 

Interested in learning more about the Summit Hill land trust? An information session will be held on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown Monroe County Public Library, 303 E. Kirkwood Ave.

About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.