State College

SCCLT’s incoming executive director looks to the future


Colleen Ritter has worked with the State College Community Land Trust for 16 years.

Recently, she was appointed executive director — a role she’ll step into on Jan. 1 when longtime director Ron Quinn retires.

Susan Venegoni, president of SCCLT’s board of directors, said Ritter was by far the best applicant for the job, having served in a variety of roles at the land trust.

Ritter currently works as the program coordinator — a job that involves a variety of responsibilities, from meeting with potential homebuyers to putting reports together for the board and everything in between.

She started at the land trust in 2000, with previous experience working in affordable housing in Boston doing mortgages, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and for a housing association in England, where she said she learned a lot about nonprofits.

SCCLT has purchased 38 houses in State College borough, she said, meaning that they own 38 parcels of land that the houses sit on.

“Someone will buy the house or get a deed to the house itself, but the land that the house is sitting on stays in the ownership of the community land trust. ... It’s more affordable for somebody to buy the house because you’re not buying the land that the house sits on,” Ritter said. “And the idea behind that is that the land would stay with the community land trust ownership in perpetuity forever. ... It’s always an affordable property.”

Venegoni said Ritter has the experience to take the land trust where the organization wants to go in the future.

Ritter said the land trust has been around for 20 years — buying, renovating and then selling houses.

“Now we have an opportunity to ... see what else could we do,” she said.

In general, people buy the land trust’s houses, Ritter said. But recently, the organization has started looking into lease to own — people who might not be ready to purchase the home could work with SCCLT’s budget counselor to help them get to the point where they feel comfortable buying the house.

She said SCCLT has recently been doing more in terms of educating potential homebuyers about finances and housing programs that are available to them.

The organization is also looking into the possibility of doing a new build project, which it is working on securing funding for, Ritter said.

The future is full of possibilities for the nonprofit.

“I think it’s probably doing a lot of looking out and seeing what other housing opportunities might be available for us to participate with, maybe other organizations in some sort of partnership,” she said.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz