IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A MAJOR land grab. Habitat for Humanity of the West Valley, located northeast of Phoenix, was poised earlier this year to buy a 10-acre parcel of land—several years' worth of inventory—for about $600,000. Then, a larger buyer offered $1 million for the same plot and won the deal, leaving the Habitat affiliate to rethink its land-acquisition strategy.

In the past, the organization passed on open land because it was too far away, but Douglas Parker, the chapter's planner and designer, says now it's considering those buys for future use. That decision is driven by cost: Land farther out can cost $30,000 an acre, compared with $80,000 and up in the chapter's more immediate area.

Minneapolis-based Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity adjusted its business plan when the scattered lots for its single-family homes began drying up. Now, the chapter is a land development company, acquiring and developing lots for multiple-unit building. One project under way will build 24 multi-family units, 14 of which Habitat will sell to residents making 50 percent or less of the area's median family income; it will sell off the remaining 10 to another developer to sell to slightly higher-income buyers. That sale will finance some of Habitat's project costs, says Julie Gugin, the chapter's interim executive director Some, but not all. “Being an investment company is an expensive venture,” Gugin says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.