Four years ago, Jill Dunner was homeless, making her way as best she could on the streets of Berkeley, Calif. She spent her nights in temporary shelters or on the street before finally securing a room at the Berkeley YMCA. That's also when she started working with the Northern California Land Trust (NCLT) and its Section 8 homeownership program.

Through this new program, recipients of HUD's Section 8 vouchers can put their monthly housing subsidy--traditionally used for rent--toward a mortgage payment on a home or a condominium being sold by the NCLT, a 30-year-old, Berkeley-based nonprofit. It helps people like Dunner overcome two big hurdles: spotty credit history and the high cost of Bay-area housing.

"Someone who has ended up on Section 8 is very likely not to have good credit," says Ian Winters, NCLT's executive director. "In collaboration with some other nonprofits, we work with people over a couple of years to qualify for their part of the mortgage."

The NCLT is able to keep home costs down by using the community land trust model. Homeowners purchase properties from the NCLT but lease the land under their homes. Restrictions ensure that these properties will be resold at an affordable price to future low-income families.

In September, Dunner closed on a one-bedroom condo in South Berkeley that had a market price of $280,000; she was able to purchase it for $142,000. "This is a dream come true," says Dunner, the NCLT's first Section 8 homeowner.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.