What Happens When Palm Springs’ Land Leases Expire?
Around 20,000 people in Palm Springs own property on land rented from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, making it the nation’s largest Indian Land Lease. For the majority of these individuals and businesses, things are going just fine. But the recent heartbreak visited upon a half dozen merchants has forced people to reconsider their security, according a recent article in the Desert Sun.
The merchants received notices in April of last year telling them to be out by May 31. Their temporary occupancy permits were about to expire and the tribal landowners decided not to extend the lease. In just weeks, everything they had worked to build was gone.
One of the business owners, Benjamin Sullivan, told the Sun he will never open a business on leased land again. And, like many others, he’s now worried about his living situation too.
“I live on Indian land, and I don’t sleep well every night because of it.”
Some say it’s just a matter of time before the matter reaches a precipice. After all, half of the homes in Palm Springs sit on leased land. The land and buildings on top are worth more than $2.4 billion.
Now, a wave is cresting for the region’s residents: Many leases are approaching the end of their useful lives and must soon be extended or redrawn. The longer homeowners and business owners wait, the fewer options they have. If the leases were to expire, the bulk of that $2.4 billion would change hands. So landowners, homeowners and business owners are drawing up lease extensions and new agreements one neighborhood at a time. Many leases have been extended, some land has been sold, and in a few cases, investors have bought in, putting themselves in a position to profit from the system.
You can read the entire article at the Desert Sun here, including an in-depth exploration of Palm Springs’ land lease history and what would happen if and when these agreements expire. But don’t overlook the advantages of owning property on leased land either, many experts say. Homes on leased land are much cheaper, for instance, and the tribes are still bound by the terms of a contract so that the risks can be weighed up front.