The following material is provided by and copyright The Institute for Community
Economics, Springfield, MA
A community land trust is a nonprofit organization created to hold land for the
benefit of a community and individuals within the community. Most CLTs are especially
concerned with providing and preserving affordable housing on this land.
Community Land Trusts are a Way for Communities
|Gain control over local land use and reduce absentee ownership
|Provide affordable housing for lower income residents in the community
|Promote resident ownership and control of housing
|Keep housing affordable for future residents
|Make efficient use of public resources for long-term benefit
Why a Community Land Trust?
Whether due to
disinvestment or gentrification, displacement has become an ever-present possibility for
people who neither own nor control the land that is under their feet or the roof that is
over their heads. When land and housing are owned by absentee landlords, local residents
have little control. Their homes can be sold or allowed to deteriorate. Rents can go up
and up. And the rent paid to absentee owners leaves the community. It is not saved by the
residents. It is not spent in local stores. It is not used to improve the community.
If residents work together to make their
community a better place to live, only owners are assured of being able to stay and enjoy
the improved conditions. If property values rise, absentee owners are more likely to raise
rents or sell their property.
The community land trust is a way to improve a
community for the benefit of residents. The CLT gives families more control over their
owner homes, and it gives the community more control over its future. As members of a CLT,
people can work together for the long-term good of their community, not for the good of
Important features of a CLT
Sometimes CLTs buy
undeveloped land and arrange to have new homes built on it; sometimes they buy land and
buildings together. In either case, the CLT treats land and buildings differently. CLT
land is held permanently never sold so that it can always be used in the
communitys best interest. Buildings on CLT land, however, may be owned by the
Acquiring Land for the Community
Access for Low-Income People
The CLT provides access
to land and housing for people who are otherwise priced out of the housing market. Some
CLT homes are rented, but, when possible, the CLT helps people to purchase homes on
affordable terms. The land beneath the homes is then leased to the homeowners through a
long-term (usually 99 year) renewable lease. Residents and their descendants can use the
land for as long as they wish to live there.
Prices Stay Affordable
homeowners decide to move, they can sell their homes. The land lease agreement gives the
CLT the right to buy each home back for an amount determined by the CLTs resale
formula. Each CLT membership sets its own resale formula to give homeowners a fair
return for their investment, while keeping the price affordable for other lower income
The land lease
requires that owners live in their homes as their primary residences. When homes are
resold, the CLT can assure that the new owners will also be residents not absentee
A CLT can work with various ownership structures for
multi-family buildings. The CLT itself may own and manage a building, another non-profit
may own it, or the residents may own it as a cooperative or as condominiums. In each case,
the CLT will have provisions to assure long-term affordability. CLTs sometimes assist
residents in purchasing their building and work with them to oversee its management.
Helping New Homeowners
A CLT can give
crucial support to its homeowners when they face unexpected home repairs or financial
problems. In these cases the CLT can often help residents to find a practical solution,
and may help to make necessary financial arrangements.
A Flexible Approach
CLTs have been established to serve inner-city neighborhoods, small cities,
clusters of towns, and rural areas. A CLT working in a small city neighborhood may be the
only local housing group, though it may collaborate with city-wide and regional
organizations. Other CLTs, serving larger geographical areas, may work closely with a
variety of local organizations.
CLTs may develop housing by themselves or with
the assistance of other nonprofit (and sometimes for-profit) housing developers. A CLT may
also acquire existing housing that needs little or no renovation. Some CLTs have bought
mobile home parks to provide long-term security for mobile home owners.
In addition to affordable housing, CLTs may
make land available for community gardens, playgrounds, or open space, and may provide
land and facilities for a variety of community services. In rural areas, CLTs may hold
land for gardens, farming, timber and firewood, or conservation.
Who Controls the CLT?
A CLT is a
nonprofit organization that is democratically controlled by its members. All CLT residents
are members, and other people in the community may also join.
The members elect the CLTs Board of
Directors. Usually there are three kinds of directors on the Board those
representing resident members, those representing members who not CLT residents, and those
representing the broader public interest. In this way, control of organization is balanced
to protect both the residents and the community as a whole.
How do we organize a CLT in our community?
Contact the Institute for Community Economics (ICE), the national nonprofit that
developed the CLT model and has worked with community groups around the country to help
develop more than 100 CLTs.
Today, ICE has a national
contract with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the HOME program
to provide technical assistance to Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs) or
potential CHDOs that operate as CLTs or want to start CLTs. Technical assistance areas
|Establishing basic CLT structure
|Marketing, resident selection and training
|Community-based planning and economic planning
For more information contact:
Affiliate Program Coordinator
Institute for Community Economics
57 School St. Springfield, MA 01105
Voice: 413-746-8660 x118
ICE has a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) that provides loans to
nonprofit organizations for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and long-term
financing for permanently affordable housing. Contact
ICEs RLF for more information
Visit sites of community land
trusts and their programs
Laconia (New Hampshire) Area
Community Land Trust
Dudley Neighbors Inc (Boston)
State College (Pennsylvania) Community Land
Albany (New York)
Community Land Trust
Community Land Cooperative of
City Housing Fellowship
Other sites relating to community land trusts
Vermont Homeownership Centers
E.F. Schumacher Society
PlannersWeb article "An
Introduction to Community Land Trust" by Tom Peterson
by the American News Service