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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 to:

bulletGain control over local land use and reduce absentee ownership
bulletProvide affordable housing for lower income residents in the community
bulletPromote resident ownership and control of housing
bulletKeep housing affordable for future residents
bulletMake 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 absentee owners.

Important features of a CLT


Acquiring Land for the Community
        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 community’s best interest. Buildings on CLT land, however, may be owned by the residents.


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
        When CLT 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 CLT’s 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 people.


Owner-occupancy preserved
        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 owners.


Multi-Family Buildings
        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 CLT’s 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 include:

bulletEstablishing basic CLT structure
bulletOrganizational development
bulletProject development
bulletMarketing, resident selection and training
bulletCommunity-based planning and economic planning

For more information contact:
    Julie Orvis
    Affiliate Program Coordinator
    Institute for Community Economics
    57 School St. Springfield, MA 01105

    Voice: 413-746-8660 x118
    Fax 413-746-8862

   Email: JorvisICE@aol.com

 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 ICE’s 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 Trust
Albany (New York) Community Land Trust
Community Land Cooperative of Cincinnati
Greater Iowa 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
Article carried by the American News Service



Unless otherwise indicated, copyright 1999 ARCH. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 02, 2003.

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