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Community Land Trusts – An Introduction

“Community Land Trusts have perpetual responsibility for stewardship of the land and protecting tenure rights”

What is a Community Land Trust?

A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a private, non-profit corporation, created to acquire and hold land for the benefit of a community, and provide secure affordable access to land and housing for community residents.  It allows permanent tenure, democratic governance, but most importantly affordability for housing, farms and businesses as it takes the speculative market out of the equation.

What does a Community Land Trust do?

CLTs offer a balanced approach to ownership: the nonprofit trust owns the land and leases it for a nominal fee to individuals who own the buildings on the land.  As the home is truly their own, it provides the homeowners with the same permanence and security as a conventional buyer, and they can use the land in the same way as any other homeowner.

Community land trusts help communities to:

  • Provide affordable housing for all residents in the community
  • Promote resident ownership and control of housing
  • Keep housing affordable for future residents
  • Build a strong base for community action

What are the 3 Key Features of a Land Trust?

  1. They are charitable trusts, or not-for-profit legal entities, with a deed of trust and a purpose statement to direct the trustees in protecting community values, and promoting community development within a defined area, now and for future generations.
  2. Sections of land and/or resources owned by the trust are leased to individuals or groups for their exclusive use. These leases, and their conditions, protect the rights of the tenants for privacy and security, and protect the rights of the trust in maintaining community values.
  3. The conditions under which leases can be sold (including price) are set within the ground conditions of the lease. These preserve the affordability of the housing or resource use, and prevent market driven appreciation of values. These measures have the advantages of encouraging:
    • entry into trust properties for young people and those with limited capital
    • capital investment in productive purposes rather than speculation
    • strong local economies

Who controls the Land Trust?

The governance of the trust is performed by trustees, who are chosen by a defined community. Trustees can be representatives of tenants and representatives of the wider community, either way it is their responsibility to abide by and adhere to the trust deed at all times.

Where can I learn more about Land Trusts?

Introduction to Community Land Trusts Handbook

The National Community Land Trust Network (UK )

The E.F. Schumacher Society