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Community land trusts

Evidence Rating

Some Evidence

Health Factors

Community land trusts (CLTs) are private, non-profit organizations that purchase land to lease to low and middle income residents for housing use. CLTs separate ownership of the home and the land it occupies; the land is leased to homeowners as part of a long-term ground lease, typically for 99 years (). Homeowners on CLT-owned land are required to sell the home back to the CLT or to another low income resident at an affordable price (NCLTN). CLTs may also purchase and hold land to support community development, open space efforts, community gardens, and similar initiatives (Miller 2013a, ). CLTs often include stewardship activities such as teaching expectant and new homeowners about finances, alerting them to high risk loans, and assisting potentially delinquent homeowners (Thaden 2010).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased housing stability

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased access to affordable housing

  • Improved neighborhood quality

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that community land trusts (CLTs) decrease rates of foreclosure and payment delinquency for CLT homeowners, increasing housing stability (Thaden 2011, Temkin 2011, Thaden 2010). CLTs are a suggested strategy to minimize the displacement of low income residents that can follow neighborhood improvements such as new affordable housing options (Damewood 2011). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

By restricting sales to families who meet income requirments, CLTs increase access to affordable housing for low and moderate income households (, Thaden 2011, Temkin 2011, Thaden 2010, , Agnotti 2007). CLTs may also preserve affordable housing options for other low income home buyers when current homeowners sell (, , Temkin 2011), and retain affordable multi-unit housing options for renters (Agnotti 2007). CLTs can retain affordable housing in perpetuity, often beyond the duration of inclusionary zoning ordinances (Miller 2013a).

CLTs may help avoid frequent moves for low income households, retaining consistency in children’s schooling and avoiding move-associated costs (). CLTs have also been associated with neighborhood improvements and other positive community developments (, , ) such as neighborhood parks, community gardens, senior centers, and food pantries (Miller 2013a, ).

Many families purchase market-rate homes after participating in a CLT (Urban-Temkin 2010), often leveraging wealth and assets accumulated through CLT home ownership (Thaden 2011, Temkin 2011). One Durham, NC-based study indicates that CLTs have successfully helped minority individuals and families purchase homes (). CLTs primarily benefit low and moderate income households, and are less beneficial to very low income households ().

CLT programs can operate sustainably with very low delinquency and foreclosure rates (Urban-Temkin 2010), notably lower than conventional market-rate homeowners (Thaden 2011). Trusts often intervene to prevent foreclosures of homes under their ownership via grants or loans, monthly lease fee forgiveness, financial counseling, or home resale assistance (Thaden 2011, Miller 2013a).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

There are almost 250 community land trusts in 42 states and Washington DC as of 2014 (). Burlington, VT’s Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) is one of the largest in the US, with 1,800 apartments and land leases to 557 owner-occupied homes. CHT also provides homebuyer education, financial counseling, and affordable energy efficiency and rehab loans, and has developed commercial sites for various local non-profit organizations (CHT-VT).

CLTs may be managed by counties, such as Essex County, NJ (Essex-CLT); by cities, such as Austin, TX (Semuels 2015); and by non-profit organizations, such as the First Homes Rochester Area Foundation, MN and Boston, MA’s Dudley Neighbors, Inc. (DNI) (First homes-CLT, ).

CLTs are also in use in Canada and the United Kingdom (Patten 2015, ). 

Implementation Resources

PolicyLink-CLTs 2001 - PolicyLink. Equitable development toolkit: Community land trusts (CLT). 2001.

SFCLT - San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT). Links & resources.

CLT-Austin - Community Land Trust (CLT). Executive summary: The community land trust report. Austin: Community land trust; 2005.

Community Wealth-CLTs - Community-Wealth. Community land trusts (CLT).

Sungu-Eryilmaz 2007 - Sungu-Eryilmaz Y, Greenstein R. A national study of community land trusts. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. 2007: Working Paper WP07YS1.

SCNE-CLT - Schumacher Center for a New Economics (SCNE). Community Land Trust (CLT): background, history, and resources including a directory of CLTs across the US.

NCLTN-Tools - National Community Land Trust Network (NCLTN). Community land trust (CLT) tools and resources.

LISC-Affordable housing - Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Helping neighbors build communities: Affordable housing.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Urban-Temkin 2010 - Temkin K, Theodos B, Price D. Shared equity homeownership evaluation: Case study of northern communities land trust. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2010.

Greenstein 2007* - Greenstein R, Sungu-Eryilmaz Y. Community land trusts: A solution for permanently affordable housing. Land Lines. 2007;19(1):8–13.

Agnotti 2007 - Angotti T. Community land trusts and low-income multifamily rental housing: The case of Cooper Square, New York City. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. 2007: Working Paper.

Paterson 2009* - Paterson E, Dunn M. Perspectives on utilising community land trusts as a vehicle for affordable housing provision. Local Environment. 2009;14(8):749–64.

Skobba 2014* - Skobba K, Carswell AT. Community land trust homeowners: Past and present housing experiences. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. 2014;43(1):4-17.

Lowe 2015* - Lowe JS, Thaden E. Deepening stewardship: Resident engagement in community land trusts. Urban Geography. 2015.

Miller 2013a - Miller SR. Community land trusts: Why now is the time to integrate this housing activists' tool into local government affordable housing policies. Zoning & Planning Law Report. 2013;36(9):1-24.

Gray 2012* - Gray KA, Miller-Cribbs JE. The Durham Community Land Trustees. Journal of Community Practice. 2012;20(4):402-413.

Damewood 2011 - Damewood R, Young-Laing B. Strategies to prevent displacement of residents and businesses in Pittsburgh's Hill District. September 2011.

Thaden 2011 - Thaden E. Stable home ownership in a turbulent economy: Delinquencies and foreclosures remain low in Community Land Trusts. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. 2011: Working Paper.

Temkin 2011 - Temkin K, Tehodos B, Price D. A promising way forward for homeownership: Assessing the benefits of shared equity programs. Community Investments 2011;23(1):12-18,32.

Thaden 2010 - Thaden E, Rosenberg G. Outperforming the market: Delinquency and foreclosure rates in Community Land Trusts. Land Lines. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. 2010.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Moore 2013a* - Moore T, Mullins D. Scaling-up or going viral? Comparing self-help housing and community land trust facilitation. Voluntary Sector Review. 2013;4(3):333-352.

Meehan 2014* - Meehan J. Reinventing real estate: The community land trust as a social invention in affordable housing. Journal of Applied Social Science. 2014;8(2):113-133.

Patten 2015 - Patten K. Vancouver Community Land Trust Foundation: Examining a model for long-term housing affordability. Vancouver: UBC School of Community and Regional Planning; 2015.

Semuels 2015 - Semuels A. Affordable housing, always: Gentrification is pushing long-term residents out of urban neighborhoods. Can collective land ownership keep prices down permanently? 2015.

First homes-CLT - First Homes: Rochester Area Foundation. Community Land Trust (CLT).

Essex-CLT - Essex Community Land Trust (CLT): A countywide CLT in Essex, NJ.

CHT-VT - Champlain Housing Trust (CHT). Northwestern Vermont-based community land trust (CLT).

Date Last Updated

Sep 8, 2016