Community land trusts

Community land trusts (CLTs) are private, non-profit organizations that purchase land to lease to residents with low and middle incomes 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 (Skobba 2014*). Homeowners on CLT-owned land are required to sell the home back to the CLT or to another resident with low income at an affordable price (GSN-CLT, Engelsman 2018*). CLTs may also purchase and hold land to support community development, open space efforts, community gardens, and similar initiatives (Miller 2013a, Lowe 2015*). 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) increase housing stability and decrease rates of foreclosure and payment delinquency for CLT homeowners (Choi 2018*, Thaden 2011, Temkin 2011, Thaden 2010). CLTs are a suggested strategy to minimize the displacement of residents with low incomes that can follow neighborhood improvements such as new affordable housing options (Choi 2018*, Damewood 2011). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

By restricting sales to families who meet income requirements, CLTs increase access to affordable housing for households with low and moderate incomes (Choi 2018*, Lowe 2015*, Thaden 2011, Temkin 2011, Thaden 2010). CLTs may also preserve affordable housing options for other homebuyers with low incomes when current homeowners sell (Lowe 2015*, 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 households with low incomes, retaining consistency in children’s schooling and avoiding move-associated costs (Skobba 2014*). CLTs have also been associated with neighborhood improvements and other positive community developments (Choi 2018*, Lowe 2015*, Gray 2012*, Paterson 2009*) such as neighborhood parks, community gardens, senior centers, and food pantries (Miller 2013a, Lowe 2015*).

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 (Gray 2012*). CLTs primarily benefit households with low and moderate incomes, and are less beneficial to households with very low incomes (Greenstein 2007*).

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

As of 2019, there are more than 250 community land trusts (CLTs) (Home Trust of Skagit). Burlington, VT’s Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) is one of the largest in the US, with 2,200 apartments and land leases to 565 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 and Minneapolis, MN (Semuels 2015, Austin-CLT, CLCLT); and by non-profit organizations, such as the First Homes Rochester Area Foundation in Minnesota; Dudley Neighbors, Inc. in Boston, MA; the Long Island Housing Partnership, operating in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk Counties; and the statewide Florida Community Land Trust Institute (First homes-CLT, Meehan 2014*, LIHP-CLT, Florida CLT Institute).

CLTs are also in use in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, and Kenya (Home Trust of Skagit).

Implementation Resources

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-CLT - 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.

GSN-CLT Hub - Grounded Solutions Network. Startup Community Land Trust Hub.

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.

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

LHS - Local Housing Solutions (LHS). To enhance local affordability and foster inclusive communities. New York University, Furman Center and Abt Associates, Inc.

LHS-COVID-19 response - Local Housing Solutions (LHS), NYU Furman Center, Abt Associates. COVID-19 Housing response plans.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Choi 2018* - Choi M, Van Zandt S, Matarrita-Cascante D. Can community land trusts slow gentrification? Journal of Urban Affairs. 2018;40(3):394-411.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Home Trust of Skagit - Home Trust of Skagit. History of community land trusts and local history. Mount Vernon, Washington.

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

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

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.

Austin-CLT - City of Austin, Texas. Neighborhood Housing and Community Development. Community land trust.

CLCLT - City of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT). Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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

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.

LIHP-CLT - Long Island Housing Partnership (LIHP). Community Land Trust Workforce Housing Program. Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York.

Florida CLT Institute - Florida Community Land Trust Institute (Florida CLT Institute). Florida Housing Coalition.

Date Last Updated