A community land trust (CLT) is typically a nonprofit corporation that owns property and holds it in perpetuity for the benefit of the community. CLTs have historically been used to guarantee permanently affordable housing and can be an effective tool for equitable development in both hot and cold real estate markets. In the classic CLT model, homes are sold at below-market rates to low- and moderate-income families who typically would not be able to buy market-rate homes, and the CLT leases the land to the owner on a long-term basis. The resale value of the home is capped to maintain affordability while enabling the owners to build assets and wealth. There are an estimated 220 CLTs in the United States, with a proven track record of housing stabilization. Many CLTs have used this structure to provide permanently affordable rental housing and other community amenities in addition to single-family homeownership.
The CLT model has also been adapted for commercial use for the benefit of independent, locally owned businesses. In gentrifying neighborhoods, non-profit organizations and small businesses operated by people of color and low-income entrepreneurs are at risk of displacement due to rising rents. In these neighborhoods, commercial CLTs can serve as a strategy to protect affordability, support entrepreneurs of color, and retain local businesses and organizations that represent and foster the unique cultural character of the community. In disinvested neighborhoods, a lack of available commercial spaces can be a barrier to local residents who would like to establish businesses and other community amenities. In such cases, commercial CLTs can be a strategy to drive revitalization and build community wealth.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see Grounded Solutions Network, Democracy Collaborative, Lincoln Land Institute, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for more information about community land trusts for commercial use.