A community land trust (CLT) is a non-profit organization that acquires and manages land to guarantee housing with lasting affordability and community control of land. CLTs differ from traditional housing non-profits in that they separate the ownership of land from the ownership of housing and are governed directly by community members. In the classic CLT model, the CLT acquires land, through purchase or donation, to develop affordable housing and other amenities, such as community centers or gardens. The CLT sells homes at below-market rates to low- and moderate-income families, while the CLT leases the land to the owner on a long-term basis. In exchange for purchasing homes at below-market rates, CLT homeowners agree to resale price restrictions that limit the amount of appreciation they will receive in order to maintain the affordability of the home for the next lower-income buyer. Many CLTs also provide affordable rental housing. Today, there are an estimated 220 community land trusts in the United States that provide between 10,000 and 15,000 homeownership units and close to 20,000 rental units.
CLTs can promote equitable development in different neighborhood contexts. In hot markets, CLTs can provide long-term affordability to address gentrification and prevent displacement. In weaker markets, CLTs can be a tool for neighborhood reinvestment and stability. Studies have found CLTs provide stable homeownership and wealth-building opportunities for lower-income households. CLT homeowners are 10 times less likely to default on their homes than their private-market counterparts. Critics argue that CLT homes are a form of "second-class" homeownership because the resale appreciation is capped, but when operating as intended, CLTs offer housing stability and wealth-building opportunities for low-income households that would otherwise be locked out of market-rate homeownership.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see Grounded Solutions Network, Democracy Collaborative, Lincoln Land Institute, and Homes For All for more information about community land trusts.