Community Land Trusts and the Effort to Implement Affordable Housing

Community land trusts (“CLTs”) are gaining popularity across the country as many communities and city leaders search for ways to develop and maintain affordable housing. Although CLTs are not a new tool, they are becoming more widespread with over 200 now in operation and more likely to follow as people flock to city centers.1 CLTs developed as a mechanism to combat complex social issues - the first CLT was established in Georgia as part of the civil rights movement - and they are certainly not without their critics. It is undeniable, however, that the demand for affordable housing only continues to rise and CLTs may be one answer to this growing problem.

A CLT is defined by the Institute for Community Economics as “an organization created to hold land for the benefit of a community and of individuals within the community.”2 Although typically a nonprofit organization, there are numerous CLT models that can be tailored to fit the community in which they operate. CLTs are typically governed by a board of trustees or directors and acquire land either through purchase or donation. The acquired land can be vacant, agricultural, or residential in nature, but the goal is to determine the best use of this land in the community and develop it accordingly.

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