A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation that is defined in federal law as an entity that:

  • Acquires parcels of land to be held in perpetuity, primarily to provide affordable housing with long-term ground leases;
  • Transfers ownership of any buildings or other structures located on such leased parcels to the lessees; and
  • Retains a preemptive option to repurchase any such buildings or other buildings constructed at a later date, if the lessee chooses to sell, at a price determined by a formula that ensures that the building remains affordable to low- and moderate-income households in perpetuity.

CLTs around the country have constructed (or acquired, rehabilitated, and resold) single-family homes, duplexes, condos, co-ops, SROs, multifamily apartment buildings, and mobilehome parks.  CLTs have created facilities for neighborhood businesses, nonprofit organizations, and social service agencies.  They have provided sites for community gardens, vest-pocket parks, and affordable working land for entry-level agriculturalists.  Permanently affordable access to land is the common ingredient linking them all.

Typically, CLTs are run by a board of directors whose members include three groups of stakeholders: (1) residents or leaseholders; (2) people who reside within the targeted neighborhood or community but do not live on the CLT’s land; and (3) the broader public interest, frequently represented by government officials, funders, housing agencies, and social service providers.

In the case where the lessee is a homeowner, the formula for setting the resale price is designed to give the present homeowner a fair return on their investment while giving future homebuyers fair access to housing at an affordable price.  By design and by intent, the CLT is committed to preserving the affordability of housing (and other structures), one owner after another, one generation after another, in perpetuity.

For further information, visit the websites of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Community-Wealth, the Grounded Solutions Network, and a Q&A published by the Urban Institute.

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