How A Community Land Trust Works:

Better Community Neighborhoods, Inc. (BCNI)  uses the land trust model of homeownership. When we sell a home, we sell the house itself but retain ownership of the land on which it sits. We lease the land to the homebuyer in a one-time renewable 99-year lease. The homebuyer has full rights to use the land and agrees to live in the home. Their children may inherit the home and the land lease. When a Better Community Neighborhoods, Inc. homeowner sells their home, BCNI has premier rights to buy the house back.

Benefits Of A Land Trust:

  • Community Investment: BCNI land is held permanently and never sold so it can always be used in the community’s best interest.
  • Affordability: The BCNI model reduces the price of a property significantly, so that lower-income families may be eligible to purchase a home of their own. The land trust model also means that the BCNI can keep the price of homes affordable for the long-term, despite changes in the housing market.y land trusts.

Community Land Trust Fundamentals

Community separates ownership of land from home. Community (CLT) retains ownership of land. Homeowner buys- and owns- his/her home. Community (CLT) leases land to homeowner.

What is a community land trust?

A community land trust is a private non-profit corporation created to acquire and hold land for the benefit of a  community and provide secure affordable access to land and housing for community residents. In particular, CLTs attempt to meet the needs of residents least served by the prevailing market. CLT’s prohibit speculation and absentee ownership of land and housing, promote ecologically sound land-use practices,  and preserve the long-term affordability of housing.

What makes a CLT distinctive?

Several things- here are five:

Commitment to Local Control. CLTs are usually initiated to provide greater local control over land and housing ownership. The CLT is a membership organization with members drawn from the land-trust leaseholders and the wider community. CLT members elect a governing board that includes leaseholders, nonresident members, and others who represent the broader community.

Protects Long-term Affordability of Housing. CLTs protect affordability for future residents by controlling the sale of buildings and other improvements on their land. Specifically, the CLT retains the first option to repurchase these improvements-if residents choose to sell- at a “limited appreciation” price. The CLT lease agreement includes a formula for calculating the price that offers resident-owners fair compensation for their investment. (Their share does not include the value from the market appreciation of the CLT’s investment in the land or buildings.) In this way, the CLT preserves the community’s investment of public and private resources (time, treasures, and talent) that go into creating a CLT and making housing affordable.

Dual Ownership. The way in which the CLT protects the community’s long-term interest is by continuing to own land while conveying the long term use of the land to individuals, cooperatives, or other entities. Leaseholders won their homes and other improvements. Terms of the arrangement between a CLT and owner using the land are defined in a long-term land lease. The land trust offers leaseholders security, and the opportunity to transfer the lease to their heirs, and full rights of privacy.

An Ongoing Development Program. CLTs are not generally focused on a single project. CLTs are committed to an active acquisition and development program that attempts to meet diverse community needs.

Flexibility. CLTs can accommodate a range of specific programs while providing a focus for community organizing. A CLT can help create and preserve such critical local resources as affordable housing, family farms, neighborhood businesses, and social services while establishing land-use control that protects the long-term interests of the community. Although CLTs generally promote resident ownership and management, a CLT may also develop and preserve needed rental housing.

How are CLTs different from conservation land trusts?

They are similar in many ways. Both  CLTs and conservation land trusts control land use for the benefit of people in the future as well as the present, but they tend to be concerned with different types and uses of land. Conservation trusts are primarily concerned with controlling rights to undeveloped land to preserve open space, ecologically fragile or unique environments, wilderness, or productive forest or agricultural land. CLTs on the other hand, are primarily concerned with acquiring developed or developable land for specific community uses- particularly residential use.  These concerns are not mutually exclusive, and some land trusts combine these purposes, preserving some land in a natural state while leasing other lands for development. All land trusts have an ethic of land stewardship; they try to see that land is not developed or used inappropriately.

How does a CLT help residents?

By providing access, affordability, and security. CLTs use various kinds of subsidies to make housing and land-use more affordable for people who cannot compete in the market. CLTs keep housing affordable for future generations by controlling the price owners receive when they sell their homes. CLTs might assist residents with home repair,  rehabilitation, and/or financing. The CLT lease offers residents and their heirs long-term security.

Are CLTs supported by local governments?

Yes. Though some of the first CLTs were started in communities suffering from government neglect, it is now more common for CLTs to work in cooperation with local governments in meeting present and future community needs. Public officials are recognizing that CLTs can play an important role as stewards of community resources- that property and funds allocated to a CLT can benefit not only present community recipients but future residents as well. Several CLTs have been established with strong initiative and support from local governments. A number of municipalities have allocated  Community Development Block Grant funds, as well as other available funds, to  CLT programs. Some have allocated city-owned land. State housing financing agencies are increasingly interested in making financing available for housing on CLT land, and server state legislatures have acted to appropriate special funds to finance acquisitions by land trusts.

Interested in knowing more about Land Trust Homeownership?