Source: Henry P. Kendall Foundation
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit, community-based organizations that purchase or otherwise protect land and make it available for community purposes to ensure community stewardship of the land. They can be used for a variety of development, including commercial and retail, environmental conservation, and site remediation, but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. As a nonprofit organization governed by a board of community residents and public representatives, a CLT provides lasting community assets and permanently affordable housing opportunities. At the heart of CLTs is the idea of creating homes that remain permanently affordable by providing successful home ownership opportunities for generations of lower-income families.
A CLT enters into a long-term renewable ground lease, instead of a traditional sale, which allows the homeowner the right to occupy and use the land. This model guarantees that the CLT is always at the table when the house is sold, ensuring that the home passes from one income qualified homeowner to another. In fact, when the homeowner sells, the family earns only the portion of the increased property value that was agreed with the CLT. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability for future low- to moderate-income families. The length of the lease (most frequently, 99 years) and the percentage earned by the homeowner vary. Ultimately, by separating the ownership of land and housing, this innovative approach prevents market factors from causing prices to rise significantly, and hence guarantees that housing will remain affordable for future generations. Today, there are nearly 250 community land trusts across the United States.
In Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville Corporation has recently drafted the city's first CLT plan to build or rehab seven homes in Upper Lawrenceville. To maintain permanent affordability for the properties, Lawrenceville Corp. will retain ownership of the land, but will sell the homes to residents who qualify by earning 80 percent or less of the area’s average income — about $55,000 for a family of four. They have become part of the Pennsylvania Community Land Trust Collaborative, a network of land trusts with the goal of collaborating and sharing best practices.
Next City | Pittsburgh Ready to Launch City’s First Community Land Trust
National Community Land Trust Network | Tools and Resources
Lincoln Institute of Land and Policy | Community Land Trust Toolkit
US Department of Housing and Urban Development | Community Land Trust Report
PolicyLink Equitable Development Toolkit | Community Land Trusts