Community Land Trusts 101

Community Owned. Community Led. Community Powered.

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What is a community land trust?

  • A community land trust is a non-profit organization that acquires land and maintains permanent ownership of land to preserve long-term affordability of housing and businesses located on the land.

  • Land owned by community land trusts can be used for affordable housing (rental and homeownership) and small business and commercial ventures.

  • Community Land Trusts are community-led, with at least one-third of their board made up of land trust residents, and one-third other community members in neighborhoods with land trust properties.

  • Community Land Trusts often partner with private and nonprofit developers to develop affordable housing on community land trust property.

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How does a community land trust work?

  • Qualified homebuyers whose incomes are 120% or less of the Area Media Income can purchase subsidized homes from the Community Land Trust, while the Community Land Trust maintains ownership of the land on which the home is located.

  • The Community Land Trust leases the land to the homeowner through a 99-year renewable ground lease agreement.

  • If homeowners sell the home, a resale formula dictates how much they can sell the home for, and they only keep a percentage of the equity gained. The remaining equity goes back into the land trust to ensure affordability of the home for the next buyer.

  • By maintaining ownership of the land, Community Land Trusts can manage the price appreciation, retain the community value, recycle the subsidy, and preserve the land and affordable units for future generations.

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What are the benefits of community land trusts?

  • They provide a buffer against rapid gentrification and displacement.

  • They can play a role in preserving the history and character of a neighborhood.

  • They increase community control over local development.

  • They ensure a permanent stock of affordable housing.

  • Land trust residents and business owners are less likely to fall into foreclosure or deferred maintenance.

  • They provide an opportunity to build community wealth, not just individual wealth.