What is a Community Land Trust?

In brief, a Community Land Trust (CLT) is a not for profit community-based organisation run by volunteers that delivers housing and other community facilities at permanently affordable levels for local people. CLTs are long term stewards of land, housing and other community assets, ensuring that these stay affordable now and in the future. CLTs also allow communities to, for example, deliver their own services and community enterprises such as community-run shops.
Local people living and working in the community have the opportunity to join the CLT as members – and those members control the CLT, usually through a board being elected from the membership. The community is thereby integrally involved throughout the process in key decisions like what is provided, where, and for who. Communities who set up CLTs want to improve their area and have more control over how that happens. As one of our members said, “We don’t want to sit back and accept things being done to us. We say stop, say no, and change the situation for the better.”

What are the benefits of a CLT?
• CLTs are locally driven, controlled and democratically accountable.
• CLTs can meet local housing need even in areas with very high house prices.
• CLTs provide housing, but also land and important amenities that are permanently affordable, benefitting many generations of residents.
• CLTs give the community assets for the future.
• CLTs genuinely empower local communities, where communities are part of the vision and solution for their local area.

Photo: Jeanne van Heeswijk

The Community Land Trust movement; some facts, figures and a very brief history

• There are over 300 Community Land Trusts in England and Wales
• 935 CLT homes have been built so far
• Over 17,000 people are members of CLTs

There is a long history of community ownership and management of housing and assets in the UK. The CLT model was imported from the United States, where CLTs are widely recognised as a method of delivering permanently affordable housing. There are over 240 CLTs in the United States and the largest owns over 2,000 homes.
The CLT model began in the US during the civil rights movement and borrowed from older ideas of common ownership and the stewardship of land for wider community benefit – taking inspiration from the Gramdan movement in India and leased-land agricultural cooperatives in Israel.

The first CLT, New Communities Inc., was created in 1969. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the CLT movement started to flourish in the U.S and CLTs are now a commonly known delivery model for providing permanent affordable housing.

CLTs spread across the world…
The US CLT movement inspired the CLT movement in England and from 2006-2008, a National CLT Demonstration programme supported some pilot projects, while in 2010 the National CLT Network was set up to support the growing CLT movement and advocate on behalf of CLTs.
Now, in Belgium, France, Italy and Australia there is growing CLT movement: CLTs are on the rise internationally!

If you’d like a more detailed history of the US CLT movement, check out the resources from the Grounded Solutions Network, or visit the Roots and Branches website.