Land acquisition, distribution and use
CLTs acquire land, through donation or purchase, not to make a profit, but with the intention of retaining title in perpetuity (to never sell it in the speculative market). Use of the land is determined by the membership or board of the CLT, through a process comparable to public planning and zoning, except the process is run and decisions are made by the CLT members and board, rather than politicians and lobbyists.
The land can be used a number of ways, including for housing, farming, business, community usage (school; recreation center; etc.) or as the commons- such as a park- for all to enjoy. When the needs of the community changes, the CLT can repurpose land use and distribution through it’s normal decision making process, because the land belongs to the community through the CLT.
Living and working on a Community Land Trust
While the CLT controls the land, it typically does not manage the improvements that sit on top of the land: the housing, farm or business. When not reserved for the commons, residents or tenants are typically offered long-term or even lifetime land leases.
Particularly in the context of the recent crisis of gentrification and foreclosure, many communities recognize the extent to which traditional public/private property arrangements have benefited some while hindering the ability of others to meet their basic needs due to the availability and cost of land. The CLT model creates a new balance between legitimate individual interests and the broader community interests.
The land lease is the key to creating a lasting connection between the individual lease-holder and the community, through membership in the local CLT, and is the document in which the balance of individual and community interests is articulated.
This balance is achieved principally through the CLT’s separation of the ownership of the land and “whatever is on top of the land” (e.g. a home, a farm, a business). That is, a family can own their home, but they must lease the land from the CLT, in which they have a direct democratic interest. So, the family can own the house, but the CLT controls the land underneath the house. Of course, the CLT can choose to control both and simply lease the house.
When used for housing, land leases are typically offered as long-term or lifetime contracts, which are inheritable by the leaseholders’ heirs. Therefore, through the CLT, leaseholders/homeowners have secure tenure and considerable freedom of use.
Through the lease, the CLT monitors re-sales of “whatever is on top” of the land and effectively enforces restrictions on speculation (how much the house can be re-sold for), owner-occupancy requirements (the house is for living in, not renting out) and buyer eligibility (often related to income targets and other priorities).
As a result, the family receives security of tenure in a nice home they can afford and the community ensures that the home remains affordable for the next family as well, thereby keeping housing prices reasonable for everyone.