Occupy || Liberate: Principles & Objectives of a Third Way of Land Control


We are building a movement with dual tracks to address two core issues:

    - Land. Fundamentally transform land relationships in order to:
       - Secure community control over land.
       - Elevate housing the level of a human right.
    -Economic System. Fundamentally transform the economic system in order to:
       - Ensure equitable use of socially-necessary goods (food, housing, heathcare, education). 
       - Encourage "direct democracy" modes of production, consumption, etc. (see Solidarity Economics examples, e.g. credit unions, worker coops, land trusts.  see too other Social Movements' "delegation" system, MST, Zapatistas). 

The Third Way

Currently, land control (ownership) is held in one of two ways:

    - Private. Owned by a corporation, bank, speculator or individual homeowner, and is subject to market forces.
    - Public. Owned by local, state or federal government or government agency. While this arrangement ostensibly places the property under community control, the power of corporations over government means the property is often in a transitionary period prior to privatization, often with deep public subsidies. 

The social justice movement in the US is, among other objectives, attempting to create a 'Third Way,' which is not private, but also not public, certainly not in the current sense of the term.


A legitimate Third Way will take significant tracks of land out of the private market and away from the governments under the control of the powers of the market. This is the decommodification imperative.

Decommodified land must be under a democratically controlled community land trust of some sort. It is this entity we are attempting to shape, define and build.

Land use includes housing, but is also inclusive of farming and gardening, public space, commercial space, industrial space, recreational space and common usage space (schools, libraries, meeting halls, etc.).


Democratic Community Control of Land

How might a rights-based framework be adapted in the formation of a CLT’s structures, policies, and practices?

A set of workable principles and standards have been developed through an adaptation of fundamental international norms and the analytical framework of human rights in order to maximize the relevance of human rights norms to the U.S. housing system. The following “No Empty Homes” principles are provided as a scale-able basis for articulating human rights standards and rights based guidance for policy formation (from a localized CLT to local, state or federal public policy).

“No Empty Homes” Standards for CLT Structure and Policy

Universal Access.

  • Programs and policies must also prioritize increasing affordability for the immediate and long-term relief of community members, e.g., active pursuit of deed donations, use of sweat equity, lease-to-own, and cooperative programs. They must also be designed to preserve affordability through anti speculation provisions (e.g. re-sale restrictions, owner-occupancy regulations).
  • Policies must be adopted to minimize financial barriers for most residents with financial contributions based on ability to pay and pooled as broadly as possible to share costs equitably and enable deep affordability for those with the greatest need.
  • Policies and programs should be designed to eliminate discrimination and prejudice in access to housing (e.g. anti-discrimination policy, transparent monitoring and evaluation of access issues and programs to address known access issues).

Equitable Use.

  • Policy should mandate a regular (e.g. annual) needs assessment within the CLT’s geographical area and, if feasible, beyond to the greater community and region, to which local planning should be directly responsive.
  • The application process, resident selection criteria and other related policies and practices should be tailored to ensure re-distributions of available housing and land meet the greatest needs within the community on an equitable basis. Programs should facilitate easy and continuous enforcement of anti-speculation provisions of the land lease.

Security, Peace, and Dignity.

  • Maximum legal protection should be afforded to all leaseholders against forced eviction (temporary or permanent removal from home or land against the individual’s will).
  • Policy should articulate a commitment to helping leaseholders through periods of financial hardship, e.g., provide counseling services, support with resolving delinquencies including the option of repayment agreements or rent arrearages, loans or grants for temporary defaults.
  • Policies should guarantee assistance to leaseholders facing unavoidable eviction in finding alternative accommodations within the CLT’s area or as needed, prior to displacement.
  • Punitive fees or programs that limit security of tenure should be prohibited.

Democratic Participation.

  • Organizational documents should ensure an open and democratic membership structure within a clearly defined geographic area. Membership must be inclusive (e.g. no financial barriers).
  • Membership must be adequately empowered to directly influence all stages of the CLT decision making process that affect their housing rights, including but not limited to direct involvement in measuring needs, development goals and land use policy and implementation and assessment of development projects.
  • Technical, financial, and other forms of assistance must be made available as needed to ensure popular participation and the efficacy of self-help.
  • Organizational documents must articulate clear and easy to use mechanisms for the membership to hold the Board accountable for the implementation and enforcement of rights-based policies, requiring clear standards, monitoring evaluation and review.
  • Information must be freely available and easily accessible in clear and meaningful terms to all those within the community who will be affected by the CLT’s decisions.


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