Community Land Trusts in the News
Representative articles that offer insight and further the conversation as the CLT movement grows.
Case Western Reserve University
Elizabeth Thaden and Tony Pickett of Grounded Solutions argue that two goals of CLTs, community control and scale, can be reconciled and serve to complement each other when appropriately balanced. This is evidenced by three examples of successful CLTs that balance these goals well. From these examples, the authors derive lessons to guide CLT decision-making.
In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of New Communities Inc., the first community land trust, RioOnWatch published a series of articles that detail the history of the CLT movement around the world. The series illustrates how community land trusts have adapted and continue to adapt to address issues specific to the needs and values of the communities creating them.
Hundreds of millions of climate migrants are projected by 2050. Meanwhile, current land-use practices continue to accelerate climate change and the amount of habitable, arable land is shrinking as it’s wasted by unsustainable development, industrial agriculture, natural disasters of increasing severity, and rising seas. Nathan Lobel highlights the need to address the central role of land in both climate mitigation and adaptation.
Community land trusts often struggle for funding. This tends to result in more professionalized organizations with priorities shaped by the motivation to attract funders, rather than the communities they serve. Here, Olivia R. Williams calls for innovation: sourcing capital from community investors and federal grants (which offer greater autonomy) can prevent mission drift. Democratic control of land in common is a fundamental component of the CLT model; as Williams writes: “advocacy for affordable housing should always be coupled with grassroots movements for community control of land. Somewhere along the road, the CLT movement largely abandoned this vital piece of its legacy.”
An interview with Katherine Franke, author of a new book, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition; Cathy Albisa, co-founder and executive director of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative; and Jaritza Geigel, senior organizer for Picture the Homeless, a grassroots organization founded and led by homeless people which advocates for social justice on issues like housing and what they call the shelter-industrial complex. They discuss the potential of CLTs to help restore real wealth to Black Americans.
“The Woodland Community Land Trust was incorporated in 1979, making it one of the oldest Community Land Trusts (CLTs) established in the United States. Located in the Clearfork Valley of northeastern Tennessee, a low-income Appalachian community dominated by extractive industry and concentrated land holding, economic, and political power, Woodland recently marked its 40th year in operation. Today, Woodland’s vision of community ownership still resounds in possibilities for Appalachian people and confronts the realities of peasant land dispossession throughout U.S. history and worldwide.”
Foundation for Intentional Community
When Carolyn North received an inheritance, she understood that there is a pressing and growing need to protect land from the speculative real estate market and preserve it for communities to use. She had the courage and vision to purchase a farm and work with community members to create a community land trust. This is the story of Commonspace CLT.
As both the incidence and the severity of natural disasters increase, the CLT model is proving to be a powerful tool for climate resilience. The Caño Martín Peña CLT in San Juan, Puerto Rico secured residents of informal settlements the legal right to the land their homes rested on, which would otherwise be vulnerable to grab by opportunistic developers. The Florida Keys CLT is in the process of building affordable housing that would withstand hurricane forces for year-round residents who have lost housing to Hurricane Irma. Further north, SMASH, a Miami-based CLT, is preventing climate gentrification as coastal communities begin to move inward to less affluent communities. By organizing together, these CLTs have secured land access for communities otherwise vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
The Urban Farming Institute Community Land Trust is a community land trust designed to hold land for urban farming in Boston. This report details findings from interviews and offers insight and recommendations for governance and management practices that best further the organization’s mission.
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, public servants, residents, and professionals came together to protect and nurture the informal communities on the banks of the Martin Pena Canal. Centrally located, the eight communities on the canal were formed in the 1930s, when a devastating hurricane season pushed rural workers into the city where they built over 5,000 informal homes. Without proper infrastructure or regulation, the city flooded the canal with waste until it stopped flowing.
In 2001, the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers committed to dredge the canal and build a formal sewage system for canal residents. Knowing that this would leave the settlements vulnerable to displacement, the Transportation Authority hosted approximately 700 meetings in which experts listened and responded to community concerns. Residents decided the CLT model was the best way to protect their communities from dissolving (their top priority). In 2004, San Juan passed a law creating a special planning district for the canal and provided for incorporation of the CLT. Today Fideicomiso de la Tierra, as it’s known to residents, is successfully addressing permanent preservation and affordability.
National Assoc. Of Social Workers
“This instrumental case study examined the role of grassroots community organizing in a community land trust (CLT) in a southern U.S. city. Twenty-nine homeowners, renters, board members, community members, and current and former CLT employees were interviewed. In addition, two focus groups of 11 and six participants composed of CLT residents and other neighborhood residents were conducted. All comments were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Analysis revealed that community organizing was helpful if not necessary for community building in the subject CLT. This study enhances our knowledge of CLTs and the ways they contribute to community change and offers lessons learned to other, especially budding, CLTs.”