By holding land on behalf of the community for homes,
farms and businesses, the B.C.L.T. ensures permanent
access, control, affordability and stewardship
Berkshire Community Land Trust, Inc. was founded in 2015 as a 501(c)(3) organization serving Berkshire County. Its educational programs build public awareness of the need to broaden access to land and of the role community land trusts can play in addressing that need. Putting its ideas into practice, BCLT acquires working lands by gift or purchase and then develops a land use plan for each site defining its unique ecological characteristics and intended social use, be that workforce housing, sustainable farming, appropriately scaled manufacturing, or locally owned retail and office space.
The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Inc. was founded in 1980 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In 2017 it obtained 501(c)(2) status as a title-holding corporation for the Berkshire Community Land Trust with a shared board of trustees. Land acquired by BCLT is transferred to CLTSB to lease to year-round residents of the Berkshires. The 98-year lease provides the lessee equity in the buildings and other improvements on the land but not in the land itself, effectively taking the land out of the market. CLTSB’s role is to manage the leases, collect fees, pay expenses, oversee any transfer of leases, and ensure compliance with lease terms including the land use plan. At the end of each calendar year CLTSB is required to return any surplus income to the BCLT. Today, CLTSB owns 49 acres of land in three sites and leases the land to 24 leaseholders for homes, farms, and office buildings.
Working together, these sister organizations help facilitate citizen involvement in shaping the Berkshire economy by permanently protecting strategic land assets, cultivating social diversity, and building economic resilience. BCLT and CLTSB are part of a broad social movement to develop a culture of philanthropy – a land gift movement – that supports community ownership of land and returns land to the Commons.