Community Land Trusts in the News

Community Land Trusts in the News

articles that offer insight and further the conversation as the CLT movement grows.

Land Power

Cassim Shepard, Places Journal

July 2022

Community land trusts are powerful tools for building and strengthening communities. Shepard goes into the history of the CLT movement and then describes the actions of the Mott-Haven CLT in the South Bronx, NY. With land, comes community power.

“We Need Our Land Back”: Community Land Trusts and the Fight for Fair Space

Rebecca Harvey, Coop News


With space being a rising global issue as people struggle to find affordable housing, many organizations are turning to CLTs to solve this issue. By giving control of the land back to the community, CLTs allow for a wide range of voices to be heard when making decisions regarding housing and land use.

The Theft of the Commons

Eula Biss, The New Yorker


An overview of the commons of the United Kingdom and how they have diminished over the years. The commons were typically land for farmers to collectively graze, harvest, and work the land. Now, the land is privately owned.

Community Land Trusts: Combining Scale and Community Control to Advance Mixed-Income Neighborhoods 

Emily Thaden and Tony Pickett; 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 CLTs that do this well. From these examples, the authors derive lessons to guide CLT decision-making.

Are community land trusts a way out of the system?

Hazel Sheffield, Red Pepper Magazine


People are taking charge of land and housing across the UK, posing an alternative to the commercial market. Sheffield takes stock of the potential of CLTs to grow into a movement to democratize land use. Democratically governed, CLTs have the unique potential to address the needs of the communities they serve, tackling problems like displacement and dereliction, as well as fueling community economic development and long-term sustainability efforts. Tim Crabtree is quoted: “If we reduce it to the housing, we lose the fact that it’s about finance, land, ownership and democracy as well.”

New Communities Inc. at 50: Thoughts on Identity and a Different Way Forward

Miriam Axel-Lute, Shelterforce


Civil rights leaders developed and implemented the community land trust model for the first time with the creation of New Communities, Inc. Those communities oppressed by our economic system possess the cultural literacy and first-hand understanding to inform appropriate, effective solutions. The CLT model was created democratic governance, led by the communities they support.

The Growth of the Global CLT Movement

Nasir Grissom ,Tara Nelson, Katja Majcen, Alix Vadot, Patricia Basile, Priscilla Mayrink, and Felipe Litsek; RioOnWatch


In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of New Communities Inc., RioOnWatch published a series that details the history of the CLT movement around the world. The series illustrates how community land trusts have and continue to adapt to address issues specific to the needs and values of the communities they serve.

The Problem with CLTs 

Olivia R. Williams, Jacobin Magazine


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.”

Community Land Trusts are a Model for Reparations

Laura Flanders, Truthout


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.

Woodland Community Land Trust: An Antidote to Extraction in Rural Appalachia

Eliza Spellman, Agrarian Trust


“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.”

The Dilemmas of Being a Benefactor: Creating a Community Land Trust 

Carolyn North, 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.

Community Land Trusts in the Age of Climate Change

Hortense Leon, Shelterforce


As both the incidence and the severity of natural disasters increase, the CLT model is proving 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.

Soil in the City: Urban Farming on CLTs

Zoë Ackerman, Nicole Huang, Alice Maggio, and David Morgan, Tufts University


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.

The Story of the Lopez Land Trust

Staff, The Field Guide to a Regenerative Economy


In 1989, housing prices were soaring on Lopez Island, WA. Residents Sandy Bishop and Rhea Miller took action. After attending a national conference on CLTs in Burlington, the pair decided the model was ideal. Despite overwhelming pushback, they organized with members of their community and successfully executed their vision for cooperative housing  on CLT land. The trust has since grown to five developments with design informed by systems thinking and sustainability. LCLT’s stated mission is not only to provide affordable housing but also to serve as a model for land stewardship. Its work extends deeply into sustainable agriculture and the rural development of the island.

An Informal Settlement in Puerto Rico has become the World’s First Favela Community Land Trust

Laura Bachmann, RioOnWatch


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.

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