The text below was shamelessly plagiarized from Community-Wealth.org. For more information, we strongly encourage you to check out the rest of their website as well as the multitude of resources available through the National Community Land Trust Network.
Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Community land trusts can be used for many types of development (including commercial and retail), but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. To do so, the trust acquires land and maintains ownership of it permanently. With prospective homeowners, it enters into a long-term, renewable lease instead of a traditional sale. When the homeowner sells, the family earns only a portion of the increased property value. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability for future low- to moderate-income families.
The length of the lease (most frequently, 99 years) and the percentage earned by the homeowner vary. Ultimately, by separating the ownership of land and housing, this innovative approach prevents market factors from causing prices to rise significantly, and hence guarantees that housing will remain affordable for future generations. Today, there are nearly 250 community land trusts across the United States.
Community land trusts play a critical role in building community wealth for several key reasons:
- They provide low- and moderate-income people with the opportunity to build equity through homeownership and ensure these residents are not displaced due to land speculation and gentrification.
- Land trust housing also protects owners from downturns because people are not over extended; as a result, foreclosure rates for land trusts have been as much as 90 percent less than conventional home mortgages.
- Most commonly, at least one-third of a land trust’s board is composed of community residents, allowing for the possibility of direct, grassroots participation in decision-making and community control of local assets.
- In addition to the development of affordable housing, many land trusts are involved in a range of community-focused initiatives including homeownership education programs, commercial development projects, and community greening efforts.