Community Land Trusts

A fundamental component of the community land trust (CLT) is the community’s ability to own and control local resources – including land, buildings and other assets – and decisions regarding their use and development. The aim of this research is to identify the various mechanisms and strategies CLT’s have used to acquire that ownership and control.

While the creation of a community land trust can be considered a mechanism for gaining community control in its own right, the various ways CLTs have come into existence and the range of ways they’ve been supported or encouraged suggest a second layer of mechanisms that play a critical role in their success in gaining ownership and control of community assets. These “secondary” mechanisms include local or state statutes and laws and legal instruments, funding/financial and organizational instruments used for the acquisition of land or buildings, and community action/activism.

It is important to note that community land trusts are frequently thought of in relation to housing, and specifically single-family dwellings. Increasingly, however, the model is being adopted in multi-family buildings, commercial and public space contexts.

Our research also suggests that two fundamental models of community land trust have emerged:

  • the community empowerment model in which the CLT is conceived and designed to give ownership and decision-making authority directly to the community. In this model communities often rely on outside organizations to provide technical expertise on the creation and operation of the CLT, but the community retains control;


  • the technical expertise model in which outside organizations create and oversee the operation of the CLT. This model often engages community input, but decision-making and vision-setting power resides with or is heavily influenced by non-community entities.

During an initial three-month research period we looked at 16 existing community land trusts in order to identify particular mechanisms used. These are:

  • Baltimore Housing Roundtable
  • Caño Martín Peña Fideicomiso (Puerto Rico)
  • Cooper Square (NY) Community Land Trust
  • Dudley Neighbors, Inc. (Boston, MA)
  • Durham (NC) Community Land Trust
  • East Harlem/El Barrio (NY) Community Land Trust
  • Fannie Lou Hamer (Jackson, MS) Community Land Trust
  • GES Coalition (Denver, CO)
  • Houston (TX) Community Land Trust
  • Lawrenceville (PA) Community Land Trust
  • Maggie Walker (VA) Community Land Trust
  • Mott Haven/Port Morris (NY) Community Land Stewards
  • Oakland (CA) Community Land Trust
  • Rondo (Saint Paul, MN) Community Land Trust
  • San Francisco Community Land Trust
  • Sawmill (Albuquerque, NM) Community Land Trust

We also examined the Cypress Hills Community Development Corporation in Brooklyn, NY, which while not a community land trust, has adopted a mission and strategies for achieving it that mirror those of many CLTs.

More information on how specific CLTs have employed these mechanisms, and on the CLTs themselves, is available through the links provided.

This list is a work in progress and is not intended to appear definitive. We welcome any comments, corrections and suggested additions.



Right of First Refusal

A Right of First Refusal is a real-estate contract provision that gives a specified party – for example, a lease holder or renter – the right to be the first allowed to purchase a particular property should the owner offer it for sale.

Groups/orgs that have used: Oakland (CA) CLT


State/Local Laws

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 121A/Power of Eminent Domain

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 121A and Massachusetts Regulations 760 CMR 25.00 authorize the creation of single-purpose, project specific, private Urban Redevelopment Corporations (defined as “private limited dividend entities that are formed to develop 121a projects”) for the purpose of undertaking residential, commercial, civic, recreational, historic or industrial projects in areas which are considered to be “decadent, substandard [and/or] blighted open space.”

Once created, URC’s are exempt from real and personal property taxes and special assessments. Under certain circumstances, private developers with URC status are allowed to exercise the power of eminent domain to assemble development sites.”

Projects authorized through 121a agreements must serve a “public purpose” and are used to encourage “development in areas with high property tax rates or in areas that are minimally marketable as locations for private investments.” They are frequently used for the construction of low- and moderate-income housing, though they can be used for general economic development.

Entities eligible for URC status include, non-profit corporations, for-profit corporations, joint ventures and public/private partnerships.

Groups/orgs that have used: Dudley Neighbors, Inc.


Texas Local Government Code Chapter 373B/Power to Acquire and Hold Land

Texas Local Government Code Chapter 373B gives the governing body of a municipality or county the power to support the creation of community land trusts through the designation of Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDO). Designated CHDOs have the power to acquire and hold land for the benefit of developing and preserving long-term affordable housing in the municipality or county. It also allows the CHDO to apply for priority funding from the federal government, and to qualify for CHDO-specific property tax exemptions.

Groups/orgs that have used: Houston CLT 



Mutual Housing Associations

A Mutual Housing Association (MHA) is a nonprofit corporation that develops, owns, manages or assists cooperatives and other forms of nonprofit, resident-controlled housing. The model is generally used for multifamily housing, and the units are often for rent. In this model, property is owned by the MHA, which is typically governed by a Board of Directors composed of residents and other representatives. Residents cannot buy or sell their units directly, however, they do have significant voice in the decision making process and also have lifetime rights to live in the housing if they so choose.

Groups/orgs that have used: Cooper Square CLT (NY), East Harlem/El Barrio (NY) CLT


Land banks

A land bank is a government entity or non-profit corporation that withholds a property that is vacant, unproductive, abandoned, and/or tax delinquent, and ultimately converts it to productive use.  Certain municipal/local governments have fostered the development and growth of community land trusts by giving CLTs access and, in certain cases, priority to properties held in land banks.

Currently, 23 states operate approximately 170 land bank programs in the United States.

Groups/orgs that have used: Maggie Walker CLT (Richmond, VA), Houston CLT, Durham (NC) Community Land Trustees



Federal Programs

Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program was authorized under Title III of the Economic Recovery Act of 2008. It provides funding to state and local governments, certain local communities and other organizations for the acquisition of foreclosed properties and to “rehabilitate, resell or redevelop them.”

Groups/orgs that have used: Oakland (CA) CLT, Durham (NC) Community Land Trustees


HUD Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program “[p]rovides capital advances to finance the construction, rehabilitation or acquisition with or without rehabilitation of structures that will serve as supportive housing for very low-income elderly persons… and provides rent subsidies for projects to help make them affordable.”

Groups/orgs that have used: Cypress Hills (NY) Local Development Corporation


Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program

The Home Investment Partnerships Program “…provides formula grants to States and localities that communities use – often partnership with local nonprofit groups – to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying and/or rehabilitating houses for rent or homeownership…”

Groups/orgs that have used: Cypress Hills (NY) Local Development Corporation, Rondo CLT (St. Paul, MN), Sawmill (Albuquerque, NM) CLT


Low-Income Housing Tax Credits

Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) are allocated by the federal government to each state, based on population. Designated agencies in each state then award those credits to developers whose proposed projects best meet the state’s goals for providing affordable housing. Each state establishes its own policies and procedures for determining which private developers and projects qualify.

Developers often sell credits to investors – both individuals and tax-credit syndication funds – to obtain funding. Once the project is finished and made available to tenants, investors can claim the credits for 10 years.

Groups/orgs that have used: Cypress Hills (NY) Local Development Corporation, Rondo CLT (St. Paul, MN)


State or local programs

20/20 Vision for Baltimore

Levies funds from two excise taxes on the transfer and recording of real estate transactions exceeding $1 million to fund a housing trust that supports four local land trusts and provides other forms of permanently affordable housing as well as vacant house demolition and renovation and the creation of public green space.

Groups/orgs that have used: Baltimore Housing Roundtable


Alameda (CA) County Measure A1 Home Preservation Loan Program

Helps low-income homeowners remain in their homes and prevent further community-wide displacement through a bond-funded program. The program provides home inspections and technical assistance along with zero to low-interest deferred loans to pay for accessibility improvements to the existing house.

Groups/orgs that have used: Oakland (CA) CLT


Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Community Commitment Funds

As part of a federal environmental review of its plans to widen Interstate 70, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) negotiated 148 “community commitment” agreements with neighborhoods that would be impacted by the four-year, $1.2 billion project. Funding was allotted through a competitive process. 

Groups/orgs that have used: GES (Denver, CO) Coalition


Community Land Trusts Capacity Building Initiative (New York State)

In 2017, Enterprise Community Partners and the New York State Attorney General’s Office launched the Community Land Trusts Capacity Building Initiative by distributing $3.5 million to four New York municipalities or counties (NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, City of Albany, Suffolk County and Nassau County) to create or expand local community land trusts. The money came from the Attorney General’s settlement with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley for practices that contributed to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development subsequently awarded its share – in the form of a $1.65 million grant – to three New York City CLTs and the New York City Community Land Initiative, an alliance of social justice and affordable housing organizations. The NYCCLI used its share to create a CLT Learning Exchange, which includes Education and Outreach and Policy and Advocacy work groups.

In 2019, current the New York State Attorney General announced an $8 million expansion of the effort with the additional funds provided by a settlement with the United Bank of Scotland and UBS.

Groups/orgs that have used: East Harlem/El Barrio CLT, Cooper Square CLT


New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Multifamily Performance Program

NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program (MPP) provides incentives from $700-$3,500 per unit for affordable multifamily property owners and managers to make improvements to help lower building’s ongoing operating costs. These improvements are important for organizations seeking a low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) or repair grants.

Groups/orgs that have used: Cypress Hills (NY) Local Development Corporation


North Carolina Community Development Initiative capital loans

Initiative Capital, the lending arm of the non-profit community development organization North Carolina Community Development Initiative, provides loans to community development organizations, including those that facilitate the development of affordable housing, in North Carolina.

Groups/orgs that have used: Durham (NC) Community Land Trustees


Pittsburgh (PA) HOF For-Sale Development Program

Pittsburgh’s Housing Opportunity Fund (HOF) provides low-interest financing and grants to nonprofit developers or developers with non-profit community partners for the creation of affordable housing for homeowners through its For-Sale Development Program. The HOF, which is administered by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Pittsburgh’s economic development agency, “supports the development and preservation of affordable and accessible housing” in Pittsburgh.

Groups/orgs that have used: Lawrenceville (PA) CLT


Saint Paul (MN) Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) Program

The Neighborhood STAR Program is a city program in Saint Paul, MN, that is funded with 50 percent of the city’s half-cent sales tax proceeds. The program awards grants and loans for capital improvements in St. Paul neighborhoods. Proposals must be neighborhood-based and generated by neighborhood leaders, organizations or businesses or be designed with neighborhood participation to address specific neighborhood needs. Program grants require $1 private funding for every STAR dollar.

Groups/orgs that have used: Rondo (St. Paul, MN) CLT


San Francisco Small Sites Program

The Small Sites Program (SSP) was created by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development in 2014 to preserve long-term affordable housing in San Francisco. The program provides loans to nonprofit organizations for the purchase of rent-controlled buildings with 5-25 units in order to remove them from the speculative market.

Groups/orgs that have used: San Francisco CLT


Private Initiatives

Donations/Private Foundation Grants

Groups/orgs that have used: Dudley Neighbors, Inc., Lawrenceville (PA) CLT, Maggie Walker (Richmond, VA) CLT, Rondo (St. Paul, MN) CLT, San Francisco CLT, Sawmill (Albuquerque, NM) CLT


Fundraising Campaigns/Crowd Funding  

Groups/orgs that have used: Dudley Neighbors, Inc., Fannie Lou Hamer CLT/Cooperation Jackson (Jackson, MS), Oakland (CA) CLT


Clearinghouse CDFI Loans

Clearing House CDFI is a direct lender that provides funding for projects that offer “economic opportunities and improves the quality of life for lower-income individuals and communities.” Its products include loans for affordable housing and community facilities. Founded in Orange County, CA, in 1996, its service area includes Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Native American lands throughout the US. 

Groups/orgs that have used: San Francisco CLT


Enterprise Community Loan Fund

Enterprise Community Partners is a national not-for-profit organization that finances and builds affordable housing.

Groups/orgs that have used: San Francisco CLT


Institute for Community Economics Revolving Loan Fund

The Institute for Community Economics is a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit community development financial institution affiliated with the National Housing Trust. It makes loans for the creation of permanently affordable housing.

Groups/orgs that have used: Durham (NC) Community Land Trustees



To varying degrees, all organizations that form community land trusts engage in community action and activism in one form or another. Our research highlights efforts specifically focused on acquiring community control of land.


Groups/orgs that have used: Caño Martín Peña Fideicomiso

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