Community Land Trusts have grown steadily and spread all over the country, as more nonprofits and local governments have embraced the concept as a way to provide permanently affordable housing, according to a new survey by the Lincoln Institute.
The survey, the most comprehensive to date on Community Land Trusts, drew responses from 119 CLTs providing 6,495 homes created for primarily very low and low-income families, with the units about evenly split between owners and renters. CLTs exist primarily in urban areas but also serve suburban and rural areas and small towns, and although they vary in size, most CLTs have less than 100 units including those owned and rented.
The spread of Community Land Trusts, where a private, nonprofit corporation retains the ownership of the land and removes the cost of land from the price of the homes, has prompted the interest of municipalities seeking to implement permanently affordable housing strategies, says Rosalind Greenstein, chair of the Department of Economic and Community Development at the Lincoln Institute.
"The early CLTs resulted from major efforts of individuals or nonprofit organizations such as community development corporations, but the support of local governments and municipalities is playing a growing role in their formation today," Greenstein said.
The first CLT in the United States, New Communities Inc., was established in 1968 in rural Georgia. While there were about two-dozen in the 1980s, growth accelerated in the 1990s and subsequently. Today CLTs are mostly concentrated in the Northeast (37 percent) and the West (29 percent), with the remaining in the Midwest (19 percent) and the South (15 percent).
The roots of the Community Land Trust model in the US can be traced to several thinkers including Henry George, Ebenezer Howard, Arthur Morgan, and Ralph Borsodi and social movements in the US and abroad such as the land and village-gift movement associated with India's freedom against colonial rule.
Key findings of the survey, now available in this working paper, include:
• CLTs largely serve very low (less than 50% area median income), low (50-80% area median income) and some moderate (80-120% area median income) income households.
• While most (95 percent) of the responding organizations have units for homeownership, 45 percent reported that they also have rental units in their housing portfolio. The majority of organizations (80 percent) have less than 100 units including those owned and rented.
• Of the 6,495 homeownership and rental units reported, only 3 percent of ownership units and 7 percent of rental units were vacant.
• The majority (67 percent) of residential buildings are single family attached or detached houses.
• New construction is by far the most common housing development activity, although responding organizations also reported acquiring and rehabilitating existing homes.
Almost all of the respondents reported a 99-year ground lease, although some ground lease durations are for as few as 20. Nearly 60% of responding organizations reported that they had resales.
The Lincoln Institute continues to do research on the use of Community Land Trusts and is sponsoring the 2007 National Community Land Trust Network Annual Meeting and National CLT Academy October 9-12 in Minneapolis.