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May 10, 2010

The origins of the CLT

    The community land trust, where buyers can purchase homes eclusive of the cost of land, occupies some interesting space in the context of the housing meltdown: CLTs, it turns out, are good for neighborhood stabilization and have negligible foreclosure rates. What's even more fascinating is that this is an idea a hundred years in the making. This month, a new collection of essays, assembled for the first time, trace the roots, evolution, and prospects of the community land trust: The Community Land Trust Reader.
   The essays – many of which have never before appeared in print, and others written expressly for the volume -- trace the intellectual origins of an eclectic model of tenure that was shaped by the social theories of Henry George, Ebenezer Howard, Ralph Borsodi, and Arthur Morgan, and by social experiments like the Garden Cities of England and the Gramdan villages of India. The community land trust arrived quietly on the American scene in the late 1960s, an outgrowth of the civil rights movement in the Deep South to help African-American farmers gain access to agricultural land. It soon found many other uses, including affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization, as it spread to urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout the country. By 2005, there were more than 200 CLTs, with a dozen new ones being organized every year. Today, CLTs are operating in 45 states and the District of Columbia, and they are being introduced in other countries including Canada, England, Scotland, Australia, and Kenya.
  “Community land trusts are at a critical turning point, and many opportunities lie ahead,” said Gregory K. Ingram, president of the Lincoln Institute, which maintains a partnership with the National CLT Network to support training and research on community land trusts. “This book aptly frames an approach that can counter today’s tumult in housing markets and provide sustainable affordable housing.”
  "We’ve recently seen an immensely damaging housing bubble that was built on speculation suddenly burst, with disastrous results not just for our national economy, but for individual homeowners and renters. Homes that are needed by working families are too often priced beyond their reach – or pried from their grasp – by dramatic rises and falls in real estate prices. The Community Land Trust Reader show us there is a more equitable way of keeping land-based resources available, affordable, and secure for people who need them the most," said Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont.
     The editor of the volume, John Emmeus Davis, will be at Lincoln House in Cambridge June 15 for a special event including remarks followed by a reception and book-signing.

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