What is a CLT?

What is a community land trust (CLT)?

Community land trusts are not-for-profit organizations that own and steward land on behalf of local communities.

A fundamental component of the 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.

While community land trusts are frequently thought of in relation to housing – and specifically single-family dwellings – increasingly the model is being adopted in multi-family, commercial, manufacturing, and public space contexts.

How do CLTs work?

CLTs acquire land and lease it to community residents or business owners at permanently affordable rates. Typically, CLTs are run by membership boards comprised of leaseholders, community members, and representatives of partner not-for-profit organizations that provide funding or technical expertise.

What do CLTs do?

CLTs are a way to ensure that public land remains public by offering the city an alternative to giving away public parcels to private developers.

The CLT model allows local communities to own and control that land instead, allowing them to decide how to best serve their needs. The CLT’s own internal structure provides a checks-and-balances system that keeps it accountable to the community in which it resides – permanently.

CLTs can create permanent, deep affordability for both commercial and residential tenants by serving as a non-profit, community-controlled entity that can receive public land and/or buildings from the city (a role currently filled by developers). The CLT then works with nonprofit management companies to refurbish and run these properties.

Between 2014-2019, NYC gave away over 200 parcels of public land for $1 each; CLTs could have kept that land in the hands of the community. A city-run land bank, in conjunction with CLTs, would offer NYC an even more viable path to truly permanent affordable housing.

CLTs serve as a nexus and conduit for housing-related issues within a community. They provide an organized voice that can better represent and advocate for the community’s needs in local land-use decisions, as well as serve as a source of information and community engagement.

This gives communities much-needed political clout in an area that has traditionally offered them very little say in such matters.

CLTs are working with the city to reform the current tax lien sale system so that control of properties in tax arrears is reallocated from private investors back into a public-run system that is less predatory and more equitable.

People in danger of foreclosure, as well as people actually being foreclosed on, would have the option of working with CLTs to keep their homes and convert them into permanently affordable properties. Foreclosed properties can be sold to CLTs and converted into permanently affordable rental units.

CLTs can help build communities that can weather crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, since they exist to serve the community instead of shareholders.

Both residential and commercial tenants can rest easy knowing they are in much less danger of being evicted if they fall behind on rent during a crisis than they would with a private landlord.

CLTs can help middle class families purchase homes by enabling them to qualify for State credits and exemptions, pending NY State Legislation.

Bill A5081 would render CLT properties tax-exempt, and Bill A4341 would increase the already-existing subsidy for any home that qualifies as affordable housing (the subsidy has not increased since 1985.)

A public banking system (currently in development) would also provide CLTs with community-based financing without the profit motive found in private banks.

Click here for our updated 6 Key Benefits of Community Land Trusts


Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards (Bronx, NY) was founded by South Bronx Unite. It is a coalition of environmental justice, land, and anti-displacement activists. Also, it is a member of the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI)

As part of the Design Trust for Public Space competition, Public for All: Rethinking Shared Space in NYC, the MH-PM Community Land Stewards submitted a proposal that was named one of two winners.

That proposal, “Community Land Trust as a Model for Public Space,” calls for the use of asset mapping and community-driven neighborhood planning to explore the potential for the community land trust model of community ownership to be applied to public space. Officially called “Power in Place: Building Community Wealth and Well-Being in Mott Haven-Port Morris, one of its goals is to identify underutilized spaces in those neighborhoods, like empty lots or abandoned or vacated properties that can be used for community needs like recreation, education, and health.

While the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards have yet to gain control over such a space, it has identified the vacant, 22,750-square-foot New York City-owned former Lincoln Detox Center, which it proposes to convert to an H.E.ARTS Community Center (health, education, and the arts) for local nonprofits and cultural organizations.

Adirondack Community Housing Trust provides affordable housing and economic development. Their landholdings are two housing developments. Members of the board of directors are from various locations in the Adirondack Park area. The Adirondack Community housing is staffed by a contract with the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, and the organization is controlled by its own board. This organization was created after the NY state allocated $1M to a housing trust to help reduce the cost of first-time home purchases for people making less than 120% of the Adirondack median income.   

Albany Community Land Trust was incorporated in 1987. Its purpose is to provide affordable housing. Their landholdings have acquired and redeveloped 45 properties with 58 units of low-income housing, and they have sold 21 rehabilitated buildings to low-income, first-time buyers; they manage both lease-purchase and rental properties.  

Broome Community Land Trust was incorporated in 2019. Its purpose is to provide affordable housing. There are no landholdings, and this organization is still organizing.

Brownville Community Land Trust’s purpose is to develop and preserve affordable housing for low-income households and preserve public spaces. Their aim is to assure residents have the power to shape the future of their neighborhood and enable residents to create and build wealth. As of January 2020, there are no landholdings.   

City Roots CLT was incorporated in 2016. Its purpose is to provide developments without displacements. Three parcels are owned by this organization, including a homeless encampment called Peace Village and two single-family homes acquired through foreclosure and defense proceedings. 

The Community Land Trust of Schenectady was incorporated in 1991. Its purpose is to provide affordable housing and ecologically sound land use. Their landholdings include 25 homes and 14 rental properties.  

Cooper Square Community Land Trust was incorporated in 1994. Its purpose is to preserve the development of affordable and environmentally friendly housing and community spaces. This organization wants the Cooper Square area to remain racially, economically, and culturally diverse. There are two parcels of land; lease one parcel with 328 affordable apartment units to the Cooper Square Cooperative. This organization is waiting to close on the second parcel’s improvement, which includes two additional apartment complexes. Cooper Square Community is governed and managed by a self-perpetuating tripartite board of trustees. 

Founded in 1991. Its foundation dates to 1959, when Robert Moses proposed leveling an 11-block area of New York City’s Lower East Side to develop co-operative housing. Cooper Square Committee (CSC) is a coalition of local residents and businesses that organized to oppose the project. In 1961, the CSC completed its own plan for the area. The plan included the preservation of existing housing and the development of new affordable housing. Its first project, using federal Section 8 funds, was completed in 1984. The Cooper Square CLT and the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association were founded at the same time in 1991. The Mutual Housing Association manages 303 apartments and 23 commercial spaces in 19 buildings.

East Harlem/El Barrio CLT to be continued.

Fruit Belt Community Land Trust was created in 2017. Its purpose is to provide affordable housing and community development.

Hempstead Community Land Trust was incorporated in 2019. Its purpose is to provide affordable housing. Their landholding is organized to acquire property.

Interboro Community Land Trust was incorporated in 2017. Its purpose is to provide affordable housing. This organization’s landholding is organized to acquire property as of 2019. The first CLT project will be in eastern Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and southeast Queens. 

Long Island Partnership Housing Development Fund Community Land Trust landholdings are Long Island Partnership CLT Housing Development Fund Co. In. This organization worked with Nassau and Suffolk Counties to acquire properties damaged by Superstorm Sandy and create 23 resilient homes. The properties have been acquired by New York State and were transferred to the CLT to further a regional resiliency strategy. Another six properties are slated for acquisition in December 2019.  

Northern Manhattan CLT date incorporated is expected by 2020. Its purpose is to provide community-controlled, sustainably affordable housing, develop the social and economic capacity of community residents to own and manage their housing. In addition, its purpose is to improve the community by providing cultural and economical developments. Even so, they want to anchor working-class people, immigrants, and people of color against displacement. However, their landholding is still in the process.  

Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition CLT date incorporated is expected by 2020. To be continued. 

Uniondale Community Land Trust purpose is to provide affordable housing. Its landholding is constructing its first home as of October 2019.

Dudley Neighbors, Inc was launched in 1988. This organization manages 30 acres of land, which includes more than 400 houses, 226 affordable homes, a community greenhouse built in 2004, a playground, community gardens, and a 1.5-acre urban farm.  

Oakland Community Land Trust Operates a resident-managed Resident Operated Nonprofit (RON) non-profit co-op and a mixed-use community center occupied by local community service providers in Oakland, CA.  

Rondo CLT (St. Paul, MN) launched a $13.2 million project to develop two mixed-use commercial/residential buildings that provide long-term affordable commercial space as well as 34 units of affordable senior housing.

Sawmill CLT (Albuquerque, NM) was formed in 1996 on 27 acres of heavily polluted land once occupied by a particle board factory. CLT has grown to 34 acres with 93 affordable ownership homes, three affordable apartment complexes, community gardens, playgrounds, and a public plaza.