As the U.S. housing crisis intensifies, families and policymakers alike search for actionable solutions. One emerging model, Community Land Trusts (CLTs), promises not just hope but actual groundwork for change. There are 315 community land trusts across the country, up from 225 in 2018, signaling a shift towards community-driven solutions.
Understanding the Framework: How Community Land Trusts Work
Fundamentally, Community Land Trusts operate on the principle of community-owned land. Residents own the structures they live in—be it a home, an apartment, or a commercial establishment—but lease the land from the trust. By delinking the value of the land from the property, CLTs offer an effective strategy for keeping housing affordable.
Addressing the Issue: The Affordable Housing Crisis
As of 2023, the United States faces a shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renters. Traditional market mechanisms have failed to bridge this gap, leaving millions of Americans in housing instability.
Case Studies: Success Stories of CLTs in Action
1. Cooperative Resilience: Westside Mobile Home Park
Facing a looming corporate buyout in Durango, Colorado, residents of the Westside Mobile Home Park united to protect their community. Partnering with the Denver-based Elevation Community Land Trust, they successfully countered the buyout and transformed their park into a unique blend of housing co-op and community land trust. This strategy not only insulated the community from skyrocketing rent but also empowered residents with decision-making roles, serving as an innovative model for preserving affordable housing.
2. Rural Sustainability: Champlain Housing Trust
Founded in 1984 in Burlington, Vermont, the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) stands as one of the world's earliest and most representative examples of a Community Land Trust (CLT). It also ranks as the largest of its kind worldwide. The trust was created with the aim of offering long-term, affordable housing options to the residents of Burlington.. Currently, CHT owns over 2,400 low-cost rental properties, 600 for-purchase units, and 115 housing cooperatives. In addition, it owns many commercial spaces and offices.
By the Numbers: Why CLTs Make Economic Sense
According to a comprehensive study, CLT/SE entities in the United States have been experiencing significant growth, with 70 organizations established in the 2010s alone. These organizations are making a substantial impact, with 98% of programs having affordability terms that last 30 years or longer.
Another striking data point is the projected growth in shared equity homes. Organizations expect a 35% growth in the overall number of shared equity homes between 2022 and 2023, indicating a strong upward trend in this housing model.
These data points offer a compelling narrative about the increasing role and impact of CLT/SE entities in the U.S. housing market.
In a landscape increasingly defined by soaring property prices and widening inequality, Community Land Trusts offer a feasible, community-driven approach to housing security. As the U.S. moves towards a housing crisis the time to invest in sustainable solutions like CLTs is now.