Community Land Trust

    What is a community land trust (CLT)?

    Community land trusts are non-profit, democratically governed organizations that own and steward community land in perpetuity. CLTs are typically created in communities that are struggling with rising housing costs, vacant land and buildings, and a lack of community spaces, and can support the creation and stewardship of permanently affordable housing, community spaces (including parks, gardens, community centers), and even jobs through local development and programming. 

    How does a community land trust work?

    A community land trust separates the ownership of the land from the ownership of the structures on that land. A CLT operates as a non-profit entity that owns multiple parcels of land and leases that land to potential homeowners, who can buy and own the structures on the CLT. This model allows for long-term housing affordability and local control of land. 

     

    A CLT is democratically governed by board members consisting of residents living in the CLT, residents of the surrounding neighborhood, public officials, and other representatives of community organizations. Board members can vote on various key decisions; from the land lease fees to the construction of new homes and maintenance of open space.  

    Can a CLT manage uses other than housing?

    Yes, CLTs have the potential to provide a wide array of community-based benefits and services to residents and locals. These can include the following, dependent on local zoning and land use regulations: 

    • Community Spaces and Structures (community centers, recreational centers) 
    • Open Spaces (parks, green spaces, environmental conservation areas) 
    • Urban Agricultural Efforts (urban farms, greenhouses)  
    • Development of Commercial Spaces for Local Businesses and Vendors 
    • Common infrastructure and climate resiliency improvements 

    In these instances, the CLT as landowner can lease the land or enter other forms of partnerships and agreements with operators, business owners and program stewards. 

    If homeowners in a CLT do not own the land, can they still build wealth?

    The CLT operates under a shared equity model, where homeowners and other key players of the CLT collectively build wealth and inclusive home ownership. Similar to traditional models of homeownershipCLT homeowners have a mortgage that they pay down over time, building equity that they could recoup if they sold the home. In addition to building equity through payment of a mortgage rather than rent, CLT homeowners can typically gain a portion of the appreciation of the value of their home, if home values rise, when they sell.

    How can community members who do not purchase or occupy homes that are on the CLT land benefit from the CLT?

    Community members who do not own or occupy homes on the CLT can still benefit from the potential amenities that a CLT can bring, such as access to open space and programming available to the community.

    Has this been done before in NYC?

    Since the founding of the Cooper Square Community Land Trust in 1994, the CLT movement in NYC has grown substantially in recent years. Currently, there are over a dozen organizations involved in maintaining or creating new CLTs in communities across the five boroughs. They include: 


    • Cooper Square CLT has managed over 300 units of affordable co-op and rental housing units in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan since 1994. 
    • East Harlem/El Barrio CLT closed on rehabilitation financing and property disposition of four, formerly city-owned buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in November of 2020. The buildings comprise 36 units of housing that will be operated as an affordable mutual housing association. 
    • Interboro CLT is currently acquiring a number of properties concentrated in eastern Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and southeast Queens that will be converted into affordable homeownership, co-op, and rental housing opportunities in the coming years. 

     

    Outside of New York City, there are many other CLTs operating across the country. The Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, VT and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Community Land Trust in Boston, MA, are two of the largest. They have successfully incorporated a variety of affordable housing types along with public open space, agricultural programming, and other community amenities.  

    Are there any resources for CLTs getting started? How can I learn more about CLTs?

    Yes, over the past two decades, the CLT movement has gained momentum in New York City as well as across the country. As a result, there are multiple online and in-person resources available to aid any group looking to form and sustain a CLT. Many online manuals and guides are available for free, including the Fighting to Save our Communities Handbook and The CLT Technical Manual. Organizations like the NYC Community Land Initiative provide education and technical assistance to budding CLTs. Other resources and tips include: 


    • Grants, loans and in-kind resources are available from various private and public sources, as a CLT moves through different development phases. 
    • Talk to your friends, family, and local networks. Community-based exchanges of information and ideas are cornerstone to successful CLT development.
    • Many NYC-based CLTs have strong social media accounts—follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates and news 

     

    HPD also released a CLT Request for Expressions of Interest in 2017 that led to a CLT Learning Exchange, where groups interested in establishing a CLT attended training sessions and networking events. Some of the CLT’s and organizations mentioned above were part of this HPD-led Learning Exchange and can be a resource for newly formed CLTs today 

     

    For open space and non-residential programming, building CLT capacity through acquisition of grants, donations, and partnerships will assist in this effort. 

    Why are we pursuing a CLT in Edgemere?

    A key goal identified by community members in the Resilient Edgemere Community Planning Initiative was to “Identify City-owned sites that could be included in a community land trust (CLT) and work with local organizations to develop a model for future CLT ownership to facilitate long-term affordability and resilient land management.” The first step in fulfilling this goal is to identify an organization or organizations to partner with to form the CLT. 

    How will a CLT be formed in Edgemere?

    NYC HPD will first release a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) from all parties interested in developing a local community land trust for the Edgemere community and eventually developing and stewarding the selected City-owned vacant land under CLT ownership. Through the RFEI, these interested parties will submit an application which illustrates their mission, vision and community-engaged approach in forming a CLT. Once a CLT partner is selected through the RFEI process, HPD will work with them to form the CLT organization, develop plans for housing and neighborhood development, and eventually convey City-owned land to the CLT and help finance affordable, resilient housing construction through HPD programs. 

    Who is eligible to submit an expression of interest?

    Anyone can respond to the RFEI as long as they submit the required submission materials. We encourage partnerships and coalitions between different non-profit organizations (existing and in-formation), civic associations, and developers.  

    What support will be provided to the identified CLT partner?

    When the CLT partner is selected, HPD will support the partner in its formation by connecting the partner with technical assistance providers, trainings and capacity building services, and may partner with or support the CLT in seeking private, competitive funding. Once the CLT is formed and a development program is finalized, the City may convey the land to the CLT, and provide public subsidy for the construction of affordable homes to the extent feasible.