About CLTs

What is a community land trust?

A community land trust (CLT) is a private non-profit community organization that holds land in trust order to provide affordable housing and other opportunities. CLTs make homes available at affordable prices to households with limited incomes. When, or if, that household decides to sell their CLT home, they do so for an affordable price to another income-eligible household taking with them a reasonable rate of return. The goal of CLTs is to balance the needs of homeowners to build equity and gain stability in their lives with the needs of the community to preserve affordable home ownership opportunities for future generations. 

Most CLTs serve households with incomes of 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) or less. A few in high-cost areas serve up to 120% of AMI. The average household income of families served by CLTs in the Northwest is 62% AMI.

CLTs across the country share certain basic characteristics. Here are five:

1. Dual Ownership: Ownership of land is separated from ownership of homes located on the land. Typically there is a 99-year, renewable and inheritable ground lease arrangement between a CLT and homeowner/leaseholders who own their homes and other improvements. The CLT offers leaseholders security, equity, privacy, stability and a legacy for their heirs.

2. Permanent Affordability of Housing: CLTs protect affordability for future residents by ensuring the affordable resale of homes and other improvements on their land. Resale restrictions in the ground lease offer homeowners a fair return on their investment while protecting the community's investment of public and private resources (funds as well as skills) that go into creating a CLT and making the housing affordable. Resale formulas vary but all attempt to strike this balance.

3. Commitment to Local Control: CLTs provide greater local control over land and housing ownership, giving community members a greater say in land-use decision-making. Most of the more than 230 CLTs across the country are member-based and democratically controlled, so the community residents -- the members -- decide how the CLT is run.

4. Flexibility: The CLT model is flexible. In addition to affordable housing, CLTs may make land available for community gardens, playgrounds, parks, local businesses and other community services. There are a number of cases where CLTs are engaged in agricultural endeavors as well.

5. An Active Land Acquisition and Development Program: CLTs are committed to an ongoing acquisition and development program that seeks to meet diverse community needs, continuing to grow the stock of homes and land whose affordability is permanently protected.

See a list of the NW CLT Coalition's CLT members here.