Community Land Trusts: An Opportunity to Further the Mission of Community-Based Organizations
By Jenny Yang
Throughout the country, Community Land Trusts (CLTs) have begun to hit their stride through building trust and garnering support from residents, government, philanthropic leaders, and financing entities—just as community-based organizations (CBOs) did three decades ago. CLTs are nonprofit, community-controlled organizations that acquire land to create and preserve affordable housing, community facilities, and more based on what is prioritized locally.
CBOs emerged in response to a need for resources to stabilize neighborhoods and to address inequities, while CLTs were created in response to displacement of long-time tenants and small businesses and a desire for community-driven decision-making.
CLTs provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to exercise control in their communities, improving the likelihood that homes will remain permanently affordable by mitigating issues that lead to displacement and promoting equitable development. CLTs can increase their chances of succeeding and expanding by partnering with housing-focused CBOs. CLTs can benefit from CBOs’ administrative, operational, and financial supports, and can tap into networks and relationships that CBOs have developed over decades working to strengthen communities.
Collaboration is a two-way street. While CLTs benefit greatly from collaborating with established CBOs, CBOs also further their own missions of improving their communities by collaborating with CLTs. While the prospect of a CBO committing time and resources to establish an entity not under its control may seem risky, a number of organizations believe that the outcomes can justify the effort.
Enterprise has been working with several CBOs that are actively supporting or creating CLTs. In New York City, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association and Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, for example, see the value in expanding their communities’ capacity to oversee affordable housing and empowering residents to advocate for long-term community priorities. Both CBOs are hoping to further their missions by enabling their communities to have a stake in local decision-making: Banana Kelly is supporting an existing CLT while Cypress Hills is working to create a new one.
Once a CLT is fully established, it can amplify the work of the CBO, engage more stakeholders, and even branch out into new areas complementary to the CBO’s mission but outside its traditional scope, such as worker cooperatives, public space initiatives, and collective banking strategies. CLTs and CBOs can work as allies in their communities, improving lives, expanding opportunities, and revitalizing neighborhoods.
Enterprise’s initiative to support Community Land Trusts was made possible in part by a contribution from the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation.