Community land trusts

Program basics

  • Legal structure operated by a nonprofit organization that allows communities to control land and development projects
  • Often governed by a board comprised of residents (who make up a majority), as well as elected officials and other community stakeholders
  • Typically prioritize creating equitable, affordable homeownership and rental opportunities, and may also include agricultural, commercial, and land conservation initiatives.

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

Low- and moderate-income adults and families

Program cost


Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Increased access to affordable housing for low- and middle-income families
  • Some evidence of increased housing stability and decreased rates of foreclosure and rent delinquency for CLT homeowners
  • May help avoid frequent moves for low-income families
  • May help improve schooling outcomes for children
  • May improve neighborhood quality

Keys to successful implementation

  • Identify and recruit potential coalition members, including a lead agency, to facilitate the launch and ongoing administration of the community land trust.
  • Create a community vision for the community land trust, incorporating as many community voices as possible; consider administering a community needs assessment to gain insight into the types of projects and locations that best fit the locality.
  • Work with coalition members and community land trust experts (especially with legal expertise) to create an organizational and governance structure that best fits the land trust’s community vision and long term goals.
  • Develop a robust strategy to clearly communicate and engage with coalition members, community members, elected officials, potential project funders, and more; describe both short- and long-term goals and any execution plans underway.
  • Create a comprehensive budget for operating the community land trust, including a strategy for building a pipeline of housing units through construction, acquisition, or other partnerships.
  • Identify partnerships, acquisition or construction funding and financing sources, or other strategies (such as partnerships within inclusionary housing policies) to build or bring housing units into the community land trust portfolio.
  • Leverage best practices to design a long-term affordable housing program, including customizing a ground lease, selecting a resale formula, and building out pre- and post-purchase stewardship initiatives.

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