Emphasizing Community

Photo courtesy of the National Community Land Trust Network.

First formed in 1969 in Albany, Georgia by Robert Swann and civil rights activist Slater King as a vehicle to ensure access to farmland for Black farmers, Community Land Trusts are now spreading throughout the world. Join us for the second gathering in a series of Community Land Trust Roundtables on March 18th which will focus on examples from the European context.

The three panelists are Tom Chance of the National Community Land Trust Network, Calum MacLeod of Community Land Scotland, and Geert De Pauw of Community Land Trust Brussels. This conversation will be moderated by Natasha Hulst, European Land Commons Program Director at the Schumacher Center and co-founder of the Dutch Community Land Trust Grond van Bestaan. Register here.

There are 263 legally established Community Land Trusts across England and Wales and another 40 in the process of forming. Most of this growth has occurred at an incredible rate over the past two years, encouraged and supported by the National Community Land Trust Network. A map of UK CLTs is located here. What’s the secret to their proliferation?

Tom Chance, CEO of the Network, reports that key to the growth of UK CLTs has been the process by which villages watch neighboring towns implement a CLT and desire one of their own. CLTs constitute a significant part of the UK community-led housing movement by placing an emphasis on community. It might start with a gift of land from a wealthy estate owner hoping to encourage young people to remain in the area by creating affordable housing. A CLT then forms to accept the gift and build affordable housing. However, even after completion of the initial project, CLT members remain organized and motivated. Then, for example, a local pub might go up for sale. What’s an English village without a pub? So, the CLT raises donations, purchases the land, and sells the building to a new owner. Without the high carrying costs on the land, the pub has a better chance of succeeding. Next comes the village marketplace. The opportunities for holding land on behalf of the community are endless.

Lyvennet Community Trust in Cumbria saved the Butchers Arms by turning it into a community pub. Photo courtesy of National CLT Network.
CLTs put community assets in community hands, allowing them to adapt and quickly respond to changing needs, like mobilising aid in times of crisis and taking care of their own. Homebaked CLT in Liverpool operates a cooperative bakery near Anfield Stadium. As soon as the bakery was closed to the public due, to lockdown the Homebaked team and its local suppliers ramped up the production of bread and pies for food banks and hospitals in the city.
– Catherine Harrington, recently retired CEO of National CLT Network
Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) serves a population of 1.5 million people. As a consequence, it does not exhibit the neighborhood characteristics of CLTs in the UK. Yet each of its ten projects is shaped to involve future residents in planning and design. Incorporated in 2012, after four years of research by multiple organizations, it has achieved strong government support and recognition for providing an important solution to the problem of affordable housing. A team of professional developers works with stakeholders for each project.
Members of Community Land Trust Brussels at a gathering. Photo courtesy of CLTB.
The residents of housing on our land, the associations with which we work, our members, our administrators, our team and our volunteers, the families who are active in our project groups or who hope to join such a group: all form the Community Land Trust Brussels community. All of them are the basis of our work and shape it in one way or another. They are a diverse and rich group. We strive every day to make this group a community.
– CLT Brussels Website

CLT Brussels works closely with a large social housing organization, the Fonds du Logement (Housing Fund) to provide mortgages to new homeowners. This partnership has proven an important component of the success of projects. Tom Chance reports that persuading banks to provide mortgage financing for buildings on leased land is still a difficulty in the UK and something he hopes the National CLT Network can tackle in the future. In the US, it is the small community banks that are the most flexible in writing mortgages for CLT homes, though Grounded Solutions Network, which provides technical assistance to CLTs, has brought on some national banks through its advocacy.

CLT Brussels is also committed to green building techniques and the use of local labor. Geert De Pauw, coordinator of CLT Brussels, sees the provision of affordable housing as just one part of creating circular economies. Recognizing that setting high construction standards will raise building costs, he finds subsidies to reduce the purchase price to individual home buyers, thereby ensuring it is not just the wealthy who live in a clean, green environment.

More examples from Scotland, England, Wales, Belgium, and the Netherlands will be shared at the March 18th Community Land Trust Roundtable. Register here.