What is a Community Land Trust?
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are built on the innovative idea of separating the ownership of land from the ownership of buildings and other “improvements.” The land itself is owned by the member-run land trust (in our case, Land in Common) as part of a shared commons, removing it permanently from the market. This land is then leased to residents via an inheritable, renewable, 99-year, “ground lease.” Buildings on the land are owned directly by the residents themselves and may be sold only at values that assure fair compensation (not high profits) for owners and long-term affordability for future residents. Long-term protection of the land for agriculture, conservation, affordable housing, and other community-based purposes is achieved; while security, autonomy, and participation in key land-related decisions by land residents is also ensured.1
Land in Common is governed by two groups of people: those who live on or use the land (Resident Members) and those from the wider community (Associate Members) who support the vision, mission, and values of the organization.2 This structure ensures that both the direct interests and needs of land residents and the organization’s wider purpose are placed equally at the heart of all of our work.
Our Board of Directors meets monthly, and holds seasonal retreats for more in-depth work. An Annual General Membership Meeting is held every fall at which new Board members are elected and key decisions are made about the annual budget, ground lease fees, land acquisitions, Bylaw changes, and other proposals that shape the organization’s future.
A core commitment of Land in Common, as we scale up to a statewide level, is to maintain a grassroots culture of direct democracy at the heart of our organization. This includes a deep dedication to making our decision-making processes and practices as accessible as possible; to growing and diversifying our membership in multiple dimensions of geography, experience, ability, class, race, culture, gender expression and identity, and age; to creating ongoing opportunities for members to step into new levels of participation and leadership; and to building staffing structures that reflect our core democratic and egalitarian values.
2 Many CLTs have a 3-part Board, with the third portion made up of local officials or professional experts and appointed by the other two groups. Our two-part structure is intended to enhance the direct democratic accountability of the Board to the organization’s membership, since all Board members are directly elected.