The Commons

ABOVE: Robert Swann at New Communities, Inc. planning meeting circa 1970


The Commons

All of us are joint owners of a trove of hidden assets. These assets — natural gifts like air and water, and social creations like science and the Internet— constitute our shared inheritance— the Commons. They’re vital to our lives and at the heart of all economic activity. 


Reinventing the Commons Program

Broadening the scope of the Commons, the Reinventing the Commons Program explores how shared assets such as the Internet, cultural legacy, law, and technological achievements should be treated in society, in the process discovering a new framework for understanding core institutional structures and for addressing Society's most festering problems.  


ABOVE: Slater King, Robert Swann, Marion King and
Fay Bennett in Israel in 1968

Community Land Trust

A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a way of placing land, air, water, and minerals in a Commons with a charter based on the principles of sustainable and ecologically-sound stewardship and use. The land in a CLT is held in trust by a democratically-governed, regionally based, open membership, non-profit corporation. Through an inheritable and renewable long-term lease, the trust removes land from the speculative market and facilitates multiple uses such as affordable housing, village improvement, commercial space, agriculture, recreation, and open space preservation. Individual leaseholders own the buildings and other improvements on the land created by their labor and investment, but do not own the land itself. Resale agreements on the buildings ensure that the land value of a site is not included in future sales, but rather held in perpetuity on behalf of the regional community.

In 1969, Schumacher Center's founding president Robert Swann worked with Slater King, president of the Albany Movement and a cousin of Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles Sherrod, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his wife Shirley Sherrod to create the first community land trust. New Communities, Inc. was formed with the purpose of achieving secure access to land for African-American farmers in the rural South. 
The movement has grown to include over 200 community land trusts throughout the US and is widely understood as the best model for developing permanently affordable homeownership opportunities in regions of escalating land prices.




Community Land Trust Program:

The Community Land Trust Program is a multi-year education and outreach initiative advocating for adoption of the CLT model through a process of civic engagement, networking, needs assessment, grassroots organizing, project development, technical support and administrative oversight. A broader knowledgebase, model documents, best practices and other resources will support and empower community land trusts in the Berkshire region and nationally. 

The strategic goal of the program is to demonstrate how community ownership and control of land can be leveraged to create synergy between jobs and housing. Our core message is that the CLT approach to land use builds wealth for the whole community, supporting the workforce, increasing upward mobility and fostering economic resilience. As a citizen-led initiative, we can achieve goals like preserving Main Street for locally owned businesses, improving substandard housing, ensuring local farms produce food for local people using good farming practices, establishing sites for community supported industry, and developing strong neighborhoods for fulltime residents with local jobs. The benefit of the CLT democratic structure, strong legal mechanisms, resale formulas and program stewardship is permanent access with long-term affordability.




Reference Materials for
Creating a Community Land Trust





Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires

The Schumacher Center for a New Economics has provided technical assistance to the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires (CLTSB), which owns three tracts of land, including the site of the Schumacher Center Library. CLTSB also holds Forest Row, a residential neighborhood of permanently affordable housing, and Indian Line Farm, the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in North America. To read the CLTSB info pamphlet, please click here for English, aqui para Español. 




Indian Line Farm

Indian Line Farm, the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in North America, is a model for farmland preservation and conservation through a unique partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, and farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp. Addressing the critical connections between ecology, economy, and community, this model project is protecting habitat, preserving agricultural property, and keeping small-scale, organic farming viable. 





Farmland Access

Seventy percent of US farmland is owned by those 65 years and older, with an estimated 400 million acres set to change hands in the next 29 years. It is critical that we identify ways to move land into the hands and care of next-generation farmers building resilient regional food economies. Those farmers should be able to capitalize a business, sustain a livelihood and build equity, while affording secure access to land. What might a sustainable agricultural community look like in the near future?