Community Land Trusts

Background and History:

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.

The first community land trust was formed in 1969 in Georgia by Schumacher Center for a New Economics founding President, Robert Swann and Slater King, who together sought to achieve secure access to land for African American farmers. 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. Billie Best is the Schumacher Center Community Land Trust Program Director and President of the Board of Trustees for the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, bringing together the theory and practice of the model.

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.


  • 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, which owns three tracts of land, including the site of the Schumacher Center Library. The Land Trust also holds Forest Row, a residential neighborhood of permanently affordable housing, and Indian Line Farm, the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in North America and a model for farmland preservation and conservation. (To read the CLTSB info pamphlet, please click here for English, aqui para Español.) The Schumacher Center has developed a Community Land Trust Online Handbook that includes the organizational documents and lease agreements of the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires.

  • 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. Community land trusts provide regionally based organizations to meet that objective. One of the best examples of this potential can be found in Indian Line Farm, the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in North America and 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 Alex Thorp.


  • Articles
    Essays and background materials available online related to CLT and the role of land in the economic system.
  • CLT Online Handbook 
    Information on how to start a CLT. Includes by-laws, articles of incorporation, lease agreements, and associated documents.
  • Contacts and Supportive Organizations
    Organizations providing resources for community land trusts.
  • Directory of CLTs
    Organized by state with contact information and web sites.
  • "Land: Challenge and Opportunity" by Susan Witt and Robert Swann describes the role of the Natural Commons in a new economic system using the Community Land Trust as a tool. It discusses various uses of a Community Land Trust and how different community organizations can cooperate to effectively enable land and farmland preservation, initiate community land use planning and create affordable housing.    Online  |  PDF

Other Applications:

  • Lake Baikal Project   
    Several staff members went to Olkhon Raion in the summer of 1995 as part of a larger USAID funded project to develop local institutions, land trusts, ecologically sound agricultural production, and economic self-sufficiency among the Buryat people.