What is a Community Land Trust?

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets important to that community, like community enterprises, food growing or workspaces. CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable - based on what people actually earn in their area - not just for now, but for every future occupier.

Why set up a CLT?

CLTs empower local communities to come together to solve the challenges facing them.

Setting up a CLT allows communities to take control of the housing issues in their local area, building homes that are genuinely affordable for local people. A CLT ensures that new housing will stay in the community’s hands, remaining permanently affordable for future generations. 

In addition, often communities set up CLTs to address other challenges, such as purchasing the local pub when it’s threatened with closure or running a community shop. 

What do you mean by "community"?

It is up to the members of the CLT to determine what community the trust will seek to serve. Usually this means people that live and work, or want to live and work within a defined geographical area, perhaps a number of local parishes or an urban neighbourhood.

How does a CLT create affordability?

To create affordability a CLT needs to receive initial subsidy in one form or another; be it free land, or financial grants from government, charities or benefactors. Once properties have been built, the land on which they are built is protected from fluctuations in land market valuations by a legal ‘asset lock’ that is a fundamental part of all CLTs' structure. 

Are CLTs just about building homes for rent?

No! CLTs usually have wider ambitions than to just provide affordable homes for rent. They set out to address local housing needs, whatever that need may be. It might be a family seeking to buy a share in their home, or an elderly person seeking to downsize to more appropriate accommodation, freeing up a larger family home in the process.

CLTs are also providing opportunities for self-builders, mutual homes ownership and co-housing schemes. The latter are very prevalent in continental Europe and there is growing interest in their development in the UK as an alternative to traditional mortgage-based options. Land owned by a CLT is the perfect place to try out some of these new ideas.

Where does a CLT get its land?

There is information on how a CLT can acquire land in the resources section and in the CLT Handbook in the members' area.

How is community ownership of the land protected for the future?

CLTs hold their assets in perpetuity. But, as Woody Allen once said, ‘Perpetuity is a long time, especially when you get near to the end’, so CLTs do need to have the flexibility to respond to future circumstance, perhaps by selling a home if there is no longer a need for it. The CLTs legal ‘asset lock’ dictates that assets can only be sold or developed in a manner which benefits the local community. So if a home is sold the cash realised is protected and can be re-invested into something else that the trust’s members think will benefit the local community.

How are CLTs run?

CLTs are locally driven, controlled and democratically accountable. They have a membership that is open to all who live or work in the defined community, including occupiers of the properties that the Trust owns. The members elect a volunteer board to run the trust on their behalf on a day to day basis. Usually, the board comprises a balanced mix of supportive local residents, tenants and employers; people from the wider area with useful skills to offer; and additional stakeholders that seek to preserve the integrity of the trust (perhaps local authority representatives, or those who endow land or property to the trust).

What if we don’t have enough people with the right skills?

We understand that volunteer time is limited and that CLTs can be complex organizations to run. Experience shows that enough people always come forward to work on a CLT for their community when the community is really behind the proposed project.  The most important characteristic of a volunteer is passion for to the place they live in - other skills can be bought in! The National CLT Network exists to provide guidance, best practice, toolkits and training and learning opportunities at regional and national events. There are also a number of umbrella organisations who can provide regional support and advice. 

How do you set up a CLT?

Please see the page 'Start a CLT' or attend one of our training events to find out about the steps involved in setting up and running a CLT.

How does a CLT get funding?

CLTs are all financed in different ways and the final balance of funding will depend on local circumstances and the objectives of the trust. For more information see the page 'Funding'.

Can a CLT partner with a housing association?

Some of the most successful CLTs have benefited from partnering with a not-for-profit housing association to develop and manage their homes. There are a number of ways that a CLT can partner with a Housing Association. A useful guide is our Trust and Association publication, which you can download from our 'Key Partners' page. 

For a list of some housing associations that have worked with CLTs please see the 'Our Associates' page. Please contact the Network if you would like more information on Housing Associations in your region who may be interested in working with CLTs. 

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