History of CLTs

The Community Land Trust movement is a young and rapidly growing movement in England as more and more communities are taking the future of their village or neighbourhood into their own hands. There are now over 290 CLTs, half of which formed in the last two years.


However, CLTs are not an altogether new and unfamiliar concept. There is a long history of community ownership and management of housing and assets in this country. For example, the original Garden Cities had a community trust that owned and managed the assets on behalf of the community and some still do.  

The CLT model itself is an import from the United States, where CLTs are widely recognised as a method of delivering permanently affordable housing.

There are over 240 CLTs in the United States and the largest CLT, Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont, owns over 2000 homes.   

The CLT model emerged in the US during the civil rights movement, where a number of influential figures in the movement, including Bob Swann and Slater King (cousin of Martin Luther King Jr) wanted to create long-term opportunities for economic and residential independence for African Americans in the rural south. A CLT, where land is held by the community in trust, could do just that.

To inform the CLT model, they borrowed from older ideas of common ownership and the stewardship of land for wider community benefit and looked East, taking inspiration from the Gramdan movement in India as well as the leased-land agricultural cooperatives in Israel.  

The first CLT, New Communities Inc., was created in 1969. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the CLT movement really started to flourish in the U.S, thanks to a favourable policy and funding environment and a lot of shared learning amongst the CLTs. CLTs are now a commonly known delivery model for providing permanent affordable housing. 

For an excellent history of the US CLT movement, watch Roots of the CLT on the US National CLT Network website or visit Roots and Branches website.

In the early 2000s in England the CLT movement in the US served as an inspiration for a number of academics and housing and community development professionals. In 2006 to 2008, a National CLT Demonstration programme, led by Community Finance Solutions, with support from Carnegie UK Trust and Tudor Trust, supported a number of pilot projects. 

In 2010 the National CLT Network was established to support the growing CLT movement and advocate on behalf of CLTs. There are now over 170 CLTs and the use of CLTs has started to spread to all parts of England and Wales.  The National CLT Network launched as an independent charity in June 2014. 

There is also an emerging CLT movement in Belgium, France, Italy and Australia.

In Belgium, Brussels CLT is now officially recognised by the government and they expect to create at least thirty housing units a year until 2018. With support from the city, the Ghent CLT is studying the feasibility of two development projects.
In Wallonia, approximately twenty neighborhood associations have signed a Charter to promote the establishment of CLTs. The National CLT Network were involved in supporting this work. 

In France, Community Land Trust France is being created and the French Parliament is discussing how to support CLTs throughout the country.



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