CAAS Supporting Creation of Somerville Community Land Trust

Community Land Trusts (or “CLTs”, as they are frequently called) have been around for over 50 years, but unless there’s one in your town you may not have heard of them. A CLT is a non-profit organization that creates affordable housing by acquiring land and maintaining ownership of it permanently. CLTs are able to offer stable, long-lasting affordable housing on the land they have acquired by selling just the housing, separate from the land below, to low-  to moderate-income residents. When homeowners decide to move, the Community Land Trust ensures that the housing is sold at a price affordable to the next homeowner. This allows the seller to get back their investment in the home plus a portion of their equity while also ensuring that future households are able to access the housing at an affordable price.

CLTs aren’t limited to homeownership programs, though. Some CLTs focus on providing low-cost rental housing; some are experimenting with low-cost commercial property; and some include urban or community farms in their land-use portfolio. There are CLTs all across the United States; one of the largest and best known is Dudley Neighbors Inc. in the Dudley Square neighborhood of Boston.

Community land trusts also allow residents in the community to get involved and promote a democratic decision-making process that gives everyone a direct say in the growth and development of the community. The board of a CLT typically includes residents on CLT land, public officials, and general community members. Another feature of a CLT that distinguishes it from other housing programs is a real focus on supporting the CLT residents with financial counseling, social services, and community events and activities. In sum, a CLT is a very flexible structure that can create and preserve permanently affordable housing suitable to a particular community’s needs.

A group of Somerville residents is working in collaboration with the City and representatives of several local nonprofit organizations (including CAAS) to promote affordable housing and community control of land through formation of a community land trust in Somerville. We are in the early stages of developing our CLT and we want to hear your suggestions and get more residents involved. If you have questions or thoughts, or just want to get involved, please contact David Gibbs at dgibbs@caasomerville.org.

Bob Lawson