Land ownership is the most straightforward way for people to control the land they live on. But land owned by private individuals, or even organizations, is vulnerable to acquisition by developers if the owner runs into financial trouble or if the land is passed on to others who don’t want to maintain it. Community land trusts (CLTs) are a means of keeping control of land in the hands of the communities that live on and use it. They are nonprofit organizations with democratic decision-making processes that hold land and then lease it back to the people who live on the land or to mutual housing association (MHAs) under long-term leases. Stability of place allows people living or working to build community and resilience. But because the CLT retains ownership of the land, the CLT can maintain the affordability and community-focused nature of the development by restricting the use or resale of the land.
TakeRoot provides legal and technical support to grassroots organizations, including Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, and Nos Quedamos, who are creating CLTs in order to preserve long-term affordability and economic investment in their communities. TakeRoot also advocates for policies that will support CLTs citywide as a member of the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI).
Testimony before the New York City Council Committee on Land Use Preliminary Budget Hearing for FY 2020 (March 7, 2019): TakeRoot, in partnership with the New Economy Project and the Cooper Square CLT in the Lower East Side, testified to ask the City Council to include funding in the FY 2020 budget for a Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative, of which TakeRoot is a member. You can watch the hearing here; TakeRoot’s testimony begins at 3:26:17. TakeRoot and our partners were successful in securing $870,000 of discretionary funding in the 2020 City budget for the development and expansion of CLTs.
Testimony on Intro 1269, A Bill in Relation to the Creation of Regulatory Agreements with Community Land Trusts (10/19/2017): TakeRoot spoke in support of this bill as a foundation on which to build a regulatory framework around CLTs. TakeRoot also endorsed suggestions by the New York Community Land Initiative for improving the bill to ensure that CLTs are truly a vehicle for creating and preserving housing for low income families.
Photo: The best-known CLT in New York City is Cooper Square, which holds land on which 22 buildings are located. The buildings themselves are owned by MHAs, which manage the buildings for residential and commercial tenants, and have converted many of the apartments to co-op ownership. This structure has kept rents and co-op fees affordable in the midst of rapid gentrification elsewhere in the Lower East Side.