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About Community Land Trusts

Community Land Trusts F.A.Q.'s. What is a CLT. Affordable homeownership opportunities. Northwest Community Land Trust Network. Permanent affordable housing.

What is a community land trust (CLT)?

A community land trust (CLT) is a private, nonprofit organization created to acquire and hold land for the benefit of a community and provide secure affordable access to land and housing for community residents. In particular, CLTs work to meet the needs of residents not served by the market. CLTs prohibit speculation and absentee ownership of land and housing, promote ecologically sound land-use practices, and preserve the long-term affordability of housing.

What makes a CLT distinctive?

  • Accountability and Commitment to Local Control: CLTs provide greater local control over land and housing. Homestead members are our homeowners and supporters in the broader community. Our members elect a Board of Delegates that include Homestead homeowners, non-resident members and others who represent the community.
  • Protecting the Permanent Affordability of Housing: Homestead protects affordability for future residents by controlling the resale price of homes within the trust. Our ground lease includes a formula for calculating a price that offers homeowners predictable and fair compensation for their investment. In this way, Homestead preserves the community's investment of public and private resources and makes each home in our trust permanently affordable.
  • Dual Ownership: Homestead protects the community's long-term interests by separating the ownership of land from the ownership of the home. Homeowners own their homes and other improvements, and lease the land beneath their homes from Homestead. Terms of the arrangement between Homestead and our homeowners are defined in a renewable and inheritable 99-year ground lease. Homestead offers our homeowners security, an opportunity to transfer the lease to their heirs, and full rights of privacy.

How does Homestead work with homeowners?

Homestead secures public (tax) and private grants and donations to lower the cost to the buyer by at least 30%. These funds can take the form of City, County, State and Federal funds, bank Community Reinvestment Act grants, corporate and charitable foundation gifts, and the gifts of individual donors.

The buyer pays for and owns the home (structure and improvements) on the land. Homestead continues to own the land under the structure and leases it for a small monthly fee. Buyers accrue 1.5% equity in their home compounded annually. They do not have to sell their home if their income increases after purchase. They can own as long as they wish. But they agree to sell their home, whenever they decide to sell it, to the next income qualified buyer.

As a result of giving affordability a permanent address, we are stemming the tide of displacement of modest-income members of the community. Vital members of our community now have the opportunity to build wealth, and to thrive in place.

Homestead partners with its homeowners to support their long-term success, providing resources, information, advocacy, and resale assistance as needed. Homestead homeowners build secure, predictable equity in their home over time, strengthening families across generations. Read about some of Homestead's homeowners here.

Homestead also partners with a variety of developers, other real estate professionals, businesses and funders to ensure the prudent and efficient use of housing dollars.

Are CLTs supported by local governments?

Yes. Much of Homestead’s subsidy for housing comes from the city, county and state.

How are CLTs different from conservation land trusts?

They are similar in some aspects, and have mutually beneficial missions. Both CLTs and conservation land trusts control land use for the benefit of people in the future as well as the present; but they tend to be concerned with different types and uses of land.

Conservation trusts are primarily focused on controlling rights to undeveloped land in order to preserve open space, ecologically fragile or unique environments, wilderness, productive forest or agricultural land. On the other hand, CLTs such as Homestead, are primarily concerned with acquiring land for specific community uses, particularly residential use.

These purposes are not mutually exclusive, and some land trusts combine these purposes, preserving some land in a natural state while leasing other land for development. All land trusts have an ethic of land stewardship; their missions include holding land for the long-term and ensuring appropriate use.

More about CLTs . . .

CLTs have roots that come from the Gramdan Movement in India in the 1950’s, and the Civil Rights movement in the American South in the 1960’s. Preserving access to land for persons excluded due to social status or level of income were primary catalysts for the creation of the modern CLT. Homestead is the only democratically governed CLT in Seattle, and the largest of the 17 in Washington State. There are over 200 CLTs in the country, and we all do things a little differently.

Homestead is just one CLT in a growing regional, national and international movement. There are 30 or so CLTs in the Pacific Northwest and most are a part of the Northwest Community Land Trust Coalition. More information about the many CLTs serving communities across the US can be found on the Grounded Solutions Network Website. There is a national network of CLTs in the United Kingdom and CLTs starting up in Belgium, France, Australia and Kenya.

We at Homestead Community Land Trust acknowledge that we work within the occupied territory of Lushootseed (Puget Sound Salish) peoples, among them the Duwamish, Skykomish, Muckleshoot, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Nisqually, and Tulalip.  These nations have existed in this place from time immemorial and have a rich legacy of stewarding, protecting, and caring for the land and waterways. We acknowledge the bitter irony of operating a land trust on occupied land, as well as the painful history of settler homesteads imposing upon Indigenous territories. We also acknowledge the injustice of the Treaty of Point Elliott, and of the fact that the Duwamish do not have legal recognition in their own land- in a city now named after one of their great leaders, Si'ahl . As a result, it is our desire to work with Indigenous communities to support their efforts to reclaim and hold land in their traditional territories, and encourage you to visit to learn about ways to support the Duwamish.”

Community Land Trust Side Bar

Homestead is one of hundreds of community land trusts around the United States and is a founding member of Grounded Solutions and the Northwest CLT Coalition.