What is a Community Land Trust?

A community land trust is an organization that acquires land and holds it indefinitely for the benefit of the community. This indefinite hold stabilizes the price of land by removing speculative pressure. The trust then signs long-term leases with people, businesses, and groups, who use the land for their own needs. A land trust acquires and holds land by: • soliciting for land donations, • trading charitable tax receipts, and, • purchasing land with cash.

Community land trusts promote affordable housing initiatives by building or renovating housing on its land. The land trust divides home ownership into two components: • the housing unit, which is sold or rented to low-income families, and, • the land, for which the household signs a long-term lease and can choose later to bequeath to their children or sell at a price controlled by the trust.

Advantages and Challenges

Advantages: • good at creating new affordable housing units • often encourages good planning and development on its lands and neighbouring areas •  prevents absentee ownership and associated dilapidation • encourages “ownership pride” and better upkeep of homes

Challenges: • future household equity is limited to the value of the house, not the land • households are limited to what they can build on the land, and how it is used.

Components of a Typical Community Land Trust

Component Description Advantages Challenges
Legal incorporation Legal establishment of the trust Lets the trust assume greater liabilities

Gives the trust credibility

Registered charity status Registration of trust under Section 149 of the federal Income Tax Act Allows the trust to issue charitable tax receipts

Increases eligibility for grants and other funding

Exemption from paying Property Purchase Tax and income tax on Crown lands

No benefit for co-op housing that owns its own land (co-ops are CMHOAo non-profit and do not benefit from charitable tax receipts)
Mission statement Statement of the trust’s goCMHOA Shows how the trust fits into the city’s plans

Shows how the trust fits in with public opinion..

Dedicated revenue sources Permanent and ongoing revenue generation Funding is less vulnerable to changing political priorities

Allows for long-term planning and policies

Must add to the pool of available housing funds instead of diverting or replacing other sources
Administration Board of trustees Provides leadership and accountability to the trust and its activities  
Local in nature Trust funds are controlled and act locally Able to act on local opportunities

Able to respond to community needs

No provincial or national organization to depend upon
Programs Things that the trust fund does or supports Trust funds can support
many programs:
- housing unit
- land trusts
- first home subsidies
- homeless support

Program flexibility may cause the fund
to take on too many projects at once


Flexibility may allow the fund to take on
projects it has no experience with

Canadian Context

Currently, there are at least seven Canadian housing trust funds. These funds range in size from very small, dealing with only a few houses, to large funds financing the construction of thousands of units. Most housing trust funds are modeled after similar agencies in the United States, where these funds are common and widespread.

    * Report. Affordable Housing Models. Affordable Housing Advisory Board. City of St. Albert

Editor's Note: At this time the CMHOA is not affiliated with the Land Trust Alliance, BC


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