CLTs: How do they work?

Source: Adapted from Democracy Collaborative’s infographic.

Land Acquisition

Various sources of public and philanthropic capital are used by CLTs to acquire real estate (land and buildings) in a geographic focus area:

  • Private donors
  • Government housing subsidies
  • City-owned property
  • Community foundations
  • Anchor institutions
  • etc.

Community Ownership

governance graphic
CLTs are not-for-profit land owners, controlled by a governing board made up of the following:

  • 1/3 of board members are those who reside in the CLT’s service area
  • 1/3 are leaseholders or renters on CLT land
  • 1/3 are public interest representatives such as city councillors, service providers and government officials

CLTs redefine the meaning of land ownership to prioritize a sense of responsibility to the needs and values of the surrounding communities.

Land Stewardship: The Land Lease

land lease
The land trust retains ownership of the land and leases it on a stable, long-term basis to end-users:

  • Home-owners
  • Housing providers
  • Community groups
  • Non-profits and social enterprises
  • etc.

The land trust acts as a facilitator, working closely with public, private and non-profit partners to carry out:

  • Real estate development
  • Building construction and rehabilitation
  • Property management
  • Homeownership support
  • Management of parkland and community gardens

Protection of Affordability


The CLT model locks-in affordability by removing the cost of land from the equation for end-users. The CLT holds the land forever, ensuring that increases in land value that result from community revitalisation efforts are retained by the community, rather than being captured by speculators. When an owner of buildings on CLT land sells their property, they sell at an agreed-upon price that balances their need for a reasonable return on investment with the community’s need to preserve affordability.