Have you heard of Community Land Trusts? I had not – but after my friend Sue alerted me to this innovative housing model, I did a little research at The National Community Land Trust Network site. The site says that the concept is not totally new – it’s been around for approximately 30 years. However, it seems to me that with the overall economic downturn, combined with the big wave of Baby Boomer retirements beginning, that it’s more timely than ever.
The basic concept (as I understand it) is that a nonprofit organization is formed to own a piece of land – the community land trust. On that land houses are built. The people own the houses, but lease the land.
This ownership model could probably be used for any community purpose, but the purpose of CLTs is to provide affordable housing. To that end, the CLTs I investigated (in Illinois, Wisconsin, and, because I’m thinking of retiring there, North Carolina) all had income thresholds. The one in Evanston also had an asset threshold.
When I investigated Village Cohousing in Madison, Wisconsin several years ago, the unit I was interested in buying must have been under some form of CLT-ownership (interestingly, not all in the complex were) with income, but not asset requirements. My income has varied somewhat dramatically over the years and that was in an ebb period – but I still missed qualifying. I was intrigued, however, by the concept. Madison (still my dream place to live) is not cheap. Village Cohousing is located in a desirable neighborhood – right near the University and the Capitol – unaffordable for many. So this concept made living there realistic for seniors on fixed incomes, young families (like the one selling this unit) or people who work in low-paying professions. I loved the concept even though it knocked me out of the running to live in the unit that was for sale.
I think we need innovative thinking to get America back on track. If we look at the old model of growth-based unbridled capitalism – it’s simply not working. I continue to think that combination of so many foreclosed or abandoned homes and so many homeless people seems like a “duh!” – we should be able to resolve this in a way that benefits all people. The banks that took this economy down and who continue to rob us – I say let them fend for themselves.
What a wonderful way to help individuals and families, to help neighborhoods, to help us all by providing safe, affordable housing to people who otherwise probably would not be able to become homeowners.
What are your thoughts on CLTs? Had you heard of them? How do you think they’d benefit society? What problems do you see with them? What other innovative ideas do you have to resolve the housing crisis? I’d really like to know!