Community Land Trust

Throughout the country’s low-income urban areas Community Land Trusts (CLTs) have emerged as strategic way to bring some stability to economically challenged neighborhoods. Community Land Trusts have popped up in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, and many other major cities. This begs the question, what is being done on the Community Land Trust front here in Detroit, and can this model potentially help our city? To answer this question we must first take a look at what exactly a CLT is, how they are implemented from city to city, and how a version of this model may be applied here in Detroit.


What is a Community Land Trust?

According to the National Community Land Trust Network, “CLTs are nonprofit organizations – governed by a board of CLT residents, community residents and public representatives – that provide lasting community assets and permanently affordable housing opportunities for families and communities. CLTs develop rural and urban agriculture projects, commercial spaces to serve local communities, affordable rental and cooperative housing projects, and conserve land or urban green spaces. However, the heart of their work is the creation of homes that remain permanently affordable, providing successful homeownership opportunities for generations of lower income families.”


What are other cities doing?

CLTs can be implemented in a variety of ways and can range dramatically in size and structure. They can be a local government initiative or they can be jumpstarted by community activism. Whatever the case, collaboration between local government, non-profit organizations, community stakeholders, and residents is key in making a CLT successful.

Boston’s Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) focuses on the Dudley Neighborhood Community, a 1.3 square mile area that is home to about 24,000 residents.  The DSNI focuses on a variety of neighborhood issues, from including the community in sustainable and economic development visioning to workforce training and neighborhood safety and beautification. Dudley Neighbors Inc. (DNI), a subsidiary organization of the DSNI, “promotes affordable housing and community control of development and land in the Dudley Neighborhood. It also promotes the community land trust model throughout the Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

The DNI is set up as a Community Land Trust and preserves affordable housing opportunities for neighborhood residents and enables them to have a say in future developments.

Across the country from Boston, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT) takes a different approach to the Community Land Trust Model. The LANLT has a mission of growing healthier, safer and stronger communities by creating small, accessible urban parks and gardens that help remedy the critical lack of green and recreational spaces in greater Los Angeles. Unlike Boston’s Dudley Street Neighborhood initiative, the LANLT was founded with funding from the City of Los Angeles in response to a report by The Urban Land Trust Task Force, which noted the lack of green space and recreational areas in LA’s low-income and underserved neighborhoods.


What is Detroit Doing?

CDAD spoke with Aaron Handelsman with the Detroit People’s Platform. Aaron is one of the Detroit’s leading advocates for the creation of a Community Land Trust. He gave us a brief history and overview of what’s happening in Detroit on the Community Land Trust front:

“Since the December 2012 sale of 200 acres of Detroit land to billionaire John Hantz, the Detroit People’s Platform has joined with allies around the city to research, organize, and implement strategies and policies related to visionary land use and redevelopment, centering around Community Land Trusts.

Today, the city of Detroit faces a massive human crisis in the form of the Wayne County Tax Foreclosures, which threaten to displace over 100,000 people in Detroit and create an additional 37,000 vacant homes. In light of this fact and the fact that elected government representatives have continued to engage in corporate welfare giveaways to Mike Illitch and other wealthy profiteers while Detroiters lose their homes at an unprecedented rate, we see an urgent need to redefine development—what it means and how it is practiced. As Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed just must before he was assassinated, “For the evils of racism, poverty and militarism to die, a new set of values must be born. Our economy must become more person-centered than property and profit-centered.” We are advocating for a development, land-use plan, and governance structures that are person-centered.

In January of 2015, the Detroit People’s Platform became a member organization of the Right to the City Alliance—a trans-local group that shares our values of community ownership of land and safe, affordable housing as a basic right— and will, in late February, begin preliminary meetings with allied groups around a Detroit-based Homes for All Campaign that aims to protect, defend and expand housing that is truly affordable and dignified and accessible for all.   This will move forward the work of the CLT Coalition and introduce a longer-term campaign around housing and land use. “

For more information regarding Community Land Trusts in Detroit, please contact Detroit People’s Platform at



Add a Comment