Community land trusts acquire and steward land for the benefit of local communities.

Permanent Land Stewardship

CLTs never sell their land for profit, protecting it from the speculative real estate market.

As a model of land tenure, CLTs respond to land-based needs which can extend beyond housing. CLTs can be involved in securing and stewarding any type of real estate, including residential, commercial, greenspace, and so forth.

Perpetual Affordability

Many forms of affordable housing being developed today is at-risk of becoming unaffordable overtime, due to insecure land tenure, time-limited affordable mandates, lack of long-term financial viability, and so forth.

Housing and other properties owned by CLTs remain affordable to community, forever. This is accomplished through comprehensive business planning and long-term asset planning.


CLTs assemble community-owned real estate portfolios, with active acquisition and development pipelines. They aim to sustainability grow their portfolios over time.

For example, one CLT may own lands that hold housing cooperatives, affordable rentals, commercial spaces, and community gardens.


CLTs serve a certain geography, from neighbourhoods to entire regions. Some CLTs may specific population, such as Indigenous or Black communities.


A membership and elected board that includes both CLT residents and community members enables community-based decision-making. CLTs can create additional ways for community members to get involved, such as tenant advisory committees.


Community land trusts believe that land should be held and stewarded for the benefit of local communities. They respond to land use needs in any given communitiy, often providing communities access to affordable housing, commercial spaces, and other critical community spaces.


Frequently Asked Questions

Where do CLTs originate?

CLTs are rooted in the civil rights era. The first CLT endeavoured to build economic liberation for Black tenant farmers in Georgia. Black communities continue to use CLTs as a means to build community wealth.

Since the 1980s, CLTs have emerged in urban and rural communities across the world.

On Common Ground: International Perspectives on the Community Land Trusts presents a detailed history of community land trusts in Canada.

How do CLTs acquire land?

CLTs acquire land in a variety of ways.

  1. New CLTs typically receive their first lands from the municipal government at below-market value or no-cost. This valuable contribution helps ease the financial burden of acquiring a first site.
  2. Alternatively, land can be purchased at market value. This typically entails a mix of public funding, private donations, and fundraising. Social finance tools like community bonds are popular with CLTs.
  3. Individuals may also elect to sell, donate, or bequeath real estate to CLTs. Ample discussion between both parties will be necessary to ensure the transaction is of mutual benefit.
  4. Depending on local contexts, social housing owners can sell units to community land trusts, as was the case for Toronto’s Neighbourhood Land Trust and Circle Community LandTrust.
  5. Lastly, there is an emerging trend of CLTs receiving affordable units created through planning tools that induce for-profit developers to create affordable housing, such as inclusionary zoning and density bonuses. This is more prevalent in the US, but could become more common in Canada.

Are CLTs used beyond affordable housing?

Yes! CLTs steward non-residential assets such as community gardens, commercial spaces, and cultural amenities, in addition to a spectrum of affordable housing options. CLTs are best thought of a model of land stewardship premised on the belief that land is a community good, regardless of what sits atop that land.

How are CLTs different from non-profit housing providers (CHPs)?

While both are involved in affordable housing, there are some key differences.

  1. Broader Community Governance Structure:
    • CHPs are typically governed by a professional board of housing “experts” with limited representation from residents.
    • CLTs place decision-making power in the hands of an elected board and membership, which could include hundreds of people.
  2. Diversity of Land Use:
    • CHPs focus solely on stewarding affordable housing sites, which may contain ancillary community spaces.
    • CLTs, while focussed on housing, may also steward non-residential sites such as commercial spaces, agricultural lands, and cultural amenities.

These two types of organizations are not direct competitors. CLTs often collaborate with CHP through a partnership model, where a CLT leases property to a CHP, allowing each to focus on their respective areas of expertise (see Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust’s partnership with YWCA Toronto).

How are CLTs different from housing co-ops?

While both are involved with affordable housing, there are some key differences.

  1. Broader Community Governance Structure:
    • In a housing co-op, the board and membership are composed of those who live on co-op land.
    • Community land trusts have a broader governance system, which can include those not currently living on the CLTs land but who nonetheless have a connection to the CLT’s area of operation.
  2. Expansionist:
    • Expansion of land holdings is not typically a priority for housing co-ops, unlike community land trusts.
  3. Land Use Diversity:
    • Housing co-ops are typically involved with the stewardship of residential projects, which may including ancillary community spaces like gardens and meeting rooms.
    • CLTs can steward affordable housing but may also be involved with non-residential sites such as affordable commercial spaces, agricultural lands, and cultural amenities.

These two types of organizations are not direct competitors. CLTs might hold housing co-ops within their portfolio (see CLT or the BACLT). In this case, the CLT own and lease land to a housing co-op, offering security of tenure and permanent affordability of land, while residents govern themselves under a co-operative model.

How are CLTs different from intentional communities?

Depending on who you ask, some might define CLTs as a type of intentional community. Both types of organizations tend to challenge the notion of private property and are premised on the belief that land should be shared and governed by communities.