Empowering CLTs to deliver affordable housing worldwide


Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a growing response to the failures of market provision of housing in a number of countries, a new report finds, but can they work to address housing issues in New Zealand?

The report, Community Land Trusts: Performance and Relevance for Aotearoa New Zealand, suggests that CLTs have the potential to respond to the immediate crisis of a lack of reasonable quality, affordable housing for low-income families and key workers and sustain people in their homes for generations.

Written by Patricia Austin from the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture and Planning, she says the CLT model exhibits considerable diversity both between countries, within countries, within cities and even within communities.

It has becoming an effective answer to unaffordable housing worldwide, especially in the US and the UK but also emerging in Western Europe, Australia, and South America.

Across these diverse contexts, Community Land Trusts (CLTs) vary from case to case, not only in purpose, number of dwellings and housing typologies etc., but also in their institutional settings, legislation, and funding arrangements. But all incorporate three elements:
• Community – most often as a place-based element in which the development of continuously affordable housing will be guided by the local community;
• Land – management and stewardship of the land attained by removing the land from the market-place permanently; and
• Trust – usually non-profit organisations with the main aim of providing affordable housing for people who have not been served by the housing market and of preserving affordability into the future.

The model has many appealing characteristics, and hence proponents, with guidance material on implementation available in abundance. But how does the model work in practice? Given the diversity of CLTs, what can we learn from the research literature, to determine the relevance of the approach for addressing housing issues in Aotearoa New Zealand?

The English experience with the model starts with its emergence in small rural villages. The UK has approached growing the CLT sector through supporting the exchange of “good practice” between locally-based projects, recognizing the diversity of places, communities and capacity to respond. This is a “horizontal model” of growth which does not assume a one-size fits all.

This diversity can also be seen in the US where the features of the “Classic” Community Land Trust, which is directly linked to funding regimes and legislation in the US can be found in some, but not all, Community Land Trusts in that country. Indeed, CLTs in the US have emerged in response to their local contexts and exhibit considerable diversity as a result.

Their comparative success has led to pressures for growth especially in urban areas in large and small American cities. In this context, upscaling (via funding and institutional structures) encourage each CLT to grow in size and in locational spread, referred to as a “vertical model” of growth.

Some key emerging issues are the tensions between ongoing stewardship and the pressures for growth; the meaning of “community” in Community Land Trusts; and the reframing of CLTs (especially in the US) away from community-control and empowerment to becoming primarily tools for perpetual affordability and subsidy retention.

The emergence of CLTs in Western Europe, draws on the results of a large European research project seeking to create a supportive local, regional and national policy, funding and regulatory environment for CLTs. Even from the small number of case study examples provided it is clear that each case study has unique characteristics, and as a result inherent complexity needs to be considered in developing appropriate supporting regimes, including institutional frameworks, legislation and funding.

In all of these case studies, some elements of start-up funding, subsidy or gift of land; institutional support; appropriate legal and financial structures; and funding sources are identified as necessary to overcome the barriers facing implementation of this new form of housing. Once CLTs are established research findings identify that the potential for CLTs lies across a number of policy interventions and housing market processes.

These include supporting mixed-communities in urban regeneration projects; mitigating some of the negative impacts of gentrification; mitigating some of the negative impacts of significant market uncertainty and volatility; making good use of land in public ownership for affordable housing; positively impacting the price of neighbouring properties; providing pathways to ownership opportunities for households excluded from housing market purchase; helping individual household build wealth; enabling households to remain home-owners over time; delivering more than affordable housing; engaging residents and support community capacity building; and meeting the needs of vulnerable households at on-selling.

CLTs face challenges in meeting their full potential. The research literature clearly identifies that many CLTs have to work around existing legal frameworks and funding regulations in order to deliver housing for their target communities. There is a need to develop and implement appropriate legal frameworks, public funding, and requirements around internal governance. In many contexts local government already plays an important role but with guidance could provide more support for emerging CLTs.

What are the lessons for Aotearoa New Zealand?

1. Legislation: There is a lack of an explicit statute for Community Land Trusts in Aotearoa
New Zealand. Adopting a CLT-based legal structure would enable the development and
growth of CLTs. In crafting a statute care must be taken to design for, expect and accept
diversity in CLTs. The level of correspondence between CLTs and papakāinga should be
recognised upfront, acknowledging both the similarities and the differences
2. CLTs need legal frameworks that acknowledge their diversity, where this diversity
encompasses funding mechanisms, policy frameworks and internal governance. CLTs
need legal frameworks that enable the sector to grow horizontally – leading to a
network of place-based and community-based CLTs.
3. CLTs must have regard to the following legal issues: a clear vision statement; effective
governance; and an articulated ground lease (or equivalent arrangement) that
establishes security of tenure, protects affordability in perpetuity, and establishes
management mechanisms.
4. CLTs need institutional support (including financial and policy frameworks) that grow the
sector horizontally – leading to a network of place-based and community-based CLTs. A
national network organisation should be considered to provide education and training,
dissemination of best practices, easily accessible legal advice, and standard
documentation that could be used by and adapted as needed by all CLTs.
5. The existence of national funding is an important factor in almost all of the cases
considered in this report, both in the research and practice literature and should be
considered in Aotearoa New Zealand. In addition there is a high priority need for
funding to support set-up and pre-development costs.
6. In areas experiencing urban regeneration and / or gentrification, CLTs have significant
potential to support mixed-income communities, to enhance community stability, to
reduce displacement and to contribute to building community assets. Funding support
for CLT initiatives in advance of urban regeneration should be considered.
7. CLTs should be a primary consideration for public policies for marginal house
purchasers. CLTs can provide owner opportunities for marginal purchasers and maintain
that ownership. CLTs have the potential to mitigate some of the negative impacts of
falling house prices and negative equity.
8. CLTs should be considered for all housing developments on publicly-owned land.
9. CLTs can enable owners to build wealth – both financial and personal. The potential for
CLTs should be considered as part of social, community and economic development
10. A provision in the ground lease should clearly establish the conditions around re-sale
balancing long-term affordable provisions with certainty for individual households. The
CLT should consider what conditions it might place on exercising an option to repurchase a dwelling if the owner wants to sell and is unable to find an eligible purchaser.
11. Local government can play a number of roles in supporting CLTs from identifying
potentially available sites, through capacity building and funding. Guidance should be
provided on possible roles for local government, and best practice, knowledge and
experience should be shared.
12. Where there is an inclusionary zoning policy in place (as in Queenstown Lakes), the local
council should consider directly linking the outputs of inclusionary zoning (dwellings,
land or other equivalent funds) to a CLT and to local Māori Housing Providers
13. CLTs should either be exempt from paying local rates or be appraised on the basis of
incorporating perpetual affordability with restrictions on resale price


Read the full report