What is a community land trust?
A CLT is a nonprofit corporation created to take land off the speculative marketplace and place it into a system of trusteeship, thereby retaining the use-value of the land for the benefit of a community. In doing so, CLTs provide secure and affordable access to land for housing, farming, small businesses, and civic projects.
The central principle motivating the work of the CLT is that homes, barns, fences, gardens, and all things done with or on the land should be owned by individuals, but the land itself is a limited community resource that should be owned by the community as a whole. The CLT makes possible the community ownership of land.
The membership of the CLT is made up of residents as well as members of the broader community.
Why are community land trusts important?
We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity
belonging to us. When we see land
as a community to which we belong, we may begin
to use it with love and respect.
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)
Leopold’s words present us with a significant challenge - if we are to foster a culture of love and respect for land, then land can no longer be regarded as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market.
The community land trust (CLT) movement and the environmental land trust movement share the idea of stewardship of the land rather than ownership. While the environmental land trust model has as its goal the simple conservation land, the CLT movement is aimed at protecting the land while also increasing the productivity of land deemed suitable by the community. This is accomplished by reducing speculation and providing access to land for individuals and families who might otherwise lack such access.
E.F. Shumacher, one the earliest proponents of the CLT model of land tenure, urged us to reconsider land ownership, writing that, “with growing numbers - growing mobility, growing production, growing trade - there’s no doubt that (quite apart from inflation) land values move on a one-way street. Anyone who corners land only has to wait to grow rich. I suggest it follows that the type of private ownership that may be appropriate for many man-made goods - the supply of which can be increased by human work and invention - cannot possibly be appropriate for land.”
Another champion of community land trusts, Peter Barnes, writes that “the great task of the twenty-first century is to build a new and vital common sector that can resist enclosure and externalization by the market, protect the planet, and share the fruits of our common inheritances more equitably than is now the case...”
Community Land Trusts (CLT) present the opportunity to meet not only environmental goals, but also to share the wealth of the land we live on more equitably for the benefit of all members of the community, future generations, and even the larger ecosystem.
What is the relevance for rural New Brunswick?
The CLT model of land tenure offers a number of exciting possibilities for rural New Brunswick:
Rural Repopulation: CLTs could help keep people in rural communities, and bring them back, by providing the opportunity to be part of a vibrant and supportive social network while still enjoying the benefits of rural life. Residents would be able to grow their own food and participate in community dinners and activities, all the while enjoying beautiful natural surroundings.
Affordable Homes and Land: CLTs provide access to affordable homes and land for individuals and families who might not ordinarily be able to purchase them. It reduces the accumulation of land by wealthy families and corporations, and limits absentee ownership, putting land back into the hands of people who want to work and care for it.
Addressing Climate Change: CLTs address climate change by supporting pedestrian friendly development, and encourage people to work and enjoy social activities closer to where they live.