Academic Research

Introduction by John Emmeus Davis

One of the main purposes and programs of the International Center for Community Land Trusts is “cataloging and disseminating academic and non-academic research” into community land trusts and similar strategies of community-led development on community-owned land.

Some of this research has been previously published in scholarly journals or institutional reports that have had limited distribution beyond university libraries, well-endowed “think tanks,” of well-heeled professionals who can afford a subscription. The Center is endeavoring to secure permission to make these publications more widely – and freely – available to scholars and practitioners from around the world.

There is another cluster of insightful, valuable research into CLTs and related strategies that has not been published, which the Center is equally committed to making available to a wider audience. Much of this research comes in the form of a thesis or dissertation that has been completed by young scholars at an early stage in their academic or professional careers. Rather than allowing these unpublished materials to languish on the shelves of a university library, unseen by other graduate students, professors, and researchers who might benefit from reading them, the Center has created platform on its website for young scholars to share their work.

This platform for published and unpublished CLT research is under construction. We are still in the process of identifying relevant materials, gaining permission to share them, and building out the space on the Center’s website to make them available and accessible. The documents that appear below are worthy examples of these kinds of materials that we plan to post on this page, but they are just the beginning.

Nele Aerouts

Housing the social:  Investigating the role of 'commoning' in the development of social housing initiatives.  Dissertation.  Vrue Universiteit Brussels, December 2017.

Abstract:  Eroding state support for social welfare, a growing social-spatial divide and increasing problems of affordability in cities have led to new social housing initiatives as alternatives to both privatization and state provision. Their inspiration can be found in a long tradition of housing initiatives that focus on the mobilization of shared resources. In the Brussels Capital Region, historically marked by a weak regulation of the housing market and homeownership support, these initiatives have (re)emerged due to an on-going housing crisis.

This PhD research brings together legal, political-economic and social-spatial perspectives to examine the socially inclusive capacity of such initiatives. It looks at the way social and spatial professionals give shape to these initiatives and projects, and how their diverse characteristics relate to the social inclusion of underprivileged groups. Targeting these issues, this study builds on the notions of ‘the urban commons’ and ‘commoning’. These notions are conceptualized and studied through action research in two case studies in the Brussels Capital Region; a recently established Community Land Trust project and a post-World War II cooperative garden neighbourhood. Their conceptualization allows to give a critical reading of the strategies and measures applied to promote the (re)production and appropriation of dwelling space by underprivileged residents.

Ben Baldwin

Networked Community Land Trusts: An Analysis of Existing Models and Needs Assessment for the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network. Master of Arts thesis, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University, Boston MA (USA), 2016.

Abstract: Community-based organizations in Dorchester, Mattapan, Chinatown, and Roxbury are in the process of forming a network to address housing affordability, healthy food access, and displacement through community land trusts (CLTs). By scaling up certain tasks to the network level, these organizations hope to better advocate for resources from governments, funders, and financial institutions. They also hope to share information, certain resources, and contacts to facilitate regional CLT development. Through case studies of CLT networks nationwide and a needs assessment of the partners in Greater Boston, this thesis makes recommendations for achieving a best organizational structure moving forward. It addresses use of the “central-server” structure, how it has fared in comparison to other interorganizational network structures, and how it can be adapted to the Greater Boston context.

Dev Goetschius, Cali Slepin, and Julian Tucker

A New Approach for the Rapid Production of Affordable Homeownership Opportunities: Manufactured Homes + Infill Sites. Petaluma, CA: Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County, Petaluma, CA, December 2020.

Abstract:  This white paper was prepared by two graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley with support from Dev Goetschius, Executive Director of The Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County, and Fannie Mae. It outlines a new approach to providing rapidly installed, affordably priced homes in a disaster recovery area. This approach (1) utilizes manufactured housing that can be erected on sites acquired by a CLT, (2) leverages and combines funding from multiple levels of government, and (3) maintains the affordability and quality of the homes through the oversight and stewardship services provided by the CLT.

Jessica Grannis

Community Land = Community Resilience:  How Community Land Trusts Can Support Affordable Housing and Climate Initiatives.  Georgetown Climate Center, Georgetown Law, January 2021.

Abstract:  Cities across the United States and the world are grappling with the compounding threats posed by climate change, lack of affordable housing, and racial and economic inequality. Climate change will amplify risks from natural disasters. And communities that see significant impacts to housing experience a much slower recovery, particularly for lower-income residents and renters, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters and sometimes never fully recover.

As a result, cities need solutions for addressing both the affordable housing and climate crises in ways that meet the needs of the most at-risk residents. Public-private partnerships with community land trusts (CLTs) present one opportunity for advancing equitable climate solutions in the housing sector. This report explores how CLTs can and already are supporting housing, resilience, sustainability, and racial equity initiatives in cities across the U.S. and Europe. The lessons in this report are drawn from detailed case studies of CLT work in a diverse set of cities, including in Boston, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Florida Keys, Florida; Oakland, California; Irvine, California; the State of Louisiana; Bristol, United Kingdom; and Brussels, Belgium. These case studies were developed for inclusion in the Community Land Ownership: Community Land Trusts chapter in Georgetown Climate Center’s Equitable Adaptation Law and Policy Toolkit, hyperlinked here and throughout this report.

Drawing lessons from legal analyses of two jurisdictions — the District of Columbia and the City of Chicago — this report also provides recommendations about legal reforms that can be adopted to advance public-private partnerships with CLTs in support of urban resilience and affordable housing initiatives. The purpose of this report is to help cities catalyze innovative partnerships with community-serving entities — like CLTs — to support efforts to build climate resilience in the most at risk communities.

Simon Gusah

Community Land Trusts: A Model for Integrating Abuja’s Urban Villages within the City Master Plan. 2012.  Paper commissioned by the Wilson Centre, Washington DC, included in their publication Changing Cities: Climate, Youth, and Land Markets in Urban Areas. Simon Gusah is a Member of the Planning Institute of Australia (MPIA) and an Associate Member of the Nigeria Institute of Architects (ANIA).

Abstract:  A number of informal settlements exist within Nigeria’s Federal Capital City (FCC), Abuja, which have persisted despite various policy initiatives of the Nigerian government over the last thirty years to eliminate or to ameliorate conditions within these “islands of poverty.” These “slums” are surrounded by some of the best infrastructure and most expensive real estate in Nigeria. They provide an important source of affordable housing for the city of Abuja. Without them, many lower-earning workers would not be able to live close to the city center; that is, close to jobs and economic opportunity.

This paper sets out a conceptual framework for adopting a Community Land Trust (CLT) model as a compromise between Nigeria’s primary land policy instrument, the Land Use Act of 1978 (LUA), which vests ownership of all land under the state governor, and the traditional, historic claims of local communities, including the informal settlements of Jiwa, Mabushi, and Old Karu in Abuja FCC.  The CLT framework suggests a more collaborative, nuanced approach to land tenure and markets than that provided by the LUA, which is very much a top-down product of its time (having been promulgated during Nigeria’s period of military government). The paper also argues that the inflexibility and lack of sophistication of Nigeria’s land-use law and policy is a significant contributory factor to the proliferation of informal settlements (slums), subsistence urbanization, and persistent urban poverty that characterize Nigeria’s cities.

Diane Pialucha

Community Land Trusts: Bringing the Context Back In. Professional dissertation. Master Governing the Large Metropolis, Urban School, Sciences PO, Paris, France, 2018.

Abstract:  The initial CLT model was conceived in the US in the ’60s. Down the road, the definition of resilient guiding principles broadened the model and made it more inclusive so as to allow it to be transferred to and adapted in different urban situations. Since the late ‘90s, legal and political recognition, common definition and practices, and an increased access to resources have enabled CLT to flourish and diversify across the world, notably in European cities. However, the process of disseminating and adapting the model has led to various typological definitions reflecting different country-specific needs. In that context, the initial CLT model’s substance and unity seems to be challenged. From this observation emerged the need to analyze CLTs in their diversity— with regard to international and national dynamics— and within the local contexts in which they operate.

This dissertation, thus tries to disentangle how given contexts influenced the definition and implementation of CLTs in dense urban contexts. Through a comparative study, it focuses on three case studies (Downtown Los Angeles, Lewisham Borough in London and the City of Montreuil in the Parisian area), and on six CLTs or OFSs (Organismes de Foncier Solidaire) – for the French version - evolving in these areas. For each case, it tests the impact of a triple constraint system (national, metropolitan, individual) on CLTs’ missions (what, what for, for whom) and structuring (governance, scope, operation).  This work aims to bring a clearer understanding of distinct models, and of their genesis and outcomes. It lays a necessary groundwork by providing an overview of CLTs emergence, circulation and structuration across three countries: the US, the UK and France, and present their implementation on the ground.  Collecting and gathering this knowledge has indeed been thought to be crucial for the development of common grounds, and ultimately, the development of sustainable transnational and international movements.

Sylvia Ramos

Urban Community Land Trusts and their contribution to Sustainable Lifestyles:  A sustainable pathway and influencers.  Dissertation, Oxford Brookes University, 2019-2020.

Abstract:  People make many decisions during their lifetime – for the fortunate, those decisions are guided by ample opportunities shaped by their environment. The lifestyles we end up living, willingly or forcefully, have a profound ripple on the opportunities we are able to grasp, our personal and communal health and happiness, the free time we have, the housing choices we can afford to choose, the health of our planet and much, much more.

How we choose to live collectively – what resources we choose to share or commodify, what buildings we choose to build or reuse, what type of transport we choose to use, what we choose to integrate or segregate – will have an immense impact on the trajectory of the lives of individuals, communities and places.

This research presents CLTs as an alternative institution to spark a progressive solution to the many urban environment challenges, namely housing affordability and social and environmental equity that shape our lifestyles. This is not meant to dictate what the ultimate sustainable lifestyle looks like, but instead it can help CLTs guide a variety of design outcomes that enable lifestyle choices that contribute to sustainability.

Claire Simonneau, Éric Denis, Issa Sory

Quel potentiel pour les approaches coopératives et collectives pour l’habitat populaire?: Éléments du débat, grille d’analyse et exemples burkinabé et Kenyan.” 2019. De Boeck Supérieur | Afrique contemporaine.

Abstract: Les approches coopératives et collectives pour l’habitat populaire auto-construit sont l’objet d’une attention renouvelée, alors que sont pointés les besoins en logements dans les pays africains en transition urbaine rapide. S’appuyant sur une discussion de la notion de “communs,” cet article pointe trois enjeux clés à prendre en compte pour que les projets d’habitat participent à l’inclusion urbaine : la sécurisation des droits d’usage du sol, la participation des habitants à la conception des projets locaux et un contrôle des prix en mesure de contenir la spéculation foncière. Il présente ensuite deux études de cas empiriques, au Burkina Faso et au Kenya. Les limites et contradictions émanant des terrains invitent à s’interroger sur la portée réelle de ces expérimentations dans des contextes restant favorable à l’approche propriétariste du foncier, mais aussi sur leur potential de préfiguration d’autres manières de produire l’habitat, portées par les habitants.

Dave Smith

Community Land Trusts in England:  A Study of an Emerging Typology.  Dissertation.  The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, September 2017

Abstract:  Community land trusts (CLTs) are a relatively new yet rapidly developing and insurgent form of affordable housing provider within the English housing market.  First defined in law through the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, they are informed by the long history of community asset ownership in the UK and a well-established community land trust tradition in the United States.  This paper explores the extent to which an identifiable and consistent typology that could be termed 'the English CLT' has recently emerged -- distinct from that of other housing providers; congruent with, but separate from, the American experience; and resonant beyond the limited confines of the Act.  Through an analysis of history, contemporary literature, the impact of the American CLT movement and primary research in the form of six case studies and three further interviews, it pursues the hypothesis that three integral, interlocking component parts inherent within every English CLT (termed the 'legal framework', the 'affordability mechanism', and the 'organising culture') form the basis of a consistent typology.  What emerges, however, is the predominant and permeating nature of the 'organising culture'.  The paper thus concludes by contending that it is this that lies at the heart of what can still be determined a consistent typology -- albeit one that is more conceptual, that values process over product, and which recasts the initial proposal.  CLTs in England thus emerge not just as vehicles for housing provision, but rather as a wider, all-encompassing structure for local organising that pursues community empowerment in a manner that is self-acknowledging and at odds with established political and municipal assumptions, definitions and practices.