CLT State Law Database for the US

Community land trusts (CLTs) have long been able to organize or to operate without specific legislation, authorization, or guidance from state governments. Beginning with the creation of New Communities, Inc. in 1969, CLTs have relied on existing legal mechanisms in property, tax, and corporation laws to function. They have incorporated as nonprofit entities, established tripartite boards, and separated land from improvements. CLTs have sold resale-restricted homes and entered into long-term leases of the land with homeowners. They have enforced ground lease provisions and preserved the affordability, quality, and security of housing and other improvements. All of this has been done without the aid of legislation.

CLTs are finding, however, that well-crafted legislation can help them to thrive. State legislatures have the authority to define, to enable, and to regulate CLTs. State law can provide standards that guide local tax assessments of CLT lands and improvements. It can direct the distribution of “surplus” state-owned lands. It can set priorities for the distribution of resources from state housing trust funds and state departments of housing authorities. State legislatures can enact legislation that supports the enforceability of contractual mechanisms that preserve permanent affordability, among other things. State statutes have also provided mechanisms for funding for technical assistance, CLT operations, and the development of CLT projects, helping CLTs to scale up their programs and to expand homeownership opportunities. Aside from providing essential resources for CLTs themselves, these pieces of legislation increase public awareness and offer reassurance about the legitimacy of the model to homebuyers, lenders, investors, and others whose cooperation is essential.

This database offers an overview of laws passed at the state level that support permanently affordable homeownership in general and CLTs in particular. It is a work in progress. The objective of posting this information is to give state officials and CLT practitioners a better sense of the types of state legislation that exists around the country and provide examples of legislative language for CLT advocates to study when crafting legislation in their own states.