Audio Chapters

We are providing free audio versions of selected chapters from On Common Ground, narrated by the authors themselves -- with new chapters being added weekly.  You can stream them here, or listen to them on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Chapter Descriptions

INTRODUCTION: On Common Ground
John Emmeus Davis, Line Algoed, and María E. Hernández-Torrales

The book’s editors explain why they decided to produce On Common Ground, what it contains, and how they hope the book will be used. They acknowledge the variety of ways in which CLTs are being organized, operated, and applied throughout the world, while pointing to values and commitments that are shared by most CLT practitioners and scholars, including the 42 contributors to the present volume.

CHAPTER 1: In Land We Trust: Key Features and Common Variations of Community Land Trusts in the USA
John Emmeus Davis

The global CLT landscape is one of enormous diversity, even in the United States where the “classic” CLT was conceived. Defining ownership, organizational, and operational features of this “classic” model are detailed in the present chapter, along with the most common variations in each. Five “causes of continuing variation” are considered as well.

CHAPTER 2: The Once and Future Garden City
Yves Cabannes and Philip Ross

Cabannes and Ross revisit the Garden City, originally proposed by Ebenezer Howard over 100 years ago, to ask how his vision might be delivered in a modern setting. Community land trusts, they argue, provide a partial answer, serving as “a vehicle for gradually assembling land and putting Garden City principles into practice – now not later.”

CHAPTER 3: Common Ground: Community-Owned Land as a Platform for Equitable and Sustainable Development
John Emmeus Davis

“Common ground” is a shorthand descriptor for community-led development of permanently affordable housing on community-owned land, the strategy employed by community land trusts and other NGOs operating in a similar fashion. On a platform of common ground, argues John Emmeus Davis, property and power can be equitably distributed and any gains in equity can be reliably sustained, despite political pressures and market forces that might otherwise erode these gains. This is a “non-reformist reform,” a transformative strategy for promoting development with justice within a place-based community – and justice that lasts.

CHAPTER 4: Making a Case for CLTs in All Markets, Even Cold Ones
Steve King

Arguments justifying CLTs tend to focus on their effectiveness in preserving affordability and preventing displacement in strong real estate markets where prices for land and housing are rising. Most justifications regularly overlook the multiple roles that CLTs can also play in improving conditions and empowering residents where real estate markets are weak. The executive director of the Oakland Community Land Trust in California endeavors to correct this rhetorical imbalance, making a case for the CLT’s counter-cyclical effectiveness in all markets, hot and cold.

CHAPTER 5: Challenges for the New Kid on the Block—Collective Property
Liz Alden Wily

Throughout the world, nearly three billion people either occupy lands or make use of land-based resources (e.g., watersheds, forests, pastures) through formal or informal systems of collective property. Depending on the legal framework within a particular country, such property is variously termed communal, collective, customary, native, indigenous, or community land. Liz Alden Wily, an international specialist in land tenure, provides an overview of the nature and extent of collective property and explores why some communities prefer to secure lands collectively rather than through individual entitlement.

CHAPTER 6: From Model to Movement: The Growth of Community Land Trusts in the United States
John Emmeus Davis

How did an experimental “model” of community-led development on community-owned land grow from a single CLT prototype in 1969, seeded by African-American activists in a remote corner of the USA, to a national “movement” of over 280 CLTs today? The answer is to be found in five “growth factors”: message; champions; performance; policy; and hybrid vigor. Despite a steady rise in the number of CLTs and the size of their holdings, however, key features of the model and core values of the movement are precarious. The future may look different than the past.

CHAPTER 7: Origins and Evolution of Urban Community Land Trusts in Canada

Susannah Bunce and Joshua Barndt
The development of community land trusts in Canada occurred over a 40-year period in two distinct phases. The first generation of Canadian CLTs (1980 – 2012) either combined community-owned land with multi-unit housing cooperatives in Toronto and Montreal or promoted individual homeownership in western and central Canada. More recently, a second generation of CLTs has emerged in cities throughout the country in response to an escalating crisis in affordable housing, taking the form of either community-based or sector-based initiatives. Since 2017, older and newer CLTs have coalesced, via the Canadian Network of CLTs.

CHAPTER 8: Messy is Good! Origins and Evolution of the CLT Movement in England
Stephen Hill, Catherine Harrington, and Tom Archer

The three authors are joined by five guest commentators to trace the trajectory of CLT development in England, covering three periods: “origins of CLT thinking and practice” (1986 – 2008); “consolidation and growth” (2008-2018); and “potential futures for CLTs” (present and beyond). In the chapter’s conclusion, the question is addressed, “What are CLTs really about?”

CHAPTER 9: Beyond England: Origins and Evolution of the Community Land Trust Movement in Europe
Geert De Pauw and Joaquin de Santos

Since the formation of the Brussels Community Land Trust in 2010, interest in the model has been steadily growing throughout Europe. The chapter takes stock of the current state of the European CLT movement, examining CLT developments in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and central and eastern Europe. Although the focus is on Europe, recent developments in Scotland and Ireland are included as well. The chapter concludes with a description of SHICC (Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities), a cross-national collaboration funded by the European Union to further CLT development.

CHAPTER 10: Collective Land Tenure in Latin America and the Caribbean, Past and Present
Pierre Arnold, Jerónimo Díaz, and Line Algoed

Collective land tenure is considered by many activists in Latin America and the Caribbean to be a key factor in protecting indigenous territory, promoting the social production of habitat, and consolidating urban communities. With the exception of the Caño Martin Peña Community Land Trust in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the CLT model has yet to be widely applied in the region, yet there are precursors and modern-day equivalents in the ejidos of Mexico, the communal territories of Ecuador, and in strategies for reclaiming the lands of indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Brazil, and several Caribbean countries. In urban areas, the cooperative ownership of both land and housing and the cooperative management of municipally owned reserves extracted from the market are found in the Cooperatives de Vivienda por Ayuda Matua in Uruguay and in various struggles and initiatives in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela.

CHAPTER 11: Seeding the CLT in Latin America and the Caribbean: Origins, Achievements, and the Proof-of-Concept Example of the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust
María E. Hernández-Torrales, Lyvia Rodríguez Del Valle, Line Algoed, and Karla Torres Sueiro

The Caño Martin Peña Community Land Trust in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winner of the United Nations World Habitat Award in 2016, has become an inspiration for community activists in countries throughout the Global South who are looking for a new way to regularize land tenure and to secure the homes of people living in informal settlements. This chapter examines the grassroots origins and organizational structure of this pioneering CLT and its potential for wider use in other countries.

CHAPTER 12: Community Land Trusts in Informal Settlements: Adapting Features of Puerto Rico’s Caño Martín Peña CLT to Address Land Insecurity in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tarcyla Fidalgo Ribeiro, Line Algoed, María E. Hernández-Torrales, Lyvia Rodríguez Del Valle, Alejandro Cotté Morales, and Theresa Williamson

In informal settlements throughout Latin America, especially in the favelas of Brazil, there is an urgency to finding new strategies for securing land tenure. The legal precariousness of land tenure in the favelas has allowed arbitrary evictions, like those that occurred in Rio de Janeiro before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The informality of tenure has also served as an excuse for governments to neglect the development of local infrastructure in the favelas and the provision of adequate public services. In 2010, Catalytic Communities, a Rio-based NGO, began studying the CLT as a potential strategy for helping residents of favelas in achieving the ability to stay put in homes and neighborhoods in which they are financially and emotionally invested. Drawing on the experience of the first CLT in Latin America, the Caño Martin Peña Community Land Trust, Catalytic Communities has proposed a legal framework and identified social conditions where it might be feasible to develop a CLT in informal settlements like the favelas.

CHAPTER 13: A Watershed Land Trust in Honduras: Profile of Foundation Eco Verde Sostenible
Kirby White and Nola White

Founded in 2002, FECOVESCO is a regional land trust that acquires, manages, and permanently protects water sources and watersheds on which remote communities in the mountains of Honduras depend. Control of such riparian lands is crucial to prevent absentee owners from assembling larger parcels for logging or commercial cattle grazing, activities that pollute the streams from which water is drawn by the low-income people who live nearby. FECOVESCO functions as both a locally-controlled land trust, acting as the owner and steward of watershed lands, and as a community development organization, constructing and expanding water systems and constructing and repairing remote rural schools.

CHAPTER 14: Seeding the CLT in Africa: Lessons from the Early Efforts to Establish Community Land Trusts in Kenya
Claire Simonneau and Ellen Bassett, with Emmanuel Midheme

The Tanzania-Bondeni Community Land Trust emerged as a reaction to the failure of past policy responses that had attempted to improve conditions in underserved settlements developed through the unauthorized, insecure occupation of urban land. Tanzania-Bondeni is an informal settlement of 3000 people located on the edge of Voi, a secondary town in Kenya. In 1994, a participatory planning process led by the settlement’s elders resulted in a decision among long-time residents to form a CLT. The process of establishing the Tanzania-Bondeni Community Land Trust is explored in the present chapter. Considered, too, are the organization’s positive impacts, internal failures, and the prospects for wider CLT development in Kenya and in Africa.

CHAPTER 15: The Origins and Evolution of the CLT Model in South Asia
Hannah Sholder and Arif Hasan

The chapter begins by tracing the influence of the Bhoodan and Gramdan movements in India on the CLT model in the United States. Shoulder and Hasan then provide an overview of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Pakistan, a significant example of community-led development for the upgrading of infrastructure and housing. Drawing on lessons from both the Gramdan movement and OPP’s programs, they conclude by examining a recent effort to adapt the CLT model in Bangladesh’s Bihari Camps and suggest the model may have potential to be a useful tool for tenure regularization and housing upgrading in informal settlements across the South Asian subcontinent.

CHAPTER 16: Take a Stand, Own the Land: Dudley Neighbors Inc., a Community Land Trust in Boston, Massachusetts
Harry Smith and Tony Hernandez

The rallying cry of a campaign launched by the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in 1989, “Take a Stand, Own the Land” was aimed at forcing the transfer of 30 acres of blighted, vacant land into the hands of a CLT subsidiary created the year before. Half was owned by the City of Boston and half by private individuals or corporations. The success of this grassroots campaign is the centerpiece of the story told by Hernandez and Smith in describing DSNI’s efforts to construct permanently affordable housing, to build an urban village, and to create a city-wide network of new CLTs in Boston.

CHAPTER 17: Lands in Trust for Urban Farming: Toward a Scalable Model
Nate Ela and Greg Rosenberg

Community land trusts preserve affordability and protect security of tenure for homeowners and renters, but CLTs are not only about housing. They are also being used to meet the challenge of providing and protecting land for urban agriculture. Ela and Rosenberg cite leading examples in the United States, while offering guidance on “eight strategic questions” that urban farmers should consider when seeking long-term access to land. They also discuss roles that a “central server” might play in securing agricultural land and providing services for individual growers and neighborhood organizations throughout a metropolitan area.

CHAPTER 18: The Best Things in Life are Perpetually Affordable: Profile of the Champlain Housing Trust, Burlington, Vermont
Brenda M. Torpy

In 1984, the administration of Mayor Bernie Sanders helped to create the Burlington Community Land Trust, the first municipally initiated and municipally supported CLT in the United States. Now known as the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT), it has grown into the country’s largest CLT with a real estate portfolio of over 3000 units of permanently affordable housing and over 160,000 square feet of nonresidential space, scattered across a three-county service area. CHT’s story is told by its founding president, Brenda Torpy, who later became the organization’s longest-serving executive director.

CHAPTER 19: Stewardship of Urban Real Estate for Long-Term Community Benefit: Profile of the Urban Land Conservancy in Denver, Colorado
Alan Gottlieb and Aaron Miripol

Established in 2003 with a service area encompassing an entire metropolitan area, the Urban Land Conservancy has become a major player on Denver’s real estate scene. An integral part of its success comes from the organization’s adoption of key features of the CLT, including permanent ownership of land, long-term ground leasing, and permanent affordability of housing and other buildings located on its land. More than most CLTs in the USA and elsewhere, ULC has taken advantage of the model’s versatility to move beyond homeownership –and beyond housing. ULC has supported the development of over 1000 units of multi-family rental housing, while also helping to develop 700,000 square feet of non-residential space for nonprofit partners. It has recently incubated the Elevation CLT, a new organization that (unlike ULC) will focus on the development and stewardship of resale-restricted owner-occupied housing.

CHAPTER 20: London Community Land Trust: A Story of People, Power and Perseverance
Dave Smith

The founding executive director of the largest CLT in the United Kingdom traces the process and politics behind the establishment of the London Community Land Trust. At the center of this story is a 10-year campaign that was waged by LCLT to acquire and to convert a former NHS hospital into affordable housing. Drawing on this experience, which was ultimately a success, he offers three lessons that are “relevant to the CLT movement worldwide.”

Chapter 21: From Pressure Group to Government Partner: The Story of the Brussels Community Land Trust
Geert De Pauw and Nele Aernouts

In 2013, the first community land trust in Europe was established by grassroots housing activists in Brussels with financial support from their regional government. Geert De Pauw, an organizer and coordinator of the Brussels CLT, and Nele Aernouts, a researcher and teacher at the Vrije Universiteit, describe the process of starting this urban CLT and completing its early projects. Discussed, too, are the CLT’s prospects and plans for future growth.

CHAPTER 22: The Burden of Patience in a Long March Toward Racial Justice
Tony Pickett

The African-American activists who created the modern CLT intended it to be a platform for increasing the prosperity and power of people of color. Progress has been made, but more remains to be done. This is an historic moment in the march toward racial justice, argues the executive director of the Grounded Solutions Network, requiring self-examination among CLTs in the United States – and elsewhere. CLTs must do a better job, in particular, of going to scale and of making room for the next generation of CLT experts and leaders who must be “collectively diverse and intentionally representative of the communities they serve.”

CHAPTER 23: A Reflection on the Bioethics of Community Land Trusts
María E. Hernández-Torrales

Over the last fifty years, bioethics has become one of the most highly developed fields in the study of applied ethics. María E. Hernández-Torrales applies the general principles of bioethical analysis to make the case for a right to housing. She then applies the same principles to argue that the CLT is an “ethical model” insofar as it secures safe decent, and affordable housing for individuals, even as it takes into consideration the environmental, cultural, and social needs of the larger community.

CHAPTER 24: Community Control of Land: Thinking Beyond the Generic Community Land Trust
Olivia R. Williams

As the CLT model has grown and proliferated in the United States, it has strayed from its original purpose, according to Olivia Williams. Instead of being a mechanism for collective decision-making and long-term control by poor, working class, and marginalized people over the development of land, the model is increasingly perceived and promoted primarily as an economically efficient strategy for producing affordable housing. How did this happen? And what can now be done to return CLTs to being a movement for community control of land and housing, one that is accountable to “those on the frontlines of grassroots struggles”?

CHAPTER 25: Preserving Urban Generativity: The Role of Porous Spaces in CLT Projects
Verena Lenna

Architect and urbanist Verena Lenna theorizes about the necessary conditions for promoting and preserving the urban commons. In her analysis, the common wealth of cities depends on the possibility of spontaneous interactions among individuals and communities, enabling them to develop reciprocities, to react to oppressive conditions, and to combine resources and expertise in novel ways, generating innovative solutions to emerging problems. Drawing on the concrete example of Le Nid (“the nest”), one of the first residential projects developed by the Brussels CLT, she argues that community land trusts function as “laboratories of urban generativity.” They provide porous spaces in which diverse collectivities interact. They pour out experiments in governance, new forms of reciprocity and collaboration, and institutional innovations that address a variety of issues, benefiting the city as a whole.

CHAPTER 26: Better Together: The Challenging, Transformative Complexity of Community, Land, and Trust
John Emmeus Davis

A community land trust is a vehicle with many moving parts, a clever assemblage of multiple adjustments to the way that land is owned, housing is operated, and a nonprofit developer is organized. Separately, each innovation is an improvement over the way that community development is normally done. But they are better together. More than the reinvention of ownership, operation, and organization, it is their combination that gives a CLT the vitality, resilience, and power to transform a place-based community.