From Model to Movement

MANY GARDENS: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014The number, dispersion, and diversity of CLTs began to grow after 1985. Before that time, there were maybe a dozen organizations in the United States that could fairly be called a “community land trust.” By 2010, there were over 200 CLTs, located in 46 different states. They had spread to other countries as well, with CLTs springing up in England, Australia, Canada, and Belgium. For most of these organizations, the production and stewardship of affordable housing remained their main activity, especially the creation and preservation of homeownership opportunities for lower-income households.

Photo of Common Ground

But many CLTs were branching out: they were developing and managing other forms of housing, including rentals, cooperatives, shelters, and housing for people with disabilities; or they were supporting projects other than housing, including neighborhood parks, neighborhood enterprises, community gardens, urban agriculture, and community facilities. Over the span of twenty-five years, the “hypothetical model” that Bob Swann, Shimon Gottshalk, Eric Hansch, and Ted Webster had described in their 1972 book had outgrown the greenhouses and trial plots in which the CLT had been started. CLTs were now being cultivated in many gardens, here and abroad. An experimental model had become a worldwide movement.

How did this happen? What were the conditions and strategies that nurtured such growth? Who were the gardeners behind it? This chapter of Roots & Branches will attempt to answer these questions, collecting historical materials that trace the CLT’s development from 1985 to 2010. These materials are catalogued and presented under six headings:


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