Critical Success Factors for Community Land Trusts in Canada

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Year: 2005


Community Land Trusts (CLTs) have met with varying degrees of success in both Canada and the United States since their introduction as an affordable housing alternative. The goal of this External Research Program project was to identify the key factors that are instrumental in the success of a CLT. This was done by: 

  • profiling 12 CLTs across Canada and the United States
  • demonstrating the range of CLT models available
  • identifying the key challenges and successes CLTs are likely to experience
  • sharing the key learnings each of the profiled CLTs has gained over time

Download the report

Community Land Trusts

The U.S. Institute for Community Economics defines a CLT as “a non-profit corporation created to acquire and hold land for the benefit of a community and provide secure affordable access to land and housing for community residents.” While CLTs have a long-standing tradition
in Europe and the United States, the tradition is less established in Canada, with only a handful operating across the country.

CLTs offer a means of meeting the affordable housing and community development needs of low- to moderate-income households. They acquire land in the community—either by purchasing land directly or through donations of land, land and buildings, or money to purchase land. This land is held in perpetuity so that it can always be used for affordable housing. Access to this land is often limited to low- and moderate-income households and the non-profit organizations that serve them.

A number of key features distinguish CLTs from other initiatives that promote housing affordability. These include:

  • Non-profit status: CLTs are non-profit organizations, incorporated either as a society or as a corporation. Several CLTs in Canada are registered charities.
  • Democratic control: CLTs are typically formed at the grassroots level and controlled by their members.
  • Ownership of land: CLTs retain ownership of the land, yet grant the right to use that land to third parties through long-term leasehold agreements. This structure allows the CLT to retain control over who has access to the land, and removes the land cost from the housing equation which enhances affordability.
  • Perpetual affordability: CLTs ensure that housing remains affordable by limiting the resale value of the homes, maintaining control of all housing transactions, and retaining a portion of any appreciation on the house itself. These formulas are written into the leasehold agreements.