Community Land Trusts as a tool for just recovery and transformative justice

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  • CLTs were initially created as a tool for collective racial and economic justice in the Civil Rights Movement- to secure a material basis and organizational framework for self-determination. 
    • The first CLT, New Communities Inc., was established to help secure farmland- collectively- for black farmers who were being individually displaced.  See Arc of Justice: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Beloved Community.
    • Since then, rural and urban communities have continued to use CLTs to secure and enact collective self-determination as part of broader racial and economic justice efforts, in all sorts of ways: by providing space and resources for housing, food, small businesses, arts and culture; and by serving as an organizational framework for communities to participate in the planning and decision-making around these spaces. Examples for each of these abound. 
    • In addition, CLTs have proven to be particularly effective at stabilizing and empowering communities during moments of and in the wake of acute crisis. For example…
    • CLTs protected residents from the 2008/2009 foreclosure crisis.
      1. How CLTS fared in the foreclosure crisis– links to two reports and one article published in 2010 and 2011 (all by Emily Thaden from the Grounded Solutions Network) examining community land trusts (CLTs) and foreclosures. Key take-aways:
      2. Homes in community land trusts have lower rates of delinquency and foreclosure than homes with conventional mortgages.
      3. The high prevalence of comprehensive stewardship practices—spanning education, prevention, and intervention activities—may help to explain the low rates of delinquencies and foreclosures and high cure rates in community land trusts.
    • CLTs have been central to hurricane recovery and climate justice organizing efforts. 
      1. The Role of CLTS After Hurricane Maria– A 2018 article by Zoe Sullivan in Next City about how residents of Caño Martín Peña (a CLT made up of 8 neighborhoods clustered around a stream in San Juan, Puerto Rico) organized as a CLT to get FEMA funding to rebuild after Hurricane Maria destroyed 1,200 of their homes. Without the CLT, many of them did not have/could not prove title to their individual homes, but with the CLT they were able to establish collective ownership and access the funding from FEMA.
      2. Why Hurricane Maria Is No Match For This Mighty Community In Puerto Rico– 2019 article by Marlena Hartz in Forbes about how El Caño Martín Peña organized for FEMA funding as well as the CLT’s broader collective strategy for strengthening the community’s social and physical infrastructure so that it can withstand this and other crises- particularly in the context of displacement, lowered land values and land grabs that tend to occur after hurricanes. 
      3. The Land is Ours. Vulnerabilization and resistance in informal settlements in Puerto Rico: Lessons from the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust– 2019 article in Radical Housing Journal that looks at “how the interests, policies and discourse of political and economic elites function to perpetuate the vulnerability of residents in unplanned settlements, and how the Caño CLT is an effective instrument to counter this process. The Caño CLT supports on-site rehabilitation by taking land out of a hostile market, reinforcing solidarity networks and democratizing sustainable planning through ongoing participatory planning-action-reflection processes. It is a critical piece of the wider comprehensive development ENLACE Caño Martín Peña Project, whose benefits include reducing the risk of flooding and restoring the environmental qualities of the mangrove channel.” 
      4. Community Land Trusts in the Age of Climate Change: With the intensification of weather patterns resulting from climate change, community land trusts perform vital functions that help people recover.– 2019 article in Shelterforce about el Caño CLT in San Juan, Puerto Rico (see above); the Florida Keys CLT, which was established in direct response to Hurricane Irma in 2017;  and SMASH in Liberty City, Miami, which was founded as a response to “climate gentrification” (i.e. where developers are seeking higher ground in low-income communities) 

Source: New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI)