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Do Community Land Trusts Improve Resident Outcomes?

Interrupting Inequality through Community Land Trusts
Jakob Kendall Schneider, Mary Clare Lennon, and Susan Saegert
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Amid turbulent markets for homebuying and renting, community-land trusts (CLTs) can offer an alternative path to securing affordable housing. In CLTs, a nonprofit entity owns the land while individual occupants own or rent their home. Yet little is known about outcomes for people living in CLTs compared with those living in more traditional housing situations.

In this study, the researchers sought to understand whether CLT homeowners, market-rate homeowners, and renters were different demographically and whether CLT residents differed from the other two groups on five housing-related outcome measures: financial hardship, housing stability/security, number of moves in the past five years, the feeling of a house as a home, and free time and resources. To answer these questions, the researchers surveyed residents of two large CLTs, along with people on one of the CLT’s waiting lists (mostly renters), and clients from two housing education and counseling organizations (who were mostly market homeowners). The researchers derived each of the five outcome measures from survey responses, which typically featured a 1–5 scale. To address the inability for random assignment, the authors used comparison groups that were drawn from the same geographic locations and generally similar on multiple measures before moving into their current home. Administrative data obtained from the participating organizations allowed the authors to determine this similarity and ensure the respondents were representative of the populations from which they were dawn. Additional statistical techniques were used to increase the generalizability of the findings.

Overall, CLT homeowners were demographically similar to renters but were more likely to be Black or in a female-headed household when compared with market-rate homeowners, suggesting CLTs can provide an alternative path to affordable ownership for those often excluded from the traditional markets because of structural barriers. CLT homeowners fared as well or better than both market owners and renters across all five housing outcome measures.

Key findings
  • Only 8.5 percent of market owners were Black, compared with 19.3 percent and 19.0 percent of CLT owners and market renters, respectively. Similarly, 62.0 percent of market owners were female, compared with 76.3 percent of CLT owners and 78.6 percent of renters. There were no statistically significant differences between CLT owners and market renters.
  • Compared with CLT owners, market owners were less likely to be women, female heads of household, or Black. The two groups did not differ significantly on household income or mortgage costs.
  • CLT owners fared better than renters on all five outcome measures: reporting less financial hardship, more housing stability/security, fewer residential moves, a greater sense that their house is a home, and more time and resources available to pursue activities. In a panel of questions assessing how much the respondents viewed their house as a home, where 5 indicated “strongly agree” and 1 indicated “strongly disagree,” the average response for CLT owners was 4.35, compared with 3.09 for market renters. 
  • CLT owners and market owners fared similarly on three of the five outcome measures, but CLT owners reported fewer home moves in the previous five years (.88 moves compared with 1.46) and described having more time to engage in various activities (average response of 3.51 compared with 3.29).
Policy implications
  • In the authors’ view, CLTs provide equitable housing access to those excluded from the market, and because CLTs remain affordable in perpetuity, they offer a source of security for both current and future residents.
  • The authors recommend that local governments seeking to advance affordability and stability prioritize CLTs over similar organizations when allocating federal funding for affordable housing.