There are a number of tools used across the country to connect people to land, promote ownership and equity, and preserve community values related to land-use. Community land trusts (CLTs) are one of these tools.
Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations that aim to foster community stewardship of land. Primarily and historically, community land trusts have involved affordable housing. In order to ensure long-term housing affordability, community land trusts acquire land and maintain ownership. The community land trust then enters into a long-term, renewable lease agreement (instead of a traditional sale) with the owner of the structure. In the case of housing, a homeowner ground leases the land under their home, which they own outright. When the homeowner sells, the owner earns a portion of the increased property value. The remaining value is kept by the community land trust to preserve the affordability for low-to-moderate-income people or families into the future. Although most community land trusts are focused on land leasing for affordable housing, many contribute to community development beyond providing permanently affordable housing by engaging in land leasing for community, commercial and / or agricultural uses.
AGRICULTURAL EXAMPLE: STONECREST FARM
Lopez Community Land Trust was formed in 1989 in response to the need for affordable housing on Lopez Island near Seattle. After decades of working in the housing space, Lopez Community Land Trust began the Lopez Island Farm Trust (LIFT) project. LIFT holds farmland in trust to support a perpetual, affordable, and regenerative local food system on Lopez Island. LIFT is one way Lopez Community Land Trust is working to ensure more local food production on Lopez Island for generations to come.
Lopez Community Land Trust is purchasing Stonecrest Farm, a 46-acre historic working farm. Unalbe to work the farm, the current owners, are selling it to Lopez Community Land Trust with a life estate on the property. The land trust is raising $1,000,000 to purchase Stonecrest Farm and approximately $250,000 remains to be raised over the next three years. The project is a legacy for Lopez Island, and will provide a boost to beginning farmers who want to farm, but don’t yet have the financial resources to purchase land and equipment. Access to affordable, productive farmland has been identified as one of the greatest challenges to farmers in the Seattle region.
AGRICULTURAL EXAMPLE: SCATTER CREEK COMMUNITY FARM
South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust in Thurston County, WA acquired a 147-acre former dairy to establish Scatter Creek Community Farm, a multi-use agricultural property. The CLT owns 99 acres of the farm fee simple. Kirsop Farm leases 60 acres of the land on which they produce vegetables, grains and poultry for farmers markets and CSA customers in Olympia and Seattle. The folks behind Kirsop are building financial equity by owning the physical structures, which include a historic house and barn and several other farm buildings. The land trust takes the fluctuating price of the land itself out of the equation, keeping access to the land affordable for Kirsop Farm and future farmers on this rich farmland.
The land also supports other small farm enterprises like Wobbly Cart Farm. Joseph Gabiou, whose Wobbly Cart Farm is located just a few miles away, owns "Building 8" as a curing shed for their onions, shallots and garlic. Later in the fall, he uses that same space for storage of winter squash and pumpkins. The dry space means Wobbly Cart Farm can provide proper storage for crops sold at the Olympia and Chehalis Farmers Markets, the Olympia and Portland area food co-ops, and to restaurants in the Portland area.
The additional 48 acres bordering the 99 on the Chehalis River is owned by Creekside Conservancy, which is dedicated to conservation for wildlife and the protection of salmon habitat and water.
CLTS in MONTANA
There are currently three nationally-certified CLTs operating in Montana: The North-Missoula Community Development Corporation, which operates a CLT for affordable housing and commercial space, the Northwest Montana CLT in Kalispell , and Trust Montana, a statewide CLT chartered to hold land for a variety of community uses including farming, housing, and commercial development.