What is it? A land trust is a nonprofit organization that holds ownership of land for the good of the community. Trusts acquire or accept donations of properties that are in need of protection. Trust officials serve as stewards of the land, managing them for long term sustainability rather than for profit. Land trusts conserve all types of land, ranging from farmland to forests to historically or culturally significant sites. Organization staff may utilize conservation easements as one strategy to prevent development. The trust may also purchase any mining, logging, drilling, or development rights on the land. Trusts may also partner with and provide funding to like-minded private buyers or government organizations to purchase and protect land from future harmful uses. In urban settings, trusts may help maintain affordable housing in a neighborhood by leasing residential properties to individuals and families at reasonable rates. The trust regains the property after the lease period. By preventing overpricing and maintaining affordable rental housing, a land trust can help protect a threatened neighborhood against gentrification and speculative developers.
How has it been used? Durham, North Carolina is home to the Durham Community Land Trustees. The organization was created by a group of local leaders who were concerned with recurrent housing vacancies in certain parts of town. To prevent neighborhoods from falling into disrepair, the organization began buying deteriorating and vacant properties. The Trust renovated the homes and leased them back to community members. The Trust also began constructing new houses. The organization offers these types of properties for a 99 year lease, with the residents receiving a small portion of the full appreciation value of the house. The land trust continues to be able to lease this land back to family after family at rates that are significantly below the going market rate. The Trust has paired this work with general community development tactics to help create a more vibrant community. (Source: Durham Community Land Trustees)