CLTs and MHAs: Frequently Asked Questions

Haga clic aquí para enlaces con más información y recursos en español: “Preguntas más frecuentes;” “Los conceptos básicos sobre fideicomisos (CLTs);” “Como funciona un fideicomiso (CLT)”

What are Community Land Trusts (CLTs)?

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What kinds of benefits can Community Land Trusts bring to communities?

  • Housing: CLTs can support permanently affordable housing. They bring organizational support to groups of organized tenants.  CLTs can also help secure more financial resources by pooling public and private resources and in effect provide an extra layer of protection against rising rents and insufficient support from the city.
  • Community Spaces: CLTs can acquire and develop non-housing spaces like parks, gardens, and public centers for recreation, health and social services, and job training.
  • Jobs: CLTs can provide jobs by developing vacant and underutilized space, by making space available and affordable to small businesses and non-profits, and by requiring businesses and development projects to practice local hiring.
  • A Right to the City for All: CLTs give the people a say in how public resources are used and how their neighborhoods are developed.  Using a democratic process, community members and the governance board make decisions based on what is best for their own community.
  • Environmental Quality and Justice: CLTs can clean up toxic sites and rehabilitate properties that are in disrepair.  They can also require the use of environmentally sound materials and practices in development projects, and the equal distribution of environmental waste. 

How does a Community Land Trust work?

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Where are CLTs being used?

  • There are over 200 CLTs across the country, serving a wide range of urban, rural, and suburban areas.  Our favorite CLTs are those that do grassroots organizing and make housing available to very low-income households, like Cooper Square in NYC, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston, San Francisco CLT, TRUST South LA, and Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont.

What are Mutual Housing Associations (MHAs)?

  • MHAs are nonprofit, community-based organizations that own and manage housing.
  • MHA housing is permanently affordable and democratically governed by low- and very low- income renters, and supports community organizing on an ongoing basis.

How do MHAs work?

  • MHAs make housing affordable to low- and very low-income households by sharing resources across multiple buildings, using commercial rents to subsidize operating costs, purchasing supplies and services in bulk, and through self-management.
  • MHAs keep housing affordable by not allowing profits to be made through renting or selling, and by constantly seeking ways to keep operating costs low.
  • MHAs give low-income residents a say in how their housing works through a democratic governance structure and process.  MHA boards are elected by its residents and are made up of 2/3 residents and 1/3 advisors, other community members, and public officials. They are responsible for keeping rents down, overseeing management of the facilities, and creating policies to deal with changing circumstances.
  • MHAs can develop housing on vacant, underutilized, or deteriorated property through new construction and occupied rehabilitation.

How can CLTs And MHAs work together? 

  • CLTs and MHAs are both non-profit ways of owning property that make it possible to meet the needs of all community members: CLTs are focused on land and MHAs on housing.
  • CLTs and MHAs are both tools for preserving and managing resources: CLTs can provide a framework for long-term land-use planning and control, while MHAs can facilitate housing development, and the use of cross-subsidies and economies of scale to make housing more affordable.
  • CLTs and MHAs are both governed democratically with checks and balances built into the board structure to ensure a balance of power between residents and other community members/members of the public: CLTs and MHAs both work to expand so they can serve more people and reduce gentrification at a larger scale.  They can have interlocking boards, meaning they can coordinate their efforts and become stronger together. 

What are the main criticisms/challenges of these alternatives?

  • Although CLTs and MHAs enable lower-income people to gain access to housing and other important spaces, and to improve their financial situations, they are sometimes criticized for not allowing property owners to profit from their investment.
  • CLTs and MHAs are great at preserving the affordability of housing, but are not so great at producing affordability in the first place – they still need funding to acquire and develop properties. 
  • While CLTs and MHAs give decision-making powers to people that are otherwise excluded from these processes, they also require people to take on the weight of new responsibilities, which may become a burden. 

Are there CLTs and MHAs in New York City? 

Yes! :

  • Cooper Square CLT/MHA,
  • Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association,
  • Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY),
  • CATCH (Community-Assisted Tenant-Controlled Housing).

 Join us to expand these alternatives in NYC!