Promising Alternatives

There are many examples of permanently sustainable housing development for extremely low-income households through Community Land Trusts, Mutual Housing Associations, Limited-Equity Cooperatives and other forms of non-speculative housing. In New York City, we know that there are resources and space to realize these alternatives. We are particularly inspired by the following examples for using CLTs and non-speculative housing to save and build communities in fair and sustainable ways:

coopersquare The Cooper Square Community Land Trust was founded in 1959 in NYC to rescue and ensure community control over several buildings from Robert Moses-era urban renewal plans.  It has housed several generations of very low income households in a gentrifying neighborhood through ongoing organizing and the use of the CLT as well as Mutual Housing and Limited Equity Cooperative (LEC) housing models. The average income of Cooper Square Residents is $12,000/year.

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston was established in 1984 to facilitate “development without displacement” in a low-income and deteriorating neighborhood. It is known for having been granted the power of eminent domain to reclaim abandoned properties, and for its extremely diverse and disinvested communities coming together to plan for their neighborhood’s future.  DSNI stays strong through a focus on youth and community development.


The Champlain Valley Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont was formed in 1984 to provide rental and owner-occupied housing to low and very-low income, including formerly homeless, households. It has worked closely with the city to preserve the affordability of a whole neighborhood and expand regionally to become the largest CLT in the U.S.


sfcltThe San Francisco Community Land Trust, was founded in 2001 by a coalition of activists and advocates concerned with resisting displacement in the face of gentrification. It has facilitated tenant buy-outs and the formation of limited-equity cooperatives in buildings that would otherwise have converted to market-rate condominiums.

trust south laT.R.U.S.T. South LA was established in 2005 to be a permanent and democratic steward of land in South Los Angeles. It has raised millions of dollars for its membership, which is predominately low-income Latino households. Its work is rooted in popular education and organizing, and has expanded into participatory planning and design.

The Parkdale Neighborhood Land Trust in Toronto began in 2010 as a research project on food security in the neighborhood of Parkdale. It has since become an collaborative effort to transform the neighborhood by developing just local economies through a CLT, food procurement/distribution, and a local currency.

CATCH (Community-Assisted Tenant-Controlled Housing) was formed in 1991 in NYC to rehabilitate distressed buildings, and to develop and support a network of neighborhood based Mutual Housing Associations.

The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) was founded during the 1970s in NYC to support residents to organize their buildings into Limited-Equity Cooperatives. Since 1973 UHAB has assisted over 30,000 households to win and maintain control of over 1,700 buildings.  It is known for having helped to make NYC the largest community of shared-equity housing cooperatives in the United States.

Picture the Homeless identified enough vacant space in NYC to house nearly 200,000 people in 2012, documented in its report, Banking on Vacancy.  Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and Mutual Housing Associations (MHAs) could be used to develop and preserve this space as well as occupied spaces that are threatened by speculation.