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The Role of Community Land Trusts in Fostering Equitable, Transit-Oriented Development

Case Studies from Atlanta, Denver, and the Twin Cities

Robert Hickey

June 2013, English


As transit systems expand and deliver improved connectivity, demand for housing within walking distance of transit stops is expected to grow, leading to higher rents and home prices that may price existing and prospective lower income households out of these neighborhoods. This paper examines the potential role of community land trusts (CLTs) to help address these concerns and ensure that transit-oriented development (TOD) is affordable to lower income households over the long term. Using case studies of CLTs engaged in TOD efforts in Atlanta, Denver, and the Twin Cities, this paper explores the opportunities, challenges, and supports that exist for CLTs eyeing future TOD endeavors.

The author reaches the following major conclusions:

  • CLTs are playing an important role in efforts to address affordability concerns near transit in each of the three case study regions studied. Without CLTs, each region lacks adequate mechanisms for ensuring that affordable living options will be in place after its transit system is built out, and for addressing the potential displacement of lower income households in transit neighborhoods.
  • Transit expansions provide CLTs an opportunity to shape neighborhood planning and transit alignment decisions, and to acquire land before transit stations, new amenities, and related infrastructure investments make land prices prohibitively expensive.
  • Local governments, regional agencies, local and national nonprofits, philanthropic foundations, and community development intermediaries are increasingly focused on equitable TOD, creating a supportive environment for CLTs to be active in this arena.
  • The work of CLTs to foster equitable TOD is inhibited, however, by inconsistent public policy and funding support for long-term affordability near transit.
  • To support equitable TOD, public agencies need to facilitate easier access to land and prioritize funding for CLTs and similar institutions that can deliver permanent affordability near transit stations.
  • To address TOD affordability concerns, some CLTs will need to develop new capacities involving the stewardship of affordable condominiums and the development of affordable rental housing.

Keywords: Community land trusts, CLTs, transit-oriented development, TOD, permanent affordability, equitable TOD, Atlanta, Denver, Twin Cities.