Community Land Trust Paper Released


Redefining Real Property Ownership in America

Free Enterprise Forum Examines Community Land Trusts


The Free Enterprise Forum released a new report examining the use of Community Land Trusts across the country.  Community Land Trusts change the dynamics of property ownership.  Over simplified, the “owner” owns the house and a low cost, long term lease on the land that the Trust holds.  When the land cost is effectively removed from the transaction, affordability improves. 


Community Land Trusts: Redefining Real Property Ownership in America was written and researched by Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer Kara L. Reese.  Ms. Reese’s legal background and her determined research generated a well documented, balanced review of the many legal issues surrounding the unique Trust/Lessee relationship including: property maintenance, property rights, transferability, insurability, and taxation.


Under current State law, Community Land Trusts are not possible (See comment 1 & 2 below). The Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust, a diverse stakeholder group of Charlottesville area citizens, is interested in lobbying for the enabling state legislation  pursuing this concept locally.


“Community Land Trusts: Redefining Real Property Ownership in America” is being made available to the region’s elected leaders, business leaders, and the media in order to assist them in better understanding this new concept of home ownership.  The report provides significant examples of the potential benefits and pitfalls of a Community Land Trust. 


Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “Affordable housing is an important issue for localities throughout the region.  Community Land Trusts may or may not be a part of the solution to the affordable housing issue.   Our goal with this independent research is to reach out to the community and start this important discussion”.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded, public policy organization.  The entire report can be accessed at


3 responses

  1. Neil,

    As president of the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust, I can tell you with certainty that CLTs are allowable in the state of Virginia. We retained legal counsel before we made the decision to proceed to assure there were no prohibitions to the CLT concept. Our legal counsel has confirmed we can proceed. We are an incorporated entity and we have filed for 501c3 status. It might have been advisable for your author to speak with us before putting out inaccurate information.

  2. Frazier,

    I appreciate the clarification.

    The legal opinion we received indicated that to the best of our knowledge, the concept of Community Land Trust had not been attempted in the State of Virginia and the Virginia courts have therefore been silent on the need for enabling legislation for the concept.

    To be clear, the White Paper does not speak of the legal barriers to establishing a community land trust in the state of Virginia. This well researched paper focuses on land trusts across the nation and seeks to learn from other communities’ experiences. I, not the study author, raised the issue in the media release; I regret the error.

    The Free Enterprise Forum believes the Community Land Trust concept is worthy of discussion and we look forward to being a part of that dialog with the many stakeholder groups in our community.


    Neil Williamson
    Free Enterprise Forum

  3. Neil,

    Thank you for your response and correction. We appreciate the FEF for their efforts to inform and engage the public on the issue of CLTs in Virginia, and the Charlottesville area in particular.

    Frazier Bell,
    President, The Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust

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