Community Land Trust Brussels
Providing affordable qualitative housing
The Community Land Trust (CLT) model is a strategy for contrasting speculation and enabling access to property for people with limited economic means, thus providing a possible solution to the constantly increasing housing prices and gentrification of many urban areas. This model is based on the separation of land ownership from the ownership of buildings: the land remains within the ownership of the community, while the apartments are individually owned. Consequently, the increase in a land’s value would not affect the price of the dwellings residing on it, which would remain affordable and accessible to low/moderate income households. The aim is to balance the individual’s need for land access and secure home ownership with the community’s demand to maintain affordability, economic diversity, and local access to essential services.
Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) is a social real estate developer that applies the CLT model to the establishment of housing projects for people with limited economic means in the Brussels Capital Region. CLTB projects entail high-quality living environments realised through partnerships set up with local organizations that promote the social and economic inclusion of the residents. Community-based initiatives with social and economic purposes often emerge as a result of the philosophy of empowerment that is at the core of the CLT model and facilities such as community centres, sports fields, cooperative markets and restaurants (among others) which are often integrated into the projects and managed by the involved communities. The peculiarity of the CLT of Brussels lies in the intense engagement of future buyers in the design process as well as in their influence on their future cohabitation model and on the contribution of the housing project to the quality of life of the neighbourhood. As a result, the community becomes a hub in which alternative forms of urban mobility, circular economy, intergenerational care or other types of care and reciprocity are addressed and explored.
CLTs have a horizontal, democratic governance model, according to which decisions are taken by a tripartite board wherein the public administrations, the inhabitants and future residents, the civil society and community stakeholders are equally represented. In Brussels, such a tripartite governance model works within the framework of a double juridical structure, combining a foundation of public utility and a non-profit association. The Foundation of Public Utility has the purpose of acquiring plots of land through grants and donations, in order to construct its housing projects, while becoming the perpetual owner of the sites. Therefore, the housing is kept affordable by taking the land’s value out of the equation and by establishing resale restrictions: when CLT homeowners sell their apartments, the land lease requires them to sell it either back to the CLT or to another low-income household within a limited price (ceiling price). The old owner will receive back all of their investment, but only a portion of the increased value, thus avoiding possible speculation. The development of the property is taken on by the non-profit association, whose tasks are to establish and follow-up the housing projects, as well as to support the future household owners by involving them in a variety of activities aiming to provide information and to engage them while progressively instilling in them a sense of responsibility towards the autonomous maintenance of their living environment. In Brussels, the future owners are involved at a very early stage in the process, becoming members of the association and initiating savings plans before starting the co-design process. Throughout the life of each project, the empowering approach of CLTs enables the people to live, work and express their potential, while contributing to the activities of their CLT and to the well-being of their community.
CLT is a well-established (especially in the US and UK) model of social shared responsibility, which manages the land as a common good while providing affordable housing in perpetuity and economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income households. In addition to providing housing and making homeownership accessible, CLTs aim at creating inclusive living environments and fuelling social cohesion by actively involving local communities and residents of different generations, cultures, and social backgrounds in the development and governance of their future homes and neighbourhoods.