The community land trust model was developed in the 1960’s by community activists who conceived a democratically controlled institution that would hold land for the common good and make it available to individuals through long-term land leases. The first CLT in the United States was established by the civil rights movement in 1967 in Georgia to provide access to affordable farmland for African-American sharecroppers. The roots of the CLT approach lie the “cooperative land society” developed by Chartists in England in the nineteenth century,  India’s “Gramdan” system where villages act as trustees of land made available for individual use; and European and North American “land bank” programs in which public agencies hold and then sell or lease land, often to help preserve family farming or encourage economic development. Over the past fifteen years more than 130 community land trusts have been developed in urban and rural communities in the United States. 
[Source: Tom Peterson, Community Land Trusts: An Introduction (www.plannersweb.com)]

            The South Country Land Trust began in 2003.  With the sponsorship of New Directions, Inc.,  the South Country School District Superintendent, and the Town of Brookhaven,  members of the community conducted  a hamlet study, identifying the entire school district and its various communities as the basis for a planning document.  Seeing the whole school district as the community, the study looked at the needs of any part of the community as a need of the whole.  One of the conclusions of the hamlet study was that there is a need in the school district for housing that is affordable, not just for the young professionals but also for seniors and established families.  Most important, the data showed a large number of empty homes in the North Bellport area – over 80 – that were owned by a combination of Suffolk County and absentee landlords.  In that part of the community, the ratio of  rentals to homeownership was particularly high, and yet the rent charged for  those homes was far more than many families could pay – from $1600 to $2500 a month, causing evictions and transiency or doubling up of families within the homes. The effect of either on the local community was negative.

            The land trust concept was adopted as an approach that could address the problems of housing needs and community instability and a board was organized.  By establishing ownership of the land by the community, the land trust began to tackle the problem of property management by creating a new model of property ownership and tenure – a combination of private interests and community values.   As a nonprofit corporation with the best interests of the community at heart, with people from the community on the board, the land trust will control the use of the empty land and empty homes.  It will build homes for homeownership and  be able to work with first time homebuyers and renters on credit problems, getting a mortgage, and home maintenance. It will develop commercial properties to enhance the quality of life.

           The South Country Community Land Trust's commitment to plan and work for the betterment of the community will result in affordable homes for families who are income eligible and advocacy for the best land use for the community.


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South Country Community Land Trust
P.O. Box 61
Brookhaven, NY 11719-0061

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