Beyond Housing: Urban Agriculture and Commercial Development by Community Land Trusts

Greg Rosenberg and Jeffrey Yuen


Community land trusts are flexible organizations that embrace diverse land uses to address 

various community needs. While the majority of CLTs currently focus on the development and 

stewardship of owner-occupied housing, some organizations have broadened their focus to 

emerging opportunities in non-residential development. The study examines non-residential 

programs and activities implemented by CLTs and focuses on the urban agriculture and 

commercial development sectors. Based upon case studies of 13 CLTs, this paper presents 

findings on: (1) the roles of CLTs in non-residential projects; (2) the benefits and challenges of 

non-residential projects for CLTs; and (3) implications for CLT practice. 


The study found that CLTs are increasingly taking on a variety of roles and responsibilities in 

implementing and supporting non-residential development. In urban agriculture, CLTs have 

played the following roles: 


• Securing access to land through a variety of land tenure arrangements including fee 

simple ownership, ground leases, deed restrictions and easements; 

• Providing agricultural programmatic support; 

• Engaging directly in agricultural production. 


In commercial development, CLTs have taken on the following roles: 


• Engaging in land acquisition, project development, and property management; 

• Spearheading community engagement and advocacy efforts; 

• Creating new commercial enterprises. 


The benefits and challenges associated with these non-residential roles are discussed for urban 

agriculture and commercial development. Implications for improving non-residential CLT 

practice are also identified based on findings from the case studies. The study concludes that 

many opportunities exist for CLTs to expand into non-residential roles and that CLTs should 

focus on the management of land-based resources, rather than solely on the ownership of land to 

advance contributions in comprehensive community development. 

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