Frequently Asked Questions

What is a community land trust? How does it work?

Community land trusts, or CLTs, are democratically governed, community-based organizations. Traditional CLTs have broad memberships based on the communities they serve who directly elect at least two thirds of the organization’s board of directors. Additionally, many CLTs provide numerous ways for members to participate in the daily operations of the organization. Because of the direct power that members have over the organization, CLTs are deeply committed and accountable to the communities they serve.

CLTs purchase and steward land for long-term, permanently affordable use by the communities they serve. When a CLT purchases a piece of property, it separates the deed to the land from the deed to the structures that exist on the land. The CLT maintains ownership of the land and places restrictions on the sale price of the land itself and whatever structures exist on the land. This allows the CLT to ensure the land and the structures on it remain permanently affordable, even when market rate development and gentrification drive up the price of land and housing in the same neighborhood.
CLTs facilitate holistic community development. Through the combination of permanently affordable land and a democratic community organization, CLTs are uniquely positioned to facilitate community-controlled development.

Where do we do our work?

City Roots CLT is a city-wide organization, but we concentrate our efforts on acquiring land and housing and building our membership in a few specific neighborhoods including: PLEX, Beechwood-EMMA, and Marketview Heights. These are neighborhoods that have been historically redlined and are in need of permanent affordability and community control. However, we recognize that these things are needed all over the City of Rochester – if you live somewhere else in the city and want City Roots to come work in your neighborhood, please reach out to us!

Why does Rochester need community land trusts?

Our city has been experiencing crises in housing, food security, policing, violence, unemployment, poverty, and so many other areas of social life for generations now. These crises have always affected BIPOC Communities far more than they have affected white communities. To us, the root cause of these crises is that BIPOC Communities in Rochester have always and continue to be treated as sources of wealth to be extracted from.

Whether it is out of town landlords who charge way too much for terrible quality housing that they never maintain, corporate chains who sell low quality goods and pay poverty wages, or large developers who get massive tax breaks from our governments to build things our community does not need, the driving force is the same. Communities of Color are primarily sources of profit for wealthy, mostly white people who do not come from or care about the people in those communities. This is the root cause of the many problems our community faces, and in order to do anything about it, we need to change who owns and controls resources in our community

Rochester needs CLTs because the CLT model is uniquely capable of addressing these problems at their root. CLTs take the resources that have been used to exploit our community, specifically land and housing, and puts them under the direct control of our community, for the benefit of our community alone.

Why does City Roots have members and what do they do?

City Roots mission is to create permanently affordable, community controlled land in Rochester. We work to achieve this mission by bringing land under the control of our organization, which is democratically governed by our membership, our community. This is why members are so crucial to City Roots. Our membership IS our community. They put the community in Community Control. 

There are a number of ways that members can participate in the governance and day to day work of our organization. Some of those include:

  • Voting for our board of directors every year
  • Joining a Member Committee to work on CLT Projects
  • Chairing a Member Committee
  • Volunteer at home rehab days

If you’re interested in becoming a member of City Root’s Community Land Trust feel free to reach out to us to learn more!

How do I become a member?

The first step to becoming a CLT member is to fill out our membership form here

In order to become a regular member of City Roots, you must live within the City of Rochester. If you live outside of the city you are eligible to become a supporting member. Supporting members are not eligible to vote in board elections, but enjoy all the other benefits of being a  regular member, such as volunteering or participating in committees.

What other communities have used community land trusts?

There are more than 260 Community Land Trusts across the United States, and dozens more in other countries around the world! In the 50 years that CLTs have existed, they have done incredible things for the communities that use them. Here are a few of our favorites:

Cooperation Jackson

  • Based in Jackson, Mississippi, Cooperation Jackson is a comprehensive effort to build a solidarity economy. They combine the CLT model with various types of cooperatives and autonomous people’s assemblies. CJ is one of the best, most comprehensive, and most radical models of community development anywhere in the world!

Oakland CLT

  • Based in Oakland, California, Oak CLT has done some incredible work with the group Mom’s 4 Housing, a group of moms who occupied a home owned by a giant corporate slumlord in Oakland, and successfully won it’s transfer to the CLT. An incredible example of solidarity and the power of organizing.

Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

  • Based in the Dudley Street Neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, DSNI is one of the oldest urban CLTs still in operation today. They have used their CLT, Dudley Neighbors Inc. to facilitate holistic community revitalization, and even won the power of eminent domain for all land in their neighborhood.

Albany CLT

  • Based in Albany, New York, this CLT is also one of the oldest still in operation today. Albany has done incredible work in acquiring, rehabilitating, and preserving permanently affordable housing in the City of Albany since the 1980s. 

How do homes become part of the CLT?

We partner with the Rochester Land Bank to rehab foreclosed and zombie properties in our target neighborhoods. Once the properties are rehabilitated, CRCLT homebuyers will receive grants that will to apply towards the purchase of their home. At closing, the homebuyer will receive title to the property. City Roots CLT will obtain title to the land, consequently bringing the home into the CLT and retaining the long-term affordability of the home for generations to come.


What is the difference between a land trust and a land bank?

Land Banks are usually public entities that acquire land and use it for future development. Lank banks are often focused on short-term rehabilitation or improvements. Once homes or buildings are repaired, they are usually passed onto private organizations. 

Land Trusts are mostly private, nonprofits that also focus on rehabilitation, renovation, and remediation. However, Land Trusts are focused on the long-term acquiring of land, and are heavily community oriented. Their goal is to work with community members and neighborhoods to restore housing and other public entities in the community.

More resources:

Land Banks and Community Land Trusts: Non Synonyms or Antonyms. Complements

Land Banking v. Land Trusting

Who lives on City Roots land?

City Roots CLT lessee members include families, children, couples, Peace Village residents, and single parents. They are the heart of our community and organization. They are diverse BIPOC families. They are  construction workers, teachers, students, activists, business owners, social workers, stay-at-home parents, and artists.

City Roots lessee members are homeowners, tenants, and unhoused folks. Some of our homeowners and tenants have organized themselves against powerful, establishments like predatory banks and negligent landlords. Some of our first time homebuyers would not have been able to buy a home without the help of the CRCLT community. 

City Roots CLT has been able to provide these families and individuals an opportunity to live and own in quality, affordable homes in their own neighborhoods. 

I want to live in a community land trust home, how do I buy/rent a CLT home?

Currently, we sell and rent homes to moderate to low-income households. Our homes are sold to families/individuals with incomes that are 60% (or less) of the Monroe County Area Median Income (AMI), with a priority on those who make 50% and below. Our rental units are leased to households/individuals whose incomes are 50% (or less) of the AMI, with a priority on those with 30% AMI and below.

We also require potential buyers to attend two informative workshop sessions about how the CLT works. For more information about living on City Roots land click here.

I’m already Pre-Approved for a mortgage with a partner lender. Can I work with them to purchase a CLT home?

If you’re interested in buying a City Roots CLT home, you must work with a CLT partner lender. We currently partner with Genesee Co-Op Federal Credit Union to provide affordable mortgage rates to applicants.

Are evictions or foreclosures from community land trust homes possible?

While evictions and foreclosures are still possible with CLT houses, the process looks a bit different than a non-CLT eviction or foreclosure. The CLT’s mission is to house low and moderate income people, and without a profit motive the CLT is far more willing to figure out a solution when tenants and homeowners are facing difficult times. For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic the CLT was able to offer rent forgiveness when folks were finding it hard to make ends meet. Even without a global crisis, the CLT always puts people before money.

CLT’s like ours have an excellent track record for having far fewer foreclosed properties than the national average. In addition to this, many CLTs are implementing stewardship activities such as pre-purchase education, prevention of high-risk loans, early detection of and intervention in delinquencies and foreclosure filings, and ongoing support for homeowners after purchase.

The CLT essentially acts as a safety net for renters and homeowners by providing help every step of the way to avoid evictions/foreclosures.

Who pays the taxes on the land?

The homeowner is solely responsible for all taxes, including the land. The rationale here is that the homeowner enjoys the full and free use of the land granted to them by a 99-year lease agreement (with two options to renew!). They can put in a pool, install a patio, or build a garage, host cookouts, plant gardens, etc.  Inversely, the land trust has no right to do any of those things. In short, when it comes to use of the land, no one would be able to tell the difference between a CLT homeowner and a homeowner who bought on the traditional market.

Does the city forgive taxes on the land portion?

The argument for what we commonly refer to as “fair taxation” actually has more to do with the permanent affordability aspect of the home.  Basically, if a home cannot be sold for more than, say, $70K, then it should not be assessed for more than $70k. Currently, in NYS this is up to the local assessor, which has led to a variety of ways CLT homes are assessed. We are currently working with a coalition of CLTs and other mission-aligned from throughout the state to pass legislation that will set a standard for how CLT homes will be taxed going forward.

Can I put my home into the community land trust?

In short; yes. Anyone in the City of Rochester can put their home into City Roots CLT. By putting your home into the CLT, you can protect it from speculation and gentrification for generations to come. While the land under your home goes into the CLT, you will maintain ownership of your house for as long as you like. The only thing we ask is that when and if you decide to sell your home, you sell it at an affordable price as required by the ground lease.

Where can I find more information about community land trusts?

The three organizations shown below have a wealth of resources on Community Land Trusts. You can also check out our member resources page!