From Model to Movement:


CROSS-POLLINATION: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014From its earliest days, the community land trust developed and progressed because of the free flow of information among practitioners who were learning on the fly what worked well – and what did not.  The impetuous and audacious pioneers who started dozens of CLTs in the 1980s and 1990s were, in many respects, making it up as they went along.  They then shared these lessons with their peers, creating an informal set of “best practices” for organizing and operating a CLT.

Aside from a few technical publications produced by ICE – and the stories of new CLTs that appeared in ICE’s newsletter Community Economics – the sharing of best practices was expedited via three different channels: national conferences of CLT practitioners; national and regional CLT networks; and formal trainings on theories and practices unique to CLTs, which reached a high-water mark during the six-year life of the National CLT Academy.

National CLT Conferences

Beginning in 1983 with a small gathering in Voluntown, Connecticut, convened and Voluntown conference-1983hosted by the Institute for Community Economics, CLT practitioners from across the United States came together every year or two to learn from one other and to chart the future of their movement.  ICE convened a total of nine national CLT conferences from 1997–2003.  The lead role in coordinating most of them was played by Julie Orvis, the longest-serving member of ICE’s staff (1987-2005).

After the establishment of the National Community Land Trust Network, which was spawned at the 2005 conference in Portland, Oregon, ICE no longer played this role. The next nine conferences, held in Boulder CO (2006), Minneapolis MN (2007), Boston MA (2008), Athens GA (2009), Albuquerque NM (2010), Seattle WA (2011), Burlington VT (2012), Cleveland, OH (2014), and Lexington KY (2015), were convened by the Network, with a local CLT serving as the conference’s host.

National & Regional CLT Networks

Beginning with the national conference in Portland, America’s CLTs in effect took control of their own movement. This meant not only assuming responsibility for NCLTN logoorganizing future conferences, where practitioners could continue to learn from one another. It also entailed creating a new corporate structure for ensuring regular communication and coordination among hundreds of organizations scattered across the United States. At the end of the Portland conference, a steering committee was elected and charged with the task of drafting bylaws for a new national association of CLTs. One year later, in Boulder, Colorado these bylaws were refined and ratified by representatives from 51 CLTs. The National CLT Network was formally incorporated in June 2006.

Lisa ByersThe Network’s board was drawn from every region of the United States.  Regional representation was a factor in choosing the executive committee as well.  The Network’s first president was Lisa Byers (OPAL CLT, Washington); the vice president was Jim Network and Academy Boards--2008Mischler-Philbin (Northern Communities CLT, Minnesota); the secretary was Dannie Bolden (Gulf County CLT, Florida); and the Network’s treasurer was Devika Goetschius (Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County, California).

Meeting of NW CoalitionPeer-to-peer communication among CLTs was also spurred by the rise of regional CLT networks in the Pacific Northwest, Minnesota, and Colorado. These regional Brochure for MN Coalitionnetworks operated independently: forging connections among their members; advocating for changes in state policy; sharing information about organizational policies, procedures, and administrative systems; and raising the standard of practice for every CLT in their region. The Northwest CLT Coalition was established in 1999, the Minnesota CLT Coalition in 2000, and the Colorado CLT Coalition in 2008.

National CLT Academy

As the foundation was being laid for the National CLT Network, following the Portland conference of 2005, another planning committee began working with Roz Greenstein at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to create an institutional framework for what was to become the National CLT Academy.  The Academy had two purposes: to provide comprehensive training on theories and practices unique to Roz Greenstein Teaching at Seabeck AcademyCLTs, setting a high standard for practitioner competence; and to support research and publication on best practices emerging from the field.  The Academy was also Seabeck Academychanged with developing a diverse faculty of teachers and researchers that, in the words of the Academy’s charter, “promotes public understanding of the community land trust model, sets a high standard for practitioner competence, and supports research and publication on evolving practices.”

The National CLT Academy was a joint venture of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the National CLT Network.  From 2006 to 2012, it was operated as program of the Network under a charter that created a separate Academy advisory board and granted that board a degree of autonomy in planning, designing, and delivering comprehensive trainings on theories and practices unique to CLTs.  The co-chairs of the Academy’s founding board were Lisa Byers, the Network’s Greg Rosenberg- National CLT Acadey's 1st directorpresident, and Roz Greenstein, representing the Lincoln Institute. John Emmeus Davis served as the Academy’s dean during most of its existence.  Greg Rosenberg, who had been part of the Academy’s planning committee and a member of its founding board, became the Academy’s director in 2008.  He was followed in this position by Emily Thaden in 2011.

Seabeck brochureThe Academy’s first event was held at Seabeck, Washington on April 3-6, 2006, a three-day intermediate-level training for CLT practitioners.  Specialized trainings were subsequently held by the Academy in Chaska, Minnesota (2006); Minneapolis, Minnesota (2007); Atlanta, Georgia (2008); Orlando, Florida (2009) and Durham, North Carolina (2012). Beginning with the Boston conference, the Academy also assumed responsibility for the curriculum, training, and faculty selection, preparation, and evaluation for all the National CLT Conferences held from 2008 to 1012.  During this period, the Academy had a presence as well at most of the National Training InstituConference Faculty and Network Board Memberstes sponsored by NeighborWorks America, with the Academy’s growing faculty often teaching on multiple days.

The most important pieces of research sponsored by the CLT Academy were to document the performance of CLTs in reducing delinquency and foreclosure rates during the Great Recession and to update and to expandThe CLT Legal Manual, which ICE had last revised in 2002.  The latter was a three-year project, completed in 2011, edited by Kirby White and published on-line as The CLT Technical Manual.

The Academy’s programmatic autonomy ended in 2012 with the dissolution of its Academy board - 2012advisory board and the distribution of its activities between two newly created departments of the National CLT Network.

Key Dates


  • National CLT conference is held in Voluntown, Connecticut.

1987John Lewis-Plenary-Atlanta CLT

  • National CLT conference is held in Atlanta, Georgia.John Lewis-Plenary-Atlanta CLT


  •  National CLT conference is held in Stony Point, New York.

1990Burlington conference-1990 Burlington conference-1990

  • National CLT conference is held in Burlington, Vermont.


  • National CLT conference is held in Cincinnati, Ohio.


  • National CLT conference is held in Washington, DC.


  • National CLT conference is held in Durham, North Carolina.

1999John Davis teaching at St. Paul Conference-1999 John Davis teaching at St. Paul Conference-1999

  • National CLT conference is held in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
  • The first regional coalition of community land trusts is established:  the Northwest CLT Coalition.


  • National CLT conference is held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • The Minnesota CLT Coalition is established.

DC policy conf-2002-Aaron Miripol-Mike Brown-Senator Paul Wellstone-Jim Mishler-Philbin-Jeff Corey DC policy conf-2002-Aaron Miripol-Mike Brown-Senator Paul Wellstone-Jim Mishler-Philbin-Jeff Corey2002

  • Policy conference held in Washington, DC.  Representatives from local CLTs pay visits to their Congressional Representatives and Senators.


  • National CLT conference is held in Syracuse, New York.


  • National CLT conference is held in Portland, Oregon.
  • Two planning committees are created, one to lay the foundation for a new national network; the other to appointed to create


  • National CLT Academy’s first intermediate-level training is held at Seabeck, Washington, April 3-6, 2006.
  • National CLT conference held in Boulder, Colorado.
  • The CLT Academy holds a three-day training at Chaska, Minnesota.


  • National CLT conference is held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • The CLT Academy’s charter is formally approved by the board of the National CLT Network, granting the Academy a degree of programmatic autonomy for researching and teaching best practices.


  • National CLT conference is held in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • The Colorado CLT Coalition is established.
  • The CLT Academy holds a three-day training at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.


  • The CLT Academy holds a three-day training in Orlando, Florida.
  • The Academy’s charter is amended, clarifying the Academy’s relationship with the Network, creating an Academy Coordinating Committee, and formalizing the position and duties of the Academy’s Dean.
  • National CLT conference is held in Athens, Georgia.
  • The CLT Academy publishes the results of its 2008 survey of the nation’s CLTs, documenting for the first time lower rates of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures among CLT homeowners.


  • National CLT conference is held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


  • National CLT conference is held in Seattle, Washington.
  • Completion and publication of the Community Land Trust Technical Manual, a project of the National CLT Academy.


  • The CLT Academy holds a one-day training in Durham, North Carolina.
  • National CLT conference is held in Burlington, Vermont.


  • National CLT conference is held in Cleveland, Ohio.


  • National CLT conference is held in Lexington, Kentucky.

Further ReadingBAcker-Cross-pollination

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