Rethinking and reimagining collective land ownership: Race, CLTs, and community development

Authors: Jakob Schneider*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: community land trust, community control
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Community land trusts (CLTs), a form of democratically controlled collective land ownership, emerged in the racially-charged US south on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. CLTs align with a long history of Black cooperativism challenging racial oppression, exploitation, and exclusion from full citizenship. Since that time, CLTs have emerged in cities throughout the US and saw growth after the foreclosure crisis. This movement to the urban signaled the entry of CLTs into networks of community development practice and knowledge, arguably focusing more on housing than community control. This paper asks two questions: how did the CLT move from anti-racism to an approach largely focused on the provision of affordable housing, and; how are CLTs refocusing attention to the foundationally racist practices of property, planning, and expropriation? I argue that as CLTs became the purview of contemporary community development they aligned with the foundational racial contract that undergirds US society. Here, racial inequality is managed through technocratic means and metrics that direct attention away from the extent to which racism is constitutive of US social practices and institutions. My second question finds its answer in two historical moments. First, in response to the foreclosure crisis community organizers and activists leveraged the highly racialized impacts of foreclosure to press for collective ownership of land. At the present moment, we see the CLTs engaging abolition movements across the country where the foundationally racist character of the US can be undermined by transforming relations of race, property, and personhood.

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