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Community land trusts and Indigenous housing options

Aboriginal Australians Rural conditions Housing Australia
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Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a model of community-based, perpetually affordable housing that has been operating in the United States for the past 30 years and has more recently been established in the United Kingdom.


This study found that Community Land Trust models have the potential to enhance tenure choices for Indigenous households in Australia provided a range of issues are addressed, including facilitating suitable leasehold arrangements, safeguarding Indigenous land tenure and providing adequate public subsidies for CLTs.

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are intermediate tenure forms that address housing affordability by retaining subsidies in the valuation of the property. CLTs create affordable home ownership that remains affordable across re-sales and inheritance, and establishes clear and ongoing relationships between home owners and their community.

Recent AHURI research has shown that Indigenous people are interested in forms of affordable home ownership that allow them to hand their property on to children (see Memmott et al. in Project 20501). This study assessed whether CLTs might offer a way of providing home ownership that is both affordable and consistent with Indigenous aspirations.

Three models of CLTs are found to be relevant to the Australian context: ‘classic’ CLT models that separate fixtures from land and involve a long term ground lease between the resident and the partner organisation; integrated packages in which both housing and land are leased from a partner organisation; and a modified dual mortgage scheme in which the entire value of the house is split with a partner organisation.

This study found that legal, land ownership, cultural and financial issues will need to be addressed at a local level to achieve the successful operation of CLT models in Australia:

  • Legal: the separation of fixtures from land is unfamiliar as a housing model in Australia. The most readily available mechanism may be to grant a long term lease to the house and land via existing leasehold mechanisms, with greater flexibility achieved through the use of 99-year lease arrangements.
  • Land tenure: the ownership arrangements for Indigenous land mean that the financing and ownership arrangements for non-community members needs further consideration. The governance structures around entry and exit into CLTs may have to be negotiated with Indigenous community members.
  • Cultural: moving into a form of home ownership entails different responsibilities from being a tenant. Households may require additional support and training in order to ensure the transition can be managed and that the risks are minimised. This is essential in the prevention of defaults and avoiding the necessity of a CLT having to buy back the interest in a CLT property that has been sold either as part equity or as a 99-year lease.
  • Financial: there is a need for public subsidy to underpin any future home ownership schemes for Indigenous households aspiring to move from rental housing into some form of low cost home ownership.   

Authors: Louise Crabtree, Hazel Blunden, Vivienne Milligan, Peter Phibbs and Carolyn Sappideen, with Nicole Moore.

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