Effectiveness of the Community Land Trust Model in Developing Countries and in Mitigating the Impact of Global Crises

Kellogg/Kroc Undergraduate Research Grants

Final Report:

My capstone research project focuses on the Community Land Trust (CLT) model which is a method of securing land tenure and rights for people both in informal settlements and in neighborhoods with populations vulnerable to gentrification and displacement. The model has been largely successful in the United States in the past 40 years, since expanding to the U.K, France, Belgium, Canada, and Australia, with other European countries in the early implementation process. There are currently 5 countries in the developing world with organizations using the CLT model: Puerto Rico, Kenya, Bolivia, Bangladesh, and Brazil. My research project surveys organizations in both developing and developed countries that implement the CLT model to gain an understanding of its effectiveness and success, especially with regards to the future of this model for formalizing land rights in informal settlements and its ability to stabilize conditions for the residents in times of global crisis. The research questions I am studying include: How have organizations implemented the CLT model successfully in their communities and what challenges have they faced? How has the pandemic impacted the organizations' work and how did the CLT model play a role in the ability to adapt effectively to the changing needs of community members? What lessons can be drawn from the pandemic in terms of the sustainability of the CLT model?

The research topic I am exploring links to human development in that the CLT model is used to secure permanent affordability of land and housing rights, especially for those living in poverty. Beyond just fulfilling this crucial element of human dignity, the CLT model cultivates communities in which the inhabitants can thrive, thus catering to the needs of the whole person. As this model has diffused across the globe, it continues to be adapted and expanded in terms of the communities it can be used to support. Secure housing plays an important role in the dignity of peoples’ livelihoods and by adapting the CLT model to be implemented in informal settlements this would allow for people to have the security to shape their futures rather than worrying about living circumstances on a daily basis. 

The data that I am collecting comes primarily from surveys of organizations that currently employ or are working to implement the CLT model around the world. This includes the five organizations in developing countries, as well as a sample from the developed countries listed in the first paragraph. The surveys have a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions allowing for a range of data to be collected. This process is still ongoing as the partner organization I worked with this summer, Catalytic Communities, helped change the direction of the project I was planning. With the timeline of survey creation set back to later in the summer and some initial struggles with finding contact information for target organizations, this has caused a delay in my data collection. However, I believe that the contacts I have are strong enough to get the amount of data needed for meaningful analysis. I also will supplement the data I collect with existing literature on my research topic. 

The challenges of this project primarily were establishing contact with the organizations implementing the CLT model, as their priorities during the pandemic are ensuring that the needs of the communities they support are fully met. This means that taking the time to respond to research inquiries might not be an immediate priority or consideration, as the populations served are often the ones most vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic. In terms of accomplishments, I felt as though I made significant contributions to the organization I virtually interned with in Brazil, Catalytic Communities. The findings of the research project are important to this organization because it will help them as they engage with the CLT model in the favelas and expand upon their work. There are approximately 1000 favelas in Rio housing 1.5 million people which is about 24% of the population. Many of Rio’s favelas face significant threats of eviction due to the high value of the land and the lack of property rights, so the success of the CLT model could have very important implications for people living in the favelas. Currently, Catalytic Communities has two pilot Favela CLTs, and they hope to learn more about the elements that have made CLTs effective and sustainable in developing and developed countries. My research project changed significantly from my original proposal upon learning more about this model, understanding the positive impact it could have if it continues to grow, and trying to do research that is beneficial to the work of Catalytic Communities.

I hope to use the results and findings of my research to meaningfully demonstrate the importance of the CLT model. By analyzing the challenges and impact of sustaining the model in various communities, I aim to show its potential contributions to formalizing land rights in informal settlements. Finally, this project works to demonstrate how the CLT model can be used to mitigate and stabilize shocks to vulnerable populations during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.