CALICO fiture representation
The main objective of CALICO is to realise more than a typical Community Land Trust (CLT) but an intergenerational inclusive cohabitation focussed on care, gender and solidarity, offering access to rent and homeownership to low-income people, in a city as Brussels under pressure for the lack to affordable housing.

The CLT, the model, adopted in CALICO, stands for Community Land Trust, a non-speculative form of shared ownership of land based on a fiduciary agreement among several actors. Usually, housing-oriented  (CLTs) provides affordable housing which prioritises access to homeownership for low and moderate-income people. In a typical CLT ownership structure, the land trust acquires the land and leases it with a long-term ground-lease to homeowners of the building sitting on the same land.    The lessee can be a not-for-profit body (organisation, foundation, cooperative or housing corporation related to the CLT) that rents or sells the units it to low-income groups whose possibility to profit from equity gains are limited by the conditions of the CLT itself. By freezing the value of properties, the Community Land Trust secures their affordability indefinitely.



“The land is like the air and the sun. How can it be privatised?” CLTB Brussels Office, Brussels 2019


While the CLT concept can be retraced in the land reform schemes, commons, utopian communities of 19th centuries and garden city movement about the shared form of ownership (Howard, 1946; Kanter 1973;  Henderson, et al. 2019), the modern type of collective land trust is based on ideas brought forward by social movements during last century, when lifetime commitments of individuals have been spent to look for solutions to help the most disenfranchised to access the resources of land and fight against displacement. Reasonably new to Europe, the Community Land Trust has its roots in American theorists and activists such as H. George (1897, and Borsodi et al. who identified the cause of societal malaise and poverty in individual land ownership, especially among African American communities (Swann et al. 1972). They initially proposed fairer taxation systems and unprecedented juridical structures easing collectivisation to secure land for the peasants workers.  These seeds sprouted in many other experiences in the USA ( and around the world as the Gramdan in India where entire villages functioned as trust, the Mexican EJidos, the Israelian Kibbuz and Moshavim, but the first trust closer to the current model of CLT is recognised to be realised in Albany in 1969 in the USA (Davis, 2010). Overall, it took practically a century to popularise beyond the American context the idea of collective ownership of land in the formula that is now known as CLT

Tenants march in a protest in the Lower East Side, in NYC (Marlins Momber)


The use of the acronym, however, does not guarantee that all understand the same concept, practice and ideas behind it. The most disparate environments in which such projects have experimented made the CLT a malleable concept adapted to variable contexts and conditions. Most literature agrees that variations can be traced along the aspects such as the nature of projects initiators and their goals, the governance structure, the target households, the constraints and flexibilities of the legal setting both to access land and social housing, the finance and the nature of founders, the management of the partners and beneficiaries of CLT, and the relation to the environment at different scales from the neighbourhood to the city-region etc.    The definition of community itself is ambiguous both in literature and in practice,  leaving blurred an already thorny question of what community is and can be concerning the CLT.  Moreover, taking for granted that the community is local to allow active participation of all the CLT members, CLT it is often assumed as a reference to the neighbourhood scale. Still, the comprehension of “community” cannot be exhausted with the place-based reference to the microscale (Kruger et al. 2019).

The adaptations of the CLT, generally speaking,   rest however on basic principles of collaborative, social production of habitat, and cooperative housing ( Tummers, 2017; Cziscke, 2018) such as:

  • Engagement of future inhabitants in all the phases of the process benefitting from external support of housing associations, local initiatives, public authorities et al;
  • Affordable, adequate housing  benefitting everyone -including most vulnerable groups- the neighbourhoods, cities and rural context and the environment, through approaches such as reuse, recycle and low energy consumption, contributing to sustainable cities and climate change challenges;
  • A non-profit oriented philosophy and provision of housing below the average costs/rents of the mainstream market;
  • Schemes meeting long-term local housing needs by the community retaining a legal and/or financial interest in the homes provided and ensuring they are always available to whom need them;
  • Models experimented are flexible and adaptable to different situation and contexts.

If the CLT model has been largely developed in the English speaking countries of UK and USA, recently in Europe the CLT gained momentum beyond the linguistic Anglo Saxon boundaries.  The reasons for the growing interest in collectivization of land and housing ownership are to be looked in the fact that the CLT offers  a concrete and desirable ethical scenario.  CLT  is considered an alternative to stop the reproduction of inequalities intrinsic in a capitalist-led private home and landownership and in urban context of gentrification.  This model increased its popularity  especially in urban areas such Brussels for the case of CALICO, with pressing housing markets.


CLTB general Assembly . Source:


Rethinking radically the economy of land and housing toward public and community-led control is a fundamental and necessary strategy to prevent displacement and dispossession. It helps guaranteeing the access to adequate and affordable housing to all including the most vulnerable. However, despite its growing success of CLT model, it is worth to remind that this is not the sole model ( ) and not per sé a resolution to the multifaceted challenge of housing inequalities. It indeed contributes to the diversification of non-speculative forms of tenures. It surely counteracts the current market trends seeing housing as a cash machine in the financial sector.  however,  in terms of justice to adequate housing in any given city, a CLT alone cannot guarantee the perpetuity of “affordability” and accessibility to all to housing, without considering  the role  of other measures such as welfare, public subsidies, taxation and cost of land as well as  public instruments to prevent the wild privatization and financialisation of properties. This goes beyond the power of experimenting a single CLT project.

Yet the projects are growing in number and modalities of interpreting the original concept of the CLT, upscaling and spreading its experimentations across Europe[1]. Today Europe counts more than 200 CLTs in England and Wales, in France ( as “organismes de foncier solidaire” introduced in the national law), in Belgium and many others in creation in Ireland, the Netherlands and first new one is currently under development in Berlin, Germany (Stadtbodenstiftung), also with the support of knowledge exchange through the EU Interreg SHICC project[2], where the Community Land Trust Bruxelles (CLTB) is leader[3]. By 2019, the sole city of Brussels counts 4 completed projects, 3 under construction (including CALICO) and other 5 are planned[4]. In addition, the EU Urban Agenda partnership of Affordable housing provides new venues for experimenting such models with the support of public authorities and funding from local to EU level[5].

 Project as CALICO, starts for these debates and experiences of CLT around the world, to experiments on affordable access to homeownership and rent, using public local and EU funding, experimenting on community building based on sociocractic decision making, a model totally managed by local NGOs. This unique innovation therefore constitutes an important ground for sharing knowledge and ideas in many other European cities.





[5] See section on “Co-ownership, co-management and co-design in housing”, as part of the "Recommendations on good housing policy and governance at local, regional, national and EU levels based on to the ERHIN code of conduct (

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Bernard, N. (2018). Le community land trust comme nouveau paradigme de l’habitat acquisitif (ou les communs appliqués à la propriété du logement). Revue interdisciplinaire d'etudes juridiques, 81(2), 243-266.


Davis, J. E. (2010). Origins and evolution of the community land trust in the United States. The community land trust reader, 1(4). Retrieved February 2020 from


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Laura Colini
Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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