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Community land trusts (“CLTs”) have garnered attention as a novel,
non-state organizational mechanism for enabling permanently
affordable homeownership. In canonical form, they separate
a home from the land upon which it sits, holding the land in trust
and selling the home for its value without the land. Additionally,
CLTs use ground lease restrictions to constrain the resale process
and enforce long-term reproduction of affordability. Herein, we
argue that given the “actually existing” character of CLT practices,
the legal vocabulary CLTs use is not most directly nor most accu-
rately descriptive. The nature of the present intervention is empha-
tically not to say that CLTs have acted in bad faith; rather, we
identify a set of fictions about land and rights encoded into the
law regarding real property. Our intervention highlights how the
nature of these fictions theoretically constrains the power of cano-
nical community land trusts to transform society and forces critical
reflection on specific financial strategies CLTs may attempt.

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