Each year, the Network solicits nominations from its members for the Swann Matthei Award to recognize someone doing outstanding work in the world of CLTs. Once members submit their nominations, the Network Board of Directors votes and selects a recipient.

The Swann Matthei Award is named for two individuals who helped to lay the foundation for the development of community land trusts in the United States: Bob Swann and Chuck Matthei.

Bob Swann was a co-author of the first book to describe the basic features of the model of tenure that we know today as the community land trust. He was a co-founder of the Institute for Community Economics and the E.F. Schumacher Society, organizations that have played leading roles in supporting the growth of CLTs. He may also be credited with having put “community” into the community land trust. Two of his intellectual mentors, Ralph Borsodi and Arthur Morgan, had created working prototypes of the CLT in the 1930s, but these early experiments in community land ownership and ground leasing had included neither an open membership nor a place on the board for persons not living on the land trust’s land. Bob insisted on both. Inspired by the Gramdan movement in India and drawing on his personal experience in helping to create New Communities, Inc, an agricultural community for black homesteaders near Albany, Georgia, Bob was convinced that a CLT needed a base of support much broader than its own leaseholders to thrive. A CLT needed to be of a community, not just in it.

If it was Bob Swann’s vision that added community to the CLT model, it was Chuck Matthei’s energy and eloquence that seeded this community-based model in dozens of neighborhoods, cities, and towns. He gave prominence to the model’s application to the housing problems of the poor, while emphasizing the model’s potential for giving low-income communities long-term control over their own destiny. Chuck was ICE’s executive director for more than a decade. Under his leadership, ICE published the Community Land Trust Handbook, created an in-house community loan fund to finance CLT projects, and helped to establish the country’s first urban CLTs. Chuck later founded Equity Trust, where he worked to build bridges between organizations focused on affordable housing and those focused on conservation or agriculture. Most of Chuck’s time, at both ICE and Equity Trust, was spent on the road. Speaking to audiences far and wide, he shared inspiring stories of community land trusts, community-supported agriculture, and community loan funds transforming the lives of families left behind by both the market and the state. He made people believe that even small efforts could make a big difference in charting the course toward a more just society.

The Swann Matthei Award is a memorial to the conviction and commitment of these two remarkable men. It recognizes the outstanding contribution of an individual or organization in promoting the use of the community land trust in building and sustaining community.

Eligible Nominees

  • Lifetime achievement …. have worked for at least 10 years with CLTs.
  • Have completed a significant body of work that has contributed to the growth and sustainability of the CLT movement (e.g. publication, organization that has lasted, course, legal instrument, etc.).


Award Winners

2016: Lisa Byers & John Barros

2015: Gus Newport

2014: Nancy Stangle

2012: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (Recorded Acceptance Speech)

2011: Mtamanika Youngblood (Read Introduction by Lisa Byers)

2010: Charles and Shirley Sherrod & David Abromowitz

2009: Kirby White & Michael Brown

2008: Susan Witt & Ellie Kastanopolous

2007: Marie Cirillo & John Davis