Community Land Trusts are answer to affordable housing crisis, says University study
An innovative community-based model of land and property ownership can form a crucial part of a national strategy to tackle the crisis in affordable housing, according to a study produced by a leading research centre based at the University of Salford.
Due to be launched at a Parliamentary reception on Monday 19 March, the report into Community Land Trusts (CLTs) by social and financial inclusion research unit Community Finance Solutions concludes that they have proved themselves as a viable way to build affordable homes and that such schemes can be expanded significantly to provide a sustainable part of the Government’s localism agenda.
A CLT is a charity or not-for-profit organisation which owns land and property for the benefit of a community and as a resource for future generations, rather than for market speculation. Over the last decade more than 80 CLTs have sprung up in both rural and urban areas.
Community Finance Solutions conducted a detailed study of 12 pilot CLTs from Cornwall to Northumberland and found that, while many communities had come up against significant difficulties in setting up CLT, particularly in securing funding, the concept works well overall and can be a significant method of building local homes for local people.
One example highlighted in the report is Saint Minver Community Land Trust, based in Rock, North Cornwall. The village is reputedly one of the most expensive places in the world to buy a house due to high levels of second home ownership and holiday lets, which seriously affect the ability of local people, in particular those on lower incomes such as young families, to live there.
In 2008 a group of concerned villagers, including members of the parish council, were inspired by a local builder to consider a self-build development. The CLT was formed with funding from North Cornwall District Council and, after buying land from a farmer, the CLT completed its first project of 12 homes in December 2008.
The houses were built at less than the Council’s local affordable sales price ceilings, costing the self-builders £78,000 for a two bedroom bungalow and £84,000 for a three bedroom bungalow. The scheme has transformed the lives of local people allocated a home, giving them the chance to live in the village which would previously not have been an option.
Helen Richards of Saint Minver Community Land Trust said: “The project was powered by the Council’s interest free loan, and the trust has come to believe that the principal enabler would be a system of revolving funds. If central and local government could initiate such provision, the same money would see multiple developments flourish.”
Report authors Dr Bob Paterson, visiting Social Enterprise Fellow, and Professor Karl Dayson, Executive Director of Community Finance Solutions, suggest that involvement from local people, including a strong network of volunteers, is pivotal in getting a CLT off the ground and then ensuring its longer-term success.
The publication points to the importance of CLT members engaging with local authority representatives who can offer invaluable advice and act as facilitators, and that many CLTs have looked beyond local government and charitable funding to investment from local communities themselves to ensure housing projects are completed.
The study outlines future implications for CLTs, including the need to understand the effects of the recently-passed Localism Act on funding and rights for the organisations, and the importance of creating industry-wide initiatives through the National CLT network.
It also calls on central Government to value social impact and public benefit when selling public land; to put public money into new CLTs; to consider tax breaks to encourage private sector investment in the affordable housing sector; and to push mortgage providers to support more affordable housing schemes.
Professor Karl Dayson said: “Our research has shown that Community Land Trusts are changing lives in many communities by providing housing at an affordable price. If we want them to spread across the country they need to continue innovating and partner with banks and the Government to design a sustainable investment model.”
The 12 CLTs included as case studies in the report are:
- Saint Minver Community Land Trust, Rock, North Cornwall
- Holy Island Development Trust, Lindisfarne, Northumberland
- Holsworthy Community Property Trust, North Devon
- Cornwall Community Land Trust
- Foundation East, East Anglia
- Bishops Castle and District Community Land Trust, Shropshire
- Buckland Newton Community Property Trust, West Dorset
- High Bickington Community Property Trust, Devon
- Lyvennet Community Trust, Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria
- Worth Community Property Trust, Worth Matravers, Dorset
- Cashes Green Community Land Trust, Stroud, Gloucestershire
- East London Community Land Trust
Proof of Concept: Community Land Trusts, a report by Community Finance Solutions, can be downloaded from http://www.communityfinance.salford.ac.uk/pdf/Proof%20of%20Concept%20Final.pdf.
(Pictured are houses at the Cornwall Community Land Trust's development at Saint Ewe).