How Community Land Trusts can help shape our future
The housing crisis has brought the need for Community Land Trusts into sharp focus. Pam Johns, Rural Services Team Leader looks at why we should support the movement…
Anyone who saw the coverage of the recent Homes for Cornwall event could not fail to have been moved by the state of the current crisis.
Speaker after speaker stood up in a packed Hall for Cornwall recently to tell the audience about their struggle to find somewhere to live in a place, they want to call home.
Families forced to live apart, constantly moving with young children in tow, living in temporary accommodation for months on end – these were just some of the testimonies from those speaking at the event, attended by more than 400 people, including councillors, community groups and business leaders.
What is apparent is that we all need to work together to help solve a crisis affecting many areas of the UK. One of the ways we can do that is through Community Land Trusts.
What is a Community Land Trust?
A Community Land Trust or CLT is set up and run by local people to develop homes or other assets. Homes remain genuinely affordable in the long-term, based on average wages of ordinary people in the area.
It is essentially a charity or not-for-profit community interest company which delivers facilities by the community for the community. CLTs are often associated with developing affordable housing for local people.
From around 2004, I was part of those early gatherings of people interested in developing affordable housing for local people in and around Holsworthy in Devon. I was a founding member of the charity Holsworthy Community Property Trust, of which I am still a trustee.
I’ve seen first-hand how these grassroots-led projects can help to give ordinary people the means to steward land for developing and managing homes and other assets important to their local community, such as the village pub or local shop.
CLTs are needed now more than ever. The disparity between wages and house prices has widened and it is increasingly challenging to get a foot onto the property ladder or find rental accommodation. For many young people, living in their locality is just a dream.
Thankfully, the number of CLTs that have been set up in the UK has grown quickly. Twelve years ago, there were just 20 or so Community Land Trusts in the UK. There are now over 350 with around 650 active community led housing projects across the country.
In addition, more than 8,000 homes have been built or planned. This is certainly encouraging to me. When Holsworthy Community Property Trust was set up, it was one of the first of its kind and I hope it will continue to inspire other people to set up similar organisations.
How do I join a Community Land Trust?
Anyone can join a CLT if there is one in their area. Members often become shareholders, perhaps by buying a share that is sold at a nominal value.
Members can then vote for a board of trustees to run the CLT at an annual general meeting or AGM. They can also vote for the policies of the CLT, such as where and what type of homes the CLT will build and who they will be for.
How can I set up a Community Land Trust?
If there is no Community Land Trust in your area to join, it might be that you want to set one up.
The first step is to get interested volunteers to come together and pool ideas before setting out a business plan. The Community Land Trust Network is the national body for Community Land Trusts and can provide valuable help and assistance.
It’s important, however, to get expert legal advice on the next steps. Options include setting up a Community Interest Company, working with landowners, buying land, selling the developed properties to local people in housing need and developing joint venture agreements with housing associations and contractors.
The most difficult and time-consuming area is undoubtedly securing a section 106 planning agreement, which can hold up proceedings for years.
Part of the solution
On their own, Community Land Trusts cannot be the answer to our housing crisis. But they can be part of the solution.
As highlighted in Cornwall this month, the housing crisis is an “everything crisis” which affects education, mental health, climate change and the economy.
It’s up to all of us to try to change the landscape and build a future we can all enjoy.