Many Town and Parish Councils are frustrated when the discover that “Affordable Houses” revert to being “Open Market Houses” when they are sold on. Members of the public are even more confused. Could Community Land Trusts be the answer?
Last Friday I went to a briefing by Cornwall Community Land Trust to investigate the method by which this innovative system works. The basis of the Land Trust is that a group in the local community act as trustees for a parcel of land upon which truly affordable houses are built. There are a number of ways in which the houses can be built and administered, but the tenure of the land always remains with the community. Thus, once the house has been designated as affordable, it will be affordable for ever, and cannot be purchased by a developer and turned into a second home or an office.
The houses can either be self-build, built by a local builder, or as a last resort built by a developer on behalf of the Trust as part of a commitment to a larger development. The houses can either be rented, rent/buy, shared ownership or owner occupier. The other commitments by the Trust and the builders are that the homes should be of high quality, fuel efficient and sustainable, and suitable for local people.
So, what is there to not like about such a wonderful scheme? Well the biggest problem may be the purchase of suitable land. The interesting point here is that a landowner may not be able to sell land for development because it is outside the development area for a local community. Thus there may be a bit of land on the edge of a village between the houses and a road which would not receive planning permission under normal circumstances. This is called “excluded” land. It can be purchased by Land Trusts and given planning permission provided it is for locked in affordable houses. If there is no such land available, it may be possible to bargain with landowners and challenge them with developments on other sites, or it could be that a suitable piece of land comes on the market at a reasonable price, because whatever else happens the cost of building must be within the funding available.
Funding is available from a variety of sources, and this is exactly the kind of scheme that should be included in a Neighbourhood Development Plan. However, it does depend upon people coming forward to form a Trust, (if one does not exist in your area). I think it does provide an answer as to how community members in Cornwall can fight off the ridiculous plans to swamp the countryside, while still fulfilling the obligation that we should all have to provide housing for the least well-off in our society.
Link is at http://www.cornwallclt.org/contact-cornwall-community-land-trust.html
e-mail Helen Downing, Development Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org