What Is the Role of Community Land Trusts in UK Affordable Housing?

March 11, 2024

In today’s world, where the population continues to grow exponentially, one particular issue that persists is affordable housing. It is a crucial point of discussion in many local communities, and in the UK, it has led to the rise of Community Land Trusts or CLTs. CLTs play a pivotal role in providing affordable homes to local members by acquiring and managing land in a community-led, democratic fashion. But what exactly are Community Land Trusts? How do they function, and how are they supporting the development of affordable housing in the UK?

Understanding Community Land Trusts

Before we delve into the role of Community Land Trusts in affordable housing, let’s first understand what they are. In essence, a CLT is a not-for-profit, community-based organisation run by volunteers that develops and stewards affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces, and other community assets on behalf of a community. These trusts are rooted in the idea of taking land off the speculative property market and holding it in trust for the community.

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Community Land Trusts originated in the United States in the 1960s and have spread across the world, including the UK. The primary goal of CLTs is to ensure long-term housing affordability by separating the ownership of land and homes. In the UK, CLTs are increasingly recognised as a means to alleviate housing affordability challenges in urban and rural areas alike.

How Community Land Trusts Work

Community Land Trusts operate on a simple yet effective model. They acquire land, upon which they develop affordable homes for local people. The property can be purchased, donated, or come from land set aside by local authorities. Once the site is secured, the CLT retains ownership of the land and leases the property to homeowners at a rate that remains affordable in perpetuity.

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The CLT model ensures that the homes developed on its land remain affordable by implementing a resale formula, which restricts the price for which a home can be sold in the future. This allows the CLT to control the price and maintain affordability for future generations. However, the homeowner will still build equity and benefit from a modest increase in their home’s value over time.

The Role of CLTs in Providing Affordable Housing

CLTs play a significant role in providing affordable homes. There are numerous examples of trusts across the UK, where they are led by members of the local community who identify the need for affordable homes and take action.

By acquiring and managing land, CLTs are able to provide housing that is not only affordable but also suits the needs of local people. They can ensure that homes are designed to meet the particular requirements of the community, whether that be energy-efficient homes, properties for older people, or housing suitable for families.

CLTs also play a crucial role in supporting rural communities, where affordable, suitable housing can be particularly hard to come by. By providing affordable homes, they help to ensure the survival of these communities by enabling local people to stay in the area.

The Impact of Community Land Trusts on Local Communities

The impact of CLTs on local communities extends beyond simply providing affordable homes. By being community-led, they ensure that local people are at the heart of decision-making about what kind of homes are built and who they are for. This gives the community real control and influence over their local housing situation.

Moreover, CLTs often support the wider development of communities by creating other community assets such as workspaces and social facilities. They contribute to local economic development by creating jobs, supporting local businesses, and retaining wealth within the community.

The Future of Community Land Trusts

As the housing crisis in the UK continues to deepen, the role of CLTs is becoming more critical. CLTs stand as a beacon of hope for those struggling to find affordable homes. With the support of local authorities and increased awareness, more communities are likely to adopt the CLT model in the future.

However, for CLTs to truly make a significant impact, they need more than community enthusiasm. They require support from local and national governments, the investment from financial institutions, and the willingness of landowners to sell or donate land for the common good.

It’s clear that Community Land Trusts have a significant role to play in the development of affordable housing in the UK. By putting the power in the hands of local people, they have the potential to create sustainable, affordable homes that meet the needs of the community, now and in the future.

The Expansion of CLTs in England and Wales

The CLT movement in the UK, specifically in England and Wales, has seen significant growth in recent years. The National CLT Network, the official umbrella organisation for CLTs in England and Wales, reported a steady increase in the number of trusts. This growth is a testament to the effective role of community-led housing in providing affordable homes.

The expansion of CLTs has been aided by several funding and support mechanisms. The Community Housing Fund, for instance, was a vital resource for many emerging CLTs. Set up by the government, this fund provided grants for capacity-building and early-stage project costs, enabling many CLTs to get off the ground.

In addition, several housing associations have formed partnerships with CLTs. Such partnerships can offer a range of benefits, including access to technical expertise, financial resources, and a larger pool of potential homes. These collaborations between housing associations and CLTs can particularly help in the delivery of larger, more complex projects.

However, despite the growth of the CLT movement, it is still a relatively small player in the overall housing market. The number of homes owned by CLTs pales in comparison to those owned by traditional housing associations or private landlords. Still, their impact on local communities and the broader affordable housing landscape should not be underestimated.

Conclusion: The Role of CLTs in the Future of Affordable Housing

In conclusion, Community Land Trusts are an important part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis in the UK. By empowering local people to take control of their housing, CLTs have the potential to create sustainable, affordable homes that truly serve the community’s needs.

The role of CLTs in the future of affordable housing looks promising. With increased recognition from government and the wider public, along with continued support from housing associations, the CLT movement can continue to grow and make a significant impact on the housing landscape.

However, for CLTs to live up to their full potential, they need more than just growth in numbers. They require ongoing support from local and national government, sustained investment from financial institutions, and a continued willingness from landowners to sell or donate land for community benefit.

What Community Land Trusts offer goes beyond merely housing. They provide an opportunity for communities to shape their future, to decide what kind of homes they want to live and work in, and to ensure that these homes remain affordable for the long term. In a time of housing crisis, CLTs offer a model of hope and resilience, showing us the power of community-led action in creating a more equitable and sustainable world.