Community Land Trusts are providing   genuinely affordable housing.

The Oxfordshire Community Land Trust arranged construction of eight flats in Botley

Housing is a hot button issue for millions who cannot get on the property ladder , have to live in expensive and often sub-standard rented accommodation  or live with their parents well after they have become adults.  A massive house-building programme is the answer but there are other pioneering solutions that can make a dent too and local people can help bring this about in Bromley. One such innovative scheme is a Community Land Trust (CLT).

A (CLT) is an organisation set up to own and manage land by and for a local community. Through this organisation, the land is owned by the community in perpetuity and used for the explicit benefit of that community. It might be used for any purpose which benefits the community to which it is linked: housing, workspace, leisure, or horticulture.

CLTs are non-profit democratic organisations that are managed by their members. They can make a surplus but do not pay a dividend. Members can often join for a £1. They are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as a community benefit society. The first community land trust in London was Saint Clements in Tower Hamlets. There is a helpful video here of their history.

There are various legal structures which can underpin a CLT but one key aspect of the idea is that the land cannot be sold off for private gain. Through this mechanism (called an asset lock), the CLT aims to ensure permanent and affordable access to the land for whichever purpose the community needs. CLT tenants are exempt from the right to buy. The rents and costs of flats to buy are set permanently below market rates which are related to local median incomes.

More information is available from the national community land trust network at  www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk. For £1.22 you can join the London Community land Trust network and receive free advice.  The House of Commons library has also produced a briefing on community land trusts.

Many communities land trusts support energy efficient housing. The Lune Valley CLT has built 20 homes to rent and for shared ownership. See their video here .All of them are built to Passivhaus gold energy standards where heating bill can be up to 90% less than normal bills. The South East London Community Energy Co-Operative have helpfully indicate support for a Bromley CLT. As CLT’S are democratic organisations, they can have a major say in the design of any new housing scheme.

CLTs can obtain funding for land purchases via crowd funding. Ethex raised over £1million for the Oxford Community Land Trust when the original target was £600,000. Loans are available from the Big Issue Investment Trust,  , the Ecology Building Society and others . Grants are provided by central government and   the Greater London  Authority. Michael Gove MP as Secretary of State for Housing has been supportive of CLTs.  He has recently announced changes to the National Planning Framework  that are helpful for  CLTs. The Labour party, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats also support community land trusts.

 The state of the sector  report refers to potentially 278,000 community led homes .Key data on the current  CLT sector is :

  • There are 350 CLTs in England and Wales
  • They have built or renovated 1,711 affordable homes and there are 5,413 more in the pipeline
  • CLTs own over 100 other assets including green spaces, community centres and shops
  • Six in ten CLTs have been developed in sensitive areas that are protected by the planning system like Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.

In launching the above report Micheal Gove MP is quoted as saying:

“What could be a better example than a neighbourhood taking control, then being in charge of its destiny and making sure that the homes in which people live have the heart and soul of that community embedded in the bricks and mortar? That’s why I’m a supporter of CLTs. “

Locally there are two CLTs In Lewisham , one in Greenwich and another in the Croydon part of Crystal palace. All these schemes appear to be had been given land by their respective local authority. Grants from the GLA covered the building costs for the two Lewisham schemes.  The Lewisham flats at Citizens House in Sydenham were sold for 30% less than the market price. The local MP Ellie Reeves was full of praise when she visited the CLT IN Sydenham.  In Lady well, the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (CLT) flats were offered for rent to residents on Lewisham council’s rehousing list as well as for sale.

In Bromley housing costs are high for both renters and those who wish to buy.  The BBC picked up the story that the rents for Bromley council tenants will increase by 7.7% from April 2024. The new weekly net rent for a one-bedroomed flat will increase to £194.  The council is supporting over 1,500 homeless families in expensive temporary accommodation. It is hoped that the council might be willing to sell a small plot of land to a local CLT for a minimal cost as well as being supportive to a new housing organisation seeking to provide accommodation at less than market rates. The CLT could decide to rehouse local people from the council’s rehousing list.

What is needed is for a group of interested local people in Bromley to form a steering group to develop this idea and to work together on the project. It will take time, expertise, and enthusiasm to get this exciting project up and running.   Help is available from the national clt network.   In order to be successful, a Bromley CLT would need to attract support across all local political parties and include representatives from local churches, housing organisations and advice agencies as well as local people who want to live in cheaper accommodation.

If you are interested in becoming involved, email Dermot Mckibbin at dermot@dermotmckibbin.com

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