Community Land Trusts might be a way of enabling communities in the South Hams to provide genuinely affordable housing in a way that suits them and that avoids large estates on greenfield sites. Below is the text of a leaflet produced by the Somerset, Devon and Dorset Community Land Trust Project in March 2011.
What is a Community Land Trust and how can it help provide affordable housing?
A Community Land Trust (CLT) is an organisation set up by local people to help improve or protect their village or neighbourhood. It does it in three ways; by owning , managing and developing things such as land, homes, shops, pubs, allotments and even schools; by holding these things in trust so that they are affordable and available for future generations; and by being accountable to local people.
People often care deeply about such places and the services they provide, seeing them sometimes as a heart and soul of the community itself. They are where people live, meet, talk, have fun and grow up.
Over the years, many villages and neighbourhoods have lost these 'community assets' and affordable homes for people connected to the community have become rare; this can fundamentally change a community. A CLT helps to turn this around by giving people the means to take action, rather than waiting for someone else to do it for them. A CLT makes the community feel more confident about its future.
A CLT can take different legal forms, for example a charity, but the key to them all is that assets are kept for the benefit of the community in perpetuity. Any profits made by a CLT must be reinvested in its work: no-one can take a profit for themselves. CLTs are democratic; their membership being open to all members of the village or neighbourhood.
Sometimes people who are connected to a community (they might have grown up there, or have family there, or work there) can't live there because the homes have become just too expensive for most people on average incomes. CLTs can help deliver affordable housing by building it themselves or by securing land for a partner to build on, such as a housing association. Priority for the homes - which can be for rent and/or sale - is given to people who work or live locally or are related to someone who lives locally.
Providing homes for local people can be challenging but there has been enough experience of CLTs in England now for different approaches to have been tried and tested. The government's new affordable housing policy is encouraging partnerships between CLTs and housing associations. We have an understanding with Hastoe Housing about how this could work but will support partnerships with other associations too.
The Somerset, Dorset and Devon CLT Project
The Project is funded by the Government (through a major charity called Carnegie UK) in Somerset and Dorset and by Devon County Council in Devon. It was set up in April 2010 to support communities in the area and offers specialist advice on affordable housing and forming a CLT. The body responsible for delivering the service is a local social enterprise called Wessex Community Assets.
The Project is known as an 'action learning' project; set up to explore new and better ways of developing CLTs by working alongside communities, as well as alongside Councils, Rural Housing Enablers and Housing Associations.
The Project fits in very well with the government's concept of the Big Society, although it was set up before that term was widely used and it is not politically motivated. The new Localism Bill - due to come into being in late 2011 - takes the Big Society concept further with new powers for communities to develop Neighbourhood Plans and exercise the Right to Build (providing over 50% of the local electorate support the idea). A community organisation of some sort - such as a CLT - will be central to these approaches.
Examples of Local Community Land Trusts in the area
Several CLTs have been set up in Dorset (Buckland Newton, Worth Matravers, and Symondsbury), Devon (High Bickington, Holdsworthy, East Portlemouth, Teignbridge, Appledore and Devonport) and Somerset (Carhampton & Withycombe). Several more have been set up by our sister project in Cornwall, which started in 2006.
Some properties are now complete whilst others are either on site or about to go on site; all a testimony to the determination of local people. We are supporting and guiding some CLTs that have struggled to make progress and several more that are just starting out.
How the Somerset, Dorset and Devon CLT Project could support your community?
CLTs are as different as communities they spring from. The Somerset, Dorset and Devon CLT Project has talked to scores of people who have been involved in developing CLTs and we understand the pros and cons of different routes.
We would start by talking to you about what appeals to you about a CLT, what you'd like to achieve (both now and in the future), how much time you want to put into one, the level of risk you're happy with and so on. Regarding a housing development, we can also check with the Rural Housing Enabler and the Council on the level of housing need for local people and about land availability (there is some evidence that landowners are keen to offer sites to local organisations to be held for the benefit of the community). From this discussion, we can advise on the most appropriate legal form of CLT for you, whether partnerships with other organisations might be a good idea, and what the timescale and costs are likely to be.
If you decide to go ahead with the CLT, we will support you in setting it up, with training for the trustees, with links to the growing national network of CLTs, in forming partnerships, in moving forward with your project or projects - and in helping your community to become more sustainable for generations to come.
Contact: Alison Ward. Tel: 07827 941030 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org