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In Community Land we Trust

The failure of successive governments to tax post-crash, central bank-driven market distortions has allowed land to resume its role described by Winston Churchill as 'the mother of all monopolies'

Withholding empty property as an investment, developing land largely for investment buyers and withholding land from development at all, has left an acute shortage of actually-lived-in homes. Councils have taken to selling off land so that housing associations might balance their books with market sale units. Meanwhile local communities are migrating, increasingly joined by young city-dwellers and new families who cannot afford to put down roots within reach of the workplace.

A sense of urgency to investigate alternative housing models is keenly felt among young Architects (like me!) who experience the impact of this housing crisis as much in their home life as through their architectural projects. So Cullinan Studio (CS) invited Stephen Hill, of C20 Futureplanners and 2014 Fellow of the Winston Churchill Trust, to host a debate about Community Land Trusts (CLT) as part of our Sustainability Talks series, to share ideas amongst members of the house building community.

Resident CS land reform and housing agitator Phil Graham kicked off the discussion with an overview of a Cullinan Studio CLT project in Cumbria (still in its infancy), followed by a presentation of our entry for the recent NLA Housing competition which proposed the use of SME pension funds to enable CLT housing initiatives for employees.

Phil Graham of Cullinan Studio presenting our NLA Housing Competition entry

Then Stephen took us on a flying tour of the historical evolution of Community Land Trusts, from the UK’s first example in Colton Parish Land Trust (1792), through to current UK projects including rural CLTs in Cornwall and the East London CLT at St Clements, via Jane Jacobs’ grassroots movement against Robert Moses in his plans to overhaul New York's Greenwich Village fifty or so years ago.

The main differences between CLTs and other forms of affordable housing are as follows:

  1. Average salary dictates property value.  So-called ‘affordable’ housing is still priced relative to distorted land values rather than the average salary, but CLTs are truly affordable as the amount payable is given at one third of the average income.
  2. ‘Affordability in perpetuity’ – there is no option to buy out shares. This means the property is always offered to the market with the same conditions as when it was first bought. 

The UK Cohousing Network provide a fantastic resource for community groups considering this route, including further information on eligibility and guidance through the process of establishing a CLT

The best way to sum up the concept of Community Land Trusts is captured in Stephen’s mantra: ‘buy or rent a CLT home and enjoy a normal life’. It’s that simple.

Stephen Hill of C20 Futureplanners

A big thank you to Stephen Hill for the inspiring and informative discussion.  Now we know how to help local communities reclaim their neighbourhoods and safeguard truly affordable homes for future generations - so let’s get out there and do it!

You can follow Stephen’s blog at: http://stephenhillfutureplanning.blogspot.co.uk/

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