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Could Community Land Trusts be solution to housing crisis?

A group of businesses backed by pension funds have drawn up detailed plans to take a long leasehold over land on Camley Street.

06 November, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Mario Raggio, Alex Smith and Tony Meadows, of the Camley Street Sustainability Zone, are aiming to build nearly 1,000 new homes

IT is seen as a new way of approaching London’s housing crisis and, for many, a way of tackling the decades-long lack of support for council-funded, genuinely affordable homes.

And this month a conference at the TUC headquarters in Bloomsbury will bring together scores of groups interested in community-led housing, ranging from Community Land Trusts, co-housing and housing co-ops.

Organised by the National Community Land Trust Network (NCLTN), the conference includes a mix of contributors, from developed groups to groups of friends who are searching for new ways to solve their housing issues.

The NCLTN offer advice to people who want to set up their own Trusts, and show how it can be done. Their network is expanding, and director Catherine Harrington says the conference is a chance for people to hear more about the way the schemes work and share their experience of community housing projects.

Community Land Trusts are, according to Ms Harrington, a way of tackling a chronic lack of housing and affordability. They have yet to be formed in Camden but plans are in the pipeline.

A group of businesses backed by pension funds have drawn up detailed plans to take a long leasehold over land on Camley Street. They hope to build nearly 1,000 new cutting-edge, eco-friendly homes that would be filled by people on council waiting lists and bring in revenue to council coffers, while the Town Hall would still own the freehold.

The Camley Street Sustainability Zone backers say that no public funds from the council would be needed for the build, which would include employment space.

Ms Harrington said: “As with the Camley Street plan, Land Trusts offer community-based organisations the chance to develop homes for themselves that will be genuinely affordable. It means a group of people can come together, form an organisation and we can provide them with a grant to form a business plan to buy land and then build homes on it.”

Ms Harrington told the New Journal the growing number of land trusts is a response to entrenched issues with housing and land ownership in Britain today.

She added: “This is a growing movement because there has not been enough supply for so long. People are increasingly frustrated with the housing situation and are trying to take things into their own hands. Often people feel what is being offered is simply not affordable, or they want more control over what is being developed. And schemes are often foisted on to the community, for example in projects such as estate regeneration.”

Community Land Trusts are now recognised as the fastest growing new housing approach in the country. Since 2010, they have increased six-fold, providing 800 new permanently affordable homes.

And this growth has been recognised by the government, with the NCLTN’s work partly leading to the government announcing a £300m Community Housing Fund being formed that could go towards the development of nearly 13,000 homes by 2021.

And in the capital, adds Ms Harrington, the Greater London Authority have set up a £250,000 fund to develop a Community Housing Hub that will offer advice to projects. Ms Harrington identified obstacles in London that face Community Land Trusts.

She said: “The biggest is the availability of land and its affordability. But there are some supportive local authorities and they can act as trailblazers to give others the confidence to help CLTs solve housing issues.”

The conference will see more than 300 people come together to pool ideas and hear from experts in areas such as land law, design and raising funds.

Ms Harrington said: “The aim is for the whole community network to come together and feel like they are part of something much bigger. Together, we can take this into the mainstream and consider how we can lead it to a really big contribution to housing supply.”

The Community-led Housing Conference takes place on Monday, November 27 at Congress House, Great Russell Street.

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