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Community Land Trusts

Community Land Trusts


Alec Samuels discusses the creation of community-led, community-controlled affordable housing

The Community Land Trust (CLT) has its origin in the United States of America, although it is similar in some respects to the garden city movement in England developed over 100 years ago. The basic concept is the creation of community-led, community-controlled social or affordable housing set in a balanced community with community enterprises and social amenities, including medical and social facilities, and local pubs. Several hundred CLTs now exist in England, and the number is growing, having built several thousand homes, mostly using small and medium-sized builders.

Ideally the ownership of the land should rest in the CLT, by purchase, long lease, or gift, with the management run on a stewardship basis by local people. The preparation of a local neighbourhood plan and a local referendum might arouse local enthusiasm for a CLT. New homes are then built, either social or affordable homes for rent or for sale to people of modest means. In order to retain the character of the CLT in perpetuity the purchaser of a home will purchase a long lease, there is an occupancy condition, and the right of the CLT to re-acquire on disposal. A succeeding tenant to a tenancy will be bound by the occupancy condition, so as to maintain the social or affordable element. Right to buy (RTB) is prohibited.

The CLT must have a constitution, though not as a company. It is a not-for-profit organisation, with any profits going back into the CLT. All the local CLT home owners or occupiers are eligible to be members, and also other members of the local community. Control is exercised by a board of management: one-third home owners or occupiers, one-third other local people, and one-third officials and outside nominees.

Leadership is provided by the National Community Land Trust Network, a charity set up in 2014, producing annual reports.

The government strongly supports the CLT movement. Homes England (formerly the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA)) channels the money. Sources of funding are the Community Housing Fund, the Community Land Trust Fund, and the £3bn Home Building Fund. In 2016 particular provision was made, namely £60m, including a £25m capital grant and a £14m revenue grant for affordable homes, and the exclusion of RTB. The housing white paper, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’, published on 7 February 2017, sets out current policy for stimulating national house building.

Examples of rural CLTs include: Bishops Castle, Shropshire; Buckland Newton, Dorset; Glendale Gateway, Northumberland; High Bickington, Devon; Holsworthy, Devon; Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland; Lyvennet, Cumbria; St Minver, Cornwall; Worth, Dorset; and Wickham, Hampshire.

Examples of urban CLTs include: St Clements, Mile End, East London; Oxfordshire; Brighton and Hove; Middlesbrough; Thrift for Soham, Cambridgeshire; West Rhyl, Derbyshire; Granby Four Streets, Liverpool; Bristol self-build; Homebaked, Liverpool; and West Kensington and Gibbs Green Community Homes, London.


Alec Samuels is a barrister and former reader at Southampton University