What are Community Land Trusts? by Michael Clinton

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are not for profit, community based volunteer organisations. Formed to create community projects associated with a piece of land, their remit is diverse – from running a local pub or shop to developing much needed affordable housing. The latter is the most common form of CLT.

These projects are designed to meet the needs of the community, are owned and controlled by the community and are made available at permanently affordable levels – something that is very much needed at the moment!

The process of forming a CLT to achieve these aims sounds quite daunting, with any housing development involving buying land, gaining planning permission, acquiring land etc. – all before the first hole is dug! However, CLTs are proving a popular means for communities to address their needs, on their terms, rather than someone else’s. Many have and are now delivering some very exciting projects. For example, the Wessex Community Assets project is working with 16 or so CLTs with 12 due to deliver something in the region of 120 affordable homes in 2015 – an impressive achievement for all involved. So how is this all achieved?

Each CLT will be different but when it comes to housing, partnering with locally active and sympathetic Housing Associations is emerging as an effective means of delivering affordable homes. The process tends to be that a CLT forms around an identified housing need and works to engage the community in defining the need and the most suitable solutions. Once the project is set up, usually with planning permissions, drawings etc., it is sold to the collaborating Housing Association who then build and manage the houses for the CLT.

Setting up a project can involve some expense especially for larger more complex projects if, for example, the CLT requires professional inputs such as legal / contractual advice or drawings. This has been recognised and there are a number of sources for funding. The Transition Homes Community Land Trust in Totnes, aiming to develop 25 affordable eco-homes, received £50,000 grant from the Homes and Communities Agency in 2014. The National CLT Network maintains a range of valuable resources including a comprehensive CLT Handbook to guide individuals and communities through the process, including different ways of funding a project and relevant sources.

The wonderful thing about the Community Land Trust concept is that is gives control back to communities, real people in real places who will have to live with any development. They have a chance to influence the outcome and in process can get to know others in the community. This is not to say that there are no pitfalls – for they most certainly do exist – but they can be solved and there is a growing body of experience and resources available to help you achieve your community aims.

Michael Clinton, MSc, is our Research Director with responsibility for Initiative Homes, an accessible support service for those developing community housing projects. Follow him on Twitter.